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Election 2022: Meet the candidates for the 50th Congressional District

Corey Gustafson, Rep. Scott Peters, Adam Schindler and Kylie Taitano. Not pictured is David Chiddick.
Candidates for the 50th Congressional District include Corey Gustafson, Rep. Scott Peters, Adam Schindler and Kylie Taitano. Not pictured is David Chiddick.
(San Diego Union-Tribune and courtesy photos)

Five candidates are on the June 7 primary ballot in the campaign for the 50th Congressional District seat that represents coastal and north inland San Diego County, including La Jolla.

Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, a La Jolla resident, is being challenged by coffee shop owner David Chiddick and business owner/educator Corey Gustafson, both Republicans; scientist Adam Schindler, a no-party-preference candidate; and tech nonprofit executive Kylie Taitano, a Democrat.

The top two vote-getters will advance to a Nov. 8 runoff.

The 50th Congressional District is a new district drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission based on the 2020 Census. It includes much of the area in the former 52nd District, which Peters has represented since taking office in 2013.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board e-mailed several questions to each candidate. Here are their responses to five of them, edited for brevity and clarity (to see the full surveys, go to bit.ly/3ENJMmy):

Q: What will be your top domestic priority in Congress?

A:

David Chiddick: Everything rises and falls on leadership. We must remove the president, vice president and the speaker of the House.

Corey Gustafson: My top domestic priorities will focus on stopping inflation, creating jobs and reducing crime. ... The inflation unleashed by trillions of dollars in spending has put our families and small businesses on the brink. As a small-business owner myself, who co-founded Dogleg Brewing Co., I know firsthand how hard it is to start and operate a business in California. That’s why I will be a fighter for San Diego’s job creators and middle-class workers.

Scott Peters: Domestically, my top priority is to make sure what’s important in San Diego is addressed in Washington, D.C. I’ve helped increase investment in scientific research by tens of billions, supported trade pacts that protect intellectual property and patent rights of inventors and passed historic legislation to tackle climate change. I’ve championed billions of dollars in military investments: a new training campus for Navy SEALs, new infrastructure at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and support for 25 new home-ported Navy ships. On the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I fought to ensure our veterans have jobs, health care and resources to reduce veteran homelessness and suicide. ... To fix the decades-old problem of cross-border pollution, we’ve secured $300 million as part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, plus $50 million more through annual appropriations.

Adam Schindler: My top domestic priority is fixing a broken government that is not working for the American people. The biggest problem with Washington, D.C., is not related to the party in charge but to whom those parties are answering to. The parties answer to their wealthy donors and their own self-interest instead of to the needs of the American people. The incumbent in District 50, Scott Peters, came out in opposition to HR 3, a bill to lower drug prices, and the next day received $20,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. ... I will fight ... the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision that has opened the floodgates to money in politics, and will work to pass the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act that improves disclosure and reins in the cozy relationship between lobbyists and Congress.

Kylie Taitano: While there are a litany of issues that we need to address in Washington, D.C., our top domestic priority must be to protect and reform our democracy, particularly following the recent attacks on our democracy and democratic values. This includes supporting HR 1, dubbed the “For the People Act,” which would fight corruption and increase transparency in our government. That bill would work to end the practice of partisan gerrymandering, which allows politicians to choose their voters rather than the other way around. It also prevents members of Congress from trading stocks.

Q: How do you assess the Biden administration’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? What would you have done differently?

A:

Chiddick: The Biden administration wasn’t decisive in its initial response, and as leaders we need to be decisive and act with authority.

Gustafson: The administration’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been nothing short of disastrous. The tough sanctions and movement of troops into NATO countries should have been done in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin amassing an army of over 170,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, not after the invasion had begun. The administration should never should have stopped providing defensive arms to Ukraine. It should have never supported the NORD Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. Taking these actions before the invasion would have deterred Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Peters: The Biden administration has performed extremely well. While I believe we should have supplied Ukraine with more arms prior to the start of the conflict, the president has done an excellent job of marshaling our allies and partners to effectively respond to Russia’s aggression. ... Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, it is not appropriate to enter direct conflict. Thus, tough sanctions on Russia, Putin and his oligarchs, coupled with massive security and humanitarian assistance, are the right responses. In March, Congress approved with my support, and the president signed, a $13.6 billion emergency package that provides military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and all those hurt by Russia’s brutal and unjustified assault. ... Also in March, I co-sponsored the SUPPORT Act, which declares America’s continued support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, both through intelligence sharing and other means going forward.

