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North Coast congressional candidates face off at Sebastopol debate


A small crowd turned out Wednesday night to hear congressional candidates, Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman and Republican Dan Roberts, debate at the Sebastopol Community Center.

The audience of about two dozen community members submitted questions on topics that ranged from local river stewardship to foreign policy at the 90-minute debate hosted by the League of Women Voters Sonoma County and Sonoma County Water Coalition.

Jared Huffman; Dan Roberts (PD FIle)

Huffman, who is termed out of the Assembly, and Roberts, a political newcomer, were the top two vote-getters in the June primary.

They are competing for an open seat created by the retirement of Petaluma Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey and are seeking to represent the new 2nd Congressional District stretching from Marin County to the Oregon border, excluding Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma Valley.

In his opening remarks, Roberts acknowledged that Democrats heavily outweigh Republicans in the district, and he asked voters to take a “fresh look” when they go to the polls.

“You don’t have to vote simply by party,” he said. “I’m a reformer more than I’m a Republican.”

Roberts touted his business experience and stressed the need to improve the economy and to reign in what he called overregulation and overtaxation.

Huffman acknowledged the respectful tone both candidates have carried through the campaign, but noted their meaningful differences on issues like Social Security privatization, global warming and reproductive choices for women.

“I strongly believe the federal government should fund access to women’s health services, and I am a completely committed supporter of reproductive choice,” Huffman said.

Huffman said his top priority if elected would be to get the economy moving.

“Like people all over this country, the people in this district are hurting far too much from a tough economy,” Huffman said.

He advocated investing in infrastructure, education and clean energy in part to create jobs. He also said the federal government should invest in broadband Internet in rural areas.

“The government doesn’t create jobs,” Roberts said. “The private sector creates real, value-added jobs. That’s where we really differ.”

Environmental issues were a recurring theme as audience members asked where the candidates stood on issues such as vineyard tree removal and river water diversions for frost protection.

“I’m going to be very protective of our forest lands,” Huffman said. “Converting prime forest lands into vineyards is not something I support as a rule.”

Roberts showed less knowledge of local environmental issues than Huffman, but stressed the importance of jobs. Roberts said he just returned from Trinity and Humboldt counties, where foresters would like to see the federal government end its role in forest stewardship.

“Selective thinning, cutting extraction, that’s a positive for our district,” Roberts said. “It’s a job creator.”

Wednesday’s forum was recorded for viewing on public broadcasting, home computers and BLIP TV. It also will be replayed on the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter website at www.SmartVoter.org.

You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or cathy.bussewitz@pressdemocrat.com.

5 Responses to “North Coast congressional candidates face off at Sebastopol debate”

  1. dan roberts says:

    the press is sleep walking this campaign. they are not questioning his blatent pandering to the audience. he is promising to maintain all entitlements forgetting the inconvient truths that changes need to be made to keep the programs solvent. he wants to cram down on the banks mortgage writedowns forgetting that the constitution has a takings clause which calls for just compensation to banks for such actions. who pays for that? all of his job creation steps require more federal dollars to hire public employees or contracters over looking the fact there the federal kitty is empty. my vision calls for getting the federal government out of the way from business and job creation by cutting federal spending, cutting taxes, cutting excess regulations so the private sector can once again thrive. invite me and i will come. go onmy web site at: danrobertsforcongress for more, find twitter and follow the campaign. this change of direction is possible just need the reagan deocrats to come our way.

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  2. R.B. Fish says:

    The PD doesn’t want a Republican no matter what. At this point we should know that the PD staff are not objective journalists. Mr. Roberts is by far a positive answer for the northcoast community. The PD should be giving tem a forum but not even an interview!!Yes he should more agressive in getting positions out but SOMA is so corrupt it’s almost impossible. The Obama plan is to drive democracy into the ground so the masses will vote for the Democrats!
    I’m voting for him!!

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  3. David J. Spencer says:

    I’m with Kirstin on this matter–more coverage needs to be given to this race.

    Mr. Roberts has said “I’m more a reformer than a Republican” and that, in my view, is exactly the right note.

    Republican or Democrat, I think we can all agree that reformation is precisely what is needed.

    Now, Mr. Roberts, get your ideas out there.

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  4. Grapevines says:

    Huffman could be a drooling idiot and the sheep that live and vote around here would elect him. Just look at Noreen Evans and ask yourself if I’m wrong in this assumption.

    The only way a Republican stands a chance of getting elected in this area is if they are the only person running for the job.

    And then everybody complains about the job the people they voted for are doing, but ask them to change and it’s a “NO, WE CAN’T DO THAT!!”

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  5. Kirstin says:

    It would be valuable if the PD could grant a few more paper inches and more internet space to a fuller report. After all, a new House member is being elected. Can’t the report provide more actual answers from both candidates to more questions? Isn’t that what reporting is supposed to do? Fortunately, voters can watch the recording online; thanks for noting that, PD. And these two also already debated in other cities in Marin County.

    Mr. Roberts isn’t the favorite, but hopefully he will make a real effort to get his name out there. He needs to make more media statements, more public appearances, etc. Don’t be shy, Mr. Roberts; come out and tell the voters what you stand for and why they should vote for you!

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