Editor’s note: On Nov. 8, the state’s general election will be held. Voters will have the opportunity to choose their U.S. Congressional representative. Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Garner Valley and Anza are in the new 41st Congressional District. To the west, the district includes Wildomar and Norco. To the east, it includes desert cities such as Palm Springs and Palm Desert. Democrat Will Rollins is the challenger to incumbent Republican Congressman Ken Calvert (currently CA 42), who already represents much of the area to the west. The Town Crier interviewed each candidate and both stories appear in this edition of the paper.
A new resident of Palm Springs, Will Rollins, 38, formerly lived in Canyon Lake, also in the 41st. He is a former federal prosecutor whose career focused on counter terrorism and intelligence cases. “I loved being part of the team protecting the country against Russia, China and ISIS,” he declared.
He and his partner, Paolo Benvenuto, always loved Palm Springs. “And it had a very LGBTQ supportive community, which was an important reason,” Rollins noted.
Sept. 11 changed Rollins’s life and was the reason he became a prosecutor. He watched television and saw the attacks on New York City and the destruction of the North Tower of the Trade Center.
“I was inspired to serve in the military, but it was still against the laws for gays to serve in the military,” he said. “So, I knew I needed a different path. After law school, I clerked for different federal judges and then joined the Justice Department’s Central California District, which includes Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange and Ventura counties.”
And the Jan. 6 attack on the U. S. Capitol elicited another response to step up to protect his community and country. Big lies and QAnon are conspiracy threats, which Rollins has had some experience opposing. Similar to his reaction to Sept. 11, Rollins found Congressman Ken Calvert’s reaction to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol offensive and insufficient.
“After Calvert called for dropping the charges for the people charged with the attack, that became a powerful moment for me,” Rollins professed. “I do not look back with regret. It is the antithesis of everything I was taught growing up. We have no subservience to any one politician.”
Despite his strong patriotic feeling, Rollins knows this election is not about Jan. 6. He contends that there are three main themes for him in this race.
First, he wants to “keep the government out of our bedrooms.” The right to privacy includes the personal health care of women and the decision on whether to buy and to use a contraceptive.
Secondly, Rollins seeks stronger anti-corruption measures. He is concerned about legislators trading stock while in office and attending hearings. Or pushing legislation or appropriations that would benefit their private real estate. And Big Tech and media companies profiting from the proliferation of lies.
And thirdly, he wants to find ways to lower the cost for the working families of the district. Rollins attributes a lot to corporate price gouging and favors tax changes to help lower- and middle-income families, and expects the mega-billionaires and corporations to pick up the revenue needs. For example, he stresses the need for greater competition in the oil and gas industry.
On specific issues, he says he would fight for seniors if elected. Rollins recognizes their importance and growing strength in the district. He favors increasing Social Security benefits, lowering prescription drug costs, and expanding Medicare’s dental and vision benefits for more older Americans to benefit.
To gain these changes, he recognizes it will cost more money and argues that our society benefits long term when individuals have more opportunities to seek preventive care earlier in life before critical and intensive care is required. “Without good access and no regular screening, medical costs can skyrocket,” he believes.
While he agrees we need more doctors and nurses, he also is a firm advocate for greater use of telehealth technology. “Insurance regulations often prevent this use of medical professionals across state lines,” he said.
Law enforcement is another issue Rollins believes needs greater attention. As a former prosecutor, he wants the first responders who protect our homes to have the right equipment and staffing. “I do not support efforts to defund the police!” he stated.
Rollins will strongly stand up for federal law enforcement. For example, the assault on the Capitol would not simply be dismissed as angry protestors. He believes that these and other similar comments undermine the public’s confidence in the Department of Justice and the F.B.I.
In his career, he has worked on drug task forces, and successfully combined federal and local resources to help curb crime. And he argues that federal law enforcement can be more effective when it focuses on violent crimes. He would like to see more funding for the white-collar frauds that target seniors. “These are more complex to solve and prosecute,” he acknowledged.
On Sept. 30, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board pronounced its support for Rollins. “We think Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, is the best choice. He brings new ideas and vigor to a district that has been represented by Republican Rep. Ken Calvert for three decades … Rollins is knowledgeable on issues important to voters and is willing to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans to help enact policy changes.”
The Federal Election Commission records for Congressional campaign financing are through June 30. At that point. Rollins had received nearly $1.5 million in contributions. The vast majority — $1.36 million — were from individuals. The remaining funds came from other party entities and $9,800 from his own pockets.
His expenditures through June totaled $980,000, thus he had about $480,000 in cash for the final four months of the campaign.
“I have not accepted a dime from corporate PACs [Political Action Committees],” Rollins shared with satisfaction. “I don’t need to match my opponent dollar to dollar.”
He compared his race with Calvert to a recent Democratic upset in New York state. In August, Democrat Pat Ryan defeated Republican Marc Molinaro in the special election for the New York’s 19th District Congressional seat. Molinaro had a funding advantage over Ryan, Rollins noted.
“It’s not just money, but integrity and ethics are more important now,” Rollins underscored.
On his website and in interviews, Rollins has stressed, “Extremists, Big Tech and media outlets are profiting from spreading division based on lies, even as they erode our democracy … If Americans can start agreeing on basic facts again, we can start working together to tackle the big issues of our generation: reforming our criminal justice system, improving access to health care, growing our economy and protecting our planet.”