Denney and LaMalfa on the issues affecting the 1st Congressional District


Jacob Collier

Doug LaMalfa and Audrey Denney are fighting for the same seat once again following their 2018 race.

(Quotations for Audrey Denney were sourced from an interview with The Orion; quotations for Doug LaMalfa were sourced from a community forum debate that was hosted by the League of Women Voters. Orion reporters reached out to the LaMalfa campaign to organize an interview and did not receive a response. The full debate video can be viewed here.)

Once again, Republican Doug LaMalfa will race against Democrat Audrey Denney for the U.S. representative seat of California’s 1st Congressional District. Chicoans will cast their vote to elect their congressional district representative for the coming term on Nov. 3. 

LaMalfa and Denney last raced against each other in 2018. The race ended with LaMalfa keeping his seat, but it was a close race nonetheless. This election is set to be even more competitive. 


On the topic of COVID-19, Denney sees Chico’s economic recovery as vitally important. To accomplish this recovery, Denney indicated that safety procedures are essential, something that she says isn’t prioritized by LaMalfa.

“The way that we recover from COVID is by following the guidelines of local health officials: wearing a mask, washing your hands, socially distancing,” Denney said in an interview with The Orion. “Instead of having a congressman who promotes that guidance, we have a congressman who goes to veterans events not wearing a mask.” 

To some extent, LaMalfa agrees with encouraging high risk individuals to follow safety guidelines, but ultimately, feels that following COVID-19 safety measures should be a choice left up to the individual. He sees the impact of forced business closures as too great of a strain on Chico’s economy. 

“What it really comes down to is individuals got to figure out what their level of risk is,” said LaMalfa, during a community forum debate. “For those that are the highest prone they need to take the greatest measures to reduce their risk. We need to continue to find ways to ensure the public safety on this.” 

Climate Change and Wildfires

On the issue of climate change and wildfires, LaMalfa aims to promote forest management as a primary solution to reducing wildfires. 

“We need to store more water, we need to do more forest management and we need to put people back to work here locally to get on top of that,” said LaMalfa during the debate. 

LaMalfa stated that the Democratic Party is attempting to use climate change as a reason to secure more taxpayer money to build high-speed rail systems, something which his campaign opposes. 

Denney agrees with LaMalfa’s stance on forest management to some extent, but she sees wildfires as being related to both climate change and forest management. In Denny’s view, both of these factors have contributed to the increase in wildfires.

“The most critical issue at a global level is obviously climate change … The local issues are forest health and fire prevention …” Denney said. 

The Economy

Denney recognizes that unemployment is a major concern for voters right now, citing an increase in unemployment rates from four percent to eight percent in the 1st District since 2018. 

“People could not get through to the unemployment office on the telephone,” Denney noted. “It’s been a nightmare for young people and for working people and working families to try and even figure out how to make ends meet.”

LaMalfa addressed the unemployment rate in the community forum, citing COVID-19 as the cause for the increase. 

“The virus is a curveball that nobody could hit, so, at this point, we’ve been devastated for the first few months of the year on that,” LaMalfa said. “But we’ve seen a bounce back in a lot of those jobs, millions of jobs have recovered during that time …” 

Both candidates stressed concern for increasing broadband internet accessibility, which has been a large concern for rural constituents in the 1st District.


Healthcare is another large concern for the 1st District, specifically in relation to pre-existing conditions and affordability.

“The Affordable Care Act is not what its name implies,” LaMalfa said. “It’s been a disaster ever since it’s been put in for people that pay for it … What the focus should have been is having people that were happy with their healthcare plan be left alone.” 

LaMalfa says he will aim to work on a public option for healthcare that will not interfere with current private healthcare options, making reference to republican sponsored bills that cover pre-existing conditions.

Denney doesn’t agree with LaMalfa’s evaluation of the Affordable Care Act and wants to work to expand it. She has indicated that the healthcare system in America is broken and that employer provided healthcare isn’t very effective. 

“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and people are finally realizing that it’s asinine to tie our healthcare to our employment status,” Denney said. “We’re at this moment where exciting progress can be made that’s moving toward just basic goals like everyone having healthcare.” 

Independent polling results released by the Denney campaign have indicated that the candidates are neck and neck in terms of support, which should make for an exciting race. 

Joel Moret can be reached at [email protected] or @JoelMTheOrion on Twitter.