34th Congressional District: Meet the candidates vying to replace Xavier Becerra

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Next Tuesday, Los Angeles voters in California's 34th Congressional District will head to the polls in a special primary election to choose their new member in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But the district's voters have quite the list to get through: 23 candidates are running for the open seat, which was previously held by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. So, how can voters differentiate between them all?

Last week, 20 of the 23 candidates met onstage at Eagle Rock High School during a public candidate forum. There, they did their best to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.

If you missed that event, you can check out a survey that KPCC has conducted to help voters with their choice. We heard back from 19 of the 23 candidates in the race.

In our survey, we asked the candidates questions about constituents' concerns, including immigration and health care. We also asked how they differentiate themselves from Becerra.

Here's what they said. (Entries have been edited and condensed for clarity):

Name Party affiliation One-sentence pitch Responses
William Rodriguez Morrison Republican This is my house. I will fight for all my family. You are my family. Read »
Sara Hernandez Democratic A policy progressive with a record of getting things done for our community. I understand how federal policy is intertwined & affects us here in CD34. Read »
Ricardo De La Fuente Democratic Vote for Ricardo De La fuente, get results, get change! Read »
Tenaya Wallace Democratic Tenaya is running for Congress to lead with a powerful vision of what we are for. Read »
Richard J. Sullivan Democratic I am the change agent the district needs now. Read »
Melissa "Sharkie" Garza Democratic Vote for me if you'd like to find and even balance between party lines. Read »
Robert Lee Ahn Democratic Vote for Robert Lee Ahn on April 4th! Read »
Adrienne Nicole Edwards Democratic A change you can see! Read »
Sandra Mendoza Democratic Leadership with progressive values, not financed by special interests, going to serve the people of the district. Read »
Steven Mac Democratic I am the only candidate with foreign policy/national security experience and will model my leadership on Adam Schiff: targeted and strategic. Read »
Angela McArdle Libertarian I'll restore rights stolen by the federal gov't through unconstitutional power grabs so Californians have the freedom to choose what's best for us. Read »
Yolie Flores Democratic I’m running for CA34 to make Congress work for children and families and to end child poverty and income inequality in America. Read »
Vanessa Aramayo Democratic This district is my home and has been for years; we need a representative who understands the problems locally and can deliver results in for us in D.C. Read »
Maria Cabildo Democratic I will let the L.A. Times, which endorsed me, make the pitch: 'What makes Cabildo rise above the others is that she’s already had a distinguished career outside of politics ... she’s widely respected by civic leaders and community advocates because of her understated yet powerful leadership style.' Read »
Kenneth Mejia Green I'll organize for housing for all, Medicare for all and legalize all immigrants, just like my volunteer campaign, which has called over 40,000 voters. Read »
Jimmy Gomez Democratic As a union organizer and State Assembly member, I am the best prepared to take the fight to Washington and protect California's working families. Read »
Alejandra Campoverdi Democratic As a former White House aide to President Obama & media strategist, I know Washington & I know how to draw attention to critical issues from day one. Read »
Raymond Meza Democratic I have built successful movements to change the national debate and protect the federal policies, programs, and funding vital to our communities. Read »
Tracy Van Houten Democratic As an aerospace engineer and your next congresswoman I will lead the fight against alternative facts to protect our families, schools, air, and water. Read »
Arturo Carmona Democratic N/A None received
Wendy Carrillo Democratic N/A None received
Mark Edward Padilla No Party Preference N/A None received
Armando Sotomayor Democratic N/A None received

William Rodriguez Morrison

William Morrison at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
William Morrison at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Republican

Short bio

This is my house. My family has been in this district for over 100 years. I will fight for the rights of all the community.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

There are many. First, the right of senior citizens, education, homeless jobs, taxes and many more. 

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

We must make straight the policy for the rights of the people, to protect their rights.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I would be more engaged with the community and the people at all meetings. When I am here from D.C., I have no days off. This is my commitment to the people. 

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

Filibuster if necessary to pass health care that we are not leaving anyone out, most of all are senior citizens and vets. 

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Citizenship is a honor and we should not turn anyone back that wants to respect our flag and nation. 

