Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, a second-term congressman, met Wednesday with Patch editors from his 52nd Congressional District.
Taking part in a 40-minute interview at the Press Box Sports Lounge in Rancho San Diego were Chris Jennewein, senior regional editor for Southern California, and editors Steven Bartholow of Santee Patch, Julie Pendray of Ramona Patch, Hoa Quách of Poway Patch, Ken Stone of La Mesa Patch and Eric Yates of Mount Helix Patch.
Patch: It might be good if you just talked a little bit about the different Patch communities, what you see as some of the issues, some of the ideas you’d like to get across to your constituents.
Duncan D. Hunter: Sure, I think the No. 1 thing facing everybody in San Diego is jobs and the economy. It goes from biotech and all what you could call the newfangled industries of things that are still possibly decades away from coming to total fruition. Then you’ve got the old manufacturing, the old-timers who make things with steel.
The biggest manufacturer is NASSCO [with] a lot of the ship-repair guys, the majority of the old-fashioned kind of trade workers. Look at NASSCO, frankly. I think NASSCO hires 70 percent of the welders in Southern California.
With all these jobs here, I think we’d have much higher unemployment if it wasn’t for the defense industry here. Without them you would have fewer, let’s call them higher-earning jobs—Ph.D’s, scientists—jobs that require degrees if you didn’t have the defense industry here.
At the same time, we have a burgeoning tech industry—not so much burgeoning as merging with biotech right now. That’s kind of the plan for the next decade or so right now for San Diego. The tech industry kind of hit its peak, that’s kind of the bubble I was working in 2001 in Sorrento Valley.
Patch: You were a business analyst?
Hunter: I was a computer science major at [San Diego] State. I got out of that and got into information systems, which my degree was in, on the business side so I could do everything from program to work databases to analyze a financial spreadsheet. So as everyone got laid off in the bubble in 2001, you know, a buddy and I—he was a finance major at State—we were kind of the last two to get fired because he could program, too.
They just kept moving us from pocket to pocket in this company. I think they went bankrupt in 2002-2003, kind of a tech firm.
Patch: What was their name?
Hunter: Cayenta. Anyway, so I think the No. 1 thing facing San Diego is jobs and the economy. People want to get back to work. I talk to a lot of people. You need growth, period. Whether you’re a teacher and you got laid off, or you work in private industry, growth can solve the problems that we face right now. They aren’t going to solve the underlying problems that the economy faces, but if you can get the unemployment rate back down to where it should be.
And it could fix a lot of our problems temporarily, too. If you have more revenue coming in, those skyrocketing Medicare costs are more easily covered—if you have more tax revenue coming in from growth, you can hire more teachers. So creating the environment for growth should be the No. 1 job of the government, whether it’s the federal government or the state. I think that’s the first big fight that we’re fighting right now.
No. 2 on my list is national security. It affects everybody. And I would tie border security in with that. It affects every San Diegan, whether you’re talking about the economy or the defense industry, [which] is a place for jobs here in San Diego, as a job creator here in San Diego, or you’re looking at it as what does it mean in the whole sense of controlling the oceans, controlling our trade routes or being the sole superpower in the world, and how do we maintain it?
I think that’s a big question that a lot of people in Congress don’t look at through a big lens at the 50,000-foot view. They look at it like, “Well, Boeing is in my back yard, so we’re going to build these,” or “Northrop Grumman is in my district, so we’re going to build those.”
One of the upsides to my district is we don’t make a whole lot of stuff. There’s not a lot of industry, which gives me the opportunity to say, “Well, if stuff’s made better in Minnesota or wherever, then I’m for it.” But my overarching goal is to make sure that we do remain as, if not the sole superpower, at least a superpower.
The only reason our economy is not getting dragged down as badly, in my opinion, as Europe’s economy, and our banks aren’t doing as badly as theirs ... is because we are the economic center of the world. And I would pose that the reason we are remaining the economic center of the world is that we control every ocean and every sea on the planet, literally.
We’re the first country in the history of the world to do so. To control the Atlantic and the Pacific and the South China Sea and the Mediterranean and the Caribbean and the Arabian Gulf. Nobody moves goods or can transport services on the ocean, where over 70 percent of commerce movement takes place, without the United States saying that it’s OK, basically.
So I think our position economically stems from the fact that we control the oceans and we can project our superpower status wherever we need to, and wherever we have to encourage people to do business with or to encourage people to not do business with bad players on the international scene.
