First published in the Oct. 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Though they are both Democrats, a forum this week highlighted the differences to go with the similarities between Adam Schiff and G. “Maebe A. Girl” Pudlo in their quests to represent the 30th Congressional District.
Schiff, who has represented the district anchored around Burbank since 2001, is campaigning on an agenda that largely falls in line with that of President Joe Biden and Democratic Party leadership. Pudlo, a member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, has advanced a more staunchly left-wing agenda that advocates more domestic social spending.
The two met for a forum at Glendale City Hall, hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Area League of Women Voters. They traded off in answering questions posed by the moderator, but they did not directly debate each other.
Broadly speaking, Schiff and Pudlo agree on many core values of the Democratic Party. Both favor protections for abortion and reproductive rights, as well as same-sex marriage. They are both willing to expand the size of the U.S. Supreme Court to curtail what they view as an overly politicized composition thanks in part to maneuvering by Sen. Mitch McConnell, a top Republican leader. Each assert that Republicans are on a quest to undermine election integrity nationwide and erode voting rights.
Schiff contends that that structure of Congress, in particular the Senate, has served as an impediment to more quickly adopting full political goals in the United States. He also charged Republican senators with lacking the character to “uphold their oath of office” and convict former President Donald Trump of his impeachments.
“The challenge in the Senate is that we don’t have enough senators willing to overcome a filibuster in order to protect peoples’ reproductive health care,” he said, adding that formal protection for same-sex marriage and contraception have also been held up similarly. “I’m working hard to elect more Democrats to the Senate who are willing to do away with the filibuster in order to codify peoples’ right to reproductive freedom or reproductive health.”
That being said, Pudlo contended that Schiff’s responses and strategies were not good enough for someone who has spent more than two decades in Congress. She said she would take a more proactive approach to achieve the goals Schiff purports to support.
“I wouldn’t wait 20 years in office to make sure that happens,” Pudlo said, responding to the question on abortion rights.
She said that truly progressive legislators would create legislation to codify political and civil rights before they’re “suddenly overturned” by a mercurial court.
“We saw that a politically skewed Supreme Court did take that away, and I very much am concerned about other rights that are going to be taken away, especially for folks in my community,” said Pudlo, who is transgender. “I think just because of my very existence, people don’t want me to exist. They not only don’t want me to be able to marry and be a part of public government, but they don’t want me to exist.”
Addressing Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan, Schiff said he supported it and would have gone even further and forgiven up to $50,000 in debt.
“The reality is that too many young people are saddled with burdens, often for their whole life,” he said. “We have a lot of senior citizens still paying off their college debt. We have a lot of young people whose career ambitions are curtailed because they can’t afford to pursue the careers they have a passion for because it won’t allow them to pay their bills.”
Pudlo said she’d have gone even further and erased all standing student debt, not least because she saw a price tag to education as further dividing Americans by class.
“I don’t think anybody should be in debt because of their education,” Pudlo said. “I fully believe that education is a human right that goes from kindergarten all the way through post-secondary school.”
More stark divisions did erupt between the two, in particular when it came to American support for Ukraine in defending itself against the Russian invasion.
“I think that Ukraine has the right of self-determination,” said Schiff, who has joined others in Congress in approving a series of military aid packages for Ukraine. “We can’t have a situation where some other country, in this case Russia, gets to dictate who becomes a member of NATO or who partners with the West in terms of collective security.”
In contrast, Pudlo suggested the United States should not supply arms to allies or weigh in on joining NATO, even though member states of the collective security alliance must vote on accepting new nations.
“In fact, I’m personally in favor of the United States thoughtfully and considerately pulling out of NATO,” she said, echoing a policy once considered by Trump. “I think that the United States has tried to be the police of the world for far too long. We have over 750 military bases across the world. Ultimately, I think the more and more we contribute to military intervention or the support of military intervention, the closer we get to World War III.”
The hourlong forum can be viewed in its entirely on the city of Glendale’s YouTube page.