Reiff: Correa Sees Good National Election Outcome for Moderates Like Him

Congressman Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, says self-described political moderates such as himself – a rare breed these days in hyper-partisan Washington, D.C. – will gain clout after this fall’s election.

“I talk to my Republican colleagues and a lot of them are saying they’re going to lose a lot of seats,” Correa said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs program. “Both Democrats and Republicans think that Democrats will either take the House or come really close. Either scenario tells you that blue dogs, the people in the middle, will play a very pivotal role.”

Correa, a former state lawmaker and Orange County supervisor with a reputation for reaching across the political aisle, said he’s willing to work with President Trump on immigration reform. And repeating a theme that has not always endeared him to fellow Democrats in Sacramento, Correa said California’s policy makers are driving jobs out of the state.

Correa said he was disappointed that the recent bipartisan omnibus spending bill did not include amnesty for the “Dreamers” (individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children), despite broad popular support for such a measure.

When he heard President Trump complain after the bill’s passage that “I want my wall and I want my Dreamers,” Correa said, “I thought to myself, I’m willing to work with this president if that’s what he wants. I’m willing to work with him on that.”

“On immigration, we haven’t done anything since Ronald Reagan,” Correa said. “It shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue. Right now, everybody’s looking at the president and saying deportation, but everybody forgets that Obama deported more individuals than any other president before him … I didn’t like it and I called him out on it. He did it quietly, the (current) president is doing it very loudly.”

Correa said that despite the heated rhetoric, “there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans in the middle” who want to solve the immigration issue: “A lot of my colleagues from the South are telling me, ‘Lou, we need immigrants’ … The bottom line is the guys in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, they need workers, and it’s up to us to try to find a solution.”

Correa said that as a state senator in 2013 he helped to break an impasse when California faced a similar controversy over driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. SB 60 passed with bipartisan support after Democratic leaders dropped a demand that the licenses have no characteristic different from a regular driver license.

“I said, ‘C’mon guys, 20 years, I’ve got people in my district getting pulled over, their cars are getting towed,” Correa recalled. “They called it the scarlet letter … With all due respect, I’m seeing what’s going on in my district, and I want that to stop, and I want people to follow the law, I want them to drive with insurance, I want them to know how to drive. What’s so magical about that?”

Correa suggested that the nation’s heated rhetoric over immigration echoes California’s own debate over the passage of Prop 187 in 1994. That anti-illegal immigration measure was blunted by the courts and subsequent state legislation that Correa supported, including the driver license bill, a Dream Act and the Trust Act restricting incarceration and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Correa blamed “the regulatory environment in California” for Kimberly-Clark’s decision to close its 60-year-old Fullerton plant: “Four hundred good-paying jobs, $30 to $40 an hour, are going to disappear from California.”

The Texas-based paper-products giant said the plant was one of 10 being shuttered as part of a global restructuring.

Correa also complained, “I’m not hearing our elected officials talking about making sure that biotech firms in California are doing well, making sure they stay in California. I’m hearing the biotech firms say, ‘We’re gonna move to Boston.’ Maybe. I think those are the issues we’ve got to talk about.”

While he insisted “you can’t assume anything,” Correa ironically may have the easiest campaign of any OC House candidate this year. While Republicans are suddenly defending normally safe seats from a Democratic onslaught, Correa is a heavy favorite for a second term in a district that was once Republican and until recently seen as a swing seat. But after 20 years of representation by Democrat Loretta Sanchez and a growing Latino population, Correa’s district, encompassing Anaheim and Santa Ana, is majority Hispanic and considered safely “blue.”

“The changing demographic is not just Orange County, not just California, I think it’s the nation as a whole. Latinos today are the biggest minority in the United States, so you see a lot of changes,” Correa said.

But Correa cautioned, “Does that mean ideological changes? Maybe, maybe not. You know, Latinos are not monolith. You’ve got some that are conservative, progressive, and at the end of the day, a lot of blue-collar workers who just want the American Dream. And what is that? Good jobs, education, safe streets, opportunity to send their kids to college.”

Correa is among an estimated 100 lawmakers, including Speaker Paul Ryan, who sleep in their offices. Some House members call the practice unsanitary and unethical, but Correa said eliminating a commute gives him a couple of extra hours to work a day, and saving on Washington’s sky-high rent is helping him put four kids through college.

The Inside OC episode is airing this week on PBS SoCal and Cox (show times are here). The interview is also on YouTube, as is a post-show “Open Mic” segment.

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