And I think San Diego especially is affected … by a porous border more than other states are and even more than other regions are. Because for other states, in order to get home and for other folks coming from other countries, whether it’s China or Poland or Vietnam, they are unable to simply walk back across the border to those places, where they’re able to do with Mexico here.
So I think that’s a challenge when it comes to employment and it’s a huge challenge for government services. It’s a state and local issue to some extent, moreso than a federal issue, but they all tie together because the federal government’s responsible for the security of the border, but the state and local municipalities are in charge of what goods and services are we going to offer to people that aren’t necessarily citizens here.
And I think that that plays a role in the economy here locally. Because whether you’re talking Social Security or you’re talking education, what we’re finding in all these different public programs is an upside-down pyramid where you have fewer people paying for more people as they retire or they go to school or they never paid into the system, or they come here at an age where they’re already over 65 and they can begin collecting Social Security immediately without paying into it.
The system’s unsustainable like that and they’re saying if you were to start over in 2011 and say: How would you write the tax code now? How would you write immigration policy now? How would you change things to be with a 2011 world, we would do things drastically different to be more competitive on the international scene and … to be a better country and a better steward of the resources that we have, and making sure we have folks coming into this country who we need and we want and who are going to be basically the backbone of this nation for the next hundred years, the next generation or two.
I think it’s important to get the right people here and to make sure you know who’s in this country. So I think border security without even talking about 9/11 or talking about the bad guys who find an easier way into this country now that we’ve closed off pretty much any other way of getting into the nation because you can’t fly in anymore. It would be extremely hard to boat in. People know how to get across if they want to hurt us. And coming up from Mexico or coming down from Canada are the two ways they can do that.
Anyway, jobs and national security. Those are two of the main things I work on all the time and I think about all the time. A lot of other stuff I do is a little bit extraneous, but those two things probably take up the majority of my time.
Patch: You know, Poway will be part of the new district when…
Hunter: Brian Bilbray’s district, or whoever has it.
Patch: Right now it will be yours, I think, won’t it?
Hunter: No, whoever wins the 2012 election, that’s who it will be. The 52nd District now marks the 50th—if I win my election.
Patch: Sad to be losing Poway?
Hunter: I actually am sad to be losing Poway, yes.
Patch: So what are you gaining now besides Poway?
Hunter: Escondido. San Marcos and Temecula are the three … going north. I kind of have the I-15 corridor going all the way up to Temecula, Fallbrook.
Patch: One of the questions we got from our readers is: What makes you qualified to be head of the Education Committee?
Hunter: I’m not the head, I’m subcommittee chairman of the K through 12 subcommittee. If you look at it in terms of qualifications, I’m not. I don’t have a Ph.D. in education. I don’t have a bachelor’s in education. I had three kids in school. I went to school.
The way in my mind that Congress is supposed to work is we aren’t supposed to be experts in everything. I can’t be an expert in everything, in fact; there are so many issues, I find it hard to be an expert in even one thing, truly, because there are so many facets to every little part of government.
So here’s what my job is as the chairman of the K through 12 Subcommittee on Education and Workforce Committee: It’s to get the right people in front of the committee to testify and to listen to the people who know education, and that’s for the most part on our committee the last year has been local leaders in education—whether it’s local stakeholders, superintendents, principals from public schools, private schools, charter schools.
We’ve had a lot of people from Virginia because it’s close to D.C. and [has] pretty good school systems. And we’ve got folks who represent not-so-great school systems come in and we ask: What do you need help with? What’s the federal government doing to either get in your way too much—or what is it doing to help you in teaching kids? That’s how we run the committee.
I don’t think you need to be a four-star general to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee. I don’t think you need to be a trucker to be head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The reason Congress works is because … in fact, I would argue that when Congress messes up as a whole is when the congressional leaders think that they know best and that they have the silver bullet for anything and they’re going to implement their philosophy on the entire country.
What I’ve learned with education in particular is that there is no silver bullet, there’s about a thousand different silver-ish bullets but nothing works for everybody. So anybody who thinks their way can fix education once and for all in this nation, like the previous administration did with No Child Left Behind, is just wrong.
And I think where Congress gets in trouble and where people in government get in trouble is when they think they have the only solution to any given problem. And I think that comes from a certain arrogance of being in Congress. But no, I’m not particularly qualified to do anything, frankly, unless you look at the fact that I’m going to try to take the best information possible from the smartest people possible and make a decision.