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Sara Hernandez

Sara Hernandez at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Sara Hernandez at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

I’m a former LAUSD teacher who started a nonprofit to help low-income kids go to some of the best colleges. I went on to law school and became special counsel to Councilmember Huizar. There I worked to open small businesses, create jobs and build programs to combat homelessness in L.A.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Homelessness. Through allocating HUD funds and working with Health and Human Services on housing, mental health and addiction.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

I believe in order to best represent your constituents you must know your constituents. That means always being accessible and available to every person throughout our district. My job is to work on behalf of you to get real results.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I believe that now Attorney General Xavier Bacerra was a great representative of our community during his 20+ year tenure in Congress. However, this district told us in November that they are ready for fresh progressive policy and I want to be that voice. I will have a laser focus on reviving and passing the Dream Act to protect our DACA students.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

I believe in a single-payer universal health care system that guarantees health care to all people. I support the reintroduction of The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676. I will fight to preserve coverage for the 20 million Americans who have coverage because of the ACA and Medicaid expansion. I will fight to preserve comprehensive coverage that covers mental health care and addiction treatment for our most vulnerable populations.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Comprehensive immigration reform & passing the Dream Act. As a non-profit leader, I helped fund my students legal defense to fight deportation & assist families in navigating the citizenship process. As an educator, we cannot look children in the eye & ask them to invest in their education, to pursue the American Dream, & not provide a pathway to citizenship. In Congress, protecting my DACA students, passing the Dream Act and fighting for comprehensive immigration reform will be my upmost priority.

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Ricardo De La Fuente

Party affiliation: Democratic

34th Congressional District Candidate Ricardo de la Fuente
34th Congressional District Candidate Ricardo de la Fuente Courtesy of Ricardo de la Fuente for Congress

Short bio

A clean energy entrepreneur who is dedicated to standing up against Donald Trump's policies. Harvard-educated and speaker of eight languages, Ricardo is ready to fight against Donald Trump and take back Congress!

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Immigration, as managed by Donald Trump, is a top priority. We need legalization, not deportation. In Congress, I will fight to remove the funding from the border wall and from programs such as ICE raids.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

My district offices will handle many constituent service requests. My aides and I will help constituents cut through the red tape of government to resolve their issues. We will help people with issues such as Social Security benefits collection, citizenship issues, and veterans benefits.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I am hands on and will be present in my district, to hear the concerns of my constituents, and pivot that into action in Washington. I will provide results.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

The Obamacare program needs to be retained, not repealed. We do, however, need to improve upon it by keeping it affordable and making the program user-friendly.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

As discussed above, I will fight to defund programs such as the border wall and ICE raids. My district is full of immigrants and we need legalization, not deportation. People need a fair and reasonable path towards citizenship.

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Tenaya Wallace

Tenaya Wallace at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Tenaya Wallace at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

As a graduate of John Marshall High School and with a political science degree from Tulane University and a master’s in public policy from UCLA, I have advanced environmental policy and led national increases in organ donation. Always politically and community oriented, I served nearly four years on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and as outreach chair for the Venice Neighborhood Council formation committee.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Every problem facing our nation is amplified in the 34th and these issues are deeply interconnected, including housing, poverty, education and health care. I will do three things. First, frame these policy issues as investments in the public good. Second, build relationships and partner with colleagues who have been working tenaciously to tackle our toughest social issues. Third, bring home money. Trump’s budget and GOP attempts to block-grant Medicare will deepen all the issues facing the 34th.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

As a civic engagement strategist, I create authentic pathways to engage. Tenaya4Congress hosted a Civic Engagement Workshop, bringing together advocacy groups and constituents, as a model for town hall meetings. Organizations shared goals and projects to help participants engage on issues they care about most. I will continue to innovate opportunities to receive input from the 34th and share information from Washington so constituents are consistently heard and informed.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

ENGAGE. The 34th doesn’t want a representative to "fight for us" in Washington. We are all in this fight. It’s also not enough to make good policy choices in D.C. We need representatives to engage the community and lead with a vision of what we are for. More traditional Democrats, like Becerra, don’t fully understand this new model of engagement demanded by this movement moment.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

Democrats are the party of justice and health care is a right. The Republicans failed to repeal and replace the ACA because constituents resisted Ryan’s deathtrap proposal. Democrats need to stop spending our time negating specific policy proposals and work together to craft what’s next for the ACA. How do we keep people covered AND bring down cost? Democrats must take control of the conversation, and the policy, by speaking loudly and clearly about what we are for: health care for all.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Trump won blaming immigrants for the economic grievances of fellow Americans. Democrats need to do three things. First, amplify Bernie’s message that we need an economic system that works for all, not just the 1 percent. Second, keep families together. Detaining and deporting hard-working mothers, fathers and Dreamers undermines our communities, our safety and our society. Third, create a pathway to citizenship as a form of justice.

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Richard J. Sullivan

34th Congressional District Candidate Richard Joseph Sullivan
34th Congressional District Candidate Richard Joseph Sullivan Courtesy of Richard J. Sullivan for Congress

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Criminal defense attorney for 23 years. U Vermont. Southwestern School of Law

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Immigration. Provide documents to all taxpaying undocumented Americans.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

Hands on. I will use my cell phone, email and social media to communicate directly with people in the district.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I would get results. He had 24 years to address and solve the festering immigration problem that continues to plague the district.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

Insurance companies should pick up the costs for low-income persons and those with preexisting conditions. Allow competition across state lines.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

All tax-paying undocumented Americans have the right to be here. Provide them with the documents they need to allow them to come out of the shadows.

