By Dominic J Larsen, Clarion Staff
Representative Ami Bera (D-CA) visited the Kennedy campus to speak to students in Mr. Williams’ AP government class, where seniors have heard from a number of local political figures over the course of the first semester in effort to increase youth interest and action in politics.
As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bera serves as the voice of California’s seventh congressional district, which includes cities such as Elk Grove, Florin, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, and Arden-Arcade.
Bera was born in Los Angeles, living in Southern California for much of his life. He attended UC Irvine, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences as well as his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1991. Later, he worked with the UC Davis admission office, and served as the Chief Medical Officer of Sacramento County.
The Democratic congressman first attempted to enter politics in 2010, in which he ran an unsuccessful congressional campaign against Republican incumbent, Dan Lungren. Bera was not done with his political ambitions, as he challenged Lungren again in 2012 and defeated him by a slim margin. Since then Ami Bera has won reelection twice, in both 2014 and 2016.
With 2018 being an election year, specifically a midterm election, some saw Bera’s visit as a politically motivated stop. Despite whether or not Representative Bera had other intentions, he did speak to a large group of students and teachers, touching upon a number of subjects and speaking to concerns held by the on-looking audience.
As a first generation American, son of East Indian immigrants, he emphasized his deep belief in the American Dream, specifically its accessibility to all citizens. According to his official website, Representative Bera stated “As someone who was born and raised in California, I grew up believing that America is the land of opportunity. It is a place where you can reach your full potential if you work hard and do the right thing”. His website also includes a number of proposals he believes would provide everyone with an ample chance at the American dream, including expanding job training, paid family leave, and retirement security.
Transitioning from one deeply held American ideal to the next, Representative Bera then spoke upon the second amendment. For months now, Mr. Williams’ government students have been working on their Civic Action Project, a social science assignment designed to encourage youth to impact issues in their communities, and some of his students have decided to hone in on gun control. With the opportunity before them, those students gauged the congressman’s support for national measures pertaining to the restriction of certain firearms.
Congressman Bera, very specifically, outlined a gun control bill that he would support, if it came to a vote in the House. The hypothetical bill, he introduced included a universal background check. The background check would take a seven day period to comb over the personal history of the said customer. With the proposed background check, the customer would need to have no history of homicidal and suicidal tendencies as well as the lack of any mental illness.
Bera voiced his opinion that he believes the second amendment does indeed guarantee citizens the right to own a firearm, yet he interprets firearms in a manner in which assault rifles are not included.
Being an advocate of universal background checks and restrictions on assault rifles, Bera described his belief that Democrats need to take a more fervent stand on gun control. He claimed Democrats have not done enough to pursue more extensive gun control, and need to shape the political conversation more so than they already have.
“This is not the country we are, we still have our values and beliefs no matter who is in the Oval Office.” assured to students, Bera did.
While the current administration takes stances contrary to Bera’s beliefs, he feels as if some good has come about after the election of the Washington outsider and billionaire, Donald J. Trump. Bera suggested that the spotlight placed upon sexual misconduct, and bigotry in recent months has only occurred due to the actions of the commander-in-chief. He also expressed the absolute need to discuss these issues, as they have been often overlooked in his opinion.
In addition to his statements on the President’s actions, he commented on the current state of politics. Trying to step across the aisle, Representative Bera expressed his concerns towards the hyper-partisan nature of the nation “We have to find a way for both Americas to live together”.
The representative felt that Washington has become increasingly hostile, referring to it as “broken”, displaying the centrist tendencies he uses to secure the swing district he serves.
Continuing on with his moderate tone, “As a Democrat, I am going to say we need to be a small government party” Bera called to his leadership. Ami Bera often takes a moderate stance on issues, as his home district is considered a swing district, a district that can vote for either party in an election. Republicans have come close to winning the seventh district, Bera won in both 2014 and 2016 with a slight margin of victory. In an LA Times article detailing competitive congressional races in California, the seventh district was tagged as the results of the 2014 election were 50% Democrat and 50% Republican, with the Democrats fairing only slightly so better with a 51 to 49% lead in the next election.
In effort to inspire youth voters to get active, Bera explained that you need to support your ideals over special interests no matter the political ramifications. While the sentiment is valent in nature, many have issue with the statement as they find it hypocritical coming from this elected official. Bera, a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act, has not come aboard the popular leftist venture of establishing universal healthcare, and progressives believe the donations from insurance companies to his election campaign have caused him to take this position.
Donations from insurance companies are not the only campaign contributions that have caused a mistrust between the voters of the seventh district and their elected officials. Ami Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, was sentenced to over a year in prison for organizing a money laundering scheme that helped fund two of his son’s campaigns.
Even in wake of a highly competitive reelection season, Bera openly stated “If I do not get reelected that is fine, I just want to support the beliefs I believe in” as he finished his presentation to students at Kennedy High.
Bera’s middle of the aisle comments paired with his voting record and his questionable associates have created some distance between himself and the more liberals elements within the Democratic Party . Not only does Bera face challengers from the right, but also from the progressive wing of his own party.
Currently two candidates are seeking to secure the Republican nomination, in an effort to defeat Democratic incumbent, Ami Bera. Andrew Grant, retired Marine and small business owner, and Yona Barash, surgeon, are the two conservative individuals in the race. Further left on the spectrum, Bernie Sanders supporter and lawyer, Brad Westmoreland, has his eyes on the nomination that Representative Bera seeks to retain.
The 2018 midterm elections, will be shaped by both Republicans and Democrats fighting in districts all across the nation, vying for power in the House of Representatives. Both major political parties have a chance to secure California’s seventh district, possibly leaving Ami Bera out of a job in the near future. Until then, Representative Bera will continue to serve his constituencies as their envoy to Washington.