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23rd Congressional District

Democrats Seek to Tip Scales in Their Favor in Challenge of Longtime GOP Incumbent Gallegly

October 29, 2000|BOB RECTOR

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) has been reelected to Congress six times. Handily.

A lot of the credit goes to Gallegly, who has a reputation among his constituents as a guy who gets thing done. He will point out that he has brought thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy, ranging from a new Simi Valley police station to airplanes at Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station.

It doesn't hurt that he has $1 million in his reelection coffers.

Why should this year be any different? For one thing, the Democrats are taking the race seriously, putting money into a contest in which they've shown little interest in the past.

Second, the man carrying the Democrats' banner is Michael Case, a lawyer with an agriculture background who has pumped more than $500,000 into the race. He has attempted to draw ideological differences between himself and Gallegly to gain votes in a district where the registration is split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

The Times spoke with Case and Gallegly recently about the campaign and their stands on issues.

Question: What are the issues in this election?

Answer: There's no question it's education and health care. And, of course, the quality of life. Economic growth and things of that nature are always at the very top, and certainly this year is no exception.

Q: How do you view the education issues?

A: There's no way that a member of Congress--I don't care how bright you are, how educated you are, how well versed you are--can truly be an expert in every area. So I try to use resources that are available locally to help reinforce my knowledge on issues.

We just got a bill signed into law recently that was a direct result of a teacher from Oxnard. That was what we call a "diamonds in the rough" bill. It is to better prepare educators to identify children who have a lot of talent but have otherwise gone unnoticed because of limited English or any number of things that could cause them to be disruptive in class when really the underlying issue is that they go unchallenged and many times drop out of school.

If a teacher can better identify these students and get them channeled in the right direction, we may have a real leader instead of a kid who's using his obvious God-given talent in the wrong direction.

Q: What about health care? Do you support the Bush-Cheney plan to provide tax credits to help working poor families buy health insurance?

A: I'm much more supportive of that than I am having a fully government-run program. There was a national referendum on that when the first lady [Hillary Rodham Clinton] got involved, as well-intended as I'm sure she was. There was a backlash of the sort I'm sure they never anticipated.

You talk about the problems with HMOs. It's one thing to have private companies running HMOs, but when you have the government running HMOs, I think the problem is multiplied and squared. But government does have a role as it relates to making sure that we try to minimize the number of people who are falling through the cracks.

One of the things we've heard a lot about lately is the issue of uninsureds, and how that number is going up or going down. And I know Vice President [Al] Gore challenged Gov. [George W.] Bush on the problems that he has in the state of Texas. But, in fact, the governor inherited some pretty big problems, and there are some other unique problems to Texas that you don't have in some other states. Some of those unique problems we have in California as well.

Q: Do you mean immigration?

A: Absolutely. And no matter on which side of the spectrum you fall, that is a significant unfunded liability, no matter how you look at it.

Q: Is it a problem in your district?

A: It's certainly a worse problem in some other areas than it is here. One of the greatest concerns I have about these uninsured is what it is doing to health care providers, because many of them are having to close their doors. Look at a tremendous number of trauma centers that have had to close because of the unfunded liability of people walking in off the street.

Q: And Medicare?

A: We have in Ventura County what I consider a major problem concerning Medicare reimbursement schedules. A designation is made of your region, whether it is metropolitan or rural, and that predicates the amount of money that is scheduled for reimbursement to the health providers.

We have a near-crisis situation in the west county, where the schedule is predicated on being rural. The intent was sound when it was originally put together, but this is not a "one shoe fits all" type of situation.

I'm working very hard in the waning hours of the session to get what I call a parity for the rest of the county and get the schedule redesignated. If we can do that, that'll mean $11 million more per year.

Q: Your opponent has accused you of being unclear about who you are and how you voted.

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