Reprinted with permission from Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association (SDONA)
November 15, 2014 (San Diego)--The San Diego Congressional delegation followed party lines in the vote Friday to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
By Miriam Raftery
November 5, 2014 (San Diego) -- Nationally, Republicans have won control of the Senate and increased their margin of dominnance in the House of Representatives. One of those gains appears to have occurred in San Diego's 52nd Congressional District.
With all votes tallied except several thousand provisional ballots, former Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, has just 752 votes more than Democratic incumbent Scott Peters, up by 50.26% to 49.74%. It is not yet known whether Peters will request a recount, which is his right under the law with such a narrow margin.
In other local races, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter captured 71.55% of the vote over challenger James Kimber, a physician assistant in the 50th Congressional District. In the 51st District, Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas scored a solid victory with 68% of the vote over his opponent, Stephen Meade.
Two other races were somewhat closer. Congresswoman Susan Davis, a Democrat, fought off a challenge from ex-Navy Seal Larry Wilske, a Republican. Davis won with 57.88% of the vote in the 53rd District; Wilskie picked up 42.12%. Congresman Darrell Issa, a Republican who has drawn national media scrutiny as chair of the House Oversight Committee held his seat with 57.97% of the vote over Democratic challenger Dave Peiser, who receivecd 42.03%.
AZANO INDICTED ON 26 CHARGES, INCLUDING BRIBING AN UNNAMED PUBLIC OFFICIAL IN EXCHANGE FOR CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
By Miriam Raftery
August 13, 2014 (San Diego)--Bribery. Conspiracy. Illegal possession of firearms. Those are among the 26 charges just filed against Jose Susomo Azano, the Mexican businessman alleged to have made illegal campaign donations to local politicians including District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and Congressman Juan Vargas, whose district includes the southeast portion of East County as well as San Diego’s border region and portion of Imperial County.
By Miriam Raftery
August 2, 2014 (Washington D.C.) – It's rare for Congress to agree on anything given the partisan divide in Washington. But House Resolution 683, authored by Congressman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) , passed the House of Representatives unanimously yesterday. The measure expresses the urgent need to protect religious minorities in Iraq from persecution at the hands of the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levand (ISIL). The measure was coauthored by three other San Diego representatives (Republican Duncan Hunter as well as Democrats Susan Davis and Scott Peters)
“I am pleased the House of Representatives is shedding light on this important topic and supporting our nation’s need to be vocal in the face of the horrific crimes taking place against Iraqi civilians,” said Rep. Vargas. “This resolution expresses the urgent need to protect religious minorities who are fleeing persecution in Iraq’s ISIL-held territories. Religious freedom is the cornerstone of any free society and we must do everything in our power to provide immediate protection and humanitarian assistance to individuals facing horrific crimes because of their religious beliefs.”
Mark Arabo, a national spokesman for Iraqi Christians and president of the Neighborhood Market Association locally, heralded passage of the resolution as “a historic day that will go into the annals of Iraqi Christian history.”
INCUMBENTS ON TOP HANDILY IN 4 LOCAL CONGRESSIONAL RACES, BUT PETERS FACES BATTLE IN NOVEMBER TO HOLD SEAT
Photo: James Kimber(D) will square off against Duncan D. Hunter (R) in November.
By Trevor Hill
June 4, 2014 (San Diego)--This Tuesday’s primary election yielded unsurprising results as far as Congressional districts are concerned. All five incumbent representatives on the ballot in San Diego County were the top vote-getters—but challengers will get a second chance in run-off races slated for November’s general election.
In East County races, November will pit two veterans, Democrat James Kimber (25%) and Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter(70%), against each other in the 50th district, which includes most areas north of I-8 in the inland region and other communities. Libertarian Michael Benoit actively campaigned and participated in debates, but received only 5% of the vote. Kimber, a career medical professional, has made expanding and improving healthcare coverage a cornerstone of his campaign against fiscally conservative Hunter, who has sought to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act.
