Former President Bill Clinton with congressional candidates (from left) Julia Brownley, Raul Ruiz, Scott Peters, Alan Lowenthal and Mark Takano. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

IRVINE — Former President Bill Clinton, speaking Oct. 23 at UC Irvine, used his popularity to draw attention to five Southern California congressional candidates, including Mark Takano of Riverside.

Greeted like a rock star by nearly 5,000 students at UCI’s Bren Center, Clinton endorsed Takano in the 41st Congressional District, Assemblymember Julia Brownley of Ventura in the 26th, Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach in the 47th, San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters in the 52nd, and Dr. Raul Ruiz of Palm Springs in the 36th. Their victories in the Nov. 6 election would help the Democrats retake the House of Representatives.

“If you want to not only re-elect President Obama but see him in a position to enact a second-term agenda that will create a 21st-century American prosperity, you have to vote for them,” Clinton told the cheering crowd.

In addition to the candidates joining him on stage, Clinton urged Democrats to support Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, who is running in the 45th Congressional District, Jay Chen in the 39th (Rowland Heights, Fullerton), and incumbents Susan Davis (San Diego), Grace Napolitano (Santa Fe Springs), Loretta Sanchez (Garden Grove), and Brad Sherman (Sherman Oaks), all of whom were in the audience.

Takano’s experience as a teacher in the Rialto Unified School District would be invaluable in Congress, the former president said, because “politicians make more speeches about public schools than any other subject, and a lot of them don’t know what they’re talking about. It would be nice to put somebody there who has been in the classroom and performed, and educated our young people. ”

Clinton also cited Takano’s service as a trustee of the Riverside Community College District. “We have 3.4 million jobs listed in America that we’re not filling. And we have got to make a herculean effort.  It’s a big part of the Ppresident’s economic plan, to redo the training programs in the country through the community colleges, so we speed up the rate at which we fill open jobs.”

Graduates should be told what their employment options are in the area — for example, within 50 miles of the college, he said.

Congressional candidate Mark Takano and former President Bill Clinton. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

“We need 120,000 people educated in computer science a year to fill the vacancies,” Clinton added. “Google alone is looking for 6,000 (applicants). All the universities in America today are only graduating 40,000. So it would be a simple matter … if every school in the UC system, let’s say, got this information at the beginning of every year.  Here’s what the profile is, here’s what America needs, here’s what California needs. Please tell the students … Give them this information.”

Takano can implement these changes because he is a “practical, non-ideological, caring person who has actually has helped run a community college network,” Clinton said.

Noting that college costs have increased at twice the rate of inflation over the past decade, Clinton said that the U.S. is one of the top countries in the percentage of youth who go to college, but is 16th in the percentage of students who actually get a degree “because of the cost … because people think, ‘I cannot borrow any more money … I will never repay the debt.’”

Under the Student Loan Reform Law, recently passed by Congress and signed by Obama, interest rates for federal student loans will be lowered because the government will send the money directly to the colleges instead of through the banks, he said. “Even more important, you get to pay that loan back … as a fixed, small percentage of your income for up to 20 years … Your loan repayments will be determined by your job, so you don’t have to fix your job because of your loan repayments.”

However, Clinton warned, full implementation next year “is up to the Congress and it’s up to the next president.” He said of the five candidates, “These are real people up here that are going to affect your life.”

“One Voter Makes a Difference”

Each of the candidates spoke before the ex-president appeared on stage. Takano recalled that in 1992, when Clinton first ran for president, “I was on the same ticket with him running for Congress, and I lost that election by 500 votes … It just goes to show you the importance of how one vote makes a difference. If one vote had changed in each precinct, I would have won the election.

“I know you don’t remember the election. It might sound like ancient history. But we’re not here to talk about the past, we’re here to talk about the future … As a public school teacher, I know the future is you. I’m from Riverside, where we have our own UC campus full of bright young people just like you … I want to make sure that you and your friends don’t pay twice as much or more for student loans, and I want to make sure that your friends who didn’t go to college still have access to training programs ….

