The race for California’s 49th Congressional seat to the U.S. House of Representatives features two candidates: Mike Levin, the Democratic incumbent who’s currently serving his first term on Capitol Hill, and Brian Maryott, the Republican challenger who is a San Juan Capistrano Councilmember.

In an effort to give voters an idea of where the candidates stand on issues related to the 49th District, each candidate was asked three questions:

If elected, how do you plan to address the storage of nuclear waste? Would you advocate to revive the Yucca Mountain plan or support an alternative site to store spent nuclear fuel?

LEVIN: One of my top priorities in Congress is moving the spent nuclear fuel from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) as quickly and safely as possible.

I believe it is imperative that people who live around SONGS have a voice in that process, which is why one of my first actions after being elected was to establish a San Onofre Task Force made up of nuclear energy experts, local stakeholders, and concerned citizens to analyze all of the major issues regarding SONGS and to help identify the best path forward.

I introduced the Spent Fuel Prioritization Act of 2019 to prioritize the removal of nuclear waste from decommissioned plants in areas with high population density and seismic hazards, such as San Onofre, and I cosponsored the STORE Nuclear Fuel Act of 2019, directing the Secretary of Energy to establish a program for the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.

I have also met personally with scores of officials on this topic, including Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chair Kristine Svinicki, where I strongly emphasized the need for the NRC to exercise more safety oversight at San Onofre, and that the spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre must be removed as quickly and safely as possible. 

If reelected, I will build on that progress and continue to push for the safe storage and removal of the hazardous nuclear waste at San Onofre.

MARYOTT: The fact that 3.55 million pounds of nuclear waste is going to be buried for an indefinite number of years in the sands of our beautiful coastline is unnerving, illogical, and seems almost immoral.

Taken together with the fact that 90,000 metric tons of waste are buried at local sites in 35 different states, you have the tragic consequences of one of the greatest domestic failures of our elected leaders in U.S. history.

The U.S. government was charged with the obligation to establish a permanent repository decades ago. They embarked on a plan and spent $15 billion to study Yucca Mountain, deemed it feasible, and then let a handful of cowardly politicians pull the plug. It’s a disgraceful failure, and it will take determined and unwavering leadership to resolve it.

Collectively, it will take a national effort. And it should begin with real action. Efforts to establish blue ribbon commissions and study committees should come to an end. And unhelpful pandering with meaningless bill filings and press conferences should end as well.

When I’m elected to Congress, I will immediately join the efforts of California Congressmen Scott Peters and Salud Carbajal to pass their bill calling for the restart of the Yucca Mountain Repository effort.

I will also author legislation to allow for the federal government to enter into public-private partnerships to initiate intermediate-term storage facilities, supplementing Yucca Mountain as needed. 

It is absolutely appropriate that for-profit businesses be allowed to be part of the interim solution.

Lastly, I will work with the presidential administration and the Department of Energy in supporting funding for this national repository as well. The Trump administration has tried three times to secure this funding, and I will encourage and support their persistent efforts. 

If we have a change at the White House, I will remain hopeful that a new administration will be similarly vigilant on this, and I will work with them, their cabinet and agency officials to achieve the required funding.

I will not “resist” the new administration in a way that harms the needs of our communities.

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If elected, what sort of priorities would you support in defense spending budgets, particularly in regard to the needs of Camp Pendleton?

LEVIN: I’m incredibly proud to represent Marines, Sailors, and their families at Camp Pendleton. Throughout my first year in Congress, I fought for federal funding to support Camp Pendleton, and I was proud to secure $128 million in the National Defense Authorization Act for critical infrastructure projects on the base.

When the President threatened to take funding from military construction projects in order to pay for the border wall, I spoke out and defended Camp Pendleton. Ultimately, our base was spared, but I will continue to defend Camp Pendleton from any budget cuts that hurt servicemembers in the 49th District.

I was also glad to see that the NDAA included many proposals from a bipartisan bill I introduced to increase accountability over private housing for military families, which has suffered from serious health, safety, and environmental problems.

Finally, we must ensure that servicemembers have the best possible services and benefits when they return to civilian life. I’m proud to Chair the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, and through that subcommittee, I’ve been able to author and pass nine bipartisan pieces of legislation to help our veterans, one of the most among freshman members of Congress. Two of these bills already have been signed into law by the President.

