Name: Dr. Ami Bera
Occupation: Clinical professor at U.C. Davis Medical Center and—as of Wednesday—second-time Congressional candidate in California's 3rd District, which represents Elk Grove.
You lost to Rep. Dan Lungren by seven percent of the vote in 2010. What makes you think you can win this time?
It's a very different year. The Republicans last time ran on creating jobs and restoring a sense of opportunity. But when you look at how they're legislating, it's a job-killing budget.
We start with much higher name recognition. Last time as a first-time candidate I spent a lot of the campaign building a relationship with the community. By the end we had over 4000 volunteers. So we will be building on that momentum and the desire for something different.
Why did you announce your candidacy so early? Have you raised any money yet?
Once we made the decision it didn’t make any sense not to put it out there and file. It's too early to say how much we've raised in the first quarter. We've set an ambitious goal of 500 individual contributors.
You're a doctor. Do you believe in universal healthcare, and if so, what still needs to be done to achieve it?
We’ve been consistent that every American should have access to health care and we've also continuously proposed a not for profit, private delivery system similar to Medicare. We should take the system most people are satisfied with and extend it to every American.
What we really need is insurance company reform so it isn’t about making a profit on people’s lives but about taking care of patients.
How has living in Elk Grove influenced your political views, if at all?
My wife and I have lived here coming up on 16 years. There's a sense of community. We had a great example of the community coming together around a tragedy when those two Sikh gentlemen were attacked [March 4]. It wasn't about being Democrats or Republicans or one faith or one ethnicity. I think that's what people are starved for. Most of us want the same things: we want our kids to go to good public schools, and young adults to find a job that gets them on a career track.
Elk Grove is a place where you can know the mayor, know your city councilmember. That's the relationship you should have with your congressional representative, where there's a sense of responsiveness to your needs.
If you were in Congress right now, how would you be proposing that America balance its budget?
How can we balance the budget without talking about spending on defense, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? We need to make those programs solvent in the long term.
Congress in the last decade authorized over $900 billion in spending in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think we should ask ourselves what we've actually accomplished, and I don't think we've accomplished a lot. Now is the time to take those dollars we're currently spending and reinvest them in America and rebuilding our own country.
After what we’ve seen in Japan this week, do you think the U.S. should be moving towards approving more nuclear power plants?
We should take a moment to reflect and check the safety of our existing plants first before we move forward.
You got some flak last time for your negative campaigning. Will we be seeing more pictures of Rep. Lungren in swim trunks in Hawaii?
I think everyone knows that he’s gone to Hawaii and has a cozy relationship with the lobbyists. This campaign right now has to focus on me and the things I hope to accomplish.
What do you do when you’re not campaigning?
Knowing that the race eight months from now is going to get extremely busy, I'm spending time now being a good husband and father.
I tend to camp a lot and fish a lot and those are two things I had to give up last year. This summer I should be able to. This is an amazing region, especially when you go up into the foothills.
So you'll be making up for lost time?