Last Thursday, two candidates running for the 41st congressional district, encompassing Riverside, Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley and Perris, faced off in a public forum — less than two weeks before the Nov. 4 election day. Democratic incumbent Mark Takano and Republican challenger Steve Adams debated issues of campaign funding and healthcare, but vowed to work across party lines if elected into office. The free public forum was held in and hosted by the UCR Extension Center, which worked in collaboration with the UCR School of Public Policy.

Takano, a Harvard graduate and Riverside Community College trustee of over 20 years, assumed office in early January 2013, becoming the first openly gay person of color to serve in Congress.

As a Riverside city councilman and small business owner, Adams served on the Riverside Police Department as well as the Metro SWAT teams until he was forced to retire due to injuries incurred in the line of duty.

The first debate topic involved campaign funding and the impacts of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a U.S. Supreme Court decision which curtails limits on campaign financing. Adams explained that he supports campaign finance reform, saying that his funding has come from “private citizens and small business owners,” as opposed to Takano, whom he accused of turning to big businesses for financing.

Takano responded by saying that the court case was “wrongfully decided (and) based on the premise that corporations are people. Corporations are not people.” Takano added that he was glad that Adams believes that we should not have corporate donations, and concluded by asking Adams directly if he would join in signing a pledge to keep big money out of politics. Adams responded with, “If you’ll sign against unions as well, absolutely.”

A difference in opinion was evident on the topic of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” the health care reform law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

In 2010, 28 percent of people under the age of 65 in Riverside County did not have health insurance, explained Dr. Mindy Marks, a UCR associate professor of economics and panelist for the evening’s debate. When asked about his opinion of the ACA, Takano asserted that “the Republicans shut down the government and even threatened to default on America’s debts over this issue.” Adams responded, saying that “Congress didn’t shut down the government — the president did.”

In the June primaries, Takano led with 44.7 percent (19,648) over Adams’ 37 percent (16,264) —  a close margin of 7.7 percent. Voting for the 2014 elections will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 4.