Nov. 2022 Election: Q&A with Dan Downey, California state Assembly District 77 candidate – The San Diego Union-Tribune

There are two candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot running for a two-year term to represent this district: Republican CEO/financial adviser Dan Downey and Democratic Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath. Here are Downey’s answers to a 14-question survey The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board emailed candidates.

For the record:

6:58 p.m. Sept. 20, 2022A description of a vote by Tasha Boerner Horvath involving a suspension of the state’s gas tax has been changed.

Q: Why do you want this job and what would be your top priority?

A: I’m not a politician. But I see the California dream fading away and I can’t just sit on the sideline anymore watching California flush our money down the drain. Out-of-control homelessness and crime are starting to drag down the community — and part of the reason I am running is to stop that trend. The other reason I’m running is to bring some sound financial management to our California Legislature!


We can not continue to destroy the family budgets of working people with high electricity bills and high gas prices. For businesses, those costs are exponentially crippling. As a financial adviser, I just know we could be spending our tax dollars more efficiently.

Q: What is the biggest accomplishment of your career?

A: I am a Stanford University alumnus with 17 years of experience in business and investments and a former Charles Schwab managing director. Now that I am the owner and founder of my own business, I have the freedom to run for office and try to bring some sound financial management to Sacramento. Founding my firm, Determined Advisors, is by far the biggest accomplishment of my career. The relationships I have with my clients and the knowledge that my work makes an immediate impact on the well-being of my clients and their families is immensely rewarding. As an MBA-trained investor, I can bring that same sound financial management and results-oriented approach to our state Legislature. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, no one wants to just waste our tax dollars. Nevertheless, that is what Sacramento politicians are doing everyday. The leadership in Sacramento must be held accountable.

Q: Assess what the state is doing now to address the changing climate. What would you support to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California?

A: As the only candidate in this race with a plan to actually meet our ambitious climate goals here in California, I could not be more committed to having clean air and clean water. By contrast, my opponent Tasha Boerner Horvath is such an extremist that she is further to the radical left than France, Gov. Gavin Newsom or Los Angeles Times opinion writers on this issue. She supports the current policy, which is a complete failure and is destroying the budgets of working families with energy prices 80 percent higher than the rest of the nation.

Worse yet, it is based on an extreme ideology that does not even work in the real world. It is part of her far-left ideology to raise energy and gas prices under the guise of climate change. However, as America decreases our emissions, China has increased its emissions. So California accomplishes nothing with the current “wind- and solar-only” strategy, while at the same time we are destroying the family budgets of working people with high electricity bills and high gas prices. We need to have bigger gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but with a policy that delivers to Californians continuous, uninterrupted access to electricity. For that reason, unlike my radical opponent, I support nuclear power generation — and more specifically the decision to retain nuclear power generation at Diablo Canyon. France is a great example of a country that has successfully used new, safer nuclear in its energy mix.

Q: Assess what the state is doing now to address the drought. What would you do differently?

A: California’s water policy is hurting working families and not accomplishing the goal of protecting our environment. Much like the radical extreme ideology that is causing our high energy and gas bills, this radical policy has been a complete failure also. Yet the solution is easy. We need to put people as a higher priority than fish. That means catching water and storing it instead of letting it all flow out to the ocean. My opponent Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath and the misguided California Legislature have wasted our water and hundreds of millions of dollars yielding no demonstrable benefits to the California delta smelt fish which has diminished by more than 99 percent. Worse yet, Gov. Newsom has plans to take down as many as four dams in the state. That is the opposite of what we need. We need to create more water storage — not less. Since the beginning of civilization, people have built reservoirs to transfer water from wet years to dry years. Sadly, these policies were abandoned.

Years of drought, combined with large water releases mandated by environmental laws, have drained our California reservoirs. We need to approve new dams and more desalination plants. Gov. Newsom, to his credit, has recently been supportive of more desalination plants. I think that having a prominent Democrat change his view and embrace desalination is a great start, but we need some of the ideological radicals, like my opponent, to admit that dams need to be a large part of the solution also.

Q: The California Air Resources Board has adopted a policy that would ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. What would you do to ease the transition to electric vehicles and ensure affordability, equity and practicality?

A: Trying to use the California state government to force working families to buy a new car that they can not afford is another misguided policy that is supported by my radical opponent. Because she and the rest of the politicians in Sacramento know that this is wildly unpopular and unfair, they use nameless, faceless bureaucracies like the Air Resources Board to implement it without a vote. I do not support this burden on working people, nor do I think it is the government’s job to “ease the transition to electric vehicles.” This has to stop. Gas tax relief is vital if you care about working families. I’d fight to repeal the CARB decision, repeal the state taxes on gas and eliminate “special-blend” gas regulations that only exist in California.