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Melissa “Sharkie” Garza

Melissa "Sharkie" Gaza at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Melissa "Sharkie" Gaza at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Melissa Garza, known as “Sharkie” to her closest friends, is a 38-year-old filmmaker, entrepreneur, and Democrat who grew up in Anaheim, California. After graduating from California State University, Fullerton, she earned her MFA in film production from Chapman University, in Orange, California. She has been living in Koreatown, Los Angeles, since 2011. She is tenacious, resilient, and knows how to keep moving forward–just like a shark!

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Homelessness is a big problem in this district. I would work to fix it by providing a state of emergency to provide necessary shelter for those that need it and services to help people get back on their feet through retraining and vocational education.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

I would have an open door policy and hours when I can be reached, including forums and town hall meetings.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I would like to maintain many of his ideals to be a firm voice for the people. Furthermore, I think we need to find more creative ways to work with the opposition in order to find a proper balance between party lines. I would make sure people have access to me so I can hear their concerns.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

I believe we should have universal health care or a single-payer system. In order to implement these ideas, I would organize with people from all walks of life and change the way insurance and pharmaceutical companies are currently profiting over people in a negative way. We should be putting the care of our people first, not look at this industry to charge exorbitant rates for profit. We also need more current price transparency.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

I would make sure that any policies or reform would put streamlining the bureaucratic system first. In addition, I think immigrants should have similar rights as citizens when it comes to needing public assistance because they are paying into our system as well. In addition, I want to make sure people are not being exploited by others and that people on current visas have a way to be tracked properly that don’t affect our civil liberties.

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Robert Lee Ahn

Robert Lee Ahn at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Robert Lee Ahn at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

  • L.A. City Planning Commissioner (appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti)
  • Successful entrepreneur and public interest attorney
  • Charter member Board of Directors of the Pacific American Volunteer Association
  • An officer of the Koreatown Arts and Recreation Center Steering Committee. Ahn successfully fought for over $1 million to get our community center!
  • Founding board member of the Anderson Munger Family YMCA in Koreatown

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

The top problem in the 34th District is crime. On my first day in office, I would immediately reinstate the Cops on the Beat program to ensure our neighborhoods are safe.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

My constituents would be my top priority. We have major issues in this district, and I would do everything in my power to allocate federal resources to improving the quality of life in the 34th.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I would seek to expand on his legacy. He has been an advocate for immigrant reform.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

I think it’s clear that House Republicans are not united on this issue. On my first day in office, I will fight to keep the ACA intact, especially in protecting preexisting conditions, parents keeping their children on their health care plans until 26 years of age and fighting to ensure that our most vulnerable, the elderly and children, are insured.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

There is no question we need comprehensive immigration reform. I will fight to expand the Dream Act and work to ensure there is no “wall.”

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Adrienne Nicole Edwards

34th Congressional District Candidate Adrienne Nicole Edwards
34th Congressional District Candidate Adrienne Nicole Edwards Courtesy of Adrienne Nicole Edwards for Congress

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a concerned citizen striving to make change for the better in the great city of Los Angeles.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Homelessness, and I would reform federal housing to benefit large cities like Los Angeles, i.e. no waitlist, real rapid rehousing and “no family left behind,” a program that will house indidviduals and families immediately into transitional housing until they are situated.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

After I am elected, I would approach constituent concerns in a prioritized manner and I will also push to hear every concern, no matter how big or small.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I will be more involved in my community and have an open line of communication where the people feel heard and their needs are being addressed and met.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

I will protect the Affordable Care Act. My number one priority would be free health care for all. Quality of health care will also be a priority. Quality health care is important because, in lower income communities, access to quality health care has been poor or nonexistent. Specialist and emergency centers are finding it hard to see patients immediately. I will push for a better fast track system to lessen wait times for emergency and special medical services nationwide.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

I support fair comprehensive immigration reform. The problem with Trump’s immigration policy and the comprehensive reform act of 2007 is they are bias and singled out races/nations. True immigration reform would be a simple list of requirements that we expect from all who immigrate to our great country. I’d put in parameters to have a better impact on special asylum exploitation/abuse. I would also protect American wages and American standards of living. We must find a middle ground.

