Fong, Boudreaux, Wood, Morales face off in Central Valley Congressional Debate

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Four candidates who are seeking to fill the position of former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy presented themselves and some policies to viewers and voters in a debate televised throughout the Central Valley Thursday night.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux (R), Assemblymember Vince Fong (R), Andy Morales (D) and Marisa Wood (D) were all on the stage at the KGET-TV studio in Bakersfield.

The candidates were asked questions on a range of issues from immigration, the Israel-Hamas war, the fentanyl crisis and even the recent endorsement in the race from former President Donald Trump.

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Overall, the candidates did not trade many barbs with one another, instead primarily presenting their cases why voters should cast their vote for them. The fieriest exchange was between Mike Boudreaux and Vince Fong when discussing former President Trump’s endorsement of Fong.

Boudreaux called the endorsement a “political favor” orchestrated by Kevin McCarthy. Fong said there were “no strings attached” to the endorsement and was happy to receive it, but said it was not a political favor. “Anyone who helped get that endorsement, I appreciate it.”

When asked if McCarthy helped secure it: “I hope so,” Fong said.

On immigration, the candidates were asked about what they would do about a current proposal that ties funding for the southern border with aid to Israel and Ukraine in their ongoing conflicts.

Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) said he did not support the current deal negotiated in Congress because the public doesn’t trust “big deals” from Washington. He stated he visited the border on Tuesday.

“We have to secure the border first. It’s a national security crisis,” Fong said.

Fong said he saw incomplete portions of a border wall due to funding cuts by President Biden.

Democratic candidate Marisa Wood called the situation at the border a “crisis” and demands immediate attention. She did not support the idea of a border bill being tied to funding to Israel but called Israel “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

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Morales, a 24-year-old challenger from Bakersfield, said the economy relies and depends on immigrants. He said he wants to “differentiate between the criminals and the folks that are looking to make better lives for themselves and their families back home or seek asylum” and fund immigration courts. He said a bill to secure the border should not include funding for Israel or Ukraine.

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Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said tying a border security bill to funding to Israel and Ukraine is a mistake and referred to his experience in law enforcement in dealing with “failed” policies by the Biden administration in securing the border. “We need to secure it with a long wall and a tall wall,” he said.

When asked if he still supported Obama-era policies that included a pathway to citizenship, he decried California’s SB-54 that bars law enforcement from asking a person of their immigration status. Boudreaux said people who qualify under DACA and were in the U.S. since they’ve been young children should have a path to citizenship.

Watch the full debate in the video player above.

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