Incumbent Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of Dublin faces two challengers in the 15th Congressional District June 5 primary election.
Livermore Republican Rudy Peters and non-partisan Pleasanton resident Brendan St. John are his opponents. St. John changed his voter registration from Republican to non-partisan in 2016.
The Independent asked all three candidates questions about a variety of issues. They could raise topics not covered. They also were allowed a listing of as many as five endorsements. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Rudy Peters worked in Naval Intelligence, and in industry as a manager with firms such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Sandia.
Peters and a partner started AARD Solutions LLC in 2013, a disabled veteran owned business, which hires other veterans.
He served a term on the Livermore Human Services Commission, and has coached youth sports.
On the issue of whether to ban semi-automatic weapons among civilians, Peters said he would not support a ban. “I don’t consider the AR-15 an assault weapon. I support increased federal funding for mental health block grants. I want to see a partnership with federal, state and county governments and cities to stand up for mental health facilities,” said Peters.
Peters favors background checks, and checks at gun shows, “but not the approach used in legislation. We need to look at the cause such as mental health.”
On transportation, Peters favors anything he could do to help extend BART to Livermore and beyond.
Peters does not support the governor's high-speed rail project because of the cost.
On maintaining affordable health care, and expanding access to it, Peters said the cost needs to be lowered and the quality of care raised. “Health care needs to ensure basic health services for every American, and cover pre-existing conditions in low-income families.”
Health insurance firms should be able to compete in all 50 states, instead of one state, which is done now under the Affordable Care Act.
On DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, Peters said that there are 690,000 in that category living in the United States, with 25%in California.
Peters’ first priority would be to secure all borders. That has nothing to do with immigration, but rather security issues, concerning crimes that would happen in the United States. It’s important to deport criminals.
Solve the border security problem first, then figure out a plan for DACA. “There has to be a bipartisan discussion about a pathway to citizenship. Some people have been waiting for years to become naturalized citizens.” People should not cut ahead of them in line.
In regard to foreign policy, Peters supports President Trump’s backing out of the Iran nuclear deal. “It did not cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop nuclear weapons," Peters states.
On the investigation into Russian influence over the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Peters stated that he does not support firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. “However, Mueller needs to be in front of a special committee, or the whole Congress, and say where he wants to go. Mueller should tell us if any criminal wrongdoings have been committed. Let’s also ask what other areas he is looking to pursue.”
The U.S needs to pull out of Syria Peters believes. At the same time, the U.S. also needs to protect its interests by keeping an eye on Russia and Iran.
On North Korea, he declared, "With some dictators, you have to show them strength, with a strong military and strong foreign policy, with someone to back it up. Kim already has shown good faith. I’m not saying I trust him. I’m sure the Administration understands that.”
Asked about whether campaign donation reforms are needed, and what form they should take, Peters said the U.S Supreme Court has spoken with the Citizens United ruling. He doubts things will change. If a Constitutional amendment were proposed, or a court case “that clearly leveled the playing field, I would probably support it.”
As for regulations on the internet, “everyone has the right to privacy. There have to be safeguards.” Cybersecurity was part of his Naval Intelligence background, which he said can help him on this subject.
“The Federal Communications Commission on a 3-2 vote last December abolished net neutrality, the rule that all companies that operate on the internet give equal service to all users. The users here refer to big companies, like Facebook, not ordinary people who use the internet.”
“The world wide web was created by companies without a net neutrality rule. The internet works just fine, so why do we need the rule?”, he asked.
Peters said he has not seen enough data to know whether humans are changing the climate, or changes are a part of a cycle of such changes throughout history. “I know pollution can’t be good for the environment.” He said, I have not seen factual cases that as a result of X, they are dumping too much carbon into the atmosphere. If I saw evidence in the scientific community, I’m for a program to protect that. I am not anti-climate change (a reference to climate change deniers).”
Peters said he can work across the political aisle. “It’s not about beating the other side. It’s doing what is best for America and the 15th district.”
Peters is opposed to closing any more VA hospitals or clinics. “We need more.” He personally has used the Livermore VA and found service and treatment excellent. It should not be closed.
In education, the money should be spent on programs, and funneled to teachers, not “on federally mandated programs.”
On changes in EPA regulations, Peters is for “smart regulations.” He would eliminate environmental regulations, provided that the jobs created or saved by eliminating the regulation outweigh the environmental regulation’s value.
