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Rejected Sac Bee Opinion Essay 5

Submitted Oct. 13, 2019

CA-7 Congressional Race is about more

than Moderate vs. Progressive

By Jeff Burdick

For most of this decade, California’s 7th Congressional District (CA-7) appeared to many to be a prototypical swing district with roughly the same number of Democrats as Republicans. So despite his many imperfections, the party-straddling “purple” Democrat Ami Bera seemed well-matched for this district stretching from Elk Grove to Citrus Heights to Folsom.


But unnoticed the last four years, the CA-7 has become solidly “blue” with 27% more registered Democrats today than Republicans. The district has only seemed competitive because Bera’s many weaknesses as a politician has caused him to underperform the district’s ever-widening Democratic advantage.

We see this clearly in the 2016 general election results. Among CA-7 voters, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 11 points, while Bera eked out a mere 2½-point win. Then in the 2018 midterms, an enthusiastic “Blue Wave” led to Bera’s first double-digit general election win of 10 points. However, this far underperformed the Democrats’ then 22% advantage of registered voters.

In my first four months campaigning against Bera, I’ve spent a good amount of time dispelling the swing-district myth. Fortunately once I walk audiences through this district math, we move onto discussing exactly what kind of Democrat should represent our district.


Local media is slowly catching up, but they’ve begun to replace the old conventional thinking (swing district) with a new conventionality (moderate vs. progressive). Yes, stark policy differences exist between Bera and me on traditional Progressive issues, such as Medicare for All, Comprehensive Drug Cost Reform and the Green New Deal. I am for all of these, but we also differ on fundamental non-partisan issues involving the health of our republic. 


The most prominent of these is campaign finance reform. I believe our current pay-to-play, Wild West fund-raising system is inherently corrupting and undemocratic. Thus, I’ve taken the most principled fundraising pledge in the nation. I will take no money from PACs, corporations or any donors who don’t live in the CA-7. Only in this way will we finally stop big donors’ ability to endlessly dilute and drown out the voices of regular voters.


In contrast, Bera has built his political career on leveraging this corrupt system. His 80-year-old father even went to jail because of it, and about 80% of Bera’s nearly $20 million in career donations have come from corporations, PACs and other donors outside the CA-7. Amazingly, Bera has even raised more career money from Chicago ($292,633) than Yolo County ($279,464). That is not a local candidate.


Naturally, this money grab has caused Bera to acquire some very suspect sponsors. There’s $1.1 million from Big Pharma and the corporate health care industry; a half million dollars from Goldman Sachs and the financial sector; nearly $50,000 from large opioid makers and distributors; and even $15,000 from PG&E. (Surprise! Bankrupt companies can keep donating to politicians even as the line of creditors snakes out the door.)

This is why I’m also running on a nonpartisan Constitutional Amendment to end this undemocratic system. Under my proposed 28th Amendment, my personal fundraising pledge would apply to all federal elections. By limiting federal candidates to raising money only within their district or state, we can remove roughly 80% of the money from our elections. This in turn would encourage more candidates to run who are more interested in public service than telemarketing.


Thus in thee ways, my race transcends the stereotypical “Progressive versus Moderate” formulation. It’s equally about restoring the core principles of our democracy. And that is not a Progressive, Conservative or Moderate position. It’s just right.

Arden-Arcade resident Jeff Burdick is a Progressive Democrat running for the U.S. House. See Contact