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Sandra Mendoza

34th Congressional District Candidate Sandra Mendoza
34th Congressional District Candidate Sandra Mendoza Courtesy of Sandra Mendoza for Congress

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Proud mother of a millennial and a grandmother. My professional experience includes working in the private sector (garment industry in human and labor relations), have been a community, political and labor organizer and currently work in the public sector. Have served on nonprofits, state committees and my local neighborhood council.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

One of the top issues of the district is homelessness. While voters have at the local level approved measures to assist the city and county to produce revenue to address homelessness, this challenging problem will not be solved by one person nor by one agency alone but by a coalition of local, state, and federal agencies. My role would be to be part of this coalition and ensure our fair share of federal dollars make their way to the district to further address this problem.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

Hire a service-driven team that will be responsive to constituents via email, phone, and in-person office hours; continue to hold district town halls throughout the different neighborhoods in the district, as well as telephone town halls.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I will open a field office or offices in centralized locations that are accessible to the general public, and institute a “visit your congress member” open door policy.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

Working with the premise that health care is a human right. The focus now is to keep ACA and improve the flaws such as skyrocketing pricing and slowing down the insurance providers’ drop off. To ameliorate the rise in costs and to make ACA work better, as a legislator assist in allocating funds for outreach enrollment similar to the program attributed to the success of Covered California in enrolling new insurance subscribers. Simultaneously, work to institute single-payer health care.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

First, oppose proposed legislation or executive orders that violate civil liberties and U.S. human rights. Second, advocate for more humane processing of current immigrant detainees. Third, work toward long overdue comprehensive immigration reform. Much of the work has already been done by current members. The focus would be deliberating sound policy that will garner votes to pass legislation.

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Steven Mac

Steven Mac at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Steven Mac at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

I am currently a major in the Army Reserve and a felony prosecutor with the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office. I was born in L.A. to parents who were refugees of war and spent my youth in the neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, Chinatown, and Montebello. I’ve held jobs from construction to bagging groceries and unloading produce trucks and I know the hard work and struggle it takes to live in Los Angeles.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

The top problem is that many struggle to pay for child care, health care, housing, and education. I will work to increase the child care tax credit so families can afford to live and raise a family in L.A. This is an issue for families across America. I will work to increase the existing credit with all representatives in tax reform debates. Long term, I will work to ensure affordable health care under the ACA, equal opportunity for good education, and bring better local new economy jobs.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

Constituent concerns will be my top priority. I will embrace every method of communication, from meetings and town halls to media and technology, so that constituent concerns are heard in policy and legislation that impact our district and the rest of the world. The job of a member of Congress is to make constituent concerns actions in government.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

L.A. must lead to show that Democratic priorities benefit workers in new economy jobs, families in raising children with good housing and education, seniors in enjoying their lives, and the environment in using water and alternative energy efficiently. L.A. cannot continually hold itself apart and our message cannot leave many Americans in the country behind. I will represent all the people in the most diverse district in the U.S. to show the Democratic Party will always be the party of the people.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

I support the goal of universal health care, but in the near term, after the defeat of TrumpCare, I will defend against any vindictive attempts to undermine the ACA. I will protect the expansion of Medicare/Medicaid and will work with all representatives to keep out-of-pocket premium costs affordable using tax credits and/or expanding the insurance marketplace. Further, I would improve the ACA mandate with better incentives to increase participation in healthcare.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Mass deportation is immoral and I will fight against such policies. I support the 2013 Senate Immigration Bill and believe in its model of pathways to citizenship. To pass this reform, I would find every representative who knows that immigration reform is the underpinning of a strong U.S. economy. I would uphold the principle that our national security begins with stability and democracy through diplomacy and economic growth around the world, not with a concrete wall or fear mongering.

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Angela McArdle

34th Congressional District Candidate Angela McArdle
34th Congressional District Candidate Angela McArdle OLIE_HAMM_PHOTOGRAPHY

Party affiliation: Libertarian

Short bio

Angela is a resident of Highland Park and works in downtown L.A. She’s been working as a paralegal for over seven years, and specializes in wrongful foreclosure defense and tenants’ rights law. She’s also a strong advocate for the L.A. homeless community as a long time volunteer for Food Not Bombs and Monday Night Mission. Angela was inspired to run for Congress because of the homelessness crisis in L.A. and the federal government’s abusive use of its authority.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

The people in the 34th District face financial challenges with the high cost of Los Angeles living, coupled with a high tax burden.

I’ll do everything I can to eliminate or reduce the amount of money the federal government leeches from my constituents so the hard-working people of the 34th District can afford to live comfortably. I’ll focus on providing as many tax cuts as I can for low-income earners, seniors and college students.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

I’ll have an open door at my local office, consistent walk in hours, and local events for my constituents. I"ll actively engage my constituents in social media so that I can respond to them quickly and directly, even when I"m in Washington, D.C.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I will fearlessly use the Constitution to keep the federal government in check and to reclaim lost power so California can exercise more self-determination, rather than letting a tiny group of Washington’s elite dominate us from 3,000 miles away for the benefit of special interests and lobbyists.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

I believe health care should be affordable before insurance is even considered. I’ll work to eliminate the special interests that have raised health care costs to a point where you need insurance for even the simplest things.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

With an administration, House and Senate dominated by Republicans, I’ll present a proposal for expedited work visas for the undocumented workers (and their families) who work hard and contribute to our economy. I’ll appeal to Republicans’ fiscal side with this market-based solution because I believe this is the only realistic option for immigration reform during the next four years. I’ll oppose the expensive, useless border wall and government theft of California land.

