This is part of a series of interviews with candidates for the 50th Congressional District.
Carl DeMaio, the well-known radio talk host on KOGO-AM News Radio 600 (who left his gig there last week because of his campaign) is running for the 50th Congressional District currently held by Duncan Hunter Jr. It is the only remaining Republican-held congressional seat in San Diego County. Hunter is under federal indictment for allegedly using campaign funds for personal expenditures.
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“I’m running,” says Carl DeMaio, candidate for the 50th Congressional District, “because over a series of months I get calls from leaders and voters who are upset that the seat almost went to a Democrat. They want to vote for someone they can be proud of. A lot of folks are interested in what we can do to shake up the Republican party. I’m not just running to save the 50th seat, although that’s worthy, I’m running because we need to have a fighter leading the charge to take back our state from socialism.”
DeMaio wishes more reporters would ask him about his reform agenda. “The media is biased. They have an agenda,” he says. “They throw softball questions to the Democrats and do their dirty work and have an antagonistic attitude toward the Republicans. I think that’s why my radio show has been so successful. I have tried to be factual. I told people my views, but I invited everyone on the show, because I wanted to get out the story. That has made us the biggest show during the drive time (3-6 p.m.)”
DeMaio’s reform agenda consists of three main points. “First and foremost: The cost of living in California is completely unstainable. They add taxes, mandates and fees that are crushing the working family. We need to run that back. We need to hold government accountable to deliver results and not just promises. Whether it’s filth on the streets, crumbling roads or failing schools, we need to demand accountability for government to fulfill its responsibilities.”
In some cases, he says, “That’s shining lights on the expenditures. His second reform point is ending the “obscene school curriculum guidelines and demanding that they return to the fundamentals.”
The third leg of DeMaio’s reform agenda is about protecting personal freedoms. “Our Bill of Rights freedoms are under assault every day. In some cases, it’s government actively infringing on our rights, such as the Second Amendment or plastic straws, or they allow others to violate our rights. Such as the harassing and bullying that conservative college students receive on campus, or someone who happens to wear a MAGA hat out in public. My reform agenda is to keep more of our money, keep government accountable and protect our personal freedoms.”
The three most important items DeMaio wants to take up if elected are these: “Number one, lead the fight to take back California. Number two, force a resolution on border security and combating illegal immigration. Three is to force Congress to live under the same laws as the rest of us with my Fix Congress First Initiative.” These three core initiatives can be found on his website Carldemaio.com where they are highlighted on the home page.
Considering DeMaio’s success as a radio talk show, why give up that real power and influence for the chance to be one of 435 House members, or one of 53 from California?
“I don’t believe I’m giving up anything, because I plan to be as vocal as I’ve always been,” he said. “While I won’t have the daily show, I will have a congressional office from which I can launch initiatives, hold press conferences and be a spokesperson on the issues I care about and that Californians want to see someone lead the fight on. One need only look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to see how one member of Congress can generate a lot of discussion and media attention nationwide. I have a higher IQ than she does; so I believe I can do just as well as she if not better.”
DeMaio calls California a one-party state. “The GOP in Sacramento are cowards and have no capability to lead a Rotary club, much less the fight to take back our state,” he says. “My candidacy should serve as an indictment of their failure and all other so-called Republican leaders who have come and gone and failed to fight. I believe that there is a grassroots hunger for leadership on the right to take back our state.”
Given that more than a half dozen candidates seek Hunter’s job (not including Hunter) I asked DeMaio what makes him unique?
“I’m fearless,” he said. “The Democrats have thrown the kitchen sink at me and more. I’m still standing. The easiest thing for me to do would be to stay on radio and collect a nice paycheck and come home each night. I’m doing this because someone must fight no matter what the consequences.”
DeMaio’s reform-minded, anti-establishment themes would suggest he’s a populist. However, he leaves that to others to decide. “I’m not sure what definition there is for that term, but I consider myself more interested in what the $5 donor has to say than the $5,000 donor,” he says, adding, “I’m more interested in the grassroots opinion than the lobbyists’ opinion or the insiders’ view. I think we should build government on the small business owner and constituent, not the corporate CEO and mover and shaker.”
Last year DeMaio became a statewide figure when his Reform California movement successfully put a measure on the 2018 ballot to repeal the gas tax increase adopted by the legislature. Ultimately that initiative was defeated, but DeMaio feels it provided valuable lessons.
“Every fight we are in offers lessons for how can build our movement and expand,” says DeMaio. “I’m so proud of what we did for the gas tax rebellion. We were successful in recalling the state senator who cast the deciding vote, Josh Newman. He was the fifth person recalled from office in 104 years in California. And at least for a year we broke the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento. We also showed that a grassroots movement could quality a statewide initiative on a bargain basement budget. And according to the polling we won the issue. Two thirds of the voters wanted to repeal the gas tax. Unfortunately, politicians in Sacramento changed the ballot title to deceive the voters and steal the election. It has not deterred me or our movement, because we will be back and that gas hike tax will be repealed.”
