Dante Acosta is a Republican running for Congress in California’s 25th District. He’s one of two Republican primary challengers to incumbent Buck McKeon. He agreed to an interview with SCVTalk and his answers are below.
SCVTALK:Tell us about your background and why you are running for US Congress?
ACOSTA : I am the middle of five children and was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. My father died when I was 11 so my mother raised her five children alone.
When I was 8 years old, we moved from Studio City to Granada Hills which was a great place to grow up. We had very little money in those years but my mother worked hard holding three jobs to make ends meet and somehow we managed. she eventually started a bridal shop that became a successful family business. We often came to Santa Clarita to Hart Park and ate Moore’s Sub sandwiches and played in the park.
As a young man, I had a paper route, swept floors, emptied trash at an auto garage, delivered flowers, was an assistant manager for an auto parts store, worked in fast food restaurants and for a camera store chain. I went to work as a rookie new car salesman for a Chevrolet dealership in San Fernando eventually becoming the General Sales Manager, overseeing all aspect of new and used car sales and the Finance and Insurance departments managing over 50 people and about $50,000,000 in sales in today’s dollars.
For over 20 years I have worked as a financial advisor and I am currently a Senior Financial Advisor assisting individuals, small business and institutions with their investment, retirement and wealth planning needs.
I have been married to my wife Carolyn, who works in the medical field, for 26 years this may 31st. We live in Canyon Country with our two surviving children, Allie, 16 and Doran, 11. since day one we were very involved in their lives, volunteering at school, coaching little league, directing school plays and teaching Sunday school at church. Carolyn and I were even docents at the William S. Hart Museum. I have served on various boards, lectured on business and military issues and have hosted national business and political events.
I am running for office because I learned firsthand that this district is not being adequately represented. Congressman McKeon is out of touch with his constituents and is beholden to large defense contractors and other donors. After Rudy was killed, I started looking for answers and accountability through Mr. McKeon and his committee. Other than asking us to speak at Rudy’s prayer vigil and sending a few letters requesting an investigation that had already been ordered by the Army, Mr. McKeon was missing in action for nearly six months. as he stalled, more soldiers were killed at the hands of their “trusted” Afghan partners and protectors. Over the past year, I personally witnessed the nepotism, political control and ineffectiveness that is happening in the district and looked for a candidate that I could get behind to run against McKeon. no one came forward, so at the urging of many in the community I decided to run for office myself to provide better representation for the district.
SCVTALK: SCVTalk readers pay close attention to the news and were extremely saddened when they read of the death last year of your son Rudy, one of several SCV soldiers and Marines to die in Afghanistan in recent years. Many readers and residents went to Rudy’s funeral procession, and much has been written about your son’s life, the circumstances of his death, and your reaction to it. tell us, if you will, something about Rudy that we’re not aware of.
ACOSTA : Rudy was an exceptional, heroic and dedicated young man. He was also a humorous and often silly “kid” who loved to make people laugh. He played varsity football and volleyball for Santa Clarita Christian School, acted in school plays and frankly, stole the show! He loved In-and-Out burgers and his favorite meal, in fact the first one he asked for when he came home on leave for the last time, was Siam Rice on Soledad Canyon and Sierra Highway. We have a special photo of Rudy with the owner taken that night.
Rudy also had a really big heart for people. His first date with his girlfriend was spent helping her feed her grandmother who was dying from cancer. He held the grandmother’s hand and talked with her as they fed her. What has not been reported widely but was told to us by soldiers that were there when Rudy was killed was that during the attack Rudy told a female medic to run and “covered her” as she escaped the gunfire saving her life.
SCVTALK: You list “Free Markets” as one of your campaign planks on your website. where do you stand on the Dodd-Frank Financial Regulation bill and would you vote to bail out a bank or financial institution, as Buck McKeon did, if economic authorities said the bank’s failure could threaten the US and Global economies?
