Representative Duncan Hunter, Congressman for the 50th Congressional District, held a town hall meeting Thursday evening, August 22, hosted by the Fallbrook Chamber of Congress. The Fallbrook Public Library Community Room was completely filled to capacity and many had to listen from an overflow area set up outside. The audience was an evenly split, broad cross section of the electorate in his district, including a large turnout of Latinos concerned about pending immigration reform.
Congressman Hunter took to the podium and made opening remarks that set the tone for the meeting. He stated our country faces many issues from “scandals such as the IRS, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious, to over regulation, over taxation, doubly [so] in California”. He cited gas prices “doubling” and how life is harder while newspapers claim the economy is slowly improving; he doesn’t feel it. He placed the blame squarely on “leadership,” that “government is everywhere it doesn’t belong,” and when it does get involved it “provides lower quality at a higher cost.” The Congressman expressed he’s trying to do the opposite as he represents us.
A question and answer session followed and continued for the next hour. The format was open – no one needed to submit questions or sign up to speak. The microphone was passed to people who often opined prior to asking a question. The main topics were Benghazi, Immigration Reform, Climate Change, Gun Safety, and Obamacare.
The first question: “When will we hear about the assassination of the Ambassador and three others in Benghazi?” Hunter answered that it takes time and “obviously someone in the circle gave the order not to rescue them and we’re trying to find out who.” He indicated that they had to “cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s because this administration doesn’t tell us anything – just like the NSA.” One action he took at a legal level was to ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) how things are classified and to review those classifications. Hunter believes too many items are highly classified so no one can find out what’s going on.
When questions arose about his position on immigration reform, Mr. Hunter emphatically discussed his “#1 issue”: border security. He said he meant “real border security, not the kind checked off by our broken Department of Justice or Homeland Security, but one signed off on by the Governors of border states, including Governor Jerry Brown”, and by the House Armed Services Committee members of which he is one. He feels extending a fence across the entire border, similar to the one in San Diego that’s successfully preventing any crossings, must happen first. He believes unless the border is secure, the country will go through this immigration exercise every 10 years. Reform must occur in steps with border security addressed first. “I won’t vote for it if it’s done simultaneously” he said, for he feels border security would then never happen. The most touching question on the topic came from an immigration lawyer who asked “How high would a fence have to be to keep you separated from your wife and kids?” she asked twice to get an answer. He turned and asked an aide, “How high is the fence in San Diego? 14 feet? OK – 14 feet!” He answered.
A constituent brought up the recently released report from California EPA that showed climate change is already impacting California and asked what he would do about it? He answered to get “heavy handed government off our back”. “If you believe climate change is man-made, and I’m not convinced it is, but if you believe it is, then why are folks like you working to shut down San Onofre? We’ve got to go nuclear.” He described his support for “SMRs” – Small Modular Reactors – that could be safely secured on military bases. SMRs are nuclear reactors in development but not yet viable. According to the Department of Energy, “To date, none of the existing SMR concepts have been designed, licensed or constructed. DOE believes that SMRs may play an important role in addressing the energy, economic and climate goals of the U.S. if they can be commercially deployed within the next decade.” He also indicated we need to do as much energy exploration as states will allow. When asked he stated he would be willing to co-chair a meeting with climate scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography to answer his questions with data driven science. Hunter then stated we don’t have a water shortage. Nancy Pelosi cut off our water. “It isn’t driven by climate change, it’s because Nancy Pelosi likes delta smelt more than she likes people.”
Gun safety was barely discussed when Hunter was asked why he doesn’t support gun safety measures such as background checks, and banning of AK47 type weapons and large capacity magazines. He replied it’s a states rights issue, and “we have a right to bear arms that government constitutionally gave us but if a state wants to put those bans in place that’s ok.” He felt it’s not the government’s job “to get everyone into a database.”
Obamacare came up via a variety of questions, including whether the October and January deadlines will be met and if a 30 hour work week will still be classified as “full time”? Hunter indicated the 30 hours definition had to be changed; that once Obamacare is fully in effect the “central government will control your health care.” He feels “pushing it off can be done on a continuing resolution.” Answering shouts from the audience of “Defund it” Hunter explained that defunding it and shutting down the government will not work. Obamacare as law is part of the “system” so even if defunded, it is still part of non-discretionary spending. When government is shut down it’s only the discretionary spending that is affected which includes things like military salaries. The only solution is to repeal it. He did not offer alternatives or solutions beyond repealing it. He said, “trust me, we’re going to make more changes, we’re going to find out how bad it hurts the economy.”
The town hall meeting was a window into the mind of Duncan Hunter. He clearly tows the full conservative line. Immigration reform was the most discussed topic of the evening. There was clearly a conservative contingent present that sees militarizing the border as essential. Likewise many were dismayed by his immigration stance, particularly when it came to emotional issues such as reuniting families and a pathway to citizenship. In Mr. Hunter’s eyes it all just seems to be “amnesty”.