Democratic congressional candidate Guy Kimbrough believes America can do better.
The history and political science instructor from Huntington Beach calls it is "a disgrace" that homeless people walk the streets in front of $300,000 homes in Orange County and other parts of the 42nd Congressional District.
He voices concern about the lack of national health insurance for millions of working Americans who do not have medical coverage. "That's not my idea of a safety net," he said.
The Democratic candidate wants better health care to lower the nation's infant mortality rate and a federal program to provide child care for working parents. He favors low-interest loans to help middle-income families buy their first home.
At campaign events across the district, which stretches from Torrance to Huntington Beach, Kimbrough warns of dire consequences if steps are not taken soon to confront the nation's budget and trade deficits.
He does not hesitate to take the politically dangerous course of calling for higher taxes, unlike his Republican rival, Dana Rohrabacher.
"No matter who is elected President on Nov. 8, whether it is Michael Dukakis or George Bush, there has to be a revenue increase to deal with the deficit," Kimbrough said. "We are courting financial disaster if that deficit isn't reduced."
To boost federal revenue, Kimbrough favors a tax of several dollars per barrel on imported oil, increases in taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, a value-added or national sales tax ranging from 1% to 5%, plus reform of personal income and corporate tax laws.
"We have to get our economic house in order," Kimbrough tells campaign audiences.
Kimbrough is backing Dukakis in the presidential race. Ex-White House speech writer Rohrabacher has closely allied his candidacy with Vice President Bush and hopes to ride the GOP candidate's coattails in the heavily Republican district.
Kimbrough's position on taxes puts him squarely at odds with Rohrabacher, who insists on holding the line against tax increases.
When pressed, the GOP candidate said his "no new taxes" promise does not mean he would oppose all changes in the tax laws that would shift the tax burden. "I am not going to vote for taxes that will increase the tax load on the American people," Rohrabacher said.
Positions on Spending
The two candidates take opposite approaches to cutting federal spending.
While saying he supports a strong defense, Kimbrough would slow down or scale back certain defense programs, including the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Stealth bomber project.
Rohrabacher would eliminate federal programs that "are not justified in times of high deficit," including agricultural subsidies and federal support for public broadcasting, National Public Radio, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
Kimbrough said he favors a program like the recent Dukakis plan in Massachusetts that would provide health insurance for working Americans who have no coverage.
Rohrabacher would not. "I don't think it is necessary for us to revolutionize our whole insurance program and medical care in this country in order to provide for those less fortunate people who do not have medical care," he said.
Kimbrough advocates increased spending on AIDS research, while Rohrabacher would maintain research at present levels. The Republican candidate favors relaxation of confidentiality protections as a way to curb the spread of AIDS.
Child Care, Education Views
The two candidates also differ over child care. Kimbrough wants a new federal program, while Rohrabacher supports incentives for businesses to provide child care for employees.
Both agree that education is essential to deter drug use and that a more concerted effort is needed to intercept drugs entering the country.
Kimbrough, 43, said he tried marijuana while a college student at Long Beach State, where he received his bachelor's degree in history in January, 1969, six months before Rohrabacher.
When he lectures about the turbulent '60s, Kimbrough said, "I tell my poli sci classes I briefly experimented with marijuana. I really mean briefly."
Kimbrough said that while in college, he took part in protests of the American invasion of Cambodia.
Kimbrough, the son of a Navy officer, said he grew up in a Republican family but became a Democrat in the 1960s.
"As a person who has two degrees in history . . . I was impressed by certain people--Teddy Roosevelt, a Progressive Republican; Winston Churchill, because he believed in a very strong navy; Franklin D. Roosevelt, for showing that a leader can be both strong and compassionate; and Jack Kennedy, for trying to inspire many of us that politics can be a noble profession."
Kimbrough fondly recalls meeting Sen. Robert F. Kennedy while working at Disneyland, just two days before the Democratic presidential candidate was shot and killed after winning the California primary in June, 1968.
Kimbrough supports the death penalty only for the murder of a police officer or particularly violent or heinous crimes.
He said he believes that women have a right to abortions.
