Taken by Richard Lin

With the November elections less than a month away, congressional candidates debated in the latest “Windows on the World” forum on Oct. 3 at the UCR Extension Center. As longtime residents of Riverside County, Democrat Mark Takano and Republican John Tavaglione are competing to represent the 41st Congressional District in the upcoming election. Voters in November will decide which candidate will earn a seat in the House of Representatives. Hosted by the Osher Lifelong Institute, the event also included a presidential debate viewing party just prior to the live congressional debate.

Moderated by former editor and publisher of the Press-Enterprise Marsha McQuern, the debate consisted of two minute opening statements, pre-collected audience questions with a 30 second rebuttal period and final closing statements.

For over 22 years, Democratic candidate Mark Takano has served as a Board Trustee for the Riverside Community College District and Rialto high school teacher. Republican candidate John Tavaglione is a supervisor of Riverside’s second district and a former commercial real estate broker. Each candidate has pledged to work across party lines in order to address the difficult task of closing the bridge within a divided congress.

When first asked how he would approach the high unemployment rate, Tavaglione referred to experience in developing a department for foreign trade in 20 different countries, while birthing the 91 freeway expansion that extends from Corona to Pierce and creating 16,000 jobs.

“It really hasn’t amount to much [over these last few years] because we still have a 12% unemployment rate in the Inland Empire, which is the highest in California and above the nation’s average,” rebutted Takano.

Topics of debate included the national debt, government regulation, and the continuation of tax cuts were also addressed by the candidates. Tavaglione supported a greater need for deregulation, through looser restrictions on free market enterprises, while reducing fraud and abuse within some of the nationally-funded programs. On the other hand, Takano advocated greater micro-entrepreneurship, restoring authority to local governments and supports closing tax loopholes often used by corporations.

Shared viewpoints included furthering a comprehensive bill for returning veterans, prioritizing the passage of a transportation bill, guaranteeing protection for Medicare and placing added protections for women’s rights.

In a county known for being dominated by Republicans, the 41st congressional election will be one of the most competitive in California. An analysis by the New York Times states that over half of the Inland Empire’s voting population consists of Latinos, who tend to lean Democratically, based on demographic voting statistics in past elections. At this time, Republicans control the most seats with a 242 majority and Democrat control 193 seats in the House of Representative, stated the Economist.

Voters will decide who will replace Republican Jerry Lewis, who will be stepping down after 10 years in office. In 2008, voters passed Proposition 11 and 20, which established the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission and placed them in charge of redrawing Senate district lines. As of 2010, the 41st Congressional District consists of Riverside, Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley, Perris and other cities in the Inland Empire.

Second-year bioengineering Major Michael Dea stated that candidates focused little attention on issues relevant to him such as energy investment and the military, but rather on a smear campaign. “[We] also have a college campus here and I think it matters a lot to the people that they should talk about college education more or public education for that matter,” commented Deo. Despite an older demographic turnout, Deo felt that voter apathy was only a mental barrier or rather a “one drop in the bucket” kind of mentality.