My radical extremist opponent is so far to the left, she is even left of President Joe Biden, Gov. Newsom and Los Angeles Times opinion writers on this issue. Biden was considering a gas tax repeal. Boerner Horvath voted against suspending the rules to consider a gas tax suspension and even let the gas tax go up $500 million this summer. Gov. Newsom supported a plan to give drivers a small check of hundreds of dollars.

Q: What can the state do to get more people to use public transit?

A: As a financial adviser, this issue jumps out at me as a great example of how California could be spending our tax dollars more efficiently. As an MBA-trained investor, it does not seem to me like sound financial management for the state of California to miss out on $12 billion of federal public transit funding, as it did recently under the Biden administration. The state was deemed ineligible for this funding due to changes in its pension law. The U.S. Department of Labor decided that these changes improperly reduced pension funding and blocked the transit funds. Gov. Newsom called the Labor Department’s decision “concerning,” yet nothing has been done to address it. Restoring $12 billion of federal public transit funding would go a long way toward making mass transit a more viable option in California. It is another reminder of why we need less radical ideologues in Sacramento.

San Diego County needs a representative with a results-oriented approach to our state Legislature. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, no one wants to just waste our tax dollars. In a state as large and diverse as California, mass transit is an issue best left to the cities and counties as a practical matter. However, whatever mass transit strategy is chosen by the localities, we should make sure that we take advantage of federal funding when it’s available.

Q: Housing affordability is a huge issue in California. What can you do to help renters or homeowners who are struggling now?

A: The Legislature wants us to live in city centers with government-controlled trains taking us to work. Rent control or forcing taxpayers to pay hotels to create some type of universal housing is not the answer either. Worse yet, the Legislature passed a radical bill to allow multi-unit housing to be built right next door to suburban homes — essentially gutting decades of agreed-on local zoning laws. The affordability of housing was already at crisis levels before recent inflation drove prices up even further in many markets, including San Diego. This is an issue which affects everyone, young and old. Many families see less of each other because their children and grandchildren have moved out of state to find affordable housing. Our current leadership has utterly failed to address this crisis. Their preferred solutions include rent control, which tends to create winners and losers, without reducing the overall cost of housing for most people. Similarly, subsidized housing has not made real estate more affordable for the vast majority of Californians. Instead, I’d cut the taxes, fees and regulations on home building.

Q: More and more resources are being dedicated to the homelessness issue, yet California has more homeless people than ever. Do you see progress? What solutions are working?

A: One big step California needs to take to have sound financial management of our tax dollars is to stop throwing money at this failed “housing first” strategy in an effort to solve the homelessness crisis. We can not continue to allow homelessness to destroy the quality of life in our county. We need to admit that the state’s current strategy of “housing first” is a complete disaster and return to enforcing property crimes.

The best start would be to repeal Proposition 47, which downgraded many property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and thus removed a mechanism to get people the help they need through the criminal justice system and court-mandated rehabilitation. In 2020, as then-President of the California Police Chiefs Association Ronald Lawrence said, “Prop. 47 is a dismal failure and an inhumane way to deal with drug addiction and homelessness.” As your Assembly member, I will work hard every day to end San Diego County’s homeless crisis. We deserve streets and parks that are safe and clean once again! All the prosperity in the world is meaningless if we do not feel safe at home.

Q: California’s crime rate is going up. Do you blame recent criminal justice reforms, other factors or some combination? How would you keep Californians safe?

A: As your Assembly member, I would have zero tolerance for those who continually break our laws. California should stop reducing penalties for crime and instead strengthen punishments for theft by repealing Proposition 47, ending reduced prison sentences and early release by repealing Proposition 57, and ending Jerry Brown’s prison realignment scheme by repealing Assembly Bill 109. Lastly, politicians can’t keep using COVID-19 as an excuse to release prisoners onto our streets.

Even California Democrat elected officials like Assemblymember Rudy Salas know that we must repeal Proposition 47. My radical opponent voted for taxpayer-funded needle injection sites. Gov. Newsom vetoed this.

In my view, many of our recent criminal justice reforms have focused far too much on the rights of the criminal, at the expense of public safety.

The state’s recent surge in organized smash-and-grab crime indicates the need for more deterrence. Reinstating tougher standards would send a strong message to would-be criminals. San Diego has the good fortune of having a competent district attorney in Summer Stephan, unlike those in Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, we are reminded that public safety also depends upon who is interpreting and enforcing the laws.

