Endorsement: Janessa Goldbeck for the 53rd Congressional District

 ·  Editorial Board, San Diego Union-Tribune   ·   Link to Article

Retiring 10-term Rep. Susan Davis’ service in the 53rd Congressional District — which includes western El Cajon, eastern Chula Vista and central and eastern San Diego — will be remembered for her longtime military support. She is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. Her husband was an Air Force doctor during the Vietnam War.

Into this void comes congressional candidate Janessa Goldbeck, a young queer Marine who hasn’t raised as much money as Georgette Gómez — who has Democratic Party backing — or Sara Jacobs — who has her own wealth. But Goldbeck has raised a tidy sum for a newcomer, and her approach, background and demeanor are making people notice.

Given her opponents, The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board almost didn’t interview her. Instead, the Democrat was the last of 62 candidates from City Council to Congress that we met before the March 3 election. And hers was one of the most impressive interviews, in any race. She has the potential to shake up a campaign some predict will put fellow Democrats Gómez and Jacobs in the runoff.

Gómez, twice appointed San Diego City Council president by her peers, has been impressive in that role, bringing people who are at odds to the table and building support for both an inclusionary housing ordinance and a newly robust regional conversation around transit. She’s also the only leading candidate who has managed a government budget.

She could hit the ground running on issues like housing and transit. But she is uncomfortably uninformed on foreign policy. She said she’s “tracking some of it,” and “Once I’m there, I will do my work to ensure that I understand everything.” That approach gave us pause. She also didn’t articulate a clear vision on health care, beyond saying she generally supports Medicare for All. “There needs to be a bigger conversation,” she said. This lack of detail — compared to others’ specifics — gave us more pause.

Jacobs narrowly missed making a runoff election in the 49th Congressional District in 2018. She’s clearly ambitious. And clearly bright. Having worked for the Obama State Department and UNICEF, she has some of the foreign policy experience Gómez lacks. As the granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, she also has money to introduce herself in a new, very Democratic district.

Jacobs’ approach is intriguing. Rather than compare the merits and costs of any particular plan against another, she prefers to compare new ideas to the cost of inaction and the status quo. In our interview, she applied that logic to thorny issues like climate change and health care. Her homelessness policies were also smart; for one, she would use federal grants to provide people access to lawyers in eviction court to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.

Jacobs and Goldbeck could both be political stars, but Goldbeck’s military leadership stood out. She also might be a better fit for a district with more than 60,000 former service members. With the loss of Davis’ institutional knowledge and the resignation of Rep. Duncan Hunter meaning his own Marine background no longer benefits the region, a veteran’s voice would be an asset.

Goldbeck said the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” made her service possible. She joined the Marine Corps at 26, advanced to serve overseas as a logistics company commander attached to an infantry battalion, and later lobbied the Department of Defense to repeal its formal combat exclusion policy for women. A letter announcing that repeal is framed in her house, evidence that diversity in leadership is essential. One of her biggest proposals would combat climate change and boost national security. She would push the Department of Defense, which is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world at over 350,000 barrels of oil a day, to become carbon neutral by 2030. That could pay dividends in San Diego County and around the globe.

Goldbeck is also not a partisan. She faults both the Trump and Obama administrations for having “fairly muddled” foreign policy objectives and for a troubling expansion of executive power, especially under Obama, as it related to drone strikes. She was serving overseas when Trump was castigating American allies and saw how it can “really impact troops on the ground.”

Lastly, as the facilities maintenance officer at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, she wrote proposals for increased spending to fix infrastructure on the base, and she thinks it’s absurd the president is now taking money from the military to build his southern border wall. “I thought Mexico was going to pay for the wall,” she said, “not the United States Marine Corps.”

Oorah. Goldbeck would be a refreshing, assured, morally courageous voice on Capitol Hill.

We endorse Janessa Goldbeck in the 53rd Congressional District.

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