ACOSTA : America has not operated under a truly Free Market System for a long time. The 2008 Bank Bailout (TARP) is the best and most recent example of government playing two roles in the economy. not only is it tasked with being/controlling the regulator of our financial system, in many cases it is also a market participant. TARP is the most recent and relevant example of this very poor policy. Congressman McKeon himself has agreed that in hindsight, he might not have voted for TARP. He blames this change of heart on the claim that the Bush administration and the Treasury Department pressured lawmakers to approve this deal with the country’s largest banks. So, even knowing at the time that TARP would give appointed bureaucrats the unprecedented power to pick winners and losers in the banking industry, he went against his better judgment and voted for TARP. I too now get the benefit of hindsight but my long career in banking and investments told me that TARP did not pass the smell test. Transferring huge sums of public dollars to the already richest banks in the nation, who along with other banks made bad investments, served only to force out small community banks and created mergers that cut competition and reduced customer sentiment towards the industry that I have loved being a part of.
This incident also draws another lesson about Congressman McKeon that I would like to share with voters. I know of several community members that reacted negatively to the news that Congressman McKeon helped President Bush ‘save the free market by abandoning free market principles’. instead of reaching out to those constituents to explain his vote, he dealt very harshly with their perceived petulance. as your Congressman, I will not react harshly to criticism and will endeavor to have a dialogue, within reason, with those that have opposing points of view.
SCVTALK: If you were elected to Congress as a Republican, how would you work to secure Santa Clarita from the negative consequences of a CEMEX mine in Soledad Canyon? Would you partner with a Democrat to advance such an agenda? Would you push for a CEMEX fix even if it meant violating a supposed Earmark ban in the House?
ACOSTA : I am running as a Republican and will caucus with the Republican Party. however, I will work tirelessly to insure that the Cemex mine is stopped! as far as working with the Democrats, it is vital for both parties to work together on important issues or nothing gets done. In fact, I will be reaching out to several of my personal contacts in the Democratic Party to begin the process of stopping Cemex. Yes, I would push for a fix no matter what it takes as long as it is ethical, doesn’t violate the constitution and is in the best interests of the district.
SCVTALK: On your website, you say you are a “pro-military advocate.” What are your views on the Afghanistan conflict? Do you agree with the President’s strategy and if so, why? If not, why not?
ACOSTA : By pro-military, I am referring to being committed to our servicemen and women first. as most of your readers are aware, on March 19, 2011, we lost our son, Army SPC Rudy Acosta, to an Afghan terrorist masquerading as a base guard while Rudy was on base serving as a Combat Medic in Afghanistan. as a Gold Star father I support 100% the mission that our men and women in uniform are committed to by the Commander-In-Chief and the military officers that serve at the President’s pleasure. it serves no legitimate purpose to denigrate our war-fighting capabilities or the mission our soldiers are fighting for. however, in looking at the future, we will need to honestly assess the sentiment of the American people, our probable financial commitment and the state of readiness of our military forces before committing them to another foreign war. Undoubtedly the bar has been raised as to the type of justification that will be required in order for me to approve the commitment of troops to new foreign theatres. And all foreign intervention should come through the Congress for a vote.
SCVTALK: As Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Buck McKeon is perhaps the most vocal voice in Washington on the need to protect the Defense budget from cuts. Is he going about his role the right way, and would you do anything different than him?
ACOSTA : The Congressman must thread a needle in his role as the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. On one hand, he must keep America able to sustain its current commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere and I give him and his committee high marks in this area. On the other hand they must continually be preparing the military for the challenges of the future. Whether it is in humanitarian work or, God forbid, another foreign war, today’s military equipment and the way our troops are organized is not going to get the job done. Without going into detail, we are spending too much money to keep aged equipment running and are supporting troop deployments that harkens to the Soviet era. The type of missions that our servicemen and women engage in today cries out for better force protection protocols and tactics. Why are Afghans being hired as guards to protect our soldiers through a $4,000,000 DOD contract with a Canadian firm? I have been told by virtually every Soldier and Marine I have met with here and on our bases in Germany that they can do the job themselves. should I be asked to serve on the House Armed Services Committee or otherwise asked my opinion, I will work to help our national defense forces realign and prepare for the future and the type of combat they will be engaged in.
SCVTALK: Dr. Lee Rogers, one of your opponents, said in an interview with SCVTalk that he thinks the wealthy in America should pay more in taxes, at least equal to what many middle class families pay in order to help balance our budget and restore fiscal responsibility. Do you agree with him?
