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The Race For The House - The Incumbent

Michelle Loxton
Congressman Jimmy Panetta is running for the third time for California's 20th Congressional District seat. He has two challengers.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016. The Congressman is facing his second re-election contest for California’s 20th Congressional District seat. 

Panetta is the undefeated incumbent Democrat, running against democrat Adam Bolaños Scow and Republican Jeff Gorman

The top two vote-getters on Super Tuesday will advance to the November election.

KAZU News sat down with Panetta recently, at a coffee shop in downtown Salinas. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

Credit Michelle Loxton
Congressman Jimmy Panetta ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016 and 2018. He is undefeated going into the 2020 elections.

Michelle Loxton (ML): So you are applying for this job again. Why? 

Jimmy Panetta (JP): As frustrating as it is right now to be in Washington, D.C., I can tell you being the representative for the Central Coast is the most fulfilling job I've ever had. 

ML: Why should you be the one to keep this job?

JP: If you look at what I've done in the limited time I've been in office, I think people in this district understand that, you know, I'm not in the entertainment industry. I'm in the legislation industry. I don't just stand up and yell. I actually do the work.

ML: Work like co-authoring the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bi-partisan bill, passed by the House, aims to do a number of things: give agricultural workers the opportunity to earn legal status; reform the Ag worker visa program; and provide more protections for workers. 

JP: And it was one that I'm not only proud of the substance, I'm proud of the process. It actually took Democrats and Republicans at the table. It took farmers and farmworkers at the table grinding away on the details for the past eight months. And that's where we're able to come up with a… not a, not the perfect bill, but a damn good bill when it comes to protecting those that are important to our community and our culture here on the Central Coast. 

ML: Panetta says he supports the goals of the Green New Deal, which is an expansive plan proposed by progressive democrats to tackle climate change. But he wants more than what he calls a non-binding resolution. 

JP: But you actually have to put forward a plan and legislation, not just a 14-page, non-binding resolution. And that's what we did with the… with The Climate Action Rebate plan -- a bill that puts a fee on carbon output, $15 per metric ton on carbon output, takes that dividend and puts it right back into low and middle income families. Puts it right back into a clean and green, resilient infrastructure. Puts it right back into research and development for cheaper, better clean technology. 

ML: The Climate Action Rebate Act of 2019 has been introduced in the House and Senate. Panetta then moved on to discuss the housing affordability crisis. 

JP: We've actually brought in over $40 million to the Central Coast for homeless and homeless programs. When it comes to tax credits to ensure that people can build affordable housing, we've increased the amount of 9 percent tax credits by 12 percent. I put forward a bill, a plan to increase the 9 percent tax credit by 50 percent, an actual plan. When it comes to renters who are paying over a third of their income towards housing and utilities, we put forward legislation that ensures that they can get a federal tax deduction for the money that they're putting forward towards the rent. And so, once again, it's… it's making sure that you don't just yell about things, you don't just complain about things, but you have a plan and you actually do something about it. And that's what I've been doing for the past three years. And I look forward to continuing to do that for the people in this place that I've always called home.  

ML: The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2019 and The Rent Relief Act of 2019 have also been introduced in the House and Senate. But none of these last three bills have passed yet.

ML: So you support Medicare for All. But you have said in the past that we need to have a sensible, reasonable discussion about how to actually get that done. Is that where you... where you still sit with that?

JP: You bet, I was… If you look at… I was one of the first people to endorse Medicare for All. And I think that's exactly what we need to be looking at, is making sure that everybody has that right to affordable, accessible health care. But obviously, how you go forward with that approach… and it's funny that you have presidential candidates and people supporting presidential candidates actually realizing how expensive it is and that there has to be a discussion about it. We have to be reasonable about it and we have to be practical about it.

From 2019 to 2021 Michelle Loxton worked at KAZU as an All Things Considered host and reporter. During that time she reported on a variety of topics from the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic and local elections. Loxton was part of the news team that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for the continued coverage of the four major wildfires that engulfed California’s Central Coast in 2020.
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