By Justin DeCesare

Beginning well before June’s primary election cycle, the race for California’s 52nd Congressional District between Rep. Scott Peters and Carl DeMaio has been billed as one to watch.

However, for 13 percent of San Diego County’s population, this election is far more crucial than trite political positioning.

Justin DeCesare, president of the Tierrasanta Community Council an candidate for City Council in 2016.

The representative elected to this district for the 114th United States Congress on Nov. 4 will provide a voice for a large percentage of the 100,000 uniformed service members and approximately 240,000 veterans who reside in San Diego County.

I spent eight years enlisted in the United States Navy and I can say with complete confidence that the sacrifices made by those men and women I met throughout my time in the service are far more valuable than being overlooked in favor of political fodder for another speech dictated by esoteric rhetoric. This is why I support Congressman Scott Peters for re-election.

In his first term as our representative, Peters has served on the House Armed Services Committee, fitting for someone from one of the nation’s most prominent military towns.

As a co-sponsor of the Veterans’ Mental Health Accessibility Act, he helped those back from overseas get easier access to vital mental health services. His co-sponsorship of the GI Bill Tuition and Fairness Act of 2013 ensures veterans who want to earn a college diploma with benefits obtained through the post 9/11 GI Bill will be charged state tuition, saving tens of thousands of dollars, and subsequently helping our local economy by keeping veterans in California. As a cosponsor of the Veterans’ Entry to Apprenticeship Act, his work has allowed veterans to turn their education benefits into a means to pay for pre-apprenticeship programs, which are vital to creating middle-class jobs right here in San Diego.

In my humble opinion, the most crucial work Congressman Peters has done for the veterans community is his integral role in the launch of the Military Transition Support Project, or MTSP. A community-based plan for San Diego veterans, the MTSP places veterans together with community resources, leaders and advocates to help build a successful bridge back to civilian life, including finding a job and addressing depression and other mental health issues.

While it would be unfair to attack Congressman Peters’ opponent Carl DeMaio on veterans issues since he has yet to work at the federal level, we can look at his voting record on the San Diego City Council to find parallels with how he could be expected to vote.

Often seemingly at odds with public servants, while a councilman DeMaio cast a vote against, among other items, survivor benefits received by the families of fallen police officers:

“The City will pay for the reasonable burial and interment expenses for the family of any officer killed in the line of duty, not to exceed $5,000. The City will also provide an additional $5,000 to an officer’s family to use at their discretion. The City will pay for the highest cost HMO health plan for the surviving spouse and eligible dependents of any officer killed in the line of duty by external violence or physical force, or as a result of an accident or injury caused by external violence or physical force and suffered in the line of duty.”

Further, during the disastrous governmental shutdown that was orchestrated by the same divisive faction which DeMaio often cites in his agenda, he was quoted as saying “it’s a question of whether you stand your ground” and, to paraphrase, that the architects of this disaster were models of how our government should act.

This is not the case, and certainly does a disservice to our men and women who in the past, now, or in the future have the honor of wearing the uniform.

The 340,000 active duty and veteran men and women in San Diego County are not a statistic, they are a population — one that requires level-headed leadership from a representative who is willing to fight for the benefits they are due. If the same divisive agenda promulgated by DeMaio on the City Council is brought to Washington, it is not hard to assume that services crucial to veterans will become a target.

The veterans community does not need headlines, it needs leadership. While certainly there is work to be done, Congressman Peters is at the forefront of this cause.

On Nov. 4, a vote for Scott Peters is a vote for the brave men and women, who have, without being asked, put their country ahead of themselves.

Justin DeCesare is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, a real estate broker and president of the Tierrasanta Community Council. He has announced plans to run for the City Council in 2016.

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