Patch: You were courageous in some people’s minds by voting against raising the debt ceiling because you wanted to protect the military. Since hard votes and hard choices are often part of your job, if you had to vote for either raising taxes on people whose annual income is more than $1 million or cutting the military budget, which would you do? Raise taxes on the richest?
Hunter: I would rather not answer a hypothetical question. I’ll phrase it this way, because I think you have to be extremely careful: I think if you’re saying that whether you’re going to do broad tax cuts or just tax increases on a certain class of people who make a certain amount of money, or you’re going to do broad defense cuts, I think those are both bad things and let me tell you why.
No. 1 is, if you’re going to increase taxes—and I would not have taken tax reform or tax increases off the table—if you do it, you’ve got to do it smartly so you don’t upset job growth and job creation. There are ways to do that. There’s places where the corporate rate could be brought down. Individual taxes could go up. But it increases revenue without hurting job creators.
And there are places where the military could get cut, where I have no problem cutting the military. But I want it to be smart and I want the money to be reinvested into things that keep America as the lone superpower and keeps us protected. So I think that there are give-and-takes.
I would say I would rather see tax reform on the table than cutting defense broadly.
Patch: Is it possible to have a balanced budget without raising revenues.
Hunter: Yes, I think so. Yeah. If we simply went back to 2004 spending levels, we would be well on our way to getting to a balanced budget. I think you have to pass a balanced-budget amendment, and I also think you have to look at companies like GE— I think there was an article this morning, I don’t remember where it was from—but some companies’ CEOs get paid more than those companies pay in taxes. That’s insane.
So I don’t think that the answer is necessarily raising taxes on people who have made money in this country—it’s getting companies like GE to pay taxes. Period. As in greater than zero.
So I would say raising taxes on anybody should be the last resort after you go through other steps, like reforming the tax code and saying, “Look, if you’re making a profit, why aren’t you paying taxes?” We shouldn’t be able to offshore everything and find safe havens for your profits and not give any money to the U.S. government at all and any kind of tax revenue. That’s utterly ridiculous.
Patch: So you’re in favor of closing a lot of those loopholes in the corporate taxes?
Hunter: Oh, absolutely. But at the same time, on both sides, you know the Republicans say we don’t want to raise taxes, Democrats say close the loopholes, the answer is to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt job creation but keeps us competitive or makes us competitive in the first place in the world market.
I think the average international corporate tax rate for developed countries is between 12 and 18 percent. We’re at 35, more than double what everybody else is, so if we’re talking about corporations that are run by accountants, basically, and not individual patriotic Americans—there’s no more Henry Fords who can decide to keep a company here or not; it’s usually done by your board or done by your share price—you’re going to go overseas, you’re going to go where it’s cheaper to operate.
And it’s cheaper to operate because of a number of things—regulations, taxes, labor—you’re going to move and that’s what you see these corporations doing, especially these days where it’s so easy to set up shop overseas. It’s almost instantaneous. So you’re going to see them leave.
So unless we want to keep seeing more businesses leave, we have to do something that’s more advantageous to American companies and makes us more competitive.
And you’ve all seen the graphs. I’m not a mathematician, I’m not Paul Ryan. But if we had more businesses coming back here, we’d have a lower tax rate. We’d have some kind of repatriation. You’re going to hire more people, and you’d get more people paying taxes. I would argue that that growth is what’s needed instead of just raising taxes on a certain class of people that whoever has the most votes in Congress deems as rich people.
Patch: Is there a way for the federal government to push corporations that have gone overseas to come back? Is there something you might suggest?
Hunter: Yes. One of the ways you actually push them as opposed to incentivizing them is calling China on its currency manipulation, on its subsidies for companies, even American companies that export out of China. You hear a lot of that stuff, the stuff that they’ve been doing has been looked at by the WTO, it’s been looked at by us. But they’re the 800-pound gorilla, owning as much debt as they do and selling us as many products as they sell us.
But that’s one way you could do it if you really wanted to get tough and go after them. You also could look at countries that have a VAT and not a corporate tax. A VAT is basically a tariff on our goods so they can say we have a free-trade agreement but, by the way, we have a 20 percent VAT. What that means is they have a 20 percent tariff on everything we send them. You know, a Ford Taurus costs 20 grand—20 percent VAT is going to be much more expensive then.
So anyway, those are some of the ways you could make companies come back here is by going after countries that we could intimidate in an economic way on the world stage, for being unfair when it comes to their trade policies toward us. But the answer, though, is not necessarily to go after them. It’s why did we make bad business deals with them in the first place?
