Incumbent Democratic Rep. Josh Harder and Republican San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti are vying to represent California’s 9th Congressional District. The agricultural
district in the San Joaquin Valley is centered on Stockton.
The race is one of
11 key contests in California’s Nov. 8 midterm election that could determine whether Democrats keep control of the House or Republicans take the majority.
Harder’s answers are drawn from a questionnaire The Times sent to candidates in competitive California congressional races and the responses have been edited for length. Patti did not respond, so information about his views were collected from his campaign website, video of a candidates debate and interviews, and news coverage of the race.
Why do you think you should be elected to Congress? Harder “Costs are out of control, crime is on the rise and homelessness is a crisis. I’m tired of watching the same politicians yell at each other about the same problems while nothing gets done and our community gets left behind. “I’m running because I believe we have to do things differently. We need leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up to party bosses or corporate interests, and always put our Valley families first. I come from the business world. I’m not beholden to any party or any special interest. I’m committed to putting petty politics aside and getting the right things done.” Patti On Patti’s website, he mentions crime and neighborhood safety, including efforts to “reduce homelessness and its impact on our community.” The website touts Patti’s work on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to “support veterans and improve healthcare access and services.” Additionally, Patti mentions job creation and economic opportunity. What about your experiences make you most qualified? Harder Harder speaks of his family’s history in San Joaquin County going back 150 years when “my great-great-grandfather settled in Manteca to start a peach farm. Growing up, my parents taught me the value of faith, community, and hard work. I worked my way through college and had a successful career helping businesses grow, but when my member of Congress voted to strip healthcare away from thousands of folks in my community, including my little brother, I knew I had to act. So I ran for Congress then and I’m running now to fight against the corporations and the special interests and always put our families first.” Patti Patti’s campaign notes that he was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, ran a local business and was elected to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in 2016 “by an overwhelming margin.” On Facebook, he writes: “During my time as a County Supervisor, I am proud to say that our board has secured funding and resources for veterans, law enforcement officers and students. We provided hundreds of beds for the homeless and substance abusers to get them back on their feet and are working toward ending homelessness and addiction. I know firsthand what it takes to mobilize this community and what kind of leader we need to advocate for our needs.” What would be your top legislative priorities? Harder “My top priority is getting prices down and making our community an affordable place to raise a family again. We have to cut the federal and state gas taxes costing us almost $1 a gallon, fix our supply chain so we’re not paying an arm and a leg at the store, and bring new high-paying jobs to our community so no one has to drive three hours each way for a decent paying job.” Patti On Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection questionnaire, Patti listed his priorities as: “Lower the cost of living by reining in the reckless spending that has led to record inflation. Lower gas prices by promoting domestic energy production. Empower parents and local schools to make the best decisions for children.” Name an issue on which you would work with Republicans: Harder “For too long, politicians in Sacramento and Washington have haggled over our water crisis instead of working to solve it. So unlike them, I have a strong track record of working with both Republicans and Democrats for our water. We’ve already gotten past Washington infighting to secure the Valley’s first new surface water storage project in a generation, brought home millions to update storage infrastructure and technology, and push forward new protections for the Delta.” Patti On Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection questionnaire, Patti wrote: “In Congress, I will proudly work across the aisle, as I have on the Board of Supervisors, to ensure that our community is accounted for and receives the aid we so desperately need. I understand how inaction can deeply affect our daily lives, so I will strive every day to keep the fight of San Joaquin County and District 9 residents at the forefront of every decision, just like I do in my current role.” Patti has repeatedly clashed with his fellow county supervisors, who on three occasions — including two in the last few months — have voted on whether to censure him for his behavior. One of the votes, in September, led to censure, citing a violation of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors’ ethics code. On abortion Harder Of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed a national right to abortion, Harder said he was outraged and “terrified” of what it would mean for women across the country. “Six Supreme Court Justices decided that politicians are better suited at making healthcare decisions than a woman and her doctor. It’s shameful and millions of people will suffer because of it.” He said he supports the state ballot measure that would codify protections in California’s constitution and that he worked to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe protections. The bill passed the House but does not have the support to pass the Senate. He also voted in favor of the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which guards the right to cross state lines for abortion services; that bill also passed the House. Patti Patti told The Times that his personal opinion on abortion is “irrelevant” but that he believes “a woman has a right to choose her own reproductive health choices.” Patti did not answer when asked whether he would vote to codify Roe. Patti said he would follow the “will of the voters” and believes limits should be set on late-term abortions. In an October debate hosted by the Stockton Record, Patti