Politics

Salas dodges on $1.75tril Build Back Better, voting rights bills. Radio host fumes.

A radio appearance by Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) on his candidacy for Congress captured attention more for what wasn’t said than what was.

Salas, who made an appearance on KERN-AM’s The Ralph Bailey Show on Wednesday, was apparently short on answers related to hot-button issues in Washington.

The six-term Assemblyman is currently running against Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) in the newly-drawn 22nd Congressional district, which has considerable overlap with his current 21st district.

So short, in fact, Bailey took a segment to tender a monologue venting about Salas’ lack of answers.

In a half-hour block, Salas and Bailey ran the gamut of subjects currently up for debate in the nation’s Capitol, from voting rights to President Joe Biden’s first year in office.

One fresh in the minds of those following the latest on Capitol Hill: a pair of voting rights bills unsuccessfully used by Senate Democrats in the hopes of eliminating the filibuster.

Bailey opened the discussion asking for his thoughts on requiring identification to vote.

“You know, we got to, that’s something I definitely got to look into. I definitely want to look into that,” Salas said at first.

“You have no position?” Bailey asked, repeating his initial question. “You have no position on whether you should have an identification to vote?”

“I don’t think that’s been a problem. Nobody’s shown that to be a problem to me,” Salas said in response. “I know that we haven’t seen a problem like that here in California to any large extent where it’s changed any election outcome. But I’d love to look at that. If you have some information on that Ralph, I’d be happy to look at it.”

A surprised Bailey reminded Salas that he would have been expected to vote on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and Freedom to Vote Act.

Bailey turned to ask Salas about Biden’s statement that he accomplished the most in his first year compared to any other president.

“That’s an opinion piece. The pundits can argue back and forth whether no ones done more in a year,” Salas said. “I was like you have to take that in perspective, right? You can’t compare a President nowadays to a President, you know, like Abraham Lincoln. They’re in the civil war. I mean, you got to take it in perspective where people were at and what was being done. Now I’d like to see the evidence. What have you shown me that’s been done. I think a lot of presidents have done a lot of things over the years and to say that you’ve done a little bit more than everyone else, well, proof is in the pudding. Show me all the details. Show me the facts.”

Salas later noted Biden’s ability to advance coronavirus relief and deliver additional resources to small businesses was a success in his first year in office.

Bailey turned to ask the veteran California legislator about the other element of Biden’s first year agenda, the multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better Act, a sweeping social spending bill that died in the Senate via objection from Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va).

“Well, you know, I think we need uh, need a plan that’s not only going to talk about infrastructure and what we need to do but we need a plan that’s really about, we need to find where it’s like write the bill better,” Salas said. “I think we need to write the bill better. And, you know, that’s what I’m going to look at and that’s what I’m going to do. But I need to get to that table Ralph, I need to get to that table so we can talk about these things…”

Bailey doubled down on his questioning about the currently-dead proposal.

“If you were to win and the President were to have his way, you would likely be forced to vote on Build Back Better,” Bailey said. “How would you vote on the $3 trillion dollar plan?”

““Well first off, nobody’s going to force me to do anything, right. And I’ve proven that,” Salas said before Bailey cut him off.

“So, you’re saying, are you saying you wouldn’t vote on it?” the host asked.

“No, I’m telling you I’m going to do what’s right for Central Valley families. I mean even here in the state, when people in the Governor of my own party told me, hey you need to vote for the gas tax, I told them no. It’s not right for Central Valley families,” Salas responded. “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to take the same philosophy with me to uh, DC or to any where else. I’m going to do what’s right for the valley and what’s right for our families.”

Bailey asked a third time for how Salas would vote on the bill, should it be revived in Congress.

“Well Build Back Better is still being negotiated Ralph, right?” Salas inquired of the scuttled plan. “This is why you need to get to the table. To, to do the let’s write a bill better plan, right. We need to get to that table to do that. You ask me to vote on something that, how are you going to vote on something that hasn’t even been concluded yet.”

Salas’ last media appearance tied to his candidacy was in late October, shortly after he announced his campaign to oust Valadao (R-Hanford) from office.

Speaking to Alexan Balekian on KSEE 24, Salas ducked questions of whether his camp violated Federal Elections Commission rules by using taped-up versions of his Assembly campaign signs.

Referring to the issue of misusing Assembly campaign resources as a “ticky tac” issue, Bailey asked Salas whether his campaign broke the rules by ginning up old signs.

“You know, we had a great launch at uh, when we launched the campaign we had people from all walks of life, all nationalities – it was an awesome thing,” Salas said.

Prefacing that he wasn’t blaming his supporters, Salas largely shouldered the responsibility for re-using the signs on them.

“We had, we had some volunteers that, you know, like we do in the Valley, we make do with what we got. And that’s what they did And so you know I’m not going to throw my volunteers and people, my supporters, that were there you know, all in good – all in the right mindset and the right heart to go out and say, hey look this is really about us.”

Following a commercial break, a reserved Bailey uncorked a monologue about his disappointment in interviewing the legislator, telling listeners that he hesitated to even complain on-air.

“He did not answer one of my questions. Not one of my questions did he answer. And on several occasions, I asked the question twice. And he didn’t answer,” Bailey said.

“He didn’t assess the Biden Administration. You know, he wasn’t familiar with the two voting rights bills. I don’t know…I felt like he did not answer one of my questions. He couldn’t even answer the question whether or not Biden if that was true or not. He was like, you can’t compare it to eras. Huh? Well, your President did! That’s your President. I didn’t vote for him. You did!”

“And his Build Back Better answer? He acted like he didn’t know anything about it,” the host continued. “I’m like, really?”

Listen to the full interview

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.