Democratic Congressional candidates make cases for the June primary

Jessica Holcombe speaks on various issues at a public forum on Jan. 27

Martin Chang

Jessica Holcombe speaks on various issues at a public forum on Jan. 27

Democratic candidates running for Doug LaMalfa’s House of Representative seat met at the Chico branch of the Butte Public Library on Jan. 23 to discuss the issues of California’s 1st District.

Candidates Marty Walters, Jessica Holcombe, Larry Jordan and Audrey Denney discussed their stances on topics such as DACA, abortion rights, healthcare and strategies to take the representative seat from LaMalfa.

The forum was hosted by the Democratic Action Club of Chico. Moderator David Welch described DACC as “a club that is chartered by the Democratic party and is a volunteer organization that supports Democratic candidates and helps support the party.”

The event ended in a straw poll by the DACC members. Walters received nine votes, Denney received 11 and Holcombe won the straw poll with 28 votes.

The following profiles are drawn from one-on-one interviews and from this public forum. Each candidate spoke on the same topics but many answers were similar so each candidate’s strongest points are listed below her or his name.

Marty Walters:

Walters is the first candidate from Plumas County to run for the first district congressional seat. She is running a self-described “grassroots” campaign with a significant focus on rural economics, healthcare and education. Walters said that her background as an environmental scientist with small-town roots sets her apart from normative Democratic candidates.

Walter’s also mentioned that she has three LGBTQ children and that she’s a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and issues.

“We have to support all of our people and all of (their) diversity,” Walters said. “It’s something I want to reach out to with other mothers and other people who are LGBTQ.”

Marty Walters makes case for her spot on the November ballot to DACC members and the public. Photo credit: Martin Chang

On DACA: “We gave away a lot of leverage by not forcing DACA to happen as a condition to reopen the government,” Walters said. “We are failing these kids…We are failing a generation of people who will have lost 700,000 to 800,000 kids who are going to get deported; it will affect everyone in that generation.”

On abortion rights: “I am in favor of expanding (Planned Parenthood). It’s not just about abortion, it’s about having good birth control, it’s about having good women’s services as a whole,” she said. “It’s about being able to give birth in a rural hospital and being able to give birth in the way that you want that’s supported…It’s part of a bigger picture.”

Jessica Holcombe:

Holcombe has built varied professional and political experience interning under Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, volunteering for the peace corps and working as a business lawyer. This has sharpened a campaign concentrated on income inequality, affordable healthcare and renewable energy.

Holcombe has a robust fundraising system and hired former campaign staffers from both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders campaigns.

“We knew that fundraising was critical in order to hire seasoned and professional staff who can manage the volunteers and make sure we get the vote out,” Holcombe said.

Jessica Holcombe projects her points to the public forum members trying to sway them to pick her as the Democratic candidate. Photo credit: Martin Chang

On infrastructure: “So many areas of our district don’t have access to reliable broadband,” she said. “It’s impossible to build a strong economy, attract employers and keep millennials living in the district if they can’t get access to reliable broadband.”

On the budget: “What happens when we cut taxes for America’s richest and large corporations, but we start spending more money on the military?” Holcombe asked. “Then we start hearing establishment politicians tell us ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have as much money to fund Medicaid. I’m sorry we’re going to have to start cutting your social security.’”

Audrey Denney:

Chico State alumna and former instructor Audrey Denney is a self-espoused “unconventional Democrat” and as a millennial, is the youngest of the four candidates. Denney has roots in agriculture, education and international volunteer work which all help guide her campaign platform that’s focused on global food security and education policy.

Denney made significant waves the DACC public forum by being the only candidate to refuse to support another Democratic candidate if she were to fall in the polls.

“I can’t say honestly in my heart of hearts, that 194 people elected by the state party get to determine who is the best challenger for LaMalfa,” Denney said. “I believe a robust primary system and the people of this district get to decide who should challenge LaMalfa.”

Audrey Denney addresses Butte County residents and Chico community members at the forum at the Chico library on Jan 23. Photo credit: Martin Chang

On veterans and the budget: “We can’t give all of our money to readiness without taking care of our veterans when they get home,” she said. “Eight percent of our district is veterans; that’s twice the national average and we need to be actively fighting for the privatization of the VA system, fully funding our VA system and fully staffing it.”

Larry Jordan:

Film director Larry Jordan used his experience from raising millions of dollars for Farm Aid, Hurricane Katrina victims and 9/11 first responders to focus his campaign on agricultural economics, healthcare and fiscal responsibility.

Jordan identified the War Power Act when asked about the first thing he would do if elected to Congress.

“I think we all should have a chance to vote where our money goes,” he said. “These ridiculous wars that we’ve been fighting, especially Iraq in modern times, have just been devastating.”

Larry Jordan speaks to Butte County residents at the Chico public library on Jan 23. Photo credit: Martin Chang

On building jobs: “In district 1, so much of it is national forest and federal land. We have to find ways to build high paying jobs to work in forestry,” Jordan said. “We need to build new industries in things like biomass, alternative energies or artificial intelligence…The old jobs, like digging for oil, just are not safe.”

On education funding: “The more we educate ourselves, the more we’ll be competitive on the world market,” he said. “If we don’t start making advances in education, we’re going to be cleaning the toilets of the Chinese and Indians.”

The top two vote-getters on the June 5 primary will be placed on the November ballot. You can find more information about this congressional election from

Grayson Boyer can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.