By Ken Stone
“Scott Peters has been evading the public and … the media deliberately and this is a Kim Jong Un re-election style,” Qudrat says. “He’s demonstrated no transparency. He is not a believer in our democracy because he can’t defend his positions.”
In the quiet race for San Diego’s 52nd Congressional District seat — where all signs point to Peters easily winning a fourth term — Qudrat is chafing at the lack of media attention.“I disrupt and completely discredit the narrative of Scott Peters and the mainstream or whatever media that is in support of Scott Peters,” he told Times of San Diego last week. “They’re just not going to cover it.”
Notable as one of a handful of Muslim Republicans running for Congress, Qudrat trailed Democrat Peters in the June primary by nearly 44 percentage points. He’s also behind in donations, with Peters raising $2.64 million through Sept. 30 against Qudrat’s $337,711.
And the once-tossup district of coastal and central San Diego is now solidly blue — with 34 percent registered as Democrats vs. 29 percent Republicans.
In a phone interview, Qudrat addressed issues including gun violence, climate change, the federal debt and how to end the war in Afghanistan — the ancestral home of his come-to-California-for-college parents.
Qudrat repeatedly declined to share his thoughts on Hunter’s ads and what some consider a racist campaign.
“I’m not commenting on any race but mine,” he said. “I have more than enough on the plate…. and I’m only commenting on my race in this interview or any interview.”
Asked to comment on Qudrat’s lack of comment, the Peters campaign said Monday: “The country needs its leaders to stand up for what’s right and against what’s wrong, regardless of party. It really shows a lack of principle that Mr. Qudrat is not willing to stand up against anti-Muslim hatred. Rep. Peters has and will continue to do so.”
Meanwhile, CAIR — the Council on American-Islamic Relations — took the Qudrat path, declining to comment on the GOP Muslim being mum on the Hunter attacks.
To veteran San Diego political observer Carl Luna, Qudrat’s response was predictable.
“No upside,” said Luna, a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College. “(It) won’t attract any votes to take on Hunter in any way and [has] plenty of downside.”
Luna cited Reagan’s 11th Commandment not to speak ill of a fellow Republican plus “Trump’s first and second: No Republican will speak ill of Trump. (And) no Republican will speak ill of a Republican liked by Trump.”But speaking ill of a Democratic opponent? No problem.
Qudrat alleges a middle-class exodus from California and San Diego, and “veteran homelessness has become a domestic humanitarian crisis.”
The national unemployment rate is down to 3.7 percent, Qudrat says, and the lowest it’s been for some minorities.
“If [Peters] cares about minorities, why is he not happy about that?” Qudrat said. “And what alternative is he offering?
“The real bottom line is: He has no alternative. His style is to stoke social tensions to distract people from the actual reality in his district. Social tensions about Trump. Racial tensions by trying to intimate that Republicans somehow are racists just because we are trying to block shipments of fentanyl coming over our border illegally every week that are now [killing] San Diegans. And he’s doing absolutely nothing about it.”
He added: “He can’t get those to stick [to] me because it’s ridiculous when he tries to apply it to the son of immigrants.”
Qudrat, born in Los Angeles, is a captain in the Army Reserve who spent 18 months in Afghanistan as a Department of Defense civilian attorney with the International Security Assistance Force, trying to redevelop that war-torn nation’s justice system.
So he has ideas on how America can end the war there.
“Our military has done everything it’s been asked to do,” he said, urging a political solution “in touch with reality” that takes into account Pakistan and the “endless number of insurgents” coming from there.
“I’m not going to do anything that could result in Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for terrorism again,” he said, calling for “the moral courage to come up with a regional political policy that is actually going to create the conditions that will allow us to leave.”
On guns, Qudrat blames issues with mental health: “There’s something in our children that is causing them to want to go and commit mass murder in the schools.”
He says he grew up in a neighborhood with gangs, with illegal guns more accessible than legal firearms.
“A criminal who wants to commit violence is not going to go: ‘Hey, what did Scott Peters say about this?’ before they decide to go commit a crime,” Qudrat said.
On climate change, Qudrat breaks a little with conservative orthodoxy.“Man does have a role, and we should be respectful of and pay attention to the scientific community,” he said.
But he hedges on defining that community, and “we try to make sure that we’re receiving some balance and accurate data, and not just rely on one organization or one scientist.”
Qudrat calls for energy independence, with the government “very aggressively” supporting conditions “for the private sector to create an economy and infrastructure in our nation that ramps off from the necessity of fossil fuels,” requiring public-private partnerships.
On the national debt, Qudrat opposes higher tax revenues to relieve it.