Q: How would you help California students who suffered from learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: After two historically difficult years, our students don’t just deserve one path to help with learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, they deserve every path and option. That is why I strongly support school-choice policies. The change that the education system needs is to be decentralized and free from the one-size-fits-all approach of the unions in California. More charter schools, more homeschooling, more parental control to use their education dollars at the private school of their choice — these are the changes needed to prepare our future workforce. School-choice options would provide many of these opportunities for students. We can still accomplish these things legislatively if the voters let their voices be heard this November — and we must get it done because our current system overpays for a failed system. Our current failed system provides no educational progress for many minority students, including our Latino students, who make up the majority of California’s students. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 28 percent of Latino students scored at or above standard in state math testing. That’s simply not good enough.

The majority party in Sacramento promotes an education system that consistently fails minority children for the benefit of the special interests that fund its campaigns. Even more ridiculous, a family living on one side of a district line may be allowed to attend a high-performing school, while a house less than a half mile down the road is trapped at a failing school. Discriminating against students based on their ZIP code is unacceptable.

Q: The state has had giant surpluses in recent years yet there are worries about a potential recession. How would you ensure the state is prepared to weather an economic downturn? What will you do for Californians who are struggling economically now?

A: The recent huge surplus of nearly $100 billion means that California is already well-prepared for any potential recession. In fact, I would argue that the state is overprepared, and should return much of the surplus to the taxpayers. The gas tax rebate is a nice start on returning money to hardworking Californians, but I believe it does not go far enough. California has the highest top state income tax bracket in the country at a staggering 13.3 percent and our gas taxes are among the nation’s highest. California’s taxes are simply too high. And nearly two-thirds of Californians agree with me that the state and federal income taxes they pay are too high, as shown in a recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll. Many Californians are voting with their feet, as evidenced by a decline in state population in recent years. And the demographic shift has been so dramatic that it has caused California to lose a seat in Congress. In this time of rising inflation, it is more urgent than ever that we reduce taxes in California. Nothing would do more to ensure that economically struggling Californians are able to weather a potential recession.

Q: California has the nation’s most strict gun laws and among its lowest gun death rates. What is your philosophy toward gun legislation? Have you or your family been directly affected by gun violence?

A: While I have not been affected by gun violence personally, I have spoken to constituents who have been. I believe that the safety of San Diegans can be maintained and enhanced by implementing reasonable concealed carry permitting. Despite strict gun laws, we must admit that we live in a state and country where many millions of guns are already on the street. Enabling responsible citizens to be trained to carry concealed weapons can provide people with a measure of security, given the extensive training requirements that would be included under this policy.

Q: What is your position on Proposition 1, which would establish the rights for Californians to an abortion and to contraceptives in the state Constitution?

A: California already has ready access to abortion and contraceptives. For that reason, I do not support adding this pointless stipulation to the state Constitution.

Q: Why should voters elect you over your opponent?

A: We need to return some balance to our California Assembly.

My opponent Tasha Boerner Horvath is such a far-left radical on the issues of gas prices that she is further to the radical left than President Biden, Gov. Newsom or Los Angeles Times opinion writers. Boerner Horvath is so ideologically locked into being anti-car that she thinks it is OK to let bicycles ride through stop signs, because the roads belong to bikes, not cars. Far-left Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton wrote, “This was another nutty bill vetoed by Newsom. The measure by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath would have allowed bicyclists to treat stop signs as ‘yield’ markers.”

That is a quote from the most far-left radical writer at the most far-left newspaper. When the Los Angeles Times and George Skelton think you are so radical-left that you are “nutty” — you are nutty!

Unlike my radical opponent, I support nuclear power generation and more specifically the decision to retain nuclear power generation at Diablo Canyon.

Nuclear is still considered one of the safest, cleanest, cheapest and most productive sources of power. And new generation IV plants will represent another huge leap in the safety of nuclear power generation, with a reactor meltdown becoming nearly impossible. France is an example of a country that has successfully used nuclear in its energy mix and stands in stark contrast to Germany, which began to shut down its nuclear plants in 2011.

Much like California, Germany has since experienced electricity disruptions related to the intermittency of wind and solar power generation. France’s use of nuclear energy, which is not intermittent, provides it with an inexpensive, safe and reliable source of energy. California should follow France’s lead.

Instead, Boerner Horvath was one of only three extremists to vote against Diablo Canyon staying open. She is such an extremist that she is further to the radical left than Gov. Newsom, Los Angeles Times opinion writers and even France!

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