I will always be a fierce advocate for our servicemembers and veterans who give so much to our country every day.

MARYOTT: On the top line, it will be an honor to fight every year for funding sufficient to handle the immense challenge that our brave men and women face every day. We have had two generations of heroes actively deployed for over 20 years, and we have asked a great deal from them and their families. 

It is inexcusable that they went years without the required parts, equipment, and hands-on training required for the incredible challenges they faced. Finally, administration led the way on meaningful funding increases that have made a dramatic difference already for troop readiness.

Additionally, it allowed real pay increases for the last three years for our servicemen and women and their families.

When elected to Congress, I will not compromise when it comes to the naïve and childish demands of the progressive caucus to limit defense spending to the same level as discretionary domestic spending. Nor will I accept that the halving of defense spending, advocated for in the repulsive Green New deal, should ever be given any credence at a time when our adversaries are more determined than ever to wreak havoc around the world.

Pendleton is an amazing base, and we are blessed to have it in our community. Like all of the Marine Corp installations, Pendleton fights a constant battle to have funding needs met within the Department of the Navy. But while it isn’t the glitziest spending, it’s critically important to the safety of our young men and women.

I want them to have sufficient training in the most authentic way possible. Some of the long-planned projects have been funded on schedule, including the vehicle maintenance building, potable water upgrade, and the information command center. We also need to look ahead at some larger scale needs in the North Mobility area.

My goal would be to enhance the base over time so that a full expeditionary force could take part in highly realistic training from sea to shore, and directly inland.

One either supports the defense of our country as the single most important role of the federal government, or one doesn’t. I do.

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As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives what sort of initiatives and ideas would you support, or even propose, in order to strengthen border security?

LEVIN: This issue is deeply personal to me. My mother’s parents immigrated from Mexico because they wanted to achieve the American dream and create a better life for their children and grandchildren. Our country was founded on that promise, and we must continue to live up to that principle.

Our immigration system is broken. Ultimately, we need members of both parties to come together on comprehensive and humane immigration reform that includes protections for Dreamers, a path to citizenship, and increased funding for smart border security technology. I have been to the border and seen firsthand what we can achieve with smart investments.

There is absolutely no reason that innocent children should be ripped from their families, locked up in cages, or denied basic necessities like soap, toothpaste, and blankets. As a father of two young children, I find this reprehensible.

I have cosponsored a number of bills to hold this Administration accountable, improve conditions at the border, and to ensure that children remain with their families. Most of all, I believe we must always be committed to treating immigrants with respect and decency. 

MARYOTT: Our country is badly in need of three things: a border that is safe, secure, and above all, sovereign; thoughtful and meaningful immigration reform that is rooted in the rule of law, while also being compassionate; and elected leaders willing to put aside their own political agendas and petty politics to forge compromise. 

The overwhelming flow of unlawful immigrants, the flood of drugs that are poisoning our children, the related tragedy of human trafficking, and the financial and public safety-related impacts to families, require that we properly secure our border.

The challenge is vast, but it is one we must meet. This will require every tool in the toolbox.  First, it can’t be done without barriers in the more accessible areas of the border. Those in place now have been effective at slowing down the traffic and allowing other measures to be more effective.

Older barriers should be modernized and reinforced; other accessible areas without current barriers should be prioritized for construction. I will support those efforts and the funding they will require. 

I will also support the establishment of a border safety trust fund, so the Department of Homeland Security can have the predictability and certainty of funds necessary to provide the staff and other resources to keep our borders manageable.

This should include funding for increased manpower, enhanced technology, more immigration judges, and appropriate spending for detainment facilities. No matter how successful we are in curbing unlawful immigration, we must have the ability to detain individuals and families safely and humanely.

Once we can accomplish truly safe, secure and manageable borders, we can turn our attention to the status of those here unlawfully. I will support a path to permanent legal status for some, and deportation with the right to apply for reentry for others. For a select few individuals within the DACA program, mainly those who came in at a very young age, I support an eventual path to full citizenship. 

Both major parties have some major soul searching about how we conducted ourselves for decades on this issue. We now have to resolve it in a way that is firm but fair.

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