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Yolie Flores

Yolie Flores at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Yolie Flores at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

My name is Yolie Flores and for 30 years I’ve led bold efforts to improve the lives of children and families. I’ve served as VP of the LAUSD Board of Education, CEO of the LA Children’s Planning Council and director at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. I serve on the boards of Coro Southern California, the Education Trust, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy. I’m the daughter of immigrant parents, I have a master’s in social work, and I’ve lived in Highland Park for over 20 years.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

The top problem in our district is poverty and lack of opportunity. In CA34, 25 percent of people live in poverty; for children it’s 40 percent. This is unacceptable! I hope to serve on the Ways and Means subcommittee that is currently tackling poverty. I will introduce a bill to double the Child Tax Credit, which has the potential to lift 1.5 million families out of poverty. Combined with the Earned Income Tax Credit, my bill would bring thousands of children in this district out of poverty.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

As a social worker and former school board member, I know how difficult bureaucracies can be and how hard it can be for people to navigate on their own. This is why I have and will continue to be accessible to any constituent, any time, to address any federal concerns. I will also invest in civic education and civic action, and will aid in any immigration matters especially during these unforgiving times!

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

Xavier Becerra was an effective and passionate member of Congress particularly on immigration and Social Security. I will continue in his footsteps on these issues and put a greater emphasis on advancing educational equity and opportunity for the children of Los Angeles. Today, 80 percent of low-income children cannot read by the end of third grade. I have spent 30 years fighting to improve the lives of children and families in Los Angeles and I will carry that work with me to Congress.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

While single payer is my ultimate goal, my immediate short-term priority is to defend Medicaid and Medicaid expansion, which provides states with the funds to expand coverage for low-income individuals: moms, kids and the working poor. Longer term, I will work to take special interests (i.e. insurance companies) out of policy control. Our current system must work for the 99 percent, not the 1 percent!

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

The greatness of America is its immigrant roots and our embrace of diversity; our values of compassion, fairness, and equity. My father came to this country as part of the Bracero program and worked the farmlands. This experience has shaped my values and respect for immigrants. That’s why I am eager to work with anyone on immigration reform if it, first and foremost, keeps families together and if it includes a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding people.

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Vanessa Aramayo

Vanessa Aramayo at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Vanessa Aramayo at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Over the span of nearly 20 years, I have spent my career delivering results that improve people’s lives. My work in government and directing nonprofit organizations have allowed me to work closely with communities and on issues of health care, protecting core benefits and programs like Social Security, and Medicaid, education, immigration and the environment. I know how to fight, I know when to fight and I also how to be effective in difficult times.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Increasing poverty and homelessness. I addressed these issues while I directed an anti-poverty organization and did so through the BUDGET. We must protect core services and programs that studies link to saving lives and keeping people above the poverty line. I also worked with other factors linked to increasing poverty and homelessness; access to affordable and quality health care child care, education, and housing, and protecting our environment.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

As a former district director for a member in Congress, I know first hand the importance of prioritizing & delivering quality constituent service. Government is at its best when it is responsive and delivers for people. I supervised congressional staff that secured access to services and benefits including VA, Medicare, and Social Security. Access to your representative is also paramount. I commit to maintaining this access to the people I serve.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

Xavier Becerra’s leadership in Congress will be difficult to replace. The political dynamics and challenges in D.C. are different today. I will use my experiences as a senior staff member in Congress and director of anti-poverty and immigrant rights organizations to bring the personal narratives of my constituents to debates on legislation, policy and budgets. The president’s budget is punitive and threatens your economic security. We will need bipartisan efforts to fight this Draconian budget.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

The recent health care bill failed because voters would not accept a plan that gave tax breaks to the wealthy, made 24 million lose insurance, cut Medicaid, raised premiums & lowered the quality of care. The fight to improve and protect the Affordable Care Act is not over. We need a plan that expands coverage, does not break people financially by lowering deductible limits and increasing plan choices. I’ll request assignment to the Health Sub-Committee where I’d ask that we put people before politics.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Congress once worked on comprehensive immigration reform but couldn’t get it passed. I know, I worked on it. Reform happens rarely. When it does, the stories and struggles of families seeking the American Dream are told, heard and acted upon. Deporting parents of U.S.-born children only creates more problems. I intend to fight unjust detentions and deportations; keep families together; and allow DREAMERS to have a pathway to citizenship.

