SACRAMENTO, CA - The 7th Congressional District race is one of the tightest races in the country.
Republican Congressman Dan Lungren of Gold River and his Democrat challenger Dr. Ami Bera, a pediatrician from Elk Grove went face to face in News10 studios Tuesday for their only formal debate in the 2012 election season.
This election year is a rematch for Lungren and Bera.
"They ran against each other two years ago so things could be very interesting this time around," explained News10 Political Editor John Myers.
Last time, Lungren won by seven points. However, there were five candidates on the ballot at that time. Now, under the Top-2 primary rules in California, there are only two names on the ballot. Also, the 7th Congressional District looks entirely different this time because of redistricting; there are now more Democrats than Republicans within district lines.
The two contenders took questions from News10, Capitol Public Radio and the Sacramento Bee. They asked their own questions and presented others that came from the community.
The first question focused on job creation. In light of Comcast announcing 100s of job cuts Tuesday, Bera explained how he'd create jobs. He talked about loans for small businesses as well as creating more infrastructure jobs.
"Let's get the banks rolling," Bera said. "We need tax policies that reward here, not only in Sacramento, but in America. Let's pass the infrastructure bill."
Lungren talked about his new bill to reduce ADA lawsuits that would make it easier for small businesses to thrive and talked about limiting new taxes.
"If you talk to specifically to small business people in this district, they are concerned about the taxes coming January 1st," Lungren said. "I have supported not allowing taxes going up. My opponent has opposed that."
One of the hot issues in Tuesday's debate, Medicare.
Lungren and Republicans said democrats want to cut $700 billion out of Medicare.
Bera responded saying that's simply not true.
"Now Congressman, you know that's not true. In fact, you voted for the same thing twice," said Bera. "That $700 billion never leaves Medicare. It stays in the trust fund. And it extends the life of Medicare. The Sacramento Bee has looked at this and said that's entirely false. Congressman, you know that truth. You voted for that same legislation twice."
Lungren responded, "Dr. Bera, just because you say something doesn't mean that it's true."
He went on to say, "You can't double count even if you're a doctor. The fact of the matter is, it takes it out of Medicare."
Bera and Lungren tackled a number of political issues. But both candidates made the attacks personal.
Myers explained, "Really, what they got into it about was integrity, personal integrity. Congressman Lungren was calling out his challenger Ami Bera for saying it's been a bitter nasty campaign that Bera has run. Bera criticized Lungren for having a state pension on top of his federal salary."
Both contenders didn't disagree on everything. In fact, they both agree that they'd vote against any more money for high-speed rail in California. There was dispute about whether Democrat Ami Bera has been consistent on that.
Both men also promised to close federal tax loopholes. However, they differed on what constitutes a tax loophole.
By Suzanne Phan, email@example.com