WAS IT FRAUD? EXPERTS RAISE SERIOUS QUESTIONS AFTER LOW FIRST-YEAR ENERGY PRODUCTION AT OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT
Elected officials suppressed key report, failed to halt project or recover taxpayer dollars
“It was heartbreaking to see this project desecrate such a historically and culturally significant landscape, and it’s even worse when you find out that it was built on false claims by the developer, and with the assistance of the BLM. "-- Anthony Pico, Chairman, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
An East County Magazine special investigation
By Miriam Raftery
April 30, 2014 (Ocotillo) – An international wind energy expert has concluded that Pattern Energy appears to have defrauded the federal government in order to obtain lucrative tax subsidies for a wind energy development in southern California that has failed to live up to the developer’s claims.
“I believe we have a clear case for the False Claims Act,” Nicolas Boccard told East County Magazine, after reviewing full first-year wind production data for the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility on U..S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public land. The project produced only about half of the energy that Pattern claimed it would produce—far below levels deemed viable for a wind project, a second expert confirms.
These dismal results are no surprise to Boccard, who predicted in a report written before construction of the project was completed that Ocotillo lacks sufficient wind speeds to sustain a viable wind energy project.
So were Pattern's lofty wind speed claims nothing more than spin?
By Miriam Raftery
April 9, 2014 (Washington D.C.) – As a slap in the face to women on Equal Pay Day today, Senate Republicans blocked passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act for women – for the third time. The measure failed due to lack of a single Republican vote. The bill had aimed to provide more effective remedies for women who are paid less than men for the same work.
California's Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, support the bill. On the House side, San Diego Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis is pushing for passage of a similar measure, H.R. 377. San Diego Democratic Congressman Scott Peters is a cosponsor of the bill, which local Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas also supports.
East County Republican Congressman Duncan D. Hunter has previously voted no on a similar paycheck fairness measure for women, along with San Diego Republican Darrell Issa.
Ravneet Singh Allegedly Facilitated Nearly $300,000 in Illegal Foreign Contributions to Campaigns in San Diego, including D.A. Bonnie Dumanis, ex-Mayor Bob Filner and a federal candidate
As part of conspiracy, Former SDPD Detective Ernesto Encinas Allegedly Sought to Fire Sam Diego’s Chief of Police and Pick His Replacement
January 23, 2014 (San Diego)--Ravneet Singh, proprietor of Washington, D.C.-based ElectionMall, Inc., was arraigned January 21 on charges that he conspired to finance political campaigns using money from an illegal foreign source. Singh was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on Friday, January 17, pursuant to an arrest warrant.
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this article
January 21, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – What has Congressman Juan Vargas accomplished during his first year in office and how effectively is he representing his constituents?
The answer varies, with the Congressman showing strong interest in representing the interests of Latinos, seniors, and labor interests -- while largely ignoring the interests of rural constitutents and enviornmentalists concerned over the industralization of East County with large-scale energy projects.
3 LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES URGE PROTECTED STATUS FOR PHILIPPINE NATI ONALS IN U.S. IN WAKE OF TYPHOON HAIYAN
November 22, 2013 (San Diego) -- Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) led a delegation letter calling on the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily halt the deportation of Filipino nationals because of the devastating impact Super Typhoon Haiyan has had on the Philippines.
“It would be irresponsible to send individuals into a situation with the level of destruction and suffering occurring in the Philippines right now,” said Davis. “I hope acting Secretary Beers will recognize the gravity of this situation and provide some certainty and relief to those who may be facing deportation.”
Davis and several her House colleagues, including local Democratic representatives Juan Vargas and Scott Peters, asked for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Filipino nationals in the U.S. TPS is designed to protect individuals from being sent home to countries that may be too dangerous for them to return. It would also grant them permission to work in the U.S.
Update October 17, 2013: President Obama signed the measure into law last night, ending the shutdown.
By Nadin Abbott
October 16, 2013 (San Diego)--Tonight both the House and the Senate voted to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling—just in time to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on our national debt by tomorrow’s deadline. The measure will fund the Government until January 15 and raise the ceiling until February 17. Moreover, a conference committee between the House and the Senate to discuss the budget has finally been appointed.