Schindler: The Biden administration has done an adequate job of rallying the world to oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but more could have been done to cut off Russian money and go after ... Putin and his cronies. Biden and other leaders have been too concerned with the disruption to the world economy to take the kind of strong measures that are needed to hurt Putin and those closest to him. Sanctions are having an effect, but sanctions hit the most vulnerable members of society the hardest, and that may actually build support for the war among the Russian people.

Taitano: The Biden administration has dealt admirably with Russia’s despicable and unnecessary invasion of Ukraine. The decision to share our intelligence with the world well ahead of time spoiled ... Putin’s attempt to catch Europe unaware and to pin the invasion on a false-flag attack by Ukrainians on Russia. It has also helped us build a worldwide coalition to condemn Russia’s actions, set strict sanctions and provide the Ukrainian people with the direct aid they need to fight this war and deal with its devastating effects. I also applaud the administration providing over $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and bordering countries as they deal with the refugee crisis.

Q: How should the United States handle the growing number of refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Central and South America and elsewhere?

A:

Chiddick: We should ensure that people don’t suffer for the sake of someone else. We love everyone, but we won’t endanger the lives of Americans for political agendas.

Gustafson: We cannot fix America’s broken immigration system unless we know who enters and who leaves our country. Securing our border is a national security issue. How can we spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year defending this country abroad while failing to protect our borders at home? I’m concerned about individuals crossing who wish to do harm, as well as deadly drugs like fentanyl that move across our border regularly. However, the belief that we must secure our border does not mean we are against immigration. I believe that part of the greatness of this country is its ability to constantly renew the American spirit by welcoming those who believe in the American dream and wish to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Peters: We need to keep our promises to the Afghan refugees who risked their lives to fight alongside the U.S. military in the past two decades so that others will be willing to take that risk in the future. We need to show compassion to the Ukrainians who are fleeing from Putin’s tyranny. I support ongoing efforts to resettle Afghans in San Diego and throughout the United States and applaud the president’s recent announcement to resettle 100,000 Ukrainians. ... During a time of great labor shortages, these migrants come to us with skills and experience that can instantly be put to use in building and growing our economy. ... With respect to Central and South America, I support continued investment to increase economic opportunity and reduce crime so that so many of these residents will not be induced to flee. ... The United States can be a leader in combating these problems while also recognizing that this nation of immigrants should continue to provide a safe haven for those truly at risk.

Schindler: European countries have taken in over 4 million refugees from Ukraine since the war began, something we should bear in mind as we consider our own policies on refugees and asylum seekers. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, I am aware of what happens when the world turns its back on people in need. ... Specific standards should be applied that establish how asylum seekers are to be treated. Most people who seek asylum will not have it granted. The reasons should be made clear and the protocols followed. In addition, the U.S. should work to build better relations with the countries south of us to help stem the flow of immigration by addressing the factors that are driving people to flee their countries.

Taitano: The United States has a rich history of taking in people who are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home nations. ... We must act with compassion to take in as many people as we can and ensure that they have the help they need to integrate into our society. But we should also work to help the neighbors of nations in upheaval to accommodate more refugees. ... But if we truly want to stop those refugee and asylum-seeker numbers from continuing to swell, the single best thing we can do is address the underlying causes. ... Above all else, that means addressing climate change, which the Institute for Economics and Peace think tank estimates will create more than a billion climate migrants by 2050 if we don’t cut our carbon emissions.

Q: What specific steps does the nation need to take immediately and over time to ensure it’s better prepared to handle the next pandemic?

A:

Chiddick: We need to implement solutions that have been readily available to benefit the population as a whole. The money spent to aid foreign nations at the expense of American small businesses should be redirected to the homeland to take care of our own backyard first.

Gustafson: America can improve its handling of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic by acknowledging that its federal system of government was neither designed nor intended to dominate state and local government in times of emergency. We must embrace a decentralized approach that balances the resources of the federal government with the expertise of the private sector and the on-the-ground knowledge of local government.

