By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Congressional candidates Eric Swalwell, Ellen Corbett, and Hugh Bussell seemed more like old friends than political rivals at a candidates forum put on by the League of Women Voters of the Eden Area.
The three each hope to represent San Leandro and the rest of the 15th District in Congress and took questions from a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday night at the Castro Valley Library.
Swalwell is the incumbent, having unseated Pete Stark in 2012. He told the crowd he brings both youth and experience to the job.
Corbett also touted her experience, having been an elected official for the past 20 years, starting out on the San Leandro City Council and currently in her last term as a state senator, where she has written 158 bills that have passed and become law.
Bussell, the lone Republican, promised to bring a different perspective as both a conservative and a non-career politician.
Corbett and Swalwell are Democrats and both of the liberals seemed to be seeking out the conservative vote. Swalwell said that he comes from a family of all Republicans and Corbett pledged to bring “respect” to the bipartisan process in Congress.
Both Corbett and Swalwell are attorneys, Bussell is a former high school teacher who now works in high tech.
Bussell got in the only zing of the evening during his closing remarks, asking “Does Washington need more lawyers?”
Topics ranged from NSA surveillance, to fracking, to campaign finance with all three largely agreeing.
Candidates Oppose NSA Snooping on American Citizens
All were against fracking, all said the campaign finances need to be monitored in order to keep politicians honest and said they’d never be swayed by cash, and all expressed dismay at the NSA’s monitoring of the public.
“If people are out to get you, it’s not really paranoia,” said Bussell, who said that people need to be aware that they are being monitoring and should be cautious of the information they volunteer online.
Swalwell said that despite the fact that he serves on the Homeland Security Committee, privacy is priority.
“No law abiding citizen should have their data collected,” said Swalwell. “We cannot and must not sacrifice our privacy.”
Corbett agreed, saying “What we have discovered about the NSA is extremely troubling, nothing is more important that personal privacy.”
Bussell did disagree with Corbett and Swalwell on immigration, saying that, while he did not support deportation, he felt that something must be done to prevent illegal immigration in the first place.
“When someone says that someone is an illegal alien, they instantly get vilified,” said Bussell. “But you need to handle the situation with a little judgment as well as a bit of mercy.”
When asked how they would remain in touch with their constituents while working in Washington, all pledged to regularly travel back to District 15.
Swalwell says he’s been back nearly every weekend during his term and has hosted 13 town hall meetings in order to stay in tune with the people he represents.
Corbett says she has been staying in touch during her time in Sacramento and would continue to do so.
“I’ve represented people in this district for 20 years and developed a lot of relationships,” Corbett said. “It’s not necessarily about the number of visits, it’s about being a good listener and getting to know the needs of the people.”
Bussell said he’s lived in Livermore and Hayward for years and taught the children of the district and is also a political outsider, and he wouldn’t be corrupted by Washington.
“There’s a danger of being in the beltway and getting sucked in,” said Bussell. “I’m a little bit older so my character has been formed.”
The top two vote-getters from the June 3 primary will move on to the November election regardless of party affiliation.