SCV NEWSMAKER OF THE WEEK:
Republican U.S. Senate Nominee
Interview by Leon Worden
Signal City Editor
Sunday, June 20, 2004
(Television interview conducted May 21, 2004)
"Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal City Editor Leon Worden. The half-hour program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
This week's newsmaker is Bill Jones, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in November. (Incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is tentatively scheduled for a Newsmaker interview in August.) The following interview was conducted May 21. Questions are paraphrased and answers may be abbreviated for length.
Signal: You were California Secretary of State for eight years, and you were in the Assembly for 12 years before that. Many of the federal issues you'd be dealing with as a senator are quite different war, military funding, space exploration, and so forth. What qualifies you to handle those issues?
Jones: Well, at the end of the day, governance is for California's benefit, whether it's federal or state. You're elected by Californians. The historical issues that affect California public safety, whether it be (the) threat of terrorism or safe streets; education, which is a major concern of people in California; jobs fundamentally, those issues are where people are...
I have worked on those issues for two decades. Infrastructure (is) key in California. Right now, for every dollar we send to Washington, we're only getting 76 cents back. That's a deficit of $1,600 for every man, woman and child in California. That is a fundamental issue, and whether you've worked in Sacramento or in Washington, that's something that has to change.
People understand that at the end of the day, really what you're about is, can you get things done? And I have proven over an extended period of time that I can govern, and actually bring people together and achieve goals for Californians.
Signal: What kinds of federal programs would you cut to bring some more money back to California?
Jones: The fact is that we need to balance the federal budget, so we're going to need to hold the line on spending. What I am suggesting to you is that even formulas that currently, on a per-capita basis, like homeland security in Wyoming they get $8-plus; in California we get $1.36 a person. It's supposed to be per capita, and that's not per capita.
So, it's really an allocation question and a fairness question. I'm not contending that we ought to spend more money; what I'm contending to you is that the allocation of the current resources are disproportionate for our importance as a state, and simply by individual per-capita allocation.
I think that's a relationship issue in the Senate. (California has) five full committee chairmen in the House now, which is a very strong delegation, but we are unable to convert that to action in the Senate. We have one senator, a senior senator, that is kind of a deal maker, brings people together, seeks to achieve goals on a bipartisan basis, and unfortunately my opponent is kind of a deal breaker. (She) cannot point to any major effort that I have seen to generate additional, for example, infrastructure items like water; try and manage our forests better so they're not burning down; the gas issue that we're dealing with now. You actually have to generate new refinery capacity to solve this problem, and she has been unable to achieve that.
Signal: If it's only about governing for California, then why not six more years of Barbara Boxer?
Jones: California has changed quite a bit, post-9-11. Again, personal security, both personal, trying to avoid criminal activities and to hopefully win this war on terror those are dramatically different issues today than they were pre-9-11. When you look at her record on the personal security issues, she has voted six times not to increase military pay; at the same time, she has voted five times to increase her own pay. Now, pre-9-11, that might have been looked at in one way, but today, with our troops, soldiers in the field, it's a totally different matter.
Secondly, (in) the jobs arena, again, infrastructure is key. California today is recovering from a failed administration in Sacramento. Our new governor is focused on job creation, and people are seeing the glass half full again. But to be able to build for the 21st Century, you really have to end up with additional water storage for California. The average person knows you've got to put an extra bucket out to catch water if you live in a desert, when it rains and she has done nothing to achieve that goal.
Again, as I mentioned, on the gas issue, she has not been there to help. Time and time again when this issue has come up, and we've seen gas price spikes, and the attorney general has investigated, sometimes at her request the attorney general's report comes back and says we're short of refinery capacity (and) we need alternative supplies. I don't see her bringing any solutions to that.
I have worked very hard in alternative fuels, ethanol and other types of fuels that we can bring into California, extend our current gas supplies, and do it in a cheaper manner, and at the same time reduce our dependence from the Mideast, which we're at risk at every day. So these are basic issues that we see differently and, I believe, revolve around the whole question of, how secure are you in California?
Signal: In recent weeks, Boxer was in Bakersfield to try to stop Shell Oil from shutting down a refinery that generates 2 percent of California's gasoline and 6 percent of its diesel supply. On the other hand, she has worked to stop offshore oil drilling, and she has called attention to your support for it. Do you think offshore drilling could help solve the gasoline supply problem?
Jones: My position has been to resolve the issue on offshore oil. She has been at this for 12 years and she has never been able to bring it to a conclusion. Again, she's a deal beaker, not a deal maker. My position has been, today, unlike 20 years ago when I was supportive of the generic area of offshore drilling, today we have a situation where we have new technologies. We can recover the ... oil in a different manner that does not put the environment at risk. We did not have that then.
