Bob Derlet and Robert Carabas, Democrats challenging Republican incumbents Tom McClintock in Congress and Frank Bigelow in the state Assembly this November, didn’t shy away from the differences between themselves and their opponents at an Oakhurst Democratic Club meeting last weekend.
“He and I are like oil and water,” Derlet said of his opponent McClintock, a noted conservative Congressman since 2009. “He cares about big oil. I care about clean drinking water.”
“Bigelow is offering solutions to our problems that are obsolete,” Carabas said. “Building dams, raising reservoirs, well, unfortunately, the dams and reservoirs don’t come with water.”
Derlet and Carabas spent their time discussing issues such as health care and climate change before answering questions from a crowd of 60 during the Sept. 3 meeting at Denny’s.
On health care, Derlet contended McClintock and other Republicans wish to “gut” programs like Medicare and turn them over to Wall Street interests, which he said would cause irreparable harm to the public.
“We must put people before profits and keep Medical care beyond the grip of Wall Street hedge funds,” Derlet told the crowd. “Numerous families in this district live paycheck to paycheck, and are going further into debt as their costs keep piling up.”
Derlet, 67, of Sonora, said he was inspired to run by the stories of people in his district, both when he served as a primary care doctor at the Me-Wuk Indian Health Center in Tuolumne, and nearly 20 years as director of the emergency room at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
“There are too may families, too many young people, and too many retired workers who experience pain and frustration,” Derlet said. “Pain and frustration created by the growing costs of everyday living, from housing to groceries.”
Derlet faces a notable challenge. In the 4th Congressonal District - 28% of voters are registered as Democrats, while 44% are registered Republican.
Despite that, Derlet said he will fight to win in order to keep good jobs in the United States - instead of “shipping them overseas” like McClintock, he said - bring dollars to the mountains for tree removal and other forestry projects, tackle environmental issues by strengthening the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, and prevent privatization of Social Security and Medicare.
“The choice is yours,” Derlet said. “(McClintock) is a middle man for special interests. Big banks, big developers, big oil, corporate logging, and big polluters ... do we really want special interests to write the laws we live by day to day?”
Carabas, 69, also of Sonora, faces his own challenges against Bigelow, an Assemblyman since 2012.
In the June primary, Bigelow won 60% of the vote compared to the 22% for Carabas. Fellow Democrat challenger Kai Ellsworth received 9%, and Independent Mark Belden took away 8%. of the vote
Though Carabas agreed he faced an uphill battle - “Republicans have all the money, we have all the issues,” he said - he added his desire was to properly represent the people of District 5, which stretches from Madera to Roseville.
“I want to be the candidate that represents the people, rather than corporate interests,” Carabas said. “It’s almost laughable the way conservatives think on a lot of the key issues facing our public, and I want to be able to help change things in the right direction.”
Carabas said on climate change, he, Bigelow, and McClintock greatly differ.
While they wish to build more dams and reservoirs, he said he’d rather California focus more on properly studying how best to conserve the valuable resource.
“I propose we study our aquifers, we use permeable materials, we pump water into the aquifers, we do whatever we can to use it as best we can,” Carabas said. “If there’s a long drought, there won’t be any water in those dams or reservoirs. We need to focus on proper use.”
A supporter of a single-payer health care system and a minimum wage higher than $15 an hour, Carabas added his ideas wouldn’t damage the public’s wallets.
“I’m not out there trying to raise taxes, I’m out there trying to fight for lower health care costs and other things to give money back to the people, rather than being gouged,” Carabas said.
Sierra Star columnist Peter Cavanaugh, who moderated the meeting, said the Democratic Club was “delighted” to host both men, who answered questions “openly and honestly.”
“The Oakhurst Democratic Club is definitely behind our ‘Battling Bobs’ in their efforts to unseat heavily-favored opposition,” Cavanaugh said.
Both Derlet and Carabas will return to Oakhurst on Monday, Sept. 19, for a “Meet & Greet” event at a location yet to be announced.