Denham and Harder | Water
Jeff Denham and Josh Harder sat side by side at last as they spoke to The Modesto Bee’s editorial board Thursday in a long-awaited first debate.
Denham, the Republican incumbent congressman, lauded his work with people on both sides of the political aisle in areas of immigration, health care and agriculture. Harder, the Democratic challenger, said he will be more responsive to people and isn’t beholden to super PACs because he isn’t taking their money for his campaign.
At one point, Denham interrupted and shouted at Harder during a discussion about hate crimes. A few weeks ago, Denham was offended that a Harder campaign social media account “liked” a post about somebody disparaging Denham’s wife, who is Latina, as the congressman arrived at a Latino Community Roundtable event in downtown Modesto.
Harder countered that the “like” was inadvertent and that he had apologized for it.
Denham also scoffed at Harder for not voting in 17 of 20 elections, until Harder decided to run for Congress.
Denham said protecting water rights is the most important issue facing the 10th District, which covers Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County. Harder said his top priority is health care for everyone.
“I’ll put my record up against anybody. I work across the aisle,” said Denham, first elected to Congress in 2010.
Harder said, “I’m running against somebody who talks a great game. Then he goes back to Washington and votes with his party 98 percent of the time.”
Harder attacked Denham’s vote in May 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying, “Everyone knows somebody who would be hurt by that vote. We need to make sure that we have access to care for every single person in the Central Valley.”
On immigration, Denham said, “I introduced the bills. I stood up to party leadership and forced a vote on our own bill ... including making sure we have a guest worker program ... I took a lot of criticism in the primary. Took a lot of criticism from my own party. At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s right.”
Harder said immigration policy won’t be changed until leadership in Washington changes. “Look, on immigration I’d encourage everyone to not look at what Jeff Denham says when he’s here in the district but how he’s voted,” Harder said.
On other topics:
Harder: “I’ve made no secret that I am pro-choice. I don’t think our government has any role getting between a woman and her doctor. I support California law. I think that’s the right standard. We need to make adoption much easier.”
Denham: “I developed my pro-life stance at a very early age. My mother carried me when she was in high school. I’m trying to be kind here. I never want to say one of my opponents is lying. (The video) is disgusting,” he said, referring to footage from last year where Harder seemed to support late-term abortions. In a statement issued earlier this week, Harder’s campaign said “Josh misunderstood the question.”
Denham: “When we set the standard, every other nation has to abide by the standard we are putting out there. Commodities, when they sit, our farmers lose money ... NAFTA needs to be updated. Our dairy farmers have felt the pain of an unfair trade balance with Canada.”
Harder: “This trade war is killing profits. This is causing job losses. This is causing huge economic problems in the Valley.”
Harder: “The average donation to my campaign is 25 bucks. I’m very proud of our campaign and how we have financed it.”
Denham: “While he may talk a good game, he still takes millions of dollars from Nancy Pelosi, from national super PACs that run ads against me.”
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390