ACOSTA : You won’t be surprised to learn that I have a difference of opinion with Dr. Rogers on this subject. The fact of the matter is that President Obama and his ultra-rich supporters like Warren Buffet are selling a lie about how some wealthy people are taxed. The fact is that the total tax paid on the money Mr. Buffett receives is actually higher than the capital gains rate at which Warren Buffet is taxed. Mr. Buffet is allowed to choose this rate because he takes his income out as capital gains, not as dividends, which are taxed as regular income and at a higher rate. however, as with all gains and dividend income, the money is essentially taxed twice. Corporate profits are taxed first at the corporate tax rate, 35%, and then taxed again when it is received as profits by the recipient at the 15% capital gains rate as in Buffet’s case. where the confusion lies is in the fact that our tax code has literally hundreds of thousands of deductions written into it that allow those with the means to understand it the ability to write off significant amounts of income, protecting it from taxation.
The President’s own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (The Simpson-Bowles Commission) that he assembled after taking office proposed a complete overhaul of the tax code to both increase revenue to the federal government and lighten the tax burden on the middle class. though I don’t agree with every suggestion the Commission came up with, I bet that if you and I Jeff went through the Simpson-Bowles work product we’d find a lot we agree on. But the President did not. So far, he has not implemented a single provision outlined in the Simpson Bowles Commission Findings. I am inclined to believe that a simplified tax structure is the only way that we can bring parity to taxation and grow the economy simultaneously.
SCVTALK: 18% of voters in this Congressional district are decline-to-state. Why should these voters select you over Buck McKeon or Lee Rogers?
ACOSTA : They should vote for me because I am actively engaged in the community and I understand what is happening on the ground today and the issues that face the average person. as someone who experienced layoffs due to the global financial crisis I have had the same difficulties as many of them have. Also, I have helped start and run small businesses and for the past 20 years have worked as a financial advisor so I believe I am the best candidate to provide solutions that can help make things better for people of the district.
Voters are tired of 20-year incumbents like Buck McKeon who has proven himself to be ineffective at representing this district and who is beholden to special interests. Conservative leaning voters have never had a credible option before and simply had to vote for McKeon as there was no other option. In me they have that option.
SCVTALK: Illegal immigration is a divisive topic in this District. Do you like Arizona’s AB 1070 law? should the states be able to devise their own immigration laws as Arizona has done, or is immigration a uniquely Federal responsibility?
ACOSTA :I’m sure many are concerned with illegal immigration as I am; however, our campaign has held many meeting, forums and “Meet & Greets” and this issue has only been raised one time other than your question during this campaign. Based on the questions voters have asked, it seems they are more concerned with jobs and the economy, housing prices, Cemex, corruption and nepotism with our elected officials and gas prices. as far as “liking” AB 1070, I don’t like that the citizens of Arizona felt it necessary to enact it. it shows the failure of the federal government in securing the southern border.
If the federal government finds enforcement of our immigration laws too difficult, it is up to the states to assist them. I am confident that when the Supreme Court of the United States comes back with its decision on the Arizona Immigration law later this summer, it will announce that it agrees with that premise.
SCVTALK: What do you think the Federal role is, if any, in health care?
ACOSTA : For good or bad, the federal government already plays a very large role in healthcare via Medicare, Medicaid and the Veteran’s Administration system. I believe that government has the obligation to reform Medicare and Medicaid to serve the coming generations of citizens that were promised it would be there for them. Eliminating fraud and waste could go a long way toward saving the feds money so it can keep those promises. beyond that, we must knock down the barriers to competition that stand in the way of better care and better prices. Competition is the only way to drive down prices and drive up quality. Opening up the health insurance market to companies from out of state like the auto insurance market is one way that could happen – giving consumers the choice.
There are other cost savings that could be gained perhaps, by having fewer mandates. I have a friend that is forced, because of mandates, to purchase a policy with substance abuse, infertility, pregnancies and other provisions that it extremely unlikely he will ever use. He is a non-smoking, non-drinking, unmarried man in his late 50’s that is not likely to use those services. In a free market shouldn’t he be able to purchase a policy that fits his needs and actual risks?