Among San Diego’s Congressional delegation, only Republican Duncan Hunter was unwilling to prevent a default on America’s debts, casting a “no” vote. Republican Darrell Issa joined with Democrats Susan Davis, Juan Vargas and Scott Peters to vote in favor of the continuing resolution to find the government and end the shutdown. Overall in the House, 285 voted yes and 144 voted no.
The vote in the Senate was overwhelming, with 81 of 100 Senators voting for the bill, including most Republicans. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein both voted yes.
Shut down to cost San Diego region $7 million each week
October 5, 2013 (Washington D.C.) -- By a unanimous vote, the House of Representatives approved back pay to all furloughed federal workers for the full duration of the federal shutdown. The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act (H.R. 3223), was approved by the House of Representatives 407-0 during a rare Saturday session.
4 of 5 local Congressional members not sure yet how they will vote; both CA Senators support military intervention
By Miriam Raftery
September 4, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Three days ago, NBC news reported that San Diego’s Congressional delegation had “mostly positive” reactions to news that President Obama had decided to ask Congresss for approval before waging a military air strike on Syria. But a poll by CNN of Congressional members found San Diego’s representatives remain mostly undecided on whether to vote for war or not. Both California Senators, however, support the President’s call for military action.
Overall, the CNN poll found the majority in both houses of Congress have not yet committed how they will vote. In the Senate, 24 Senators say that they will support the war declaration, 16 will oppose it, and 58 remain undecided. In the House, 27 support going to war, 91 oppose, 254 are undecided, and the positions of 61 others are unknown.
This is a rare issue in which the vote does not split down party lines. Both parties are split, with many members on each side of the weighty issue appearing ready to vote their consciences or the will of their constituents, not a party preference.
HOUSE VOTES TO ELIMINATE ALL FOOD STAMP BENEFITS; SENATE SEEKS COMPROMISE AS FARM BILL HANGS IN THE BALANCE
By Miriam Raftery
August 4, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – By a bare majority, the Republican-controlled House of representatives passed the Farm Bill after stripping out all funding for food stamps to feed the poor, but approved lavish subsidies for agribusiness. After the Senate passed a less extreme version, a conference committee is now seeking a compromise. But thus far, the Republican leadership has shown no concern for the potential to leave millions of Americans facing starvation.
Among San Diego’s five Congressional representatives, only Republican Darrell Issa voted for the measure. Republican Duncan Hunter did not vote, but previously voted for earlier deep cuts in Food Stamps and against restoring benefits. Democrats Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas voted against stripping Food Stamps from the Farm Bill.
Issa’s 49th district includes 7,691 households receiving food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). Of those, 44.2% have incomes below the poverty level and 79.5% have children; 20.2% have at least one senior citizen.
June 3, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The House and Senate have approved the controversial Keystone Pipeline, sending the measure to President Barack Obama’s desk. The President faces mounting pressure from major campaign contributors urging him to veto the measure due to its negative environmental and climate change impacts; others urge support to create jobs.
Local representatives split down party line, with Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa voting for the pipeline, while Democrats Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas voted against it.
The pipeline project sparked protests nationally and in San Diego (photo, left).
CONGRESSMAN VARGAS CALLS FOR EMERGENCY AMNESTY MEASURE TO PROTECT THREATENED WORKERS, VISITS WITH “SAN DIEGO NINE” ON HUNGER STRIKE
By Nadin Abbott
April 7, 2013 (San Diego) Updated April 8 with statement by Evolution Hospitality—East County residents and Congressman Juan Vargas (D-51), whose district includes the border areas in East County, turned out yesterday in support of low wage workers staging a hunger strike at the Mission Valley Hilton. Vargas spoke with ECM on immigration reform and how it applies to this situation.
The workers want the right to organize a union and collectively bargain for a labor contract. Employees contend that management is using immigration status to selectively threaten union organizers—while at the same time outsourcing housekeepers’ work to undocumented workers paid more than long-time employees.
March 18, 2013 (Washington)--Two San Diego Congressional members, Democrats Susan Davis and Juan Vargas, joined 131 colleagues in introducing legislation to give minimum-wage workers a raise. Both are cosponsors the Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010) to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, increase the minimum wage for workers who rely on tips, and tie future annual increases to the rate of inflation.