Because that’s what a trade agreement is—it’s a business deal. That can be the part of going after them, but the way you make them come back here is making it easier for them to come back here.
Patch: Better business deals is the future?
Hunter: Yeah, and saying hey, we’re going to be competitive. I haven’t worked [it] out, but I’m sure somebody smart has—if you brought back, say, 5 million jobs that have gone overseas, simply by being competitive with our tax rates, and those people are being taxed at a certain amount and their average income is a certain amount, how much will that raise revenue by, even if you corporate tax rate is 15 percent lower?
I’m pretty sure we’d come out on top, with more revenue raised by bringing back those companies here, even if the corporate tax rate’s lower.
Patch: How easy is it to find the money that’s sitting in these offshore tax havens?
Hunter: I have no idea.
Patch: I had an encounter with that myself, traveling in the South Pacific, and I came to find that some of these little countries—that’s their main income.
Patch: And there was a bill—it’s been a few years now—in 2007 making its way through both houses to stop that. But from what I was told, that’s a real sticky wicket, as they say.
Hunter: That probably makes it extremely difficult, right. But what we’d have to do is just—you know, you can use a carrot or a stick. When you’re talking about using a stick, and how do you make them come back, and that could be hard. I don’t know how hard it is.
I know it would be easier with countries not when they’re hiding the money but the ones that are doing unfair trade practices. We know who they are. But when it comes to hiding the money, I guess the best way to encourage [them] to bring the work back here and bring the money back here is to be a more competitive environment for business. I think the Republicans are pushing on it; I think it’s pretty smart.
We’re doing this regulation search that affects the American commerce, anything greater than $100 million; I think one of the things I read said $1 billion, but $100 million and up, regulation-wise. And that’s a big deal. I see quite a few stats that say more regulations—and I’m not talking about the regulations that Wall Street goes by, I’m talking about the regulations that say spilt milk—the EPA can fine you over spilt milk in a manufacturing facility. Milk is counted as a bad chemical in some manufacturing facilities.
So it’s regulations like that account for 3.5 jobs per manufacturing job are affected by regulation as opposed to taxes. So the regulation actually hurts businesses more than taxes does when you’re talking about what I would say are punitive regulations as opposed to good regulations and good government.
Anyway, there’s a difference there, but I think the regulatory scheme of the bureaucracy right now has gotten out of control, especially with the EPA, the Department of Interior—there’s a whole lot of groups that are just interfering a whole lot more than they ought to be in regular business life.
Once more—not Wall Street or IBM, but like the local dry cleaner who grosses $300,000 a year, is classified as a rich guy even though he only nets about 70 grand a year because he has like six people working for him. He has to pay for his place and has to pay for all his equipment. Those aren’t rich people.
Patch: Kind of piggybacking off this idea in this whole conversation, I think a lot of people kind of get the sense that their elected officials, there’s really no way to get in touch with them, and they’re just kind of operating in this ethos.
What do you say to, you know, the small business owners, like what are some tangible ways to kind of increase jobs in some of the local areas? I don’t know if it’s public works projects or anything along those lines, but in terms of keeping things local instead of talking about the long term, like, the federal deficit.
Hunter: If you’re talking local jobs, once more, the only way, at a federal level, I think the way you can affect local companies is by reining in federal bureaucracies. So when the EPA goes to my dry cleaner on Jamacha and Main and says you’re doing this wrong, it’s a $5,000-a-day fine until you’ve fixed it, that hurts business.
I think one of the other ways on the federal level that you can increase growth at the small-business, local level, is by creating a playing field that is stable, by creating a stable economic environment. I think that’s one of the main things that’s been missing.
You know, I would argue since 9/11, frankly, things got a little unstable there because of the attack. President Bush did what he did to combat a down economy. The war on terror started, and President Obama has done what he’s done. But I think that things have been unstable in general for investors. That’s why you see a whole lot of businesses that have cash on hand not spending their cash on hand. And I think that affects the small business.
It’s interesting, though. The way things like that at the high federal level trickle down to touch local businesses is huge. Because when you think of something that affects over $100 million or $1 billion in business throughout the entire country, the reason it affects them that much is because GE—that $1 billion isn’t just GE—that $1 billion could be 10,000 laundromats have been affected by this. And that’s why it adds up.
That’s the majority of these regulations that affect smaller companies. Think about it. If you’re a big business, if you’re a big corporation, you have no problem hiring the accountants and lawyers to deal and jump through all the hoops the bureaucracy’s making you jump through.
