Congressional candidates (from left) Jeff Burdick, Jon Ivy, Buzz Patterson, and Robert "Chris" Richardson at the Jan. 28 forum. 

Four of California’s 7th Congressional District candidates shared their views on issues including climate change and free college, during a candidate forum last week.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Sacramento County presented the event, which was held at the Rio Americano Performing Arts Center in Sacramento on Jan. 28.

At the beginning of the meeting, moderator Paula Lee, LWV 1st vice president, announced that every candidate in the district’s March 3 primary would participate in the forum, except for the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. She said that the event conflicted with the Congressman’s schedule.

“When (Bera) was in the district, (the forum) didn’t match up with any of the days that we could get this venue, and that’s the only reason that he’s not here,” Lee said.

The candidates who will challenge Bera in the primary election on March 3 are Republicans Jon Ivy and Robert “Buzz” Patterson, Democrat Jeff Burdick, and Green Party candidate Robert Christian “Chris” Richardson.

Abolishing the Electoral College

The candidates were asked whether they preferred electing the president with the current Electoral College system or a national popular vote.

Although Burdick mentioned that he favors a national popular vote, he believes the possibility of changing to that system is a “long shot.”

“As much as I would like to change it, it can’t happen,” he said.

Patterson noted that the United States is a republic and that a popular vote would result in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City deciding every election.

In contrast, Ivy and Richardson called for the Electoral College to be abolished.

“We should go to a popular vote,” Ivy said. “It’s kind of one of the tenets of democracy, is that the majority should win.”

Richardson argued that the Electoral College system is antiquated.

“It’s a holdover from slavery days, when you wanted to increase the power of the slave owner,” he said. “We don’t need it any longer. Supposedly, we have democracy in this country. I think it’s a really good idea. We don’t.”

Climate change

The candidates shared different views on how climate change should be addressed.

Richardson said that he believes climate change is real.

“Yes, it is very real,” he said. “I’ve actually seen the snow packs melt in Alaska, and also noticed that the permafrost is melting, and that’s going to increase the influx of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

Burdick believes there is an “environmental emergency.”

“It needs people in Congress who are for it, not just talk, but real climate action,” he said.

Ivy called the debate whether humans caused climate change “ridiculous.”

“There obviously is (human caused climate change),” he said. “It should be obvious to everyone and that should not be a debate.”

Patterson agreed that climate change is caused by humans, and said that the Green New Deal would “bankrupt the nation.” Introduced in Congress last year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the Green New Deal proposes federal goals and policies to deal with climate change.

“The Green New Deal is too much of a unicorn for me to buy at this point in time,” Patterson said. “I think it would crush the country.”

Building the Mexican border wall

Lee asked the candidates what their views are on building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, with money that is designated for the military.

Patterson stated that he hopes that military funds would not be deemed necessary for that project.

“I support the wall, whether it’s electronic, drones or a physical structure,” he said. “The (Department of Defense) should not be paying for it, no.”

Richardson said the United States should build more bridges than walls.

“We need to take a look at who it is that’s coming to our borders,” the Green Party member said. “A lot of times we’ve run them out of their own countries. Those people that are coming to our borders have been run out of their countries in Central and South America, and they’re knocking at the door of the people that have abused them. And so we get to abuse them a second time.”

Burdick referred to the wall as a “symbolic gimmick” that is “not really needed.”

“It’s nothing that’s necessarily effective,” he said. “It’s just a splinter symbol, and it obscures a lot of more important issues that (are) going on at our border.”

Ivy also spoke out against the wall project.

“It’s a ridiculous idea,” he said. “It’s a child’s idea of security. Second, we don’t need security. The people that are walking here are walking here from far away with no money to be able to get a visa, a job or anything like that, and they’re people who need our help.”

He added that he is against using military funds for building a wall.

The abortion issue

The candidates were asked to share their thoughts on what role the federal government should play in women’s access to abortion

Patterson said that he does not envision the overturning of Roe v. Wade – the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. He also referred to himself as a “pro-life person and a Christian.”

“I’m of the mind that we don’t need more government involved in our day-to-day lives,” he said. “We need less government involved.”

Richardson said that he desires children to be wanted, as opposed to being forced on people.

“That’s the problem,” he said. “We end up with a lot of very unstable young people when you force their growing up on a mother that does not really want them or can really handle them.”

Burdick said there is a need to stop the “chiseling back against Roe v. Wade.”

“The only way to do it is to continually have more pro-choice candidates in office,” he said.

Addressing this issue, Ivy noted that he is pro-abortion rights.

“I’m not squirming about abortion,” he said. “It is a right just like any other medical care.”

Free college

On the concept of making college free in the United States, Ivy was quick to express his support.

“I am absolutely for it,” he said. “Making high school free is one of the best things this country has done, and obviously making free college a reality for all Americans will improve our country.”

Patterson disagreed with his fellow Republican and he questioned how free college would be financed.

“If we’re going to pay for the Green New Deal and free college, (then) who is going to be paying for this stuff?” Patterson asked.

Although Burdick supports free college, he also expressed concern over how it would be financed.

“(Free schooling) shouldn’t just be K-12, but K-16,” he said. “Now, the one thing I’m always looking at is how you pay for it. And when I see all the different programs out there, even though I’m a progressive, I haven’t just yet seen exactly how you pay for it all.”

Richardson promoted the idea of free college.

“Education is an investment in the future,” he said. “If we don’t invest in the future, we’re dead already. And we’ve got to do this.”