Secondly, we have alternative supplies of high-octane fuels. Again, renewable fuels. We did not have that 20 years ago. So I am opposing offshore oil drilling, and I am encouraging the federal government to come together with a solution that I have proposed, to bring this to closure.
To run press releases every ... six years when you're running does not solve a problem. With respect to the Shell Oil refinery in Bakersfield, I have not seen her generate one new refinery in California. She may point a finger at that one and say it should stay open; fine. If we can keep it open, great. But I'm talking about adding to what we already (know we need): a 2-percent increase in actual high-octane fuel (supply) every year. We need to add to the refinery capacity, and she has not done anything to accomplish that.
What it is, is demagoguery. What it is, is election-year politics. And whether it be crime control I wrote the "three strikes" law in å94; I brought Democrats and Republicans together we've reduced crime in California by twice over the national average in the first six years. In the first 10 years, now, of operation, we've dropped burglary to the lowest level since 1957. (We've seen) an overall reduction of 46 percent in the crime rate. (These are) fundamental issues that really affect people's lives, and I would argue, you have to bring Democrats and Republicans together to get that done, and my only point is, with respect to my opponent, I just do not see her as being able to accomplish that or to point to anything in her record where she has been able to work with others to get things done.
Signal: How would you assess Sen. Dianne Feinstein's performance?
Jones: It's a dramatically different situation. I believe that the senior senator is constantly trying to find ways to pull deals together and actually close and bring solutions to problems. I don't always agree with her solutions, and I don't always agree with her votes. Obviously, she's in the other party. But I do give her credit for trying to work on a bipartisan basis to bring people together.
Substantively, when you look at issues (like the) devastating fires we had in Southern California and San Diego, time and time again, when Dianne Feinstein has tried, for example, to bring people together (behind) the Quincy Library Group (forest management legislation), to try and bring some resolution to the logging question and the clear-cutting and how much we should manage the forests, Boxer was there up to a point. And then, when the extremists in her party came and put pressure on her through advertisements in the New York Times, she walked away. She broke off, and it was left for Feinstein to deal with.
More recently, we saw in the discussions in the Lake Tahoe area, where there was money available in Washington to bring to Lake Tahoe to try to avoid some of the fire problems that you've had down in Southern California, Feinstein was there, along with two Republicans, a House member and an Assembly member, Republicans. Boxer was nowhere to be seen.
So ... to answer your question deliberatively, there is ... a dramatic difference in the manner in which they handle these issues, and the manner in which they go about bringing consensus together. And in a Senate, where it's a relationship body, (with) only two senators per state, you have to be able to work with other senators from small states in order to get the job done. Otherwise, you're going to come up short.
Signal: Isn't it more than a matter of style? You're considered a conservative Republican
Jones: It depends on which paper. You know, the last 10 papers that you pick up and read, you'll find probably half of them call me a moderate and half of them call me a conservative. I have never dwelt on titles or on adjectives. I'm a Californian first. I'm a Republican, that's true. But the last time I ran in å98, I won with the endorsement of every major newspaper in the state. ... So I just argue that adjectives make it more difficult at times to govern. So I'm a Californian first.
Signal: Well, irrespective of labels, no California Democrat rouses the vitriol of conservative Republicans quite like Barbara Boxer. While liberal Democrats chant "Anybody but Bush," for conservatives in California, it's "Anybody but Boxer." Why is that? Why do conservative Republicans hate Barbara Boxer so much?
Jones: Well, again, I think that if you look at her rating in the U.S. Senate, she was rated the No. 1 liberal member of the Senate at one point. I guess her spot has been taken now by John Kerry, but she's still way up on the list. So you have a dramatic difference in philosophy there, and that's part of the reason you have a polarization. (It's the) same point you just made about the president; many (on) the more liberal side of the Democratic Party are just as polarized.
But elections are about contrasts. They are about differences. They are also about people getting energized to vote. So, differences are not bad. The one thing Boxer has said that I agree with, is that this election is going to have dramatic differences, and I think that's good.
But ... personally, with me, it's not personal. I mean, I have been in this business many years, and I never make it personal. This is about the differences in the policy. I can't speak for others, how they may feel, but I think this is an election where, right now, among all Californians, her positive-to-negative (rating) is 1-1. Which is terrible for an incumbent. She is below 50-percent in approval rating for reelection today. I'm only 5 to 7 points behind her, and she has been a sitting senator for two terms.
Now, I didn't create that situation, she did. An incumbent always does. It's always about the incumbent when you run. So she can address why she is unable to get over 50 percent in her popularity right now. That's her question to answer.
Signal: And yet, you are the underdog. The January Field Poll had you 13 points back; the April Times Poll showed you down by 20. What will you do to close the gap?