“Earning minimum wage salary should not mean living in poverty or struggling to pay the bills,” Davis said. “A minimum wage increase would enhance the economic security of our families by putting more money in the pockets of those who need it most. Let’s honor and respect our hard work minimum-wage earners by giving them a much-deserved raise.”
LOCAL CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS OPPOSE STUDENTS’ MOVE TO DIVEST UCSD FROM COMPANIES DOING BUSINESS WITH ISRAEL
By Miriam Raftery
March 2, 2013 (San Diego) – The University of California San Diego (UCSD) Associated Student Council will vote March 6 on a resolution calling for the university to divest in companies doing business with Israel, due to an allegation that Israel is an “apartheid state.”
The measure has sparked controversy on campus and outrage among Jewish groups. Now two San Diego Congressional members, representatives Susan Davis and Juan Vargas, have sent letters to Student Council president Meggie Le, urging opposition to the resolution.
“As a member of Congress who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, there has been no credible proof that defines Israel as an “apartheid” state,” wrote Vargas. “In fact, Israel is the only country in the Middle East with protection for free speech, free press, religious freedom, women’s rights and gay rights.”
San Diego Republicans drop opposition, vote to pass measure
By Miriam Raftery
March 1, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Two Republican Congressmen from San Diego, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa, previously voted against renewal and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to include protections for Native American, gay and immigrant women.
But this week, both shifted their stance and joined with Democrats to pass the measure 286 to 138. Local Democratic House representatives Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas also voted in favor. (View roll call) The bill has also been approved by the Senate, where California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein supported it, and is expected to be signed into law by the President.
The law had expired, leaving all battered women without the protections afforded by the Violence Against Women Act, due to the House blocking the measure for over a year. But after mounting public pressure by women’s groups, Native American rights advocates, immigrant and gay rights organizations and others, 87 House Republicans joined with all 199 Democrats to pass the reauthorization bill, expanding rights to include all women.
By Janis Mork
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
November 7, 2012 (San Diego)- After Juan Vargas beat Republican Michael Crimmins 69.9% to 30.1%, Vargas’ supporters shouted, “Sí se puede!” (Yes we can!) and, “Juan! Juan! Juan!” After his impressive win, Vargas told ECM, “I’m very excited and very happy about the results I’m seeing so far, and very excited to be working with social justice.”
An American success story, Vargas who graduated from Harvard Law School is the son of farmworkers , where he was a classmate of President Barack Obama, before serving on San Diego's City Council and in the California Legislature. Vargas will replace Congressman Bob Filner, who has been elected Mayor of San Diego.
The 51st Congressional district spans the southern portions of San Diego County and extends into Imperial County. Below are Vargas' goals in Congress and details his legislative record.
Republican maverick has challenged his party on ethical issues in past, says he avoids "special interest money"
By Janis Mork
September 28, 2012 (San Diego)- Republican Michael Crimmins is running against Democrat Juan Vargas for Congress in the 51st district, which includes the entire border with Mexico and Imperial Valley. View a map of the district: http://www.crimminsforcongress.com/map/. The seat is open, since incumbent Congressman Bob Filner is stepping down to run for Mayor of San Diego.
Crimmins says he running because he wants to make a difference. His qualifications include military service and an education background. He is a retired military officer and San Diego teacher with two master degrees in education. Currently he resides in Point Loma, which is not in the district. If elected, he says he would move to Imperial Beach. Married in Florida in 1977, he divorced in 1988 and has a daughter, Ashley, a flight attendant.
By Miriam Raftery
June 7, 2012 (San Diego) – Congressman Bob Filner’s departure from Congress to run for mayor has left an open seat in the 51st Congressional district, which spans southern portions of San Diego and Imperial Counties. In the June primary, a field of seven candidates has been narrowed to two: Democratic State Senator Juan Vargas and Republican Michael Crimmins, a retired Marine Corps officer and teacher.