Republicans tend to talk about fiscal restraint and balancing budgets until they win a majority, when such talk flies out the window. I asked DeMaio how he is different? “Look at my history,” he replied. “When I was sworn into office on the San Diego city council, I inherited a city on the verge of bankruptcy. I authored the ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ plan that balanced the budget without tax increase. I’m proud that we restored services through fiscal reform and not tax hikes. I can’t wait to take my red pen to the federal budget to do the same.”
When DeMaio announced his candidacy for the 50th, much of it attacked the Democratic majority in Sacramento. So why not run for the California Assembly or the Senate instead? “I don’t see the real power in Sacramento,” said DeMaio. “I see the real power with the people in California. Unfortunately, the voters have not heard both sides of the story. Why? The Democrats and the media are aggressively communicating their socialist agenda, but we have no elected republican leaders in California, courageous or capable enough to offer an alternative vision.”
DeMaio added, “Can you name a single statewide Republican voice for California? No! I plan to be the voice of opposition in California. Anyone can be that voice from any position. But by taking up the fight in California, I will be uniquely qualified and positioned to speak against Nancy Pelosi and AOC’s socialist agenda nationally. I can warn the American people about the dire consequences of socialism. All they need to do is look at the terrible challenges facing our state.”
Asked how he will attract social conservatives to his standard, DeMaio said, “I’m a defender of our freedoms, which include the important religious freedoms that we cherish. I was orphaned as a teen and raised by Jesuits at Georgetown Prep. My faith is important to me as it is to all. We deserve to practice our faith without government interference.”
Asked if he worried about the same kind of ballot harvesting that last November reaped most of the traditional Republican districts in the Golden State into the Democrat basket, DeMaio said, “Absolutely. I worry about the proven fact that ineligible voters have been registered to vote and that our rolls are a complete mess. It is an invitation to voter fraud and it needs to be cleaned up. That’s why I have joined with a coalition of election integrity voters to advance legal action against the state of California.” You can find more on this at DeMaio’s Reform California (carldemaio.com/reform-agenda/reform-california/) where he also talks about Election Integrity Reforms.
Ask his opinion of President Trump, DeMaio said, “I want the president to come to California and campaign. I know it will be difficult to win California, but he can highlight the failure of socialism by walking any city in our state and pointing out the filth, the homelessness and the lawlessness that comes with socialism.”
Doesn’t the GOP fielding so many candidates threaten to hand the district to Ammar Campa Niijar? DeMaio isn’t worried. He said, “I think there are lot of candidates who are running because they need a job. That’s not why you should get into politics. It’s why we have feckless ineffective Republican politicians who are part of the problem. The grassroots want a proven fighter and I think my record speaks for itself on that point.”
I noted that in my interview with Campa Niijar, he said he wasn’t just running to represent Democrats or Independents, or Republicans, but all of the district. I asked DeMaio what he would say to non-Republicans looking for a reason to vote for him?
“Campa Niijar holds pretty extreme views on most of the important issues in the district,” said DeMaio. “He hasn’t been candid or genuine and gives conflicting answers depending on what audience he speaks to. With me voters will get someone who will address the cost of living crises which has no party label. The high cost of living hurts Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
In my interview with Sam Abed, he said this about DeMaio: He “doesn’t live in the district. Carl has a failing record. He failed when he ran for Congress, failed when he ran for mayor. He did the gas tax and he failed. I am a two-term mayor who had a successful record in the largest city of the 50th district.”
DeMaio shot back, “A traditional failed Republican politician looking for a job has nothing to say but bad things. Sam Abed and other politicians should be held accountable for a simple question. On the issues that matter to voters what did you do to lead the fight? He has no answer. I’m proud of getting things done, like pension reform and transparency reforms. I’ve successfully defeated over $3 billion in tax hikes in the last fifteen years alone. And I will pick the fights that are the toughest to win, knowing I may fail, because sometimes fighting the fight is the most important thing.”
Asked how he would convince voters who worry that he doesn’t live in the 50th that he’ll just serve a few years until he finds a better office to jump to, the candidate said, “First and foremost, voters know me and they’ve seen me, because I am from this community. I wouldn’t have the support I have in the district if I didn’t have the strong relationships with community members that I have. They have seen me and heard me and I’ve been very present and I will continue to do that as their representative. Second, we are in the middle of the redistricting and the lines are shifting for the next election. I’m absolutely confident I will reside in the 50th after redistricting.”
DeMaio summed up: “I’m the only candidate who can secure this district from being taken over by the Democratic Socialists. More important, I’m the only candidate who has shown the willingness and courage and the ability to lead the fight to take back the state from socialism. My campaign is not about a single candidate, it is about a growing movement of the forgotten Californians, who want to fight to take back their state.”