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. Republican Congressman Ken Calvert (currently CA 42) already represents much of the area to the west and is considered the incumbent in the race. The challenger is Democrat Will Rollins. The Town Crier interviewed each candidate and both stories appear in this edition of the paper.
Congressman Ken Calvert, 69, is a life-long resident of Riverside County. He graduated from Corona High School and was a small-business owner in the restaurant and real estate industries before entering politics.
Calvert was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992. Since then, various redistricting plans have modified the area which he has represented. But all included some portion of western Riverside County. He is currently the 42nd District House Representative.
In his last five elections, since 2012, Calvert captured a minimum of 56% of the votes cast. In two of those, he garnered more than 60%. In 1992, his first election, he received only 46.7% of votes. Since then, he has always had 50% of the votes or more. In his 2000 reelection, he garnered almost 75% of the ballots cast.
Although first among five candidates in the June 2022 primary, Calvert’s percentage was 48.2% However, he notes that the other Republican, John Michael Lucio, received 4.6%, so that the total votes cast for the two Republican candidates was almost 53%.
Calvert’s Democratic opponent, Will Rollins, disputes this conclusion. He argues that he and the other three candidates were all “anti-Calvert” and that theme essentially received the majority of votes.
Until the November results are known, Calvert still serves in the in the House of Representatives, where he is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. He is currently the top Republican on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and also a member of the Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Committee.
On Oct. 6, the Press-Enterprise endorsed Calvert primarily because of his seniority in the House.
“Still, on balance, we think Calvert is more likely to be able to deliver to the district in the next two years than his opponent, who has never held elected office. Over the last two years, Calvert has successfully secured federal funding for various practical needs in and around the district,” the editorial asserted. “Calvert’s seniority will put him in prime position to continue to deliver critical funding to the district … There’s plenty to agree and disagree with both candidates on … We give Calvert the nod.”
As an example, some actions Calvert has taken for the benefit of his districts have helped local hospitals and organizations. This would include new cancer treatment equipment at the City of Hope facility in Corona; an emergency operations trailer for Loma Linda Hospital in Murrieta; the Southwest Riverside County Regional Homeless Services project; the Riverside County Department of Health (including grants for COVID-19 vaccines); and co-chair of the bipartisan ALS Caucus to find policy solutions to help afflicted families and more resources to find a cure for the terminal disease.
Speaking to other issues also dominant in this fall’s campaign, Calvert is particularly concerned about inflation endangering the economy. In a recent press release, he said, “Inflation in August was 8.3% higher than last year and remains at a near 40-year high. Grocery prices skyrocketed 13.5% in August, the largest increase in 43 years.”
While acknowledging that the COVID pandemic, which has damaged the country’s supply chain, began before President Joseph Biden took office, Calvert pointed to several reasons encouraging a rise in inflation.
“The war on energy industry is curtailing production,” he noted. “Instead of expanding production, there’s less refining capability. That increases the price of diesel fuel on which everything depends.
“Natural gas price is up, fertilizer prices are increasing,” he continued. “Farmers in the Central Valley are facing increasing costs to operate.”
When asked about how his role on the House Appropriations Committee could help address the inflation problem, Calvert averred. “The discretionary part of the budget is only 30% of the total federal spending and not up. The non-discretionary portion is on autopilot.”
So he argued that the House and Senate with the president’s administration need to reach a budget agreement that “will slow the rate of increase [in the non-discretionary programs] without cutting them.”
And he pointed to Social Security as an example of a program that needs overview and strengthening. “But first we need to get through this demographic crisis where there are less workers and beneficiaries. We need a budget agreement between both parties and it will be a tough decision on how to keep it from going bankrupt.”
While he wants to improve air quality, Calvert argues, “We need to incrementally clean up the environment.” Pointing to the recent California Air Resources Board decision to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles, he stressed, “There’s not enough electricity in the gird. We need to keep Diablo open and then secure our energy supply.”
Besides air and energy, Calvert cares about the forest environment and threats to it such as wildfire and drought. His parents lived in Idyllwild. His father helped build the stone walls at Camp Emerson. So, it was no surprise in July when he took umbrage at H.R. 5118, the “Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act.”
For several reasons, he branded the bill as the “More Fires, Less Water Act.” None of his proposed amendments were adopted. He argued for more authorities or tools for land management agencies to address the wildfire crisis; a streamlining of provisions that address the root cause of the catastrophic wildfire crisis; and an effort to implement scientific forest management on the landscape.
In his press release, he detailed the bill’s problems, especially, “Zero mentions of mechanical thinning in more than 500 pages of legislative text, despite the fact this is one of the primary tools, along with prescribed burning, to treat overgrown and fire-prone lands.”
Overall Calvert remains positive about the November election. While a majority of votes were cast for him and Lucio, he believes that voter turnout in the western portion of the district was lower than he expected and “not very good compared to the east.” He plans to increase turnout in these areas, which typify his base.
And campaign funding is not a weakness. The Federal Election Commission records for Congressional campaign financing
are through June 30. At that time, the Calvert campaign had received more than $2.1 million in contributions. About two-thirds came from individuals; the remainder from other political action campaign entities.
Expenditures totaled $1.3 million, leaving $1.4 million cash in his campaign chest for the final months.
On Sept. 14, Calvert began airing his first general election television ad titled “Bidenflation.” It touts his efforts to fight inflation.
It should also be noted that in March, former President Donald Trump announced his endorsement of Calvert. His statement read, “Congressman Ken Calvert is doing a fantastic job representing the people of California in Congress. Ken is a leader on national security and strongly supports our brave military and vets. He is working hard to deliver water solutions for California, Lower your taxes, secure our border, and protect and defend our Second Amendment. Ken has my complete and total endorsement!”
When asked if he sought it, Calvert replied, “My relationship with the former president on the issues — taxes, national security, the border and economy — was good. I accept his endorsement. It’s a difficult time for him.”