It’s when the local small guy has to deal with those same rules and is bunched in with the big Wall Street CEOs or whoever the bad guy of the day is, when they’re lumped in with them and they have to jump through those hoops, too, they can’t do it. Because they don’t have the ability. That’s why Obamacare scares a lot of people at the small-business level moreso than at the big-business level.
You know, you see big corporations a little bit worried about it. The people you really see worried about it are small-business owners because they don’t know how to do it. They don’t have the accountants, they don’t have the lawyers, they don’t have the lobbyists. They don’t know how they’re supposed to jump through all of these hoops and they could be fined.
You go into any business and I bet you there are laws and regulations on the books that are being violated by that particular business that they have no idea about, simply because there are so many laws and regulations. And that’s why you have so many lawyers for big corporations.
They have so many things to keep track of, they don’t want to slip up. And that’s what their job is—to make sure they’re complying with all of these different regulations set by all these different bureaucracies. (Sighs) OK. (Laughter)
Patch: So you voted against the budget package but we’re constantly told that…
Hunter: Which budget? I voted for the only budget we’ve had on the House floor this year.
Patch: The debt-ceiling budget. And we’re constantly being told there needs to be more bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. You voted against it.
Hunter: I probably voted with a bunch of Democrats, didn’t I? Was that not a bipartisan vote?
Patch: I guess so.
Hunter: How many Democrats voted against it? Seventy Republicans voted against it. How many Democrats?
Patch: I don’t know; I’d have to look it up.
Hunter: I bet you there were more.
Patch: We asked the readers of Patch for some of these questions. The question is: How does a congressional member reach his or her goal without working across party lines?
Hunter: I work across party lines.
Patch: Well, rather than cut defense, what were your alternatives?
Hunter: The alternatives we had were the first. The first bill we had was the cut, cap and balance, which didn’t go anywhere in the Senate. But that was the best choice. That was the alternative, that was our first choice and the first thing that passed the House with flying colors.
The second opportunity we had for an alternative—I don’t know if you remember back where there was that, they called it “Boehner’s deal”— it was the one that we couldn’t get the votes for. I thought that wasn’t a bad deal, either. But we couldn’t get the Republican votes for that.
In fact, I went on TV—I think I was up against a Tea Party Express lady or Tea Party Nation co-founder—arguing with her for that one. It was kind of strange. We didn’t have the Republican votes for that second one. That never even got to the House floor. And then the third alternative was the one that we finally voted on, that I voted no on. So those were the alternatives.
The answer to your first question was how do you get anything done without bipartisanship. A lot of these specific things that we do, especially on the Education and Labor Committee, and on the HASC, our actual committees, so we’re not talking macro politics on the House floor, where it’s Pelosi vs. Boehner, almost all of that work is bipartisan work on the Armed Services Committee, on the HASC, on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
That’s almost all bipartisan stuff, like my charter school bil, in the [Ed] and Labor Committee. And I think there were only three or four Democrat votes against it. You had George Miller voted for it, so those are pretty bipartisan bills. In fact, extremely bipartisan bills.
Patch: I’m from Ramona. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the military family that has a toddler who needs a livesaving kidney transplant.
Hunter: Yes, is it the renal infection?
Patch: Yes. End stage … Some our readers were wondering why a military family has to raise $125,000. So your office is working on this?
Hunter: Yes, we are. We’ve been working on it for about a month. What we’re probably going to have to do is if the DOD (Department of Defense) and TriWest [military insurance] doesn’t change their policy and if DOD doesn’t come back and say, “We’re going to cover this,” it’s going to take a legislative fix.
... DOD needs to change what they’re doing. DOD needs to make a policy change right now and say that “We now cover this,” or TriWest does.
... If it takes a legislative fix, I’m not even sure of what the timeline would be for that [frankly] on a legislative fix. We might be able to tack it on to the … I don’t know. It would probably be a stand-alone bill that we would put up this month or September, or would have to go on the defense appropriations bill that we already passed that would come back from the Senate.
But most of these things, the problem is the bureaucracy. The problem with this is—we don’t say in Congress when we pass a bill we don’t usually do this. For instance if we passed, say, Huntercare instead of Obamacare, Congress wouldn’t list every disease and remedy that we OK. We wouldn’t say, “Were going to cover all of these 10,000 diseases and not these four.”
