Congress needs representatives who will reach across the aisle and work with members of the opposing party, according to the two men running to represent California's newly created 33rd Congressional District.
In front of a group of local dignitaries and small business owners at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Rolling Hills Estates last week, Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat who currently represents the 30th Congressional District, and candidate Bill Bloomfield, an independent from Manhattan Beach, traded barbs over Waxman's record and the hyper-partisanship in Congress, the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction recommendations and even the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in West Los Angeles.
The forum's format gave each candidate four minutes for an introduction before a 10-minute, question-and-answer session. However, the candidates deviated from the format quite often.
Bloomfield threw the first verbal punch with a reference to the new bipartisan commission charged with drawing district lines. Without it, Waxman's "pals" in Sacramento would have drawn him a safe district, Bloomfield said.
"I'm worried about the future of our country," he said, talking about the "bickering" in Washington, D.C.
Throughout the event, Bloomfield emphasized his independence from the two-party system, explaining his "No Labels" caucus that promises to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans.
"I do not favor lowering taxes for the wealthy," Bloomfield said. "Our country needs a nonpartisan, pro-jobs approach."
For his part, Waxman decried the hyper-partisanship and lack of compromise in Congress: "I've never seen anything like it."
Bloomfield also emphasized his support of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—also known as Simpson-Bowles—a bipartisan group designed to figure out methods of getting the national debt under control. The independent candidate said he would have voted for the committee's recommendations.
"We need to get our fiscal act in order," Waxman agreed, but "[Simpson-Bowles] is only a framework."
"If you and the other leaders in Congress had embraced the framework of Simpson-Bowles, we wouldn't have a fiscal cliff," Bloomfield said. "You are an outlier on this issue."
He likened sequestration—automatic spending cutbacks in such areas as defense—to playing chicken with the U.S. economy.
"I think the idea of sequestration is absurd," Waxman said.
Both, however, disagreed with the Norquist no-tax pledge, the anti-tax oath championed by conservative activist Grover Norquist, with Bloomfield calling it "God-awful" and "stupid."
Among the other topics, Waxman told attendees that he fought to keep the local VA property from being sold to developers and said he was "pleased" that a class-action lawsuit had been filed to compel the VA to provide services.
"[The lawsuit will] light a fire under the VA," he said. "It's a disgrace to have homeless veterans."
"The VA facility on Wilshire in West L.A. is a disgrace," Bloomfield shot back. "Why didn't you ask [government officials] to deal with it?"
Waxman retorted that he had to fight the Republicans who wanted to sell the facility—who Bloomfield supported.
Both candidates support abortion rights and same-sex marriage. On the death penalty, Bloomfield supports it and Waxman does not.
Still, Bloomfield said he would be voting for Proposition 34, which ends the death penalty in California, because the penalty is "simply not working" and costing the state "a zillion dollars."
Election day is Nov. 6.
The new 33rd District stretches from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the Beach Cities, through slivers of Marina del Rey and Venice, up to Santa Monica, Malibu, Calabasas and Agoura Hills. The district also extends inland to include Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills and parts of West L.A.