Candidates' Forum for Rep. Paul Cook's Seat Held in Mammoth Jan. 16

Times Staff Report
Staff Writer

Mammoth Voices, a non-partisan group of civic engagement advocates in Mammoth, which formed in order to better educate the public on how their governments and elections function, will be holding a candidates' forum on Thursday, Jan. 16, in Mammoth, with at least two of the nine candidates running for Rep. Paul Cook’s Congressional District 8 seat attending the forum. Inyo and Mono counties are both within District 8. The two, confirmed candidates are Democrat Christine Bubser and Republican Tim Donnelly. Democrat James Ellars and Republican Jeremy Staat were scheduled to attend but cancelled on Tuesday.

Cook, a Republican from the Yucca Valley area, announced last year that he will not seek re-election.

The nine candidates will go before voters during the primary election on March 3.

According to Mammoth Voices, the forum, which will be held at Giovanni’s restaurant in Mammoth, is is scheduled to run for two hours, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and the group has arranged for a buffet luncheon of salad, pizza, and drink.

Lunch will be served promptly at 11:30 and the forum will start at 11:45 p.m.

The price per person, including tax and gratuity, is $15.Please bring cash.

More details:

There are nine candidates who qualified for the March ballot in this race to fill Paul Cook's seat and Mammoth Voices reached out to all of them and invited them to its regular Thursday meeting this week, according to Mammoth Voices members.

Four candidates accepted the invitations: Democrat Christine Bubser; Republican Tim Donnelly; Democrat James Ellars and Republican Jeremy Staat, Mammoth Voices said.

“We have sent all the candidates questions reflecting the issues of greatest importance to this part of the district to better understand how they would represent us if elected,” the group said in a recent news release. “All have been invited to submit their answers in writing whether or not they can attend. All written responses that we receive will be distributed the day after the luncheon.

“Also, Dan McConnell will be video recording the forum to make it available to the community afterward,” they said. “And Rich Boccia has graciously offered to facilitate the session.”

The list of questions is attached, below. The actual questions asked at the forum may be revised in the interest of time.

After these questions have been asked there will be time for questions from the audience, Mammoth Voices said.

• Mammoth Voices Facilitator – Kathleen Taylor
• Moderator of Candidate Q & A – Rich Boccia
• Minutes per speaker will be tightly monitored. The timing is subject to change depending upon the number of candidates in attendance.

Questions that will be asked of each candidate:

On leadership: Each political leader, including members of the U.S. Congress, has a style of leadership. This style expresses his or her approach to dealing with colleagues in the effort to produce legislation and conduct the work of Congress.
How would you describe your style? How will your style help you accomplish your work as a Congressional Representative?
On candidate’s priorities: The current political landscape seems highly polarized. Voters wonder how elected officials will accomplish important business or even achieve their own priorities in the highly charged political world ‘on the Hill.’
1) What are your top three priorities for representing the 8th District in the US House of Representatives and how will you work with members of the other party to accomplish these priorities?
2) Which would be more important to you as a U.S. Representative to Congress: standing behind the views and policies promoted by your political party or, advocating policies supported by the other party that may more closely serve the unique needs of the 8th Congressional District? Please elaborate.

On representing the entire 8th District: Many locations within the 8th Congressional District might seem far removed from the hub-bub of Washington, D.C., as so much of this district is rural. Although we voters may reside in far-flung locales and may differ widely in our points of view, we all want to be heard.
1) If you win and the election results for the top two vote-getters are very close, how will you represent the, say - - - 49% of the citizenry - - -that did not vote for you, as well as those who did vote you into office?
2) How do you plan to get input from all citizens of the 8th Congressional District, including those of us in Mono/Inyo Counties? Please share the commitment you would make to communicating directly with constituents, which may include face to face meetings and travel across the District.

On other local/Eastern Sierra concerns, including:
Federal Funding for Programs: There are a number of federally funded programs that provide essential services to Mono/Inyo County residents and directly impact county operations, for example: SNAP (food stamps), Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), Community Development Block Grants that fund housing, preschools and other essential programs.
1) How do you think these types of programs directly impact this area of the 8th Congressional District?
2) How you would prioritize funding for these essential services?

Public Lands Management: Both Mono/Inyo Counties are over 90 percent federal Public Lands. The financial stability of communities that are gateways to Public Lands depends on recreation and tourism on trials, parks, waterways and roads held by the US Forest Service and other government entities. These same areas face increasing threats from catastrophic wildfire. Federal government budget allocations for managing these Public Lands are decreasing, putting a burden on local governments to fill in the gap.
1) In your opinion what is the impact of past and current Public Lands management policies on this part of the 8th Congressional District?
2) How will you prioritize expenditures to ensure adequate funding for the Forest Service and other agencies that are responsible for protecting Public Lands and making them available for public use?

Workforce Housing: Workforce housing is a statewide problem. Inyo/Mono Counties and Mammoth Lakes, in particular, are no different.
1) Tell how you think the workforce housing crisis impacts this unique, rural part of the 8th Congressional District and what short and long-term solutions you believe would benefit this area?
2) As a national-level leader, how will you use your office to improve the housing situation in California, specifically, in our 8th Congressional District?

Candidate Roundup and RoundRobin will follow this, until 1:30 p.m.

For more information, contact