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Filner kicks off early campaign in Valley

October 09, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer
  • Congressman Bob Filner talks about issues affecting the Imperial Valley on Monday at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. CUAUHTEMOC BELTRAN PHOTO
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CALEXICO — Bob Filner, D-San Diego, likes his chances at re-election in California's revamped 50th congressional district — a district that will include the Imperial Valley because of redistricting.

"If I were a betting man, I would bet that I'm going to win," he said.

With redistricting, the Imperial Valley is being lopped off a district represented in the U.S. House by Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, for more than 20 years.

The Valley was tacked onto Filner's 50th, a district encompassing the San Diego's South Bay border communities of Chula Vista and National City, along with a portion of San Diego, that the 57-year-old former history professor has represented for eight years.

On Monday, Filner hedged his self-avowed chances and kicked off a re-election campaign in an area he doesn't yet represent and wouldn't until January 2003.

He did that by familiarizing himself with issues facing the Valley, which will have 25 percent of the new 50th's constituents.

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"I'm looking at the campaign as a year-long education process, he said.

In the morning Filner toured Calexico's downtown Port of Entry and the San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus in Calexico.

Afterward, he addressed a group of community leaders and SDSU employees, then had a press conference for a binational contingent of reporters.

He was asked questions about his stance on a myriad of issues and his take on recent world events.

Filner said he answered each question as best he could but commented at times he didn't have all of the information on topics such as the pending water transfer or the Salton Sea.

Filner said he would quickly learn about those issues in the year leading up to the election as he also brushes up on his Spanish.

"I'm taking a class every day," he said.

During the meeting with community representatives, Filner talked about the power plants being built in Mexicali by San Diego's Sempra Energy and Boston's InterGen.

He said he would work to "stop this thing" but acknowledged, "I'm not sure this will happen."

In lieu of stopping the plants' construction, Filner supports the efforts of local environmentalists and county officials who have been asking federal agencies to require the plants to meet California emission standards.

He said concern about the effects of the plant's emissions is of regional importance and vowed to be "at the center of these issues" even though he would represent the Imperial Valley only if he wins the 2002 election.

Another issue Filner discussed was the proposed train line connecting San Diego with the Imperial Valley.

When asked if he supports the train, he smiled and said, "The train es mio."

"I am the project," he added.

Filner said federal legislation he wrote is in place that would allow the train to be built, but he is waiting on private sector investors to get on board.

On this issue in particular, Filner differs with Hunter.

"Mr. Hunter was not supportive of the train," he said.

Filner said some of the most incredible debates he had on the House floor were with Hunter over the topic.

"Mr. Hunter made it seem like there was some sort of security issue with the train," Filner said.

He shook his head.

"(Hunter) was talking about — literally — the Mexican bandido, as if he lived in the 1940s or 1920s," Filner said.

"Of all methods of transportation, the train is the easiest to control," he added.

"The train is important for both symbolic and practical reasons. It will show a cooperation between Mexico and (the U.S.) and people on both sides of the border will have better lives. That one train can produce thousands of jobs."

Filner then thanked his hosts at SDSU and applauded their role in the community.

"This is the center of the future of this community," he said.

During the press conference, Filner was asked how he would fix the streets and roads in the Calexico area, which are being affected by big-rig traffic.

He said that he would use his influence on the House Transportation Committee to secure funding for the area.

"I can be very helpful getting the funds," Filner said.

He has written legislation that adds a line item in the annual transportation budget to address border infrastructure needs.

The Calexico area especially is going to need those funds, according to Filner because he said it would probably be five to six years before Mexican trucks will be allowed past the commercial zone that keeps the vehicles confined here.

Filner said he is dealing with the same issues in Otay Mesa and San Ysidro and will not approve of Mexican trucks being let into the U.S. until they are proven safe and driven by "excellent drivers."

While the U.S. could face millions of dollars in fines if it doesn't allow Mexican trucks to cross into the U.S. as per the North American Free Trade Agreement, Filner said he is not a big fan of NAFTA in the first place.

On that issue he sides with Hunter — sort of.

"We both oppose NAFTA but for different reasons," Filner said.

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