“We are not going to tax our way into prosperity,” he said. “California is the greatest example of a total failure of the tax-and-no-economic-growth formula that Scott Peters promotes.”
He points to the Senate Bill 1 gas tax hike as an example — “$800 more per year for a family in California.”
“People like Scott Peters don’t understand it because not one single national issue affects him,” Qudrat said. “He is completely out of touch.”
Qudrat, who backs the Proposition 6 effort to repeal the tax, doubts a promised $5 billion for roads and other improvements will materialize.
“I grew up listening to all these promises,” he said. “If there was any neighborhood that was supposed to receive this platinum package … it just does not happen.”Qudrat wants to focus on economic opportunity zones where businesses get “major tax incentives” to invest in “our least well-off, least affluent areas.”
On DACA, Qudrat said he’d agree to revive the Obama-era policy of letting “Dreamers” stay legally in the United States “so long as they have no criminal record.” He didn’t mention building a border wall.
And he would “absolutely not” support a return to the “zero-tolerance” policy of separating immigrant children from parents at the border.
“We can do it another way,” Qudrat said, “and ultimately all these questions … keep pointing to the same thing, which is the government’s failure and Congress’ failure to address border security in a responsible way.”
Would Qudrat, who earned his law degree from Syracuse Law School, vote for articles of impeachment against President Trump if the Robert Mueller investigation turned up evidence of crimes?
“I can’t answer,” he said. “I’m a former prosecutor and we’re way more responsible than answering a 10-layer hypothetical. All I’ll say is I’ll wait and look at the report and examine it as seriously as any other responsible official.”
The Peters campaign reacted to Qudrat remarks shared by Times of San Diego:
“If Mr. Qudrat is confusing Rep. Peters with Kim Jong Un, Congress may not be the place for him; he’s just plain wrong,” the campaign said.
Peters has visited hundreds of civic groups and nonprofits, military bases and more than 300 employers, it said.
“This may be news to Mr. Qudrat, who just moved here from Los Angeles last year to run for Congress. This fall, our campaign accepted three invitations from community groups to appear with Mr. Qudrat; one took place last week and the others were canceled by the organizers.”
The Democrat’s team noted that Peters filed a ballot statement on the issues, while “Mr. Qudrat refused to file a statement, leaving the voters completely in the dark about even his basic values and principles.”
The Peters team also said it was disappointed that Qudrat “characterizes the patriotic act of standing up to Trump’s assault on our values as ‘stoking racial tensions.’”
And it defended Peters’ record on veterans.
“As a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Rep. Peters stopped the Trump Administration from slashing funding for veterans’ access to supportive housing,” the campaign said via email.
“He led the fight to change the formula that the Department of Housing and Urban Development uses to distribute homelessness funding to more accurately reflect the need from each region, so San Diego gets its fair share.”
Peters’ team cited other efforts benefiting veterans, but “there’s much more to do, and if Mr. Qudrat actually offered some constructive solutions of his own — even one — Rep. Peters would be happy to work on it.”
So what does political expert Luna think?
On why the Peters seat is safe: “The district has turned over the last decade from purple to a least light blue heading toward cerulean as the district demographics (suburban, college-educated, increasing Asian-American and Hispanic-American populations) increasingly favor Democrats,” Luna said.
“Peters also gets the ‘luck of 3’ rule of thumb [that] once a member of the House wins their third election they are pretty much good to go, barring scandal (talking about you, Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham) until they choose to retire.”
On why the GOP isn’t giving Qudrat money: “You don’t bet on a dead horse. He may well be a great candidate, but he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
On whether Qudrat could be collateral damage of the Hunter race bashing his rival: “If you are talking about name-confusion and the unseemly ethnicity-bashing Hunter is doing to Ammar Campa-Najar, unlikely. Any Republican, even with a first name of ‘Donald’ or a last name of ‘Trump,’ would have a hard time winning against Peters.”
On Peters’ debate strategy: “A well-and-away front-runner only loses if they trip themselves up or shoot themselves in the foot. While skipping debates is a bit impolite both to one’s opponent and to the public, it’s the equivalent of sitting on the football in the last few minutes when you’re well ahead. Not very sporting but definitely tactical.”
But Luna raised an issue that the 52nd District foes didn’t.
“My only question is: Will Peters stay in Congress though 2020 if Democrats take over the House or leave if they remain the minority?” Luna said.
“There’s a mayor’s race in San Diego coming up he might be interested in — though the San Diego mayorship has been a political career dead-end for the last six elected mayors. You have to go back to Pete Wilson to find someone who successfully used San Diego’s mayorship as a stepping stone to greater things.
“Or [Peters] might start looking at statewide office in 2022.”
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