So what you have in a case like this from my understanding is that you have an interpretation by TriWest and by DOD that they’re not going to provide for this type. And the problem isn’t the kidney transplant; the problem is the kid not being able to eat and keep his food down. So it takes, I think, a special breast milk and that is something DOD is not going to provide.
There’s probably reasons for that, but there always need to be exceptions to the rules and this is one of those times when you need to make an exception to the rule. And what’s more ... I don’t think there’s anywhere where whoever put this into effect, the current military TRICARE system, I don’t think they wrote down anywhere: “DOD shall not provide moneys for renal failure for children.” This is a DOD-TRICARE interpretation of something, and we’re trying to figure out why they won’t do it, why they just won’t start helping.
Patch: So I’d like to continue to be in touch with your office.
Hunter: Oh, yeah, sure. Absolutely.
Patch: I think with 9/11 coming up, and with your special interest in it. ...
Hunter: Changed my life a little bit.
Patch: Should we still be in Afghanistan 10 years after 9/11?
Hunter: In a perfect world, no. No, you wouldn’t. You would have killed the people that needed to be killed. Well, let me rephrase that. You wouldn’t have the number of troops that you have there right now. I think we need to have military there for the next 30 or 40 years, OK, whether it’s 5,000 or 10,000, a much smaller, smaller level, mostly intelligence and special forces, and the ability to make sure that people can’t train there in the no man’s land of Afghanistan or Pakistan or the border areas again without us knowing about it.
But it’s not going to be a military—I don’t envision us having troops that walk the streets and secure towns. I envision us having secure bases where we can use our technology because that’s the big leverage we have, when we’re out driving the roads and walking among the people there, then we are subject to IEDs and old, old technology.
So I think what we should have—if we didn’t have Iraq at all, and I was for the Iraq war, still am, and I’m for being in Iraq right now, not with the number of people we have in Iraq, still something like 50,000 people—I think what we need in Iraq and Afghanistan is a stabilizing force where we can keep an eye on those areas and make sure that we’re not going to get messed with again from those areas, or attacked again from those areas.
As the lone superpower, and that’s what we are, looking at it from that level, our job is to make sure that countries that have people that are hostile towards the U.S. to the point that they’re willing to go blow themselves up, they’re willing to kill people, not just people that burn American flags or effigies of George Bush or Obama but people who will actually want to do bad things to us—to make sure that those people can’t focus on us and that they’re worried about themselves, that they’re focused internally on their own countries.
I think what the president did in Libya was a good thing. Without putting a single troop on the ground, Libya’s going to be worried about Libya now for the next 20 years, right? Which is great. And Turkey is going to be worried about Libya for the next 20 years.
Turkey’s not going to be thinking about how it can go up through the Baltic states to the Balkans and kind of take its old empire back, as one of the only Persian countries in that area that has really had an empire to speak of historically. But I think Turkey’s going to be messing with Libya for a while, I think the same way that Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and Iran and Iraq kind of tie into each other.
I think it’s good that we have Iran surrounded for right now. I think it’s good that we’re on the west side and the east side.
But no, in a perfect world we would not be conducting the size and scope of the military operations we’re having to do in Afghanistan right now. However, I think we need to be there indefinitely, as far as I can see, as long as you have people in that area who will take their focus off of their internal problems and focus on striking us just because we are who we are or they don’t like us or whatever. But I don’t see us having an occupying force there walking the streets in the future.
Patch: Bringing it back home, you’re going to be losing half of the Patches in your district.
Hunter: But gaining new ones.
Patch: La Mesa will have to say farewell to you because you’re losing us as a district, and Santee?
Hunter: No, I’ll still be in Santee.
Patch: What are your parting words to La Mesa and your La Mesa constituents?
Hunter: It was an honor to represent them. It’s an honor to have this job and to represent the American people and the people of San Diego. First off, I love this area. I was born and raised mostly here. I grew up here. I see myself as a normal East County San Diegan who happened to join the Marine Corps and run for Congress.
It’s an honor to be able to do it, and it’s also nice to—I’d say I relate to my district a lot better than other politicians that I know relate to the average American—because I’m an average American. I mean, true, I’ve done a few things that are interesting—Congress and my tours overseas. But I’m an average guy out here in East County.
Go ask the guys I’ve ridden bikes with out in Ocotillo Wells or off-roaded with or go to Hooley’s with or whatever. This is where I grew up and I just enjoy being able to represent people and knowing what they’re going through because I’m kind of going through the same stuff.
Patch: Thank you very much.