Baca Cites Experience And Seniority In House Return Bid

(April 21)  Less than two years after he left Congress following his defeat by sister Democrat Gloria Negrete-McLeod in the 35th Congressional District, Joe Baca is vying to return to the House of Representatives in the 31st District.
After serving nearly 13 years in Congress, in 2012, Baca was blindsided by more than $3.7 million  that was provided to Negrete-McLeod through a political action committee controlled by Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which funded a hard-hitting attack campaign against Baca in the final month before the November 2012 election.
Incumbent Gary Miller is not running for reelection in the 31stDistrict,  where he and another Republican, Bob Dutton, defeated four Democrats in the 2012 open primary, despite the 41 to 33 percent Democratic registration advantage in the district. This year, Baca is joined by three other Democrats –  Eloise Gomez Reyes, Danny Tillman and Pete Aguilar – and three Republicans – Lesli Gooch, Paul Chabot and Ryan Downing – in the sweepstakes to represent the 31st  in Washington, D.C.
Baca insists it is his decades-long experience as both a state and federal legislator and his seniority in Congress,  together with his proven ability to bring home the bacon that separates him from his six competitors.
“It matters who we send to Congress,” Baca said. “I am a veteran in both senses of the word. I am a military veteran and a veteran of Congress. On day one I will be able to regain my seniority and I will be the only representative from San Bernardino County with any seniority to speak of and the only one with the experience and knowledge needed to obtain funding for our district and direct grant money here. Gary Miller is the last Congressman from our county with any seniority, and he is leaving. Obviously, you cannot be effective in Washington without seniority. I was number three on the agricultural committee before I left and I will be number two on the same committee if I return. When I was there before, I developed the knowledge and ability to be effective. I brought in $40 million to fight hunger. I was effective, out of knowledge and compassion. At one point, a long time ago, I was on welfare. Because I know the stigma that accompanied using food stamps, I changed that to EBT cards. I knew what it was like to stand in lines with no dignity. I can get right back in there and go to work again.”
Knowing the legislative ropes, Baca said he can facilitate the passage of what were once called pork barrel bills to deliver funding to local districts by using the new legislative methodology consists of earmarks.
Baca was in the California Assembly from 1992 until 1998 and then was elected to the California Senate. While he was in the State Senate, he won a special election to replace former Congressman George Brown, who died in office in 1999.
He has proven himself in steering funding back to serve his constituents, he said.
“I brought in $540 million in stimulus money,” he said. “Just before I left, I brought in $175 million in appropriations money. We fixed highways with that money, the 210, the 215 freeways, the Pepper Street off-ramp, the Cypress off-ramp, the extension of the 219, the sbX Bus system in San Bernardino. I brought in another $32 million for the railroad crossing in Colton. Most of the infrastructure money was funding that was earmarked for this area specifically. Freshmen congressman could not do that. Many times, freshmen cannot even speak in committee. Your effectiveness is based on seniority. Those who advance to chairs do so based on seniority. The other six candidates can talk about what they want to do, but they are not going to be able to fix Washington, D.C.  Business is done there now as it has always been done. No freshman is going to go there and change that, much less change the attitudes of the 434 other Congressman.  There are rules: cloture, rules where you have to have 50 votes to bring legislation forward, filibuster tactics that both parties use, ploys that neither side will give up because of the power it brings them. I understand these things. Seniority plays an important part, that and experience. I have the advantage of seniority and experience. I will use earmarks to bring funding home. If I can’t use earmarks on a particular bill, there is still a grant process where I can help out. These are things the others can talk about but you need experience to make it work. There is pressure on both sides of the aisle. I have been bipartisan, working right down the middle.  That’s why the Democrats sometimes do not support me.  I believe in what is best for America, which most of the time comes down to being right in the middle. I have been effective on getting my legislation voted on and approved in both houses.”
In sizing up what he considered to be the major issues in the campaign, Baca said, “The issues for the district are jobs and the economy. We need to bring manufacturing jobs into the area. Much of the infrastructure is here. We have the roads and highways. We have to do more to bring in manufacturing jobs rather than distribution jobs. Manufacturing is pivotal.  We need to put incentives and tax breaks into legislation to create economic development. The other issue is education. We have to make sure we receive the best K through 12 education and then make sure higher education is affordable so our students can go to community college or state college and universities and not be in debt for the rest of their lives. They need to be able to go to school and become productive citizens and contribute back to society, as leaders and workers and as taxpayers. We are not getting our fair share of federal dollars back to the state of California. Another issue is affordable health care. We have to make sure the health care we provide is affordable. People should be allowed to choose the plan they want and not be penalized. If this means extending the deadlines, then we should do it. We need to make sure that prescription drugs are affordable.  We have to protect Social Security and Medicare. We cannot have those two things privatized. We have to protect our veterans. They have done so much to protect us, we have to make sure we take care of them when they come back and their spouses as well.  We have to see about providing housing for our veterans who are homeless.  We need to deal with infrastructure. We need additional funding for highways and freeways, which improve the quality of life and the quality of the air. The railroad  funds I brought in made it so trains aren’t just idling and polluting the air. We need less pollution and more transportation. The Inland Empire is the hub of transportation in Southern California. San Bernardino International Airport is right at the logical end of the Alameda Corridor  and the Gold Line. We should be moving goods through the ports and past San Bernardino and up the Cajon Pass. The transition of Rialto Airport into a developed area will bring jobs in here.”
Turning to the purview of Congress beyond the local area, Baca said, “At the national level, there are  so many issues. The Voting Rights Act is one. Another is comprehensive immigration reform. That is local and national. Everyone else is come lately on this issue and they talk about comprehensive immigration reform but I was always outspoken about the need for immigration reform legislation.  Housing is an important issue. The American Dream is to own you own home. We should control interest rates at the national level. We can’t let Wall Street control interest rates. We have to be responsible in terms of reducing fraud in our social assistance programs. That does not mean we do not have social programs, but where the taxpayers are being cheated, either by individual recipients, or counties or states, we need to cut out fraud and abuse and make sure those federal government dollars are used in accordance with how those programs were proposed and approved.”
Baca said he felt the need to set the record straight following the negative advertising blitz he endured at the hands of Negrete-McLeod utilizing Bloomberg’s money.
“They lied,” he said. “They said I was in favor of putting guns in the hands of criminals and felons and the mentally ill. That was not true. I believe in sensible legislation  to ban assault weapons and clips and require background checks. I think there should be background checks on those who purchase weapons at gun shows. But I do believe the American people have the right to bear arms.  I believe any regulation  needs to be done within the framework of the Second Amendment. They told even worse lies about me when they said I was in favor of polluting our water. No one is in favor of polluting our water. I am not. There was never any legislation passed calling for the polluting of water. I worked, tirelessly, to get over $75 million for the cleanup of perchlorate from our groundwater. Those ads on television did not depict me accurately. I implore the voters to examine my record before they cast their votes this year and that they not rely on the misrepresentations of fast talking political consultants.”
Baca attended Barstow High School and Barstow Community College and served in the U.S. Army from 1966 until 1968 with the 101st  Airborne and 82nd Airborne divisions. He completed his A.A. degree at Barstow Community College and then attended U.C. Davis  and then UCLA, obtaining a B.A. in sociology with a minor in kinesiology. He subsequently worked as a counselor at UCLA and then was employed by General Telephone,  which merged with Contel and later became Verizon. He was elected to the San Bernardino  Community College District Board in 1979 and unsuccessfully vied for state assembly twice before he was elected in 1992. He and his wife Barbara have four children.

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