“I want to make sure when they’re trained and when you graduate, that good-paying jobs are waiting for you. And when you retire, Social Security and Medicare will still be there.”

Calling the election a “choice between common-sense California values and extreme Washington ideology,” Takano said of the Republican candidates, “They think you don’t get it. They think your generation doesn’t see who’s really on your side. I think they’re wrong. I think the young people of this nation can tell who’s for them and who’s for the one percent. That’s why we’re here today. Because you might not remember Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 … but you remember how good things were when he was president.”

Takano was introduced, via video, by San Diego mayoral candidate Bob Filner, who was jailed in Mississippi as one of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s and was later elected to Congress. He described Takano as “a man who has been working every day to improve the lives of young people … a man who is dedicated to creating a level playing field and equality of opportunity for all Americans … He cares about delivering the promise of America for everyone in this country.”

Hot-Button Issues

Clinton talked about each candidate and they issues they represent. Regarding Assemblymember Brownley’s stand on women’s rights, he said, “It is true that women’s rights were under attack 20 years ago when I ran for president. And now it looks like an old record is playing … Even when I ran, I didn’t get attacked for wanting women to have access to contraceptives … This is not a religious issue … This is about shutting down Planned Parenthood and what it’s trying to do to save women’s lives.”

He added, “She’s got an opponent who signed Grover Norquist’s ‘no new taxes’ pledge … He would not favor asking the American people to spend a dime to help balance America’s books and get rid of this debt and keep investing in the future. He signed that pledge, so if he goes to Congress, he either will have to disavow his pledge or be irresponsible with America’s future … No serious person believes across the entire political spectrum that we can possibly get hold of the debt without three things … adequate spending controls, adequate revenues, and adequate economic growth.” Clinton likened the pledge to “taking one of the legs off the chair before you sit down.”

Both Dr. Ruiz and former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who is running for U.S. Senate in Arizona, have worked in emergency rooms, Clinton pointed out. “They understand that people do die because they don’t have health insurance. They understand that we spend more money on health care because people wait. If they don’t have insurance, they go to the emergency room because they’re too sick. It costs more money and they’re less likely to recover. (Ruiz) will be the first to tell you this (Obamacare) bill cannot possibly be perfect. It will need to be fixed and worked on. But the worst thing we can do is repeal it, go back to the status quo, and create a situation where America is both economically uncompetitive and inhumane in its health-care policy.”

Sen. Lowenthal “helped make the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles among the cleanest and greenest in the entire world … There was a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gases issued … the largest drop of any major port in the entire world, and they proved it was good economics,” Clinton said, adding, “He is running against someone who has actually questioned the science of climate change … We have got to increase scientific knowledge. No other country in the world has a major political party that denies the reality of climate change … (Lowenthal) should be elected on this issue alone.”

Commissioner Peters is an example of how “creative cooperation works better than constant conflict,” Clinton said. “San Diego has a Republican mayor who was chief of police when I was president. He worked with me to pass legislation to put 100,000 police on the street … If you vote for (Peters), every day he can stand up on the floor of the Congress and give one of those one-minute speeches saying, ‘Let me tell you one more San Diego story. Let me tell you how we did it with Democrats and Republicans making a better future because we live in tomorrow, not yesterday.’” Stating that San Diego leads the world in human genome research, Clinton warned, “If you vote for his opponent, and all of the lobbyists that are behind him, and all of the special-interest groups trying to hold on to yesterday instead of create tomorrow, the (research) money won’t be there.”

“‘We’re all in this together’ works a lot better than ‘you’re on your own.’ Shared prosperity and shared responsibility and shared sense of community works a lot better than trickle-down economics. Evidence works better than ideology and arithmetic works better than illusion,” Clinton said. “So if you believe this, you’ve got to elect the right people, starting with the president and going down to members of Congress.”

Speaking on behalf of College Democrats at UC Irvine was the group’s president, Jose Quintana.

Prior to the event, Nick Anas, executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County, told City News Service that he wished Mayor Kang had been invited to join Clinton on stage. “It’s a hard district, but if it’s going to happen, it’ll be Sukhee. He’s run a strong and competitive campaign.”

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