Jones: Let's be clear: The Times was not a poll. Not scientific at all. Thirty-five percent of the people that were called in that, quote, "Times poll," were not registered voters. And it was done by census tract, not by the normal means of taking polls.
More recently ... the (California) Chamber of Commerce, (which) is doing a proposition on the November ballot (to repeal SB 2, mandatory health care coverage), dropped a question in, and we're 7 points down, based on that survey. Our internal survey has us 4 to 5 (points behind), so we're somewhere in mid-single digits. And I think that's clearly where we are.
With regard to being the underdog, obviously, when you're challenging an incumbent, that is the case. But I have raised almost as much (money) as she has raised in the first two months of this year, and I won a Republican primary against three opponents by 30 points. I have Gov. Schwarzenegger's strong endorsement for our candidacy, and I look forward to working with him to finish the job he began in California and make sure I get that same type of job done in Washington.
Running against an incumbent is always a different kind of election, but I have credentials to do that. And I also have a record to run on. And I have endorsements from people that have been successful for people to reference on. And I want to stress, again, in 1998, I ran 300,000 or 400,000 votes ahead of the top of the ticket I was third down on the ticket when everyone else lost, with the endorsement of every major newspaper in the state. So I think I have a record that I think will make this election somewhat different than past elections, and I am definitely very comfortable running against even though she is an incumbent running against an incumbent.
Signal: You may be even in fund-raising for the first couple of months of the year, but overall, as of March 31, she had raised about $11 million, versus your $1.4 million. She has said she expects to spend $20 million in this race. How will you catch up?
Jones: Well, let's talk about the real numbers. She has had six years in reviewing her reports, maybe it's $11 (million) we see about $8 (million) or $9 (million) but whatever the number is, she only has about $5.5 (million) or so on hand. I started from a dead stop the 5th of December in this race, and December's not the best time to raise money. From January on through the primary, we raised the same amount she did. We won a Republican primary by 30 points, and we're going to be very competitive with her money raised by June 30.
We will raise what we need, although I will say, jonesforcalifornia.com is our Web site. (If) anyone would like to help us in this cause, we'd love to have their support.
The important point is, we have to match her in our fund-raising, and we will do so. We have to be able to have adequate resources to tell our message, and we will do so. We have to have people that people support, endorsing us, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others, and we have those people. And, you have to have a record of winning, and I have won repeatedly over an extended period of time.
Most importantly, people know that we turned a corner last October. People know that Barbara Boxer and Gray Davis and their inaction to build a foundation for the 21st Century for California almost brought California to a standstill. We turned that corner, and now we need to finish the job. We need to make sure in Washington that we're able to get our fair share back. Not raising taxes, but making sure that Californians are not treated disproportionately to other states in the nation, and that's clearly what's happening now.
So, we will have the support necessary to win this election and bring California's fair share back.
Signal: Where is the average California voter? Conservatives say Boxer's too liberal, and yet she beat a moderate Republican in Matt Fong. Her original opponent 12 years ago, Bruce Hershensohn, had a good chance until the end. If Boxer's too liberal, why did she overcome a moderate, and how do you compare?
Jones: Let's be clear. The two people she ran against both friends of mine, both I have a great deal of respect for between the two of them, they had two elections that they had run. I have run 16 state elections and won in California. I lost one, and I happened to be in a Republican primary with two people with substantially more personal wealth than I had. So that was a major reason for that loss.
But I just strongly don't believe that the labels drive this process. I do happen to believe that Boxer is out of step, based on the policies of most Californians, based on the issues: personal security, public safety, job creation, and infrastructure. I mean, California today it's burning up, it's running out of gas, the freeways are clogged, and we're in a situation where, as we just went through, we've seen not enough power to generate electricity for the basic needs of our people. I can't find anything she has done to ameliorate that at all, and that's where people are right today.
So I would just argue, to your point, this is a different California than pre-9-11. Post-9-11, personal security is a major issue. I also believe that a year ago, if you looked in the eyes of the people of California, you would have seen a question in their mind that the optimism was gone, and the real issue was whether the California dream was really here ... any longer for the next generation. Arnold Schwarzenegger brought that back, but you have to finish the job. And for someone who stayed the course with Gray Davis, all the way to the end, that was not in the best interest of Californians.
My goal here is to bring everybody together what I've done consistently, independents, conservative Democrats, decline-to-state's and Republicans and build a foundation for the next generation. And there's the difference, and I have proven I can do that by bringing people together, and she has failed to do that repeatedly. There's the difference between my candidacy, I would argue, and the two gentlemen that you mentioned a moment ago.
