A candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters brought both candidates to U.C. Merced. The questions came from the audience and both candidates covered a lot of ground in just over an hour.
From the start, both candidates named job creation as a top priority. Because water plays a crucial role in the Valley's economy, it was only a matter of time before people in the audience brought up the water crisis and the candidates started taking swipes. "Back in 2009, when we really needed the help, when we needed to address our regulatory drought, Mr.Costa voted against turning on the pumps on three different occasions. So, it's a situation if you are going to vote against water for the Valley, then you don't belong in the Valley," said Whelan.
"It's outrageous. Why are the water experts in the valley with Westlands Irrigation District, with the Friant Water Users Authority, with the San Luis Project supporting me and not him? It makes no sense. I've got the only proposals that have brought water to this valley in the near term and the long term," said Costa.
The candidates were also asked about immigration reform, with both candidates saying they support a pathway to legal status. When questioned about education reform, both said they would appeal No Child Left Behind, though their approach differed. "We need to repeal it and focus on those limited areas that the federal government does provide funding for our schools. At the end of the day it will be our local school districts and what happens in our state's capitol that determine how well we educate our students," said Costa.
"We need to stop some of the duplication and waste we see with the Department of Education. That's not something we heard from Mr. Costa tonight. There's $33 billion dollars we spend with the Department of Education that doesn't educate anyone. Let's bring some of that money by cutting the waste and bring it back to the states," said Whelan.
The end of the forum brought both candidates together for a handshake. But with one week to go, the fight for the 16th Congressional District is far from over.