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49th District: Mike Levin and Diane Harkey

Even before Rep. Darrell Issa announced his retirement, California’s 49th Congressional District was in danger of slipping away from the Republicans.

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The district, comprising parts of San Diego and Orange counties, favored Democrat Hillary Clinton by seven percentage points in the 2016 presidential election. Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental attorney, holds a 14-point advantage over Republican opponent Diane Harkey, chairwoman of the state Board of Equalization, according to September polling from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Levin’s is the largest lead for a Democrat in the seven GOP-held California districts that that went for Clinton.

The district’s voters are most concerned with healthcare, immigration, the economy and gun laws, according to the IGS poll. Here is a comparison of how the candidates stand on those issues and others. Except where noted, their quoted remarks are from audio recordings of interviews with the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Diane Harkey
State tax board member Diane Harkey, a Republican from Dana Point, who is running for Congress in the tightly-contested 49th Congressional District speaks to a reporter at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, Calif., on June 5, 2018. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Mike Levin
Congressional candidate Mike Levin stands at a 2018 mid-term elections rally on October 4, 2018 in Fullerton, California. The event, at California State University, Fullerton, was led by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and was held for five California Democratic congressional candidates. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Republican Diane Harkey and Democrat Mike Levin. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Healthcare

Harkey

  • "I think we just need to make some revisions, we need to probably beef up some of the [Affordable Care Act] where needed," she told San Diego TV station KPBS. "Maybe there’s some kind of independence for each state to do what it needs to do."
  • Has said she is "not a Medicare-for-all person. ... Medicare is already underwater, so I don't like that approach at all."
  • Indicated she wants to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health to study mental illness.

Levin

  • Supports Medicare for all.
  • Wants to protect Obamacare in the short term and explore solutions such as implementing a public option for early Medicare coverage and hiring full-time employees to help Americans enroll in the market.
  • Supports a bill to establish single-payer healthcare.

Taxes

Harkey

  • "The tax reform is … surprisingly well received. ... We were able to do some things like to get the House bill to be $750,000 for the mortgage, you know, interest deduction that you could use. ... I still would like to see a property tax deduction because my personal feeling is that when people are encouraged to buy property … they can build something for the future.”
    Harkey, to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Levin

  • “I think if we were just to go back to where we were, perhaps before these tax cuts that Trump put in place, would go a long way, but if you look at where we’ve been with marginal rates since Ronald Reagan was president, we’re not talking about anything massive. We’re talking about going back to a scenario that doesn’t just reward those at the top, but tries to have a rising tide that lifts all boats."
    Levin, to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Proposition 6

Harkey is a regional director of the Proposition 6 campaign to repeal the recently passed gas tax that funds infrastructure projects.

"This is just fraud. It's forcing you to take bikes, get on trains, hose off at the depot and try to get to work. That does not work. That does not work with my hair and heels. I cannot do that and I will not do that" —Harkey

Levin is against repealing the tax, saying the state's roads and bridges are not safe.

Immigration

Harkey

  • Offered a lukewarm endorsement of a border wall, saying, "You may have to build a wall. So what? We have 15 miles of wall. You’ll have a little more wall. … [I]t’s just, you know, to draw the line in the sand knowing that you’ve got to get everybody on board and knowing that you also have to get the president on board."
  • Says she opposes California's "sanctuary" law.
  • Supports the creation of a visa program for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and says on her website she opposes "amnesty."
  • "I think that if they go through all the checks and they’re not, you know, violent and they’re employed, then of course, you know, you give them a residency visa," she told the Union-Tribune. "If they want to apply for citizenship, that’s another level, that’s a process, but I think there’s a lot of things that can be done that reasonable people will agree to, but you just can’t seem to get that."

Levin

  • Opposes building a border wall.
  • Supports a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, young people brought to the country illegally as children and who meet other requirements.
  • “No, I do not support abolishing [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. … Our country needs immigration enforcement, but ICE should not be subject to the whims of the executive branch, and should administer our nation’s immigration laws in a humane manner,” Levin said in the Mercury News.
  • Wants to require immigrants in the country illegally to pay back taxes and study English.

Climate Change

The Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad was one of nine wildfires fueled by wind and record temperatures that erupted in San Diego County on May 14, 2014.
The Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad was one of nine wildfires fueled by wind and record temperatures that erupted in San Diego County on May 14, 2014. (David McNew / Getty Images)

Harkey

  • "I am not a scientist. I can't, I can’t read all of that stuff and make a decision. It’s not where I was educated. I’m an economist person. ... [W]hen I see countries like China and India that are truly spewing out more greenhouse gases than probably the United States and Europe combined, I have to wonder why we’re crippling our Western economies. ... How much can we save? Everybody likes to save the planet, but I’m not so sure we’re not just destroying ourselves. So you know, yes, I’m sure it’s [climate change] happening. How far we regulate it and how much control we really have over it is where I question.”
    Harkey, to the Union-Tribune

Levin

  • “What I know is this, we have to do all we can to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint. … The science is overwhelming, you can go down the street to our friends at Scripps [Institute of Oceanography] or UC San Diego, ask any of them and they will tell you it’s a bigger problem than any of us would like to admit and that we’ve abdicated our global responsibility as it pertains to [the] Paris Climate Accord.”
    Levin, to the Union-Tribune

Gun Control

Harkey

  • "I do believe in the 2nd Amendment, and I really don’t understand why kids in school would want to … wouldn’t give up their cellphones or their car keys, but would give up their 2nd Amendment. So I think we’ve confused the issues there. We have mental health issues," she told the Union-Tribune.
  • On the issue of arming teachers, she added: "It depends on where you are."

Levin

  • Wants to expand background check requirements for gun purchases and ban assault weapons and bump stocks.
  • Wants to repeal the Dickey Amendment so the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can use federal funding on gun-violence research.
  • Opposes concealed carry reciprocity and the arming of teachers.

Darrell Issa

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) in March 2017.
Outgoing U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) in March 2017. (Hayne Palmour IV / TNS)

Harkey

  • "[Issa] served his district extremely well; he’s very experienced, he’s a business person, quite successful in his own right.”
    Harkey, to the Union-Tribune

Levin

  • “One of the things that I felt Congressmember Issa could have done better was have more of an open door."
    Levin, to the Union-Tribune
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