Signal: Let's address one of the biggest federal issues. What, so far, has President Bush done wrong in his execution of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Jones: Well, war is a very difficult event to plan. We go to war only as a last resort, and certainly the 9-11 occurrence was a tragedy beyond comparison in this country.
But I want to be clear to your viewers: America did not draw the line in the sand on the question of terrorism in Iraq. The terrorism that we saw, that line was drawn in the streets of New York and Washington and in Madrid (on March 11). So, we were attacked, and to defend ourselves, we have taken the war to the terrorists, and because of that, we have seen the risk to America through Libya and through Iran on the whole question of nuclear weapons. We've seen that risk reduced dramatically because we have gone where the terrorists have been, and we have challenged them on their own turf. And I think that was the right decision.
Now, as you execute a war, certainly and our youngest daughter, her good friend went all the way as a Marine lieutenant from Tirkuk all the way up on the first effort and now is back for a second tour outside Fallujah, so this is a very personal thing to us. But I strongly believe, while mistakes have been made and certainly the latest revelations with regard to the prison abuse is something no one in this country would tolerate. We need to get to the bottom of it, and we need to make sure it's done properly. But we also need to understand that we are at war. This is the first presidential election we've conducted at time of war, and the other party needs to be cautious of their rhetoric. Because what they're doing is, they're adding aid and comfort to the enemy. That puts our troops at risk if they're not cautious about the adjectives they use.
So, while the president and the war effort, there have been mistakes made, no question, I would argue that the rhetoric of the opposition, loyal opposition if you will, has gotten so heated going to your question about the polarization issue that it's not just a political campaign anymore. It's not just whether you don't like Bush anymore. It's whether or not you're putting our men and women at risk, by virtue of this debate, and I think everybody needs to step back a notch or two and understand that the real fight is overseas against terrorism. This is just a political battle here in this country.
Signal: America's allies sometimes seem to drop like flies. Would we be better off with Colin Powell at the helm of the defense department? Should Rumsfeld step down?
Jones: Well, that's the president's decision, and I think clearly, though, whether it was Colin Powell or Donald Rumsfeld, the president is the person that drives the ship of state, and that's where the buck stops. So that individual would be implementing policy from the president, regardless.
Look, the important point here is, I have not heard maybe I've missed it, but I have not heard, other than the very vitriolic adjectives used against the president, a plan from John Kerry as to how to resolve this Iraq conflict. I think at the end of the day, everybody knows we have to stay the course. We all know that we have to fight terrorism wherever we find it, and if we don't, that we will have a problem here in this country. And I think there's general unanimity on that.
The problem which you run into in a political campaign is, when you're trying to draw differences, and there aren't a lot of differences on substantive policy here, you add heat to the rhetoric in order to try and show differences that may or may not be there, and that's what you're seeing in this situation. My point is that in doing so, you may, in fact, the loyal opposition, again, may in fact be putting our people at risk. They need to be cautious about that.
Signal: Here in Santa Clarita, Sen. Boxer and Rep. Buck McKeon teamed up on successful legislation to block a landfill in 1996, and they're at it again with legislation to scale back a 78-million-ton gravel mining project. Considering that the Interior Department wants the mine and counts the sand and gravel among the nation's "strategic materials," where do you draw the line? How willing would you be to champion some of these environmental issues? When do federal needs supersede the needs of local residents?
Jones: Well, in the West, you have an awful lot of federal land, to begin with. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is the one that holds a good deal of it. You also have a situation where, as time passes, it's more and more important, because of the growth that you see adjacent to federal lands, that there be some consultation with local governments, and the federal government just not go it alone just not stand out and decide, irrespective of local interests.
I have always been, on a local planning issue, whether it be city government or county government, forget the federal government for a moment, I have always been for local control. Now, the federal government, if it wants to be a good partner, a good neighbor, needs to work within that framework, because they are not ... the only voice to be heard in this.
Secondly, I know Congressman (McKeon) is working on this, and today I know he is meeting with some of the representatives seeking to try and work out a compromise, and I compliment him for that. I don't know if I don't think Barbara Boxer is involved in that. I think the congressman is doing that.
And again, I want to stress, this is how you have to resolve these issues. That's what you get paid for. As a representative over the years, that's what I spent a lot of time doing, bringing people together to try and resolve these difficult points and keep it out of litigation.
Finally, I would just say that hopefully they can reconcile their differences, and I would be supportive of that process. But from a broader policy standpoint, local control is critical. It would be the same if it was the state government with a state park here that was doing something. Anytime a government entity seeks to go it alone any government entity the same problem with (a) city at times the individual kind of gets pushed aside, and you can't have that. So local control is key. It needs to be balanced, and we need to make sure that everybody works together, and I compliment the congressman on his effort.
See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.