A podium erected for Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) remained empty as he skipped a recent debate in his district. Three Democratic candidates answered a range of questions on policy issues, but Knight refused to defend his positions on taxes (raising them for Californians) and health care (voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act).
Katie Hill, Brian Caforio, and Jess Phoenix discussed gun control, immigration, and their desire to replace Knight as the member of Congress representing California’s 25th Congressional District. The debate was moderated by Stephen Daniels, host of the “Talk of Santa Clarita” podcast.
All three Democratic candidates largely agreed on the issues, including the need for more gun control, a hot topic since the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Knight’s record on the issue is the opposite: he has voted to loosen gun restrictions at every opportunity, going so far as to vote to make it easier for those with a mental illness to obtain firearms. Knight has an A rating from the NRA, and has accepted thousands of dollars from the pro-gun lobby during his short tenure in Congress.
Earlier in April, Knight skipped a student-led forum on the issue of guns, making this debate the second such opportunity in a month that Knight skipped.
On the issue of immigration, all three Democrats are in favor of legal protections for DACA recipients, or Dreamers. DACA is the 2012 program started by President Obama to grant legal protections to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Trump sought to rescind the protections, but his attempts have been stymied in court. The overwhelming majority (85 percent) of Californians support legal protections for Dreamers, but the Republican-led Congress has done nothing to protect Dreamers.
On the issue of Trump, “All three cautioned against calling for impeaching President Donald Trump without legal evidence to support it,” according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Knight, for his part, has voted with the Trump agenda 99 percent of the time, despite the fact that the district voted overwhelmingly to support Hillary Clinton.
Knight’s reason for avoiding questions about his voting record was “A debate in late April is an early time.” The debate was scheduled less than six weeks before the June 5 primary.
This race is one of the most closely watched in the nation. Knight is regularly described as a vulnerable Republican, and the respected Cook Political Report recently singled him out as possibly the most at-risk Republican incumbent in the entire country. In the past two fundraising quarters, Hill has outraised Knight, and polling shows Knight’s approval rating is a low 36 percent.
In California, the two people who receive the most votes in the primary election, regardless of party, advance to the November general elections. With no Republican opponents, Knight is expected to advance.
All three Democrats vowed to support the one of them who will face Knight in November.