Peters supports 100% the Tax Reform package signed by Trump. He likes the tax bill for its jobs creation, and its tax breaks, especially in our state, which is taxing our gasoline.”
Peters is endorsed by the Alameda County Republican Party and the Contra Costa Republican Party.
BRENDAN ST. JOHN
Brendan St. John became interested in running for Congress because he came to the conclusion that “Congress was not working.”
To effect change, maybe it takes someone who is non-partisan, said St. John, who left the Republican Party in 2016, before the Presidential nomination election. He said he believes it would take non-partisan representation to start solving problems in Washington.
St. John earned an MBA from Santa Clara University, and has worked for large companies and start-ups. He served as a consultant and marketing manager for a medical device company. “I am focused on solutions.”
“I do not support the banning of assault rifles. The Second Amendment had a purpose behind it. A lot of what you are seeing with gun violence had a lot of warning signs. They were overlooked, and not addressed, until they happened. There were warnings from friends and relatives. I don’t know that those things were investigated.”
St. John supports background checks. “We can reasonably investigate who wants to buy guns, but not label a special gun as the sources of a problem.” A friend told him he has an AR-15 in case a gang breaks into his home and harms his family, but he hopes he never has to use it.
St. John said that if he were in office, he would make sure necessary infrastructure projects were identified “and fought for.” He would seek federal aid to help repair and improve the Oroville Dam, a key part of the State Water Project, which serves the Valley.
BART should connect to ACE, to get car traffic off Interstate 580. He would take Livermore residents’ thoughts into account. Not all of the people that he has met understand the options concerning a BART extension. He said he would spend more time to become educated better on this issue.
On health insurance through government, St. John said that Californians should be able to buy insurance from a company in any other state, and not be confined to an approved list in this state. “Prices always come down, the more sellers there are.”
St. John supports DACA. It is the best option to create a pathway to citizenship.
On Middle East policy, St. John said that Israel has been a longtime ally, and should be supported, if attacked. In Syria, there is a no-win scenario. “You can’t choose a winner.” Forces there should work it out. America needs to keep an eye on the situation.
Iran is an enemy, as distinguished from Russia, which is an adversary. St. John did not support the nuclear deal with Iran, and backs Trump’s withdrawal from it. “I don’t trust Iran to live up to its obligations. After a period of time, there would have been no restraints on Iran to build nuclear weapons.
Things seem to be going well concerning North Korea, St. John believes. “One time we reached agreement, but it didn’t last. I’m sure China would love to have a stable (Korean) peninsula".
St. John said he believes that the Russians did tamper in the 2016 election, as shown by intelligence reports on their motivation and interference. “Russia is an adversary, keep in mind.” St. John fully supports Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “Mueller should have every resource to conduct an investigation, but he needs a reasonable time frame; not go as long as four or five years.”
On campaign donations reform, St. John said he is a grassroots budget candidate. “I reject PAC money. Even if elected, I would continue to be grassroots-elected.”
St. John doubts Congress will ever overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. “We can reduce it to some degree, by lowering the ceiling on donations, from $2700 to $1800 per individual.” There should be a maximum $100 tax deduction for money that people donate to campaigns.
With internet equity, St. John said that he would be willing to look at whether there is an oligopoly in internet distribution, with the regulations favoring the large corporations.
Humans contribute to global warming, but it’s not clear how much. St. John stated that he hasn't seen anything that says we contribute to 100% man-made.
On weakening pollution rules, St. John cited automobiles. "It’s desirable for people to drive electric cars, but government should not set goals that everyone must do so by a certain date. Instead, there should be tax incentives to reward them, or some kind of discount, as has happened on energy efficient washing machines and solar panels."
On working across the aisle, he states, “There is nothing inherently wrong with Republicans and Democrats. I would work with them. I’d love it if 20 (other) independents from around the country were elected.”
St. John opposes mandates for high-density housing, but if they do go into effect, priority should be given to veterans and others in the military.
On the closure of the Livermore VA Hospital, which has been approved in Washington, but delayed for several more years, St. John said he is against closing it. He will learn more about it.
It is important to support education. “We need to make sure we are investing in results. We have money to pay teachers a little better, but I’m not sure that happens in every district.”