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Maria Cabildo

Maria Cabildo at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Maria Cabildo at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

I was born and raised in East L.A. As an economic development director and founder of the East LA Community Corporation, I have dedicated my career to creating jobs and affordable housing for Angelenos. In so doing, I brought over $200 million in new investment to our neighborhoods, building child care centers, retail space, and affordable housing for families, veterans and seniors.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Seventy-eight percent of the residents in the 34th Congressional District are renters and close to 30 percent live below the poverty line. Housing affordability, job opportunities and health care are paramount in ensuring that our residents are able to live their lives to their full potential. I have spent the last 20 years working to create economic opportunity and improve access to affordable housing for residents of the 34th District. In Congress, I will continue to build on my proven track record of results, fighting to preserve the National Housing Trust Fund and the Federal Low Income Housing Program, and fighting all proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

Constituent service - and responsiveness to constituent concerns – are among the most important responsibilities of a member of Congress. Especially in a district like this one, where so many residents are living paycheck to paycheck, people need to know that their congressperson is on their side, ready to listen, and ready to fight for them. If a retiree is having trouble getting the Social Security or Medicare benefits they’ve earned, my office will help. If a veteran is getting inadequate service from the VA, we will stand up for them. If a resident needs help getting a visa, it’s our job to help. Just as importantly, I will listen. I have a voice disability which makes my voice soft. But it’s also made me a better listener and that is the type of representative that I will be. I will listen, collaborate, and advocate for all residents in the 34th Congressional District.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

We are facing different challenges than Congressman Becerra did. Most importantly, of course, Donald Trump's and Paul Ryan’s agenda threatens virtually every resident of the district: retirees who count on Social Security and Medicare, families hoping to find affordable housing, wage earners who can’t afford to subsidize another huge tax cut for Trump and his wealthy friends, and immigrants who want to keep their families together. We need a member of Congress who knows how to mobilize the community to create demand for their rights. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing throughout my career.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

My top priority is to ensure that every American has access to affordable health care. That means protecting both the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. The Affordable Care Act can and should be improved, but in ways that increase coverage and lower costs. The Republican budget plan would turn Medicare into a voucher program that would cost seniors thousands of dollars more for their health care. Many would be forced into choosing between paying for health care or food. This is simply unacceptable, and I will oppose every attempt to reduce Medicare benefits. This is not a matter of compromise; we must stand firm.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Comprehensive immigration reform must create a path to citizenship for people who have worked hard and want to continue to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families. It must protect families from being torn apart. As a member of Congress, I will work with my fellow Democratic members of Congress to push for comprehensive immigration reform. And, I will support using the court system to fight back against Trump’s short-sighted, cruel, and illegitimate efforts to imprison and deport people who have committed no crime other than believing in the American Dream.

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Kenneth Mejia

Kenneth Mejia at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Kenneth Mejia at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Green

Short bio

Kenneth Mejia is a certified public accountant and auditor who was inspired by Bernie Sanders to volunteer for political organizing and currently serves as the treasurer of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council. He was born and raised in Los Angeles by a single mother who was an immigrant from the Philippines. Before getting involved with politics, he organized volunteer events to provide food and supplies for homeless people in the heart of Los Angeles, which he continues to do.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

We must stop the displacement of residents and end overcrowding and homelessness in our district. Housing is a human right. We have the largest concentration of homeless people in the nation with Skid Row at the epicenter. We’ll grant $ for public, nonprofit, and co-op housing; defend the homeowner tax deduction; require prevailing wage and allow workers to organize without opposition by employers. Housing should meet guidelines for energy and water consumption and nontoxic renewable materials.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

I’ll hire organizers from a range of community groups in our district so we can advocate effectively for our constituents’ concerns and keep local residents aware of what’s happening in Congress. Whether it’s identifying why a department hasn’t disbursed $ for a project or helping veterans get their benefits, I’ll hire staff who care.

I’ll also return to our district monthly to talk with community members at events, and hold frequent town halls. I already hold social media forums twice a week.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

I will use my position as a member of Congress to support organizing nationwide for policies like Medicare for All, housing as a human right, an end to deportations, and an end to U.S. wars overseas. Becerra didn’t push for any of these. I won’t take money from lobbyists and political action committees (PACs), unlike Becerra, who was one of the top recipients of campaign contributions among Democrats in Congress.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

We need a universal, single-payer Medicare for All system that covers everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, we refuse money from insurance companies, so we won’t go for bad compromises, like when Democrats refused to include single-payer when they had control of both houses of Congress. I’ll mobilize people: on Feb. 4th we organized a march and rally of over 3,000 people in L.A. to support Medicare for All. This helped legislators introduce SB 562 two weeks later.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

We must end deportations, end bans on visitors by ethnicity or religion, and grant legal status to all immigrants, the opposite of what Trump based his campaign on. Until he ends his racist slander against immigrants, we won’t work with him on this, but will organize to oppose him. We also disagree with Bracero proposals by Democrats and Republicans that tied visas to employers, because that undermines workers’ ability to protect their rights by empowering employers to threaten deportation.