Peters: The government must act to ensure greater supply-chain reliability for personal protective equipment, basic pharmaceuticals, energy supplies and computer chips, among other things. We should embrace the success of Project Warp Speed and be prepared once again to accelerate the development of tests, vaccines and cures, and we must continue our vaccine research all the time. We also know that school closure is damaging for our economy and our kids, and we should invest now in ensuring ventilation in buildings to inhibit the spread of respiratory diseases. And we should standardize national, state, county or city-level public reporting on COVID-19.

Schindler: When it comes to lifesaving equipment and medicine, I support manufacturing those in the U.S. and not relying on other countries to sell to us, so we are able to take care of our population. I also favor a greater investment in research on vaccines, antibiotics and other medicines to be better prepared to handle future public health emergencies.

Taitano: First, we need to ensure that the right elected officials are in leadership positions, ones who will respect science and take the issue seriously so we can limit the financial and economic impacts we saw with the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, our messaging regarding any pandemic from all levels of government needs to be more prepared, coordinated and consistent. ... The federal government needs to develop a closer relationship with large tech and social media companies such as Meta (Facebook) and Twitter so they can regulate these corporations and ensure they do a better job at shutting down disinformation.

Q: How would you use your federal position on local issues such as housing, homelessness and veterans affairs?

A:

Chiddick: When the people of a city are inspired to believe that they can make a difference, everything changes. That is why I feel called to run for Congress. I want to empower people who love their city and refuse to move to be the ones who can change it.

Gustafson: I will address the housing crisis, homelessness and the need to provide support for our veterans community with a compassionate approach that leverages the resources of the federal government with the power of the free market and nonprofit organizations. To reduce the cost of housing, we must cut red tape and reduce the high cost of housing imposed by burdensome layers of government. For the homeless, we must better work with local nonprofits that know how to best deliver the help and services needed by our community’s most vulnerable. And we must always support veterans by improving the Department of Veterans Affairs and making sure that those who served our country in uniform receive the best care and support services possible.

Peters: The housing crisis is the main impediment to continued prosperity and quality of life in San Diego and in California. In Congress, I introduced the Build More Housing Near Transit Act, which would use the leverage of federal transportation funding to get local governments to build more homes near these major federal investments. We could increase housing supply, take more cars off the roads and boost farebox recovery. ... San Diego is home to one of the nation’s largest veteran populations, and ... I have led efforts to make housing vouchers more easily accessible to our veterans to ensure that more of our veterans are able to use G.I. Bill benefits to further their education, and helped launch zero8hundred, a nonprofit organization that eases the transition from military to civilian life.

Schindler: The failure to address the housing shortage in cities like San Diego is the fault of the federal government and not local politicians. Building housing is very expensive. There is money for high-end homes, but when it comes to homes for the middle class, there is no great push. The federal government should assume a leadership role in housing and homelessness by providing money and working with cities. ... Veterans are dealing with the high cost of living and expensive health care and housing. There is no justification for not providing comprehensive and free medical benefits to those who put their lives on the line for our country. I support adequate pension benefits to veterans to afford living in San Diego. The government should also help veterans experiencing homelessness, mental health or substance abuse issues.

Taitano: I believe that housing is a human right, and it is my goal to encode that in federal law. There’s a lot the federal government can do to help with housing at a local level — from expanding assistance for first-time homebuyers to fully funding Section 8 rent assistance to capping rent increases to requiring landlords to provide just cause for evictions. But most of all, we have to address the housing shortage in this country by building more affordable homes for middle-income and lower-income earners. The homeless population is disproportionately affected by mental-health issues, which rank among the leading causes of homelessness. As with many other issues ... our goal should be to treat the underlying causes rather than the symptoms. That means creating dedicated mental health services to assist the homeless and provide crisis intervention — a responsibility that can and should be taken off the plate of police officers, who have neither the training nor the experience to help people suffering through mental-health crises. Veterans’ issues are very personal to me as a native of Guam, which has a higher per-capita military enlistment rate than any state in America. Many of my family and friends are among those who have proudly served our nation in the military. We owe it to our veterans to provide them with the comprehensive, high-quality benefits and care that they have earned through their service, and to ensure that our Department of Veterans Affairs facilities are up to modern standards. ◆