Democratic Outlier Seeks Red Seat in CD-4

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Jack Uppal would like to be leading the way to a kinder, gentler Congress. The candidate for the House seat representing California’s 4th Congressional District – a self-styled moderate Democrat – believes that more moderation is what is needed in Washington.

“We need to elect moderates who will work with those members of both parties who are inclined to compromise,” he told me in a telephone interview. Rather than individuals pledged to extreme positions, “we want people who can get things done.”

He called pledge signing by candidates “delegating away their authority. That’s not what the people elected them to do.”

CA-4 stretches across the a large swath of Northern California, encompassing Truckee in Nevada county; the southern parts of Placer county; all of El Dorado, Amador, Alpine, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa counties; and the eastern half of Madera and Fresno counties..

Uppal is a virtual outlier in his district, which is one of the reddest in the blue state of California. He’s up against popular incumbent Tom McClintock. But the first generation American (he emigrated as a child from India) believes he has a shot at unseating the Republican stalwart.

“I am appealing to those Republicans who feel they have been abandoned by their party,” which he says has become too extreme for many moderate members of the GOP

“We came within 1,800 votes of defeating McClintock when Charlie Brown ran two years ago,” Uppal told me. Brown was the Democratic candidate for the House seat in 2008 and 2010.

Uppal has more arrows in his quiver than just a moderate point-of-view. For example, he rejects two of McClintock’s signature positions – on H.R. 822 and H.R. 1837.

He calls both bills assaults on state’s rights. H.R. 822 would force any state to recognize the concealed firearms carry permit issued by any other state. In other words, California would be bound to okay the right to carry concealed weapons because of laws established in Texas and other states. Uppal calls that a “terrible idea,” and says that the federal government has no right to force a state like California to observe another state’s rules.

But he saves his greatest ire for H.R. 1837, a water bill that gives control of most of California’s internally generated water to the big rancher’s of the Central Valley. He calls that bill “particularly offensive” and says that the federal government “has no standing in the matter” of the state’s allocation of its own water supplies. Uppal notes that many of the beneficiaries of H.R. 1837 are contributors to McClintock’s campaign.

What Uppal favors is a jobs program that helps provide the middle class with the kind of spending power that will pull the country out of its economic doldrums. And he believes that government has a role – especially in creating long-term opportunities.

“Anyone who thinks government can’t do anything to create jobs has forgotten about the space program in the 60s, the development of the internet and the human genome project,” he told me. “These projects generate jobs long after they end.”

In 2010, Uppal says the human genome project generated $60 billion for the U.S. economy – most of it the result of private industry utilizing what the government had developed.

“Lots of invention and innovation initiated by the government will create private industry opportunities,” he said.

Uppal also sees short-term opportunities specific to the 4th District – particularly in infrastructure development and forestry projects. His definition of infrastructure includes providing high speed internet across the region.

“Large swaths of the district are without access to high speed internet. If we lay fiber optic cable in rural areas, it will generate new business opportunities and the tax revenues to support it.”

Uppal sees two other key issues that will help the middle class prosper: affordable healthcare and lowered mortgage rates.

“Health care expenses are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy,” he told me. Bringing these costs under control will “allay some of the fears” of middle class Americans.

Uppal is a retired executive from the semiconductor industry. He holds a Ph.D in chemistry from MIT in Boston. During his years in industry, according to his biography, he “engineered new products, helped new businesses launch their technology, and oversaw and implemented annual budgets of over a billion dollars.”