“People have got to know whether or not their candidate is a wingnut. Well, I’m not a wingnut.”

One of the most high-profile House races this year is taking place in California’s 52nd Congressional district. Granted, it’s only high-profile because Carl DiMaio, the Republican challenger to Democratic Representative Scott Peters, happens to be openly gay, and is therefore a diversity symbol for a party that doesn’t exactly have a positive reputation for LGBT acceptance.

On July 11, DiMaio and Peters were interviewed by San Diego NPR affiliate KPBS. DiMaio tried mightily to position himself as a non-lunatic. The problem, of course, is that he might indeed be a non-lunatic, but his party has gone mad. Would you pet a cute puppy if that puppy was surrounded by rabid pit bulls?

DiMaio’s answers reminded me of that famous Biblical line about how no man can serve two masters. One cannot appeal to rational voters and Tea Party jerks at the same time. Here’s DiMaio trying to support health care reform and bash Obamacare in the same breath:

We need to stop the political games being played by both political parties — and make sure we address the cost crisis in health care. Instead of enacting reforms to deal with the skyrocketing cost of health care, Obamacare has made the situation worse with the imposition of costly government mandates and limits on individual freedoms to make their own health care decisions.

That said, I would continue to ensure those with pre-existing conditions could not be denied coverage, and replace Obamacare’s costly government mandates with a series of reforms to make health care more affordable. I’m proposing to take employers and government bureaucrats out of our health care decisions by changing the tax code and insurance regulations to permit individuals to select their insurance plans on their own.

Some of my other health care proposals include allowing individuals to buy health insurance across state lines, putting the government exchanges under private management to allow individuals to enjoy bulk purchasing savings, cutting red tape on the approval and use of drugs and medical devices, and expanding health savings accounts (HSAs).

DiMaio insisted that he was pro-choice, but rejected any real efforts to crack down on gun violence; apparently, he’s pursuing voters who are members of both NARAL and the NRA. His answer to a question about climate science is another attempt to play to both the rational and the reactionary:

While I believe climate change is real and human activity has an impact on the climate, we must continue to invest in research to determine what is happening, why, and what we can do to mitigate it. I’m proud that some of that research is being done right here in San Diego.

As we improve our understanding of climate change, we must take immediate action — which is why I support a variety of investments in renewable energy and energy conservation.

On the San Diego City Council, I supported the authorization of PACE (Property Assisted Clean Energy) programs to make it easier for businesses to finance solar and other green energy solutions, and in Congress, I’ll champion legislation to extend these programs to homeowners as well.

Because climate change is a global challenge, we must be prepared to enact global solutions — and most cost effective way to do that is to continue San Diego’s leadership in inventing the sustainable technologies of tomorrow.

Within a Republican political context, the line about climate change being a “global challenge” is code for “we shouldn’t have a federal carbon tax unless India and China tax their emissions first.” (Recall Mitt Romney’s “It’s not called American warming, it’s called global warming” rhetoric before he became a full-on climate denier.) Since when do we wait for other countries to lead?

His response to a question about immigration reform was another botched effort, with a quasi-racist line echoing President Reagan’s “welfare queen” rhetoric:

Any immigration reform must start by properly securing the border. If we do not fully secure the border today, we will continue to have crises like the flood of refugees we recently witnessed. Second, we must fully enforce laws on businesses who employ undocumented workers and expand the use of eVerify. Third, we must link immigration reform to welfare reform to ensure that public assistance is not being abused. Finally, we must adjust the number of guest worker and student visas to reflect our economic needs. I’m open to targeted programs for Dreamers, which is why I support Rep. Jeff Denham’s legislation allowing Dreamers who serve in our military to receive green cards.

Yes! Vote for me, Carl DiMaio, the centrist who hates those mooching illegals!

Whatever DiMaio’s selling, I don’t see the voters of CA-52 buying. If Peters is re-elected, let’s hope he’s joined in the House by true climate hawks such as Nancy Skinner. The more reasonable voices on Capitol Hill, the better.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.