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Jimmy Gomez

34th Congressional District Candidate Jimmy Gomez
34th Congressional District Candidate Jimmy Gomez Courtesy of Jimmy Gomez for Congress

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Jimmy Gomez was elected to the State Assembly for the 51st District in 2012 where he authored paid family leave legislation and environmental laws. Prior to joining the Assembly he was political director for AFSCME United Nurses of California and on the staff of the National League of Cities, former L.A. City Councilman Mike Feuer and Congresswoman Hilda Solis. He attended community college, UCLA and the Harvard Kennedy School. He lives in Eagle Rock with his wife, Mary, and dog, Austin.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

The threat of repealing the Affordable Care Act (or parts of it) is the biggest threat facing our district. While Trump and the Republicans failed at their first attempt at repeal, I take them at their word that they will try again. No district in the country has benefited from the Affordable Care Act as much as California’s 34th. I will be a strong opponent to any attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and a vocal advocate for increasing the benefits to the families of the 34th district.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

As the Assemblymember from the 51st District since 2012, I have worked closely with my communities and fought for my constituents on both legislation and making sure they get the state services they deserve. I also know that I need to work for the needs of my constituents, which is why I have held over 90 community events in the last four years to understand what is working and not working for them. I will take this grassroots approach to Washington to do the most good for the most people.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

Attorney General Becerra did a great job serving our district as our Congressman and I am honored to have his support. He has fought for us, and his position of leadership has brought so much to our district. While Congressman Becerra voted for the Affordable Care Act, I hope to go even further to pass a single-payer or Medicare for All system of healthcare.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

As a member of the State Assembly, I co-authored the Healthy California Act of 2017, California’s proposed single-payer health care program. I will work with advocates, grassroots activists and nurses to build support for such a program in Congress. Until that happens, I will support and defend the Affordable Care Act from the GOP’s efforts to take health coverage away from 24 million Americans.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

Unlike Donald Trump, I believe in our Constitution, and that immigration and diversity contributes to the fabric of this country and makes our economy stronger. A religious-based immigration policy is unconstitutional, and splitting up families is morally wrong. I will stand up and fight for all of us who are threatened by this agenda of fear and division as we have done here in California, including protecting DACA, and moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform.

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Alejandra Campoverdi

Alejandra Campoverdi at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Alejandra Campoverdi at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

A native Angeleno, Alejandra Campoverdi was raised by an immigrant single mother from Mexico. After graduating from USC and Harvard, she joined then-Senator Obama’s campaign for president. Alejandra served as a White House aide to President Obama, where she rose to become the first deputy director of Hispanic Media in history. Committed to elevating the stories of communities that are many times ignored in media, Alejandra went on to work at Univision Network News and then the Los Angeles Times.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Access to quality education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. As one of the first in my family to graduate from college, I’ve navigated the harsh realities of our education system. As the daughter of an LAUSD teacher, I know how crucial it is that we empower our children with every tool to succeed from their earliest years, especially in the 34th district. I will work to make preschool universal for every child and expand funding for quality early childhood education programs.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

Throughout my career, I have worked to advocate for the advancement of the communities represented in the 34th District. I will use that experience and deep connection to our community’s needs to serve as a champion for those typically overlooked in Washington. I’ll never forget who I serve. With that philosophy as the cornerstone of my work, I’ll be a conduit for the community while upholding transparency and ensuring open lines of communication always.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

Congressman Becerra has been a dedicated public servant for many years and our next representative has big shoes to fill. As a former Obama White House aide, I know how to ensure our community’s voices are loud and well-represented on the floor of Congress. I will be a fearless champion, using every megaphone at my disposal to channel the energy we are seeing in our district and around the country into Washington.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect & there are improvements that can be made. However, we cannot compromise on its fundamental purpose: to give more Americans access to quality, affordable health care. Reform of any kind cannot violate that promise – it’s non-negotiable. Low-income individuals, seniors & those who are sick and have preexisting conditions benefited most from the ACA and will suffer if we don’t protect the progress we’ve made.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

The contributions of immigrants are inextricably woven into the fabric of our country. As the daughter of a single mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, I understand first hand that our immigration system is in desperate need of repair. Passing humane and comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue and it must include a path to citizenship that is accessible and protects the rights of immigrants, as well as maintains and expands the DACA program.

