Congressional candidates’ personal stories shape their platforms

27th Congressional District Race: Democrats Judy Chu and Bryan Witt face off

Anthony Quach, Contributing Writer

As Rep. Judy Chu faces off against Bryan Witt for her seat on the U.S. House of Representatives, their backgrounds shape a lot of their views.

Chu told the UT that her experience as a psychology professor in the Los Angeles Community College District for 20 years — at Los Angeles City College and East Los Angeles College — really influenced her policy-related passions.

“I saw firsthand the power of education to change the lives of so many for the better, including those who were the first in the families to go to college,” Chu wrote in an email. “This is why I have worked to improve the quality of education in our country and make college more affordable.”

In her role as California’s Congresswoman for the 27th District — representing Alhambra, Rosemead, Monterey Park and neighboring areas — Chu co-sponsored the Student Loan Refinancing Act. That’s a policy that would allow student borrowers to refinance their loans any time a lower interest rate is available. By “refinancing at a lower rate, this would cut overall student loan payments and allow individuals to plan for a more stable future,” Chu said.

Similarly, her opponent, Bryan Witt said as a gay man, he has experienced direct and subtle forms of discrimination, which has allowed him “ to appreciate the pain of those who have suffered from abuse.”

“I can see things from many perspectives and I think this is very important for an elected official,” Witt told the UT. “We are all the sum-total of our life experiences and I am no different.”

Witt said he’ll do everything in his power to cancel student debt and would join Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others in supporting The College for All Act. “Canceling student debt and providing free college tuition or vocational training will have a massively positive effect on our economy and I will do everything within my power to make this happen,” Witt writes on his website.

While some questioned how the government would pay for that, others are encouraged by his position.“I would prefer Witt, just because it would be beneficial to the economy and to the students, and I would love for my student loan debt to cleared,” said Ashley Garcia, a Cal State LA student currently accruing student debt. “In regards to Chu’s policy, her idea wouldn’t be beneficial to students like me who have debt. I would still have to get another loan with an interest rate.”

Chu, a Democrat, has represented the district in the House since 2013. She received 83.5 percent of votes in the June primary election, according to the California Secretary of State, while Witt, also a Democrat, received 16.5 percent.

An important distinction between the two candidates is how they’re funding their campaigns — and how much money they have to do that. Chu’s receipts through June 2018 are $983,200, according to the Federal Elections Commission’s latest campaign finance summary while Witt has $8,130.

Witt said he does not accept money from corporations, PACs or SuperPacs and has criticized Chu for accepting so much money from the real estate industry: “I believe she is biased in favor of the investor class over the working class.”

Not at all, said Chu. She said she has done extensive fundraising in part to “financially help the candidates from across the nation who will help us stop Trump. Despite this, the contributions I receive do not affect my vote.”

When it comes to healthcare, both candidates expressed interest in making healthcare more accessible to citizens. If elected, Witt will vote in favor of H.R 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act — which would provide free healthcare: “I believe healthcare is a right and not a privilege. We need to expand this for all citizens and residents, period. End of story.”

Chu herself helped pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, a policy that Republicans in Congress continue to criticize. “Because of their continuous attacks, I’ve had to vote to defend the Affordable Care Act nearly 70 times,” said Chu.

“Having access to affordable healthcare is my top priority,” Chu said, adding that the ACA helped reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million.

Chu said she has been fighting President Trump’s attacks on Planned Parenthood: “For many young women, Planned Parenthood is their main source of healthcare. It is essential that we ensure that all women, no matter where they live, will have access to reproductive health services.”

As for immigration, Chu and Witt both want to help Dreamers get legal status.

Upon hearing about children separated from their parents, she said she “immediately went down to the border to investigate.”

“Overall Judy Chu has really involved herself with the community,” said Diana Cortez, a graduate of Cal State LA and a constituent in San Gabriel. “As a resident of San Gabriel, it is comforting to know that there is somebody willing to take care of some of the social issues that exists in our communities.”

Witt said he would like to allow more people from Mexico, Central and South America to come in as refugees: “Many of these people are escaping situations that were created by previous administrations, so we have an obligation to provide relief.”

The election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.