On environmental regulations, some are necessary, as when “Lake Erie caught on fire. Sometimes things are carried a little too far. Real issues are exaggerated simply to prevent progress.”
St. John has been supporting the tax cuts passed by Congress long before many people supported those. "It’s your money. I’m not proposing to get rid of the income tax, but at the same time, lowering taxes saves people money, allows them to determine how to spend it.”
An issue raised by St. John was the attempt by some in the California Legislature to mandate more high density houses for local communities. St. John contended that it violates the 14th amendment, which guarantees everyone the right to due process. A Congressional representative could get involved in the issue. (The due process clause says no one can be deprived of something, without a required process to justify taking the action.)
CONGESSMAN ERIC SWALWELL
Eric Swalwell is seeking a fourth term. He explains, “We have so much more to accomplish – for American families’ jobs, healthcare, education and much more – while protecting the progress we’ve made."
On gun violence Swalwell said he has sponsored bills “to require truly universal background checks for all gun purchases, to deny people on the terrorist watch list the ability to purchase a firearm, and to create a Gun Violence Prevention Order system in which families can ask courts to prevent a loved one who poses a risk of violence from possessing a firearm.” Swalwell called for an assault weapons ban.
Infrastructure projects are needed. "However, President Trump’s approach puts most of the burden on already strained state or local budgets.” Swalwell said he supports a plan that is five times bigger than Trump’s, which would create millions of high-paying jobs, and would fix roads, bridges, transit, airports, ports, waterways, rail and schools.
“I do all I can to support extending BART to Livermore. I had a hand in creating the Tri-Valley San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority that’s exploring how best to connect BART to ACE.”
Swalwell states, "The Affordable Care Act has been a boon to millions of formerly uninsured American families. It should not be undermined by administrative and regulatory tricks.”
Swalwell would like to see a Medicare for All system. “It’s time for us to catch up with the rest of the world, and ensure that no American dies or goes bankrupt for lack of health care.”
The nation needs border security, a path to citizens for people already here, and a “fair and smart” system to deal with both legal and undocumented immigration. “While we work on that, we must act immediately to protect Dreamers, who were brought here through no choice of their own, and have never saluted any flag but America’s.”
On foreign policy, Swalwell declares, “I’m hoping the Korean talks will yield real progress. It would be great for the region and the world. That will depend on North Korea’s willingness to commit, and keep its promises, and the United States to be a good, honest mediator.”
In regard to Syria, Swalwell comments, “We can’t go to war without Congressional approval and oversight of clearly defined and attainable objectives. It’s a huge mistake to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, a hard-won agreement that was succeeding in preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. Russia continues to be a threat to our democracy, and should be treated as such.”
Swalwell supports overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. It opened the floodgates to special-interest money in our elections.
On internet issues, Swalwell has co-sponsored legislation to overrule the FCC decision “that gutted our net neutrality protection. We must provide a level playing field online, and more choice and less cost to consumers.”
Swalwell recognizes climate change as the result largely of human activities. “It can be fought through development of renewable energy and energy efficient projects, which would be a tremendous job creator across the nation.”
In order to work across the aisle, Swalwell co-founded the United Solutions Caucus in the House during his first term, bringing together members of both parties to find common ground for working together.
He adds, “I’ve been the lead House Democrat on two Republican-authored bills that President Trump has signed into law.”
Swalwell co-sponsored legislation to modernize the VA’s medical records system. He has asked the VA to keep the VA Livermore facility open to serve veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, even after the Stockton and Fremont facilities open.
Financial support for early childhood education is important. Also, more than 42 million past and present U.S. students carry more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. He has authored bills to improve student loan forgiveness for public servants and national lab employees, and to double the student loan interest tax deduction.
Swalwell said, "The rollback of EPA rules is just part of the disdain that this administration shows for doing anything whatsoever about climate change – a position that puts our nation and the world at risk in coming decades.”
Corporations benefitted from the tax reform package; families did not. "They got table scraps. We should reform corporate taxes in such a way that the savings those businesses realize are shared with workers, not just used to buy back stocks or pay dividends to shareholders and multi-million dollar bonuses to top executives.”
Swalwell endorsers are the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), California Labor Federation, End Citizens United, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Sierra Club.
May 25, 2018 Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Rudy Peters does not support a ban on "semi-automatic" weapons. A previous version said that he did not support an "automatic" weapons ban.