Like Rohrabacher, Kimbrough never served in the military. While seeking entrance into officer training programs, he was found to be unfit for service because of a minor physical problem.
Unlike his GOP rival, Kimbrough opposes U.S. aid to the Contras. He is a strong supporter of the NASA Space Station project being built by McDonnell-Douglas, a company that employs many residents of the district. And he proudly displays an endorsement letter from Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), which says Kimbrough shares his commitment to the space program.
Rohrabacher has expressed skepticism, saying the space station project is too expensive. He said he will not support it if it is financed by cuts in defense programs.
Drilling, Growth Issues
Kimbrough opposes all offshore oil drilling and favors a renewed government commitment to develop synthetic fuels.
Both candidates express concern about homelessness, although neither has offered a plan for dealing with it.
They differ markedly over the issue of growth.
Kimbrough supported Measure A, the growth-control initiative that went down to defeat in Orange County in June. Rohrabacher did not take a position.
In a district with some of the most expensive housing in the nation, Kimbrough said he favors providing federal loans to help middle-income families buy their first home. Rohrabacher said a better way to make housing more affordable is to lower interest rates by maintaining a tight rein on the growth in federal spending.
The Republican candidate blames excessive building regulation and growth controls for driving up the price of housing and contributing to the homeless problem.
"Some of the same people who proclaim their compassion for the homeless are the same people who are behind a lot of no-growth initiatives in California," Rohrabacher said. "And restrictions on growth and the building of new homes impacts on the less fortunate citizens the most."
Both candidates acknowledge that the congressional district has transportation problems. Kimbrough would like to redirect some of the engineering talent in the aerospace industry to developing mass transit. He favors incentives to encourage employers to stagger work hours and provide van pools.
Rohrabacher said he favors construction of more highway lanes and he objects to restricting certain lanes for car pools.
Both candidates oppose development of the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach.
When it comes to campaign spending, the two have nothing in common.
According to final pre-election campaign contribution reports filed Friday, Rohrabacher, who had to wage an expensive primary campaign, had raised $367,839 and spent $353,342 through Oct. 19. He had incurred debts of $85,942, including numerous loans, but reported $42,018 in cash on hand for the final weeks of the fall campaign.
The Republican candidate had more than 100 times more cash available than Kimbrough, who said he had $350 in his campaign coffer at the close of the reporting period. He had raised $9,966 by Oct. 19.
Rohrabacher's financial support has come from Republican activists, GOP organizations, conservative groups, Libertarians, business people, and political action committees representing developers, defense contractors, oil companies, medical interests, utilities, retailers, and insurance companies.
His list of individual contributors ranges from billionaire Texas oilman Nelson B. Hunt to rock star Sammy Hagar.
Kimbrough said his largest contribution arrived last week after the close of the reporting period. He received $1,500 from the National Education Assn.
Dr. Richard Lowe, president of Mt. San Jacinto College, where Kimbrough has taught since the fall of 1985, described him as "a very fine instructor."
"He is one who knows his subject matter very well and takes a very personal interest in . . . his students," Lowe said. "He enjoys teaching. He enjoys history. He enjoys government."
Candidate Rose Differs
The differences between Rohrabacher and Kimbrough are mild when their views are compared with those of Peace and Freedom candidate Richard D. Rose, who describes himself as a socialist.
A community activist in Long Beach, Rose said the most important issue facing the congressional district is the presence of nuclear weapons aboard Navy ships in Long Beach Harbor.
"The presence of nuclear weapons is a safety matter," Rose said. "It definitely makes us a target."
Rose, 35, said he opposes all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and believes the Strategic Defense Initiative is a waste of money.
He opposes all funding for the Contras, whom he described as "terrorists." Rose objects that Rohrabacher brought Iran-Contra figure Oliver North into the district to campaign for him in the June primary.
Rose suggested converting the district's defense plants to work that is "more socially benefitting" and cuts in defense spending to remove "a lot of waste in the military budget."
Rose, who is legally blind, said he works as a producer of cable television programs.
He is pro-choice on abortion, said he has tried marijuana, and does not want the federal government "interfering in my civil liberties."