Main town USA lurks at every corner in Ramona, California. The neighbors are nosey, the cars remain unlocked and it’s sweltering past the 100 degree mark in this quaint town, but that didn’t stop the locals from packing the Ramona Mainstage venue to capacity leaving many outside hoping to at least shake the young congressman’s hand.
They were not disappointed. Duncan Hunter Jr., a self admitted conservative, replaced his father, who made a run for the White House last year, but Hunter Jr. was not given the seat. He had to earn it the old fashion way – beat his competitor.
This was no small feat as Hunter Jr. was busy fighting in Afghanistan for the U.S. Marines much of the campaign season. Luckily he had a strong family to conduct a large part of the race without him being present. Hunter won and now calls Washington D.C. home much of the year.
Today, Hunter Jr. shows up in his big Chevy pickup truck, dusty shoes and a few minutes late due to a shaving injury. Not to worry, he quips, “I’m bleeding for you.” He takes his time entering the venue and shakes the hand of each and every person who waited in the heat to see their congressman.
Once inside, it’s a little cooler, until the conversation turns to health care and what this small town expects of Hunter when he returns to D.C. next week.
He starts with a semi-apology. “It seems the conservatives were eclipsed by the Obama star, but we are no longer voices in the wilderness. Because of you our power is coming.”
This is a good part of the district for the freshman Congressman, says Michael Harrison, deputy chief of staff for Duncan Hunter Jr.
Growing up in strict family, goals were always set and now that the Congressman is in Washington D.C. nothing has changed. “We (Republicans) are trying our hardest to rebound.”
A smile comes across his face when he talks about the ‘team’ of Republicans. “We all voted against the stimulus package. That was an accomplishment because there were some who wanted to vote for it, but in the end we all agreed.”
It was the tragedy of 9/11 that would alter Hunter Jr.’s path and lead him away from a technology career to join the Marines and fight for his country. He served two tours in Iraq and was recalled to active duty in Afghanistan for a third.
With his experience in the military, Hunter Jr. is a natural to fight the illegal immigration invasion of our southern borders and he also gravitates toward National Security issues. It bothers him that this administration is cutting defense spending while the country is fighting two wars.
“We are always playing catch up when it comes to artillery and body armor,” Hunter expresses his frustration for the first time. “I don’t get it; we are cutting our missile defense program by $1.2 billion when we know it works.”
Hunter explains there are some in the Obama administration who believe America will never fight another real war, with an opponent of equal standing; “That’s just not rational.”
Eventually the town hall event heads into the firestorm of health care. Hunter admits that elections have consequences, but sometimes the partisanship is too much. “I could walk into a meeting and tell the Democrats that I have a cure for cancer and they would say no.”
Perhaps, Hunter will get used to this type of D.C. tactics, but something tells you he is just not that guy, plus his father who was a well-respected congressman for 27 years would probably kick his butt.
The health care industry needs reform, says Hunter, “it just doesn’t need a massive government overhaul. I think we can fix it little by little.”
Ramona resident, Ted Trout, retired from the Navy and wanted to make sure his Tricare/health care was not going to be tinkered with by Washington. “They won’t touch it,” Hunter quickly responds. “It’s completely exempt.’
Not all problems will be as lucky, Medicare has a lot of meat on the chopping block. This is another point of contention with the Congressman. “If there is a public option, any punishment for small businesses or excessive Medicare cuts, I will not vote for the bill.”
That being said does the Congressman think this legislature will pass? “You never know,” he pauses. “Most blue dogs (conservative Democrats) will roll over and have their belly tickled for a treat.”
However, the health care discussion has not been in vain and four Republican amendments have been added to the extensive 1,200-page bill. One of them was offered up by Hunter.
The House Education and Labor Committee accepted his amendment to protect small businesses from a broad employer mandates. “As part of the legislation’s ‘pay to play’ provisions, businesses are required to provide employees with health care coverage or risk incurring a penalty tax equal to eight percent of annual payroll expenses.”
This amendment would kick in when an employer requests a hardship exemption that would result in firing employees due to the cost health insurance.
Other options Hunter would like to see in a redesigned health care bill would include, inter-state health insurance portability, tort reform, good oversight, less regulation, cost cutting measures and fraud prevention.
Unless the current bill HR3200 is scrapped, none of those options will be invited to sit at the Democrat table.
In the end, all were glad to hang out with Hunter on their day off from everyday life and most left knowing they would be represented in Washington D.C.
The event was hosted by Orrin and Cheryl Day, the owners of Ramona Mainstage. “We just wanted our community to hear from our Congressman first hand where he stands – not the TV sound bites we all hear from the main stream media.”
For more stories; www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner