California U.S. Senate Midterm Race Heats Up Over Border Crisis, Inflation, Crime

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
May 27, 2022 Updated: May 31, 2022

IRVINE, Calif.—Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) is facing criticism from Republican candidates over illegal immigration, parental rights, and vaccine mandates as he campaigns in two separate races for the same U.S. Senate seat in the state primary election on June 7.

Because Padilla was appointed by California Gov. Newsom to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by Vice President Kamala Harris in 2020, he must defeat seven opponents in a special vacancy election to keep the seat for the remainder of the current Senate term ending Jan. 3, 2023. He will also face more than 20 challengers in the top-two primary election for the next full six-year Senate term.

In California’s jungle primary system, the top two vote-getters—regardless of party affiliation—will face off against each other in the Nov. 8 midterms. The slate of candidates for the next full six-year term consists of six Democrats, 10 Republicans, four independents, one candidate for each the Green Party and the Peace & Freedom Party.

Padilla, a former Los Angles city councilor, state senator and California secretary of state, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. He is an experienced campaign manager who has worked for several Democratic politicians in California, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Padilla has a long list of endorsements, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D), and U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Maxine Waters,(D-Calif.), according to his campaign website. He is also backed by several labor unions, including SEIU California, the National Nurses Union, and the California Teachers Association. He is also endorsed by a handful of California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

Republican frontrunners in the race are Mark Meuser, an attorney who is endorsed by the California Republican Party; Cordie Williams, a chiropractor and former U.S. Marine who is endorsed by the California Republican Assembly; and Jon Elist, who runs a medical device company.

Padilla has far outraised his challengers, raking in more than $9 million. Meuser raised about $330,000, followed by Williams with approximately $300,000 and Elist with about $270,000.

Border Crisis

Padilla is a known advocate for immigration reform, lax border security policies and sanctuary cities. He has pushed to scrap Title 42, decrease funding for federal immigration enforcement and to increase “social safety benefits” for illegal aliens in the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan.

Padilla is one of former President Donald Trump’s harshest critics. He called “Trump’s racist border wall” an “offensive and expensive failure,” last year.

The “proud son” of Mexican immigrants, Padilla has vowed to fight for immigration reform. He often talks about his father working as a short-order cook and his mother cleaning houses.

“In one generation, my family has gone from preparing hot meals and cleaning houses to serving in the United States Senate,” he said in his candidate statement. “I have lived the California Dream. I’m committed to keeping that dream within reach for everyone.”

But Padilla’s “California Dream” differs from the “American Dream” of his Republican opponents who don’t see the enforcement of immigration laws as a racial issue, but as a legal one that hinges on the rule of law.

Since President Joe Biden took office in 2021 as many as 3 million illegal aliens have flooded across the southern border claiming asylum. Many Republicans see it as politically manufactured humanitarian disaster and a breach of national security.

“We need a border wall as high as we can build it. We need more ICE agents,” Republican candidate Cordie Williams told The Epoch Times.

As an “America First” candidate, Williams is calling for a speedy return to Trump-era immigration policies.

“I’ll say the same thing that Donald Trump said for years: We don’t need new immigration laws; we just need to enforce the ones we have,” he said.

The difference between Biden and Trump policies are “night and day” he said. “It’s like watching The Notebook and then watching Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“100 percent, I’m a Trump guy. I’m a Jesus guy,” Williams said.

Republican Mark Meuser suggested Biden’s border crisis is by design.

Epoch Times Photo

“It’s sad what’s going on in our immigration policy right now,” Meuser told The Epoch Times. “It’s like they want to break the immigration system. It’s like they are trying to destroy the border. They’re trying to destroy what is the United States of America.”

While immigration policies “are in shambles right now” and should be updated, “you can’t just let anybody come across the border,” he said. “Currently, drug lords, and human traffickers are making billions of dollars because President Joe Biden is basically stepping back and saying we have no border.”

Elist, a Republican and son of Iranian immigrants, told The Epoch Times that illegal immigration shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“Having secure borders is fundamental to the concept of a nation-state, so unless you are against the entire concept of having a country, you have to have a secure border at the very least to know who is coming into our country,” Elist said.

Under the Biden administration, immigration problems have been “allowed to fester,” resulting in “a humanitarian crisis where fentanyl is pouring across the border and children are used as drug mules,” he said.

“You have massive numbers of deaths that are happening in California and across the country from fentanyl and other drug-related abuse. So, it’s very clear to anyone … that this is a massive crisis,” Elist said.

Elist supports legal immigration, though he pointed out the system is rife with problems.

“It takes way too long. It’s a massive bureaucracy,” he said. “People in other countries have to hire lawyers to be able to understand the labyrinth of rules that you’ve got to go through. A lot of times, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot as a country.”

As someone who has seen “the power of immigrant contributions,” to society, he said America should embrace its heritage as a country of immigrants.

“We’ve got a melting pot, and that’s part of our success as a country,” he said.

Vaccine Mandates

In line with the Biden administration’s continued push for vaccine mandates, in January Padilla called for a more aggressive campaign to get school-aged children vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a KPBS report.

“Scientists have proven with months of careful research that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for kids, and it will protect against life-threatening complications of COVID,” Padilla said.

In his campaign statement, Padilla said the pandemic has pushed the “California Dream” out of reach for many people.

“It’s people like my parents—domestic workers, restaurant workers and working families—who have suffered the hardest under COVID. When a vast majority of COVID cases are afflicting Latino and Black communities and impacting their ability to work or go to school, representation matters,” he said.

As a firm believer in medical freedom and parental rights, Williams, one of the Republican candidates, sees big government as the main obstacle to the American Dream. Recently, he attended the Defeat the Mandates rally in Los Angeles and spoke at the event.

“Fundamentally, we should be able to control what goes in our kids’ brains and what goes in our kids’ veins,” he said.

The government’s push for vaccine mandates is the “head of the snake,” Williams said.

“It’s just a never-ending cycle,” designed to make money for the vaccine manufacturers, he said.

Meuser, an attorney with the Dhillon Law Group who specializes in constitutional law and elections issues, has fought against government mandates and shutdowns of businesses, churches, schools, and beaches in more than 30 lawsuits against the federal, state and county governments, he said.

“I have been on the frontlines fighting these mandates, and we’ve been very successful. I’ve been a part of four different teams that have taken cases all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and we won all four of those cases,” he said.

Economy

Californians are facing soaring gasoline prices, inflation and supply chain disruptions. But as worry and speculation of an economic tailspin loom, Elist doesn’t believe more government stimulus money is the answer.

“That $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus that we saw last year—we’re now all paying the silent tax of inflation against it,” he said.

“When you’re seeing 8.5 percent inflation … even economists that worked under Obama and other Democratic economies draw a direct line between the inflationary situation that we’re seeing now and the excessive fiscal stimulus that we were seeing earlier last year,” Elist said.

Williams said the Biden administration’s decision to shut down fracking and the Keystone Pipeline were a mistaken shift away from the Trump-era goal of energy independence.

“Undoing everything Biden has done in the last 15 months, to put it simply, is, how we go from $7 gas prices to the beautiful once-known heydays of the $2 to $3 a gallon gas prices,” he said.

Meuser blames Democrats for the nation’s economic woes, especially sky-high gas prices. He has called for less government spending to control inflation and has pushed for a balanced budget.

Epoch Times Photo
A man pumps gas in Irvine, Calif., on April 1, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, Padilla has pinned the gas-price problem on oil companies.
“Oil companies are absolutely taking advantage of the situation in Ukraine to raise gas prices unnecessarily,” he told NBC 7 San Diego. “So, we should tax them for the exorbitant profits and return that money into the pockets of working families.”

Education

Because of the school closures and COVID-19 lockdowns, parents across the country had to become more actively involved in their childrens’ schoolwork.

“What they realized is that their kids are not getting an education. They’re not being taught the reading, writing and arithmetic,” Meuser said. They’re being sexualized; they’re being taught to hate, and parents are frustrated right now that they don’t have any say. Unelected bureaucrats in D.C. have more say over their children’s education than they do, and this is not right.”

Meuser has pledged to continue fighting for parental rights and local control of education.

“We do not need the Department of Education making every decision for every kid in the entire nation, and so we have to start reining in the power of the bureaucrats.”

Meuser said teaching the tenets of critical race theory (CRT) in K-12 schools is divisive and needs to end.

“CRT is basically dividing one group against another group,” Meuser said. “It’s the same old story line: Try to get to pit the rich against the poor, try to pit the minorities against the majorities. It is the same classic socialist agenda: Pit one group against another group, so that way you can try to keep and maintain your power and control over people. Enough is enough. We’ve got to stop doing this.”

With so much time spent on “other stuff,” in the classroom, “kids don’t have the opportunity to actually learn the basics and, electives that would be helpful for them in the future,” he said.

When the constitutional rights of parents are eroded, big government tries to step in and rule, Williams said.

“You’re seeing this Marxist [or] socialist agenda … show up over and over and over again,” he said.

Election Integrity

Touting his experience as California’s former secretary of state, Padilla has weighed in heavily on election integrity issues, and showcased California elections as a model for other states to follow. He has introduced and co-sponsored several legislative bills related to elections since he’s been in Washington D.C.