NEWSPAPER CHARGES VARGAS USED TAXPAYER FUNDS FOR MAILERS WHILE IGNORNING CONSTITUENTS AMID CONGRESSIONAL BID
“This is exactly the kind of behavior that infuriates voters and must be stopped.” – Denise Ducheny, former state Senator and current 51st Congressional district candidate
May 31, 2012 (San Diego)– State Senator Juan Vargas is under fire again, this time in an article from The Press Enterprise, published yesterday. The article catalogued the actions of Vargas and his Senate office, who stand accused of using taxpayer dollars to fund mail pieces aimed at helping his candidacy. Vargas is now running for the 51st Congressional District seat, which spans San Diego and Imperial Counties, seeking to replace Bob Filner who is retiring to run for Mayor.
“SPINELESS RUBBER CHICKEN” AWARD PRESENTED TO JUAN VARGAS, CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS IN KEY RACE FOR EAST COUNTY
By Miriam Raftery
February 16, 2012 (San Diego) – State Senator Juan Vargas came to the California Democratic Convention hoping to find support for his campaign to fill Bob Filner’s seat in Congress. He won the party endorsement—but has lost support from many here. A group of activists surprised Vargas in the hall and presented him with a “Spineless Rubber Chicken” award for twice ducking a vote on SB 810, a landmark healthcare reform bill opposed by the insurance industry.
Insurers reportedly spent $1.46 million to elect Vargas to the Legislature. His Congressional campaign has taken another $140,000 in insurance and pharmaceutical contributions, as ECM previously reported http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/8577
By Miriam Raftery
February 12, 2012 (San Diego) – At this weekend’s California Democratic Convention, the statewide party issued pre-primary endorsements in three Congressional races but declined to make an early endorsement in two other races.
2 VOTES NEEDED TO PASS SINGLE-HEALTHCARE BILL BY TUES. DEADLINE: VARGAS HAS NOT VOTED, COULD LOSE PARTY ENDORSEMENT
Update February 1, 2012: SB 810 narrowly failed on reconsideration. After reportedly receiving thousands of call urging him to support the bill, Vargas ducked the issue and did not vote.
By Miriam Raftery
January 30, 2011 (San Diego) – State Senator Juan Vargas, a former insurance industry executive who has taken massive donations from the insurance industry, may cast the deciding vote Tuesday on whether or not millions of Californians will receive guaranteed universal healthcare and dental care coverage.
POLITICAL WRANGLING: HOW LOW CAN THEY GO? NATIONAL & LOCAL CANDIDATES TAKE SCAPE-GOATING AND MUD-SLINGING TO NEW DEPTHS
By Buck Shott
September 14, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) –Top Republican presidential candidates this week seemed to be vying to show who was the most heartless. Ron Paul dissed disaster victims, calling for an end to federal aid to survivors of hurricanes and wildfires. Michelle Bachmann suggested lowering the minimum wage might lure corporations back from overseas. Rick Perry disavowed “compassionate conservatism” altogether. All seek to eliminate or slash Social Security.
But the most bloodthirsty of all was the Tea Party crowd at this week’s presidential debate. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked whether a 30-year-old man without health insurance should just be allowed to die if he goes into a coma, Tea Party members shouted "Yeah," exhibiting all the zeal of ancient Roman spectators cheering on a a lion vs. gladiator fight.
By Billie Jo Jannen
September 11, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) -- A resolution introduced by District 40 State Senator Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and passed in both houses Friday seeks to put the brakes on a high voltage trans-border power line slated to bring electricity in from the proposed 1250 MW La Rumorosa wind turbine project near Jacumba.
Vargas presented SJR 13 as a jobs protection measure for Californians who, Vargas says, would lose 15,000 green energy jobs if the turbine farm is built in Mexico instead of California.
By Buck Shott
August 1, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – Gearing up for another rough-and-tumble campaign season, our Political Wrangling column is back with answers to questions inquiring minds want to know.
- Which Presidential candidate flunked 13 of 13 fact-checks?
- What prominent candidates are eyeing Bob Filner’s seat in Congress, in a redrawn district that includes the southern chunk of East County?
- Which liberal school board member may be living outside her San Diego district, making her potentially ineligible to serve?
- Which local Republican official admits to paying off folks to pack a council hearing in support of hiking rental rates for mobile home owners?
- What national office holder is collecting rent from public servants providing security for his family?