said he does not support a national abortion ban. “It’s legal in the state of California and it’ll be remaining legal in the state of California. And I’m not here to get in the way of the very difficult decisions that... a woman and a doctor may have to make.” On the Jan. 6 insurrection and falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election Harder Harder said hearings by the House Jan. 6 committee showed “how many individuals conspired to overturn the will of the American people and the depths to which they would go to do it. Anyone who broke the law should be held accountable. To ensure this never happens again, I support the bipartisan group working to reform the Electoral Count Act so no politician anywhere can interfere with the will of the American people.” Patti In the candidate debate, Patti said he didn’t believe the 2020 election was stolen or fraudulent. “I’m not here looking backward and saying who did or didn’t win. Right now, Joe Biden is the president of America,” he said. Patti added “those that stormed the Capitol should be held accountable.” On mass shootings and gun control Harder “We have to do more to keep our families safe from gun violence, especially after the horrific spate of violence we’ve seen in recent weeks across the country. I support common-sense policies like expanding and strengthening background checks and I was proud to vote for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which we just passed into law. I also know most gun owners are law-abiding citizens and I believe we can cut down on gun violence without disrespecting anyone’s Second Amendment rights.” Patti Patti’s position on how to remedy gun violence and mass shootings is unclear. The National Rifle Assn.’s Political Victory Fund rates Patti with a question mark. On police funding Harder “I’m proud to stand with our law enforcement officers and I support giving them the funding and support they need to keep our communities safe. This year, I brought home millions in federal dollars to fund a special task force to fight methamphetamine and fentanyl trafficking in the Central Valley and hire new police officers and buy new police cars and state-of-the-art public safety equipment.” Patti On Twitter, Patti wrote: “As County Supervisor, I led the effort to increase pay for law enforcement which helped retain and attract officers. In Congress, I will continue to work across the aisle to ensure the safety of our community.” On healthcare Harder “Healthcare is personal for me. My brother was born prematurely, and the hospital left my family with a hundred-page medical bill. The healthcare system is clearly broken — it’s too hard to find care and if you do, it’s way too expensive. Insurance executives are getting rich while our families have to choose between prescriptions and putting gas in the tank.” Harder said he supports “allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and instituting a $35 per month cap on insulin. I’ve also written a bill to reform our student debt forgiveness program, which would bring 10,000 new doctors to California over the next 10 years. That will allow more people in places like the Central Valley to get care faster and closer to home.” Patti Patti’s positions on the Affordable Care Act and healthcare access aren’t clear. Under accomplishments” on his campaign website, he mentions work on a Veterans Administration hospital in French Camp as well as working “with state and local leaders to enhance Rx labeling and package disclosures.” In 2018, Patti was arrested after a collision on Interstate 5. San Joaquin Superior Court records show that he was charged with a misdemeanor DUI and that state attorney general’s office amended the criminal complaint to a reckless-driving misdemeanor. Patti, who said he accidentally took the wrong medication, pleaded no contest. Records show he was sentenced to conditional probation for one year. “After Tom had mistakenly mixed up identical medications, causing a noninjury accident, he made it a priority to improve medical package labels,” his campaign website reads. “Over 1.5 million people make these kinds of prescription mistakes leading to thousands of deaths each year. We need to fix this!” Patti was outspoken in opposition to COVID-19 vaccine requirements. He praised a local In-N-Out Burger for “fighting against bullies” after the restaurant refused to check customers’ vaccination status at two Bay Area locations. He pushed for a board resolution prohibiting county offices from requiring vaccine proof to enter their buildings, writing: “This unnecessary restriction will further erode many businesses ability to survive by eliminating a large percentage of the unvaccinated population from entering, working, using specific businesses or government services.” On immigration, the border, citizenship Harder “We have over 10,000 Dreamers in our community who are our friends and co-workers and I strongly believe they deserve a pathway to citizenship. We need real, comprehensive immigration reform to give immigrants and their families the protections they need. I also am a strong proponent of securing our borders. I believe we need additional technology at the border to make sure we’re catching drug smugglers, human traffickers and anyone else looking to do our country harm.” Patti In an interview posted on Facebook, Patti said the U.S. needed to secure its border and that “we also want a wonderful immigration policy bringing in qualified and skilled workers.” “We need to revamp I believe some of the security issues and welcome a very robust immigration policy that... brings people that enjoy freedom and those that embrace the ideology of what America’s all about: freedom, equality, diversity, and inclusion for all.” On homelessness Harder “Politicians have let the homelessness crisis spiral out of control. I know it is an emergency and I support urgent programs to get people off the streets and into support services. My landmark homelessness plan includes tackling the root causes of homelessness by investing in mental health and substance abuse services and providing job training to get people back on their feet.” Patti On his website, Patti writes that he “funded hundreds of new beds to combat homelessness and substance abuse.” In a June Tweet, he expressed pride in the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors’ vote to fund new homeless services, including at a shelter in Stockton. Times staff writer Priscella Vega contributed to this report.