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Raymond Meza

Raymond Meza at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Raymond Meza at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

Raymond Meza has been a strong advocate for workers and the middle class from his youth to his career as a community organizer. Raymond helped lead the fight to adopt the $15 minimum wage when no one thought it was possible—successfully changing the debate on economic inequality in America. Born and raised in Montecito Heights, Raymond is an LGBT Latino candidate who will work tirelessly to advocate for the fundamental values shared across our community.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Our economy must change if we are going to combat the real threats of climate change. We can create a green economy here in the heart of Los Angeles to expand job opportunities to allow low-income and middle class workers to combat wealth inequities. There is a role for everyone in the green economy. I will work to coordinate federal, state, and local resources so that government helps the workers in this district lead this economic transformation.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

While going door-to-door in the communities of the district, I have heard that residents loved Xavier Becerra’s connection to the neighborhood. I will continue his town halls and community events. My family has lived in this district for three generations. I went to Mt. Washington Elementary School, Eagle Rock for Junior High, and Marshall High School. I look forward to staying active in the community and getting to know my constituents as a neighbor.

What would you do differently if elected than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

Without a majority in Congress, Democrats will need innovative strategies and to build national movements to protect the policy achievements of the past eight years. As a lifelong organizer who has fought unwinnable battles by changing the narrative and building coalitions, I will lead in Congress to protect access to health care, free and public education, jobs that pay a fair wage to support a family, and immigration policies that keep families together.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

You and your family should have the right to see a doctor when you’re sick. We need to change the debate to focus on this simple and shared value. My top priorities for healthcare are expanding access to quality care and reducing costs for working families. The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, but it was never perfect. I will build a coalition with my fellow members of Congress to negotiate with Republicans to advance these two goals of coverage and affordability.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

I support comprehensive immigration reform, but it is not a realistic possibility while Donald Trump is in the White House. I will fight efforts to add billions of dollars to immigration enforcement efforts. I will also fight to protect the United States’ refugee resettlement program against the attacks already leveled by Trump and his administration. I would work with my Republican colleagues and Democratic champions to ensure protection for individuals with DACA.

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Tracy Van Houten

Tracy Van Houten at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Tracy Van Houten at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

Short bio

My name is Tracy Van Houten and I am an aerospace engineer, mom, and ignited citizen running for California’s 34th Congressional District. I am a lifelong problem solver seeking to build on the foundations of freedom of the press, freedom of choice, social equity, and human rights. I have learned success comes from operating in a world of science and reason, in truth and facts – the absence of these principles in our current political climate have led me to run for this seat.

What is the top problem in the district and how would you fix it?

Unemployment and underemployment are the cause of many of the issues facing in our communities. The unemployment rate is over three times the national average in this district and, if elected, I would promote job creation through legislation that incentivizes more green jobs, manufacturing, and expanded services in L.A. I would work with stakeholders across the STEM fields to bring or create these programs into fruition.

If elected, describe how you would approach constituent concerns.

As a congresswoman, my top responsibility is listening and being accessible to the people in the 34th. To do so effectively, my congressional office in the district would be open to the community and focus on creating policies and providing services that effectively serve the needs and represent the values of the 34th district. Regular town halls, representation at neighborhood council meetings, community office hours, and resource fairs would be staples of my congressional engagement.

What would you do differently, if elected, than former Congressman Xavier Becerra?

California’s 34th needs a progressive champion who has a proven track record of getting things done in less-than-perfect conditions and will raise the voices of Angelenos. While Congressman Becerra’s efforts to champion the DREAM Act were admirable, I believe that this district’s next congresswoman will need to make a more constant and aggressive stance on immigration policy in order to hold Republicans in Congress accountable. I would do more to hold ICE accountable to the law.

Explain your position on health care coverage, and what specifically would you do to implement your ideas?

ACA has helped 3.8 million Californians gain health insurance and I will make sure that we preserve our health coverage. We need to control rising premiums and find better incentives to ensure that health insurance companies stay in the market. Covered California has 20,000 enrollment assisters across the state right now and I will work with them to ensure that they are equitably represented in the district to help vulnerable and underinsured groups gain health coverage.

Given President Trump’s priorities, describe how you would approach immigration policies, if elected.

If elected, I will demand transparency and answers from the Department of Homeland Security, which should be held accountable for ICE agents who are misrepresenting themselves as LAPD officers while detaining DREAMers and tearing families apart. Further, I will push for and support legislation that requires ICE agents to wear body cameras to help ensure transparency and accountability. I will be an ally for groups fighting for immigration reform and be a voice for them in Congress.

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Arturo Carmona

Arturo Carmona at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Arturo Carmona at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

No response received.

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Wendy Carillo

Wendy Carrillo at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Wendy Carrillo at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

No response received.

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Mark Edward Padilla

Party affiliation: Democratic

No response received.

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Armando Sotomayor

Armando Sotomayor at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017.
Armando Sotomayor at the 34th Congressional District Candidate Forum at Eagle Rock High School on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2017. Susanica Tam/For KPCC

Party affiliation: Democratic

No response received.

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