In California, he pushed for vote-by-mail ballots, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online registration, and expanded early voting and touted the “top two” jungle primary system.

Padilla has often accused Republicans of attempting to suppress voters.

“Our democracy is under attack from Republican state legislatures across the country hellbent on suppressing the right to vote,” Padilla said in a Sept. 14 press release.

At a May 19 hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration which oversees federal elections and campaign finance laws, Padilla pressed state officials to combat “election disinformation.”

He questioned Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth, about the challenges she faces to reduce the risk of misinformation for “linguistically diverse” voters.

Chapman responded that Pennsylvania is working to provide voter information in more languages, adding that Philadelphia is now producing voter materials in Chinese.

At the same hearing, Padilla chided his political opponents for “partisan rhetoric” on election integrity and using the catch phrase “make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

“Look, I agree we should be making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Padilla said. “If you look at the policies, if you look at the data, we’ve got the harder to cheat part down because voter fraud in America is exceedingly rare.”

Padilla also called on a witness to testify about a supposed shortage of quality paper for certified ballots because of the supply-chain crisis.

“…I just want to talk about security for a second—not cyber security, and not staff training, not voting systems and the guidelines and security standards for voting systems…and not just the narrative of paper ballots but a different angle on the supply chain question that has been raised specifically about paper,” Padilla said.

Not surprisingly, Padilla’s Republican opponents aren’t taking Padilla’s word for it that election fraud isn’t a problem. They don’t see it as settled science, but believe the jury is still out on the issue.
Williams has called for voter ID and more intense scrutiny of past elections. He cited Dinesh D’Souza’s latest movie, “2000 Mules,” which details an investigation into suspected election fraud in the 2020 election as just one of the reasons why it’s needed.

“The evidence is all right there to explain this whole thing, and its being censored. It’s being silenced. Anyone that wants to have a free and fair election, and a real republic should understand that this isn’t a red or blue thing. It’s the sanctity of everything that we hold dear as Americans,” he said.

“It’s the red and blue establishment swamp creatures on both sides of the aisle,” Williams said. “… I’m a threat to them. They want people they can control. And, if they’re not able to control and manipulate you, the best way to make sure guys like me rarely get in, don’t get in, or never get in is to keep this thing rigged.”

Meuser has been on the frontlines of the election integrity battle.

“Back in 2016, I was one of the attorneys that was back in Michigan and Wisconsin during the recounts of the presidential election. In 2020. I was in Philadelphia during those contentious elections,” he said.

“Right now, I have a handful of lawsuits going on around the nation on election integrity issues,” he said.

When the State of California tried to take then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s name off the ballot over not turning over his tax returns, Meuser fought to get Trump back on it. He did the same when the state tried to strike gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder’s name from the recall election ballot. He won both cases.

“They passed a law that said that if you didn’t turn over your tax returns, you weren’t allowed to be on the primary ballot, but we fought that the state doesn’t have the authority to do that,” he said.

Crime Wave

With a sharp rise in crime, drug addiction, and homelessness in major California cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, many law enforcement agencies and critics have blamed the policies of progressive district attorneys and criminal justice reforms.

Padilla hasn’t had much to say about the sharp rise in smash-and-grab robberies and proliferation of organized shoplifting rings in California, though he has expressed concern about hate crimes and “confirming a diverse federal judiciary.”

Meanwhile, California has become so wrought with crime, drug addiction and homelessness, that Williams has suggested calling in the feds.

Though he respects state sovereignty, Williams said Congress may need to look at getting the FBI and DEA more involved if nothing is done soon to reduce crime in California.

Epoch Times Photo
A man is arrested by a Sheriff’s Deputy in Yucaipa, Calif., on Aug. 1, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

“We have this problem that’s going on in these blue states,” he said. “It’s all about creating anarchy. It’s about creating a Venezuelan type of society, where there’s lawlessness.”

“We need to start defunding,” he said, suggesting the Congress should consider withholding federal funds from cities that refuse to enforce the law.

Meuser said in his campaign statement that he would crack down on crime.

“When politicians refuse to enforce laws, it emboldens criminals. I will fight to ensure that our streets are safe,” he said.

Elist suggested party politics are not working in the best interests of the people with one party, the Democrats, dominating the political landscape in California.

“What has that meant for the rest of us? What it’s meant for the rest of us is terrible education, rising inflation, rising gas prices, rising homelessness, rising crime,” he said.

“I’ve never been much of a partisan. I haven’t really cared about one party or the other … so if we just take the emotion and the cultural wars and all of the noise, out of the conversation, and really focus on solutions for these problems, we realize that we have a lot in common,” Elist said.

“As long as you believe in a nation-state, we believe in secure borders. As long as you live in a home and believe that your family should be safe, you believe in less crime.”

Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.