STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — Congressman Josh Harder is running for re-election after successfully flipping California's 10th District from red to blue back in 2018.
Harder was in a tossup contest two years ago against former congressman Jeff Denham. In 2020, he and the Democratic Party will be looking to hold their ground against Republican Ted Howze.
Harder said that he's kept promises to be accessible, be independent, and to get work done. He's pointed to his efforts to work across the aisle and hold 18 town halls in 2019 and routine telephone town halls during the pandemic. He also emphasized efforts that secured water funding, accelerated COVID-19 testing, and supported small businesses.
With Harder up for re-election against Howze, ABC10 spoke with Harder on some of the issues in the district.
“We’ve got to get this pandemic under control," Harder said. "We’ve got to get people back to work. The Central Valley was hit hard by COVID. We’re always the first to suffer and the last place to recover.”
Harder placed emphasis on testing and PPE to help get the pandemic under control and also advocated support for small businesses. He said the CARES Act provided support for more than 70,000 jobs in the Central Valley.
"But that has expired, that money has already passed," he said. "We need to do it again to make sure that everyone can get a chance to work hard and get back to work as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Harder emphasized two key points on mitigating wildfires, addressing climate change and forest management.
"It’s no question that because the seasons are getting warmer, conditions are getting drier, that we are seeing more and more wildfires,” he said.
Harder also believes forest maintenance will play a factor in mitigating the impacts of California's wildfires.
“We have not done a good enough job making sure that our forests and our areas all across the state are being maintained and having the controlled burns necessary,” he said.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety
“I don’t support defunding the police," Harder said. "I think our top goal should be restoring trust between law enforcement and the people that they serve. That trust has really broken down.”
Harder pointed toward his vote for a police reform bill that he said called for common-sense reforms like banning chokeholds, creating a national standard for use of force, and ensuring accountability.
He said that he has done work to make sure police are supported with more people who could address issues like homelessness and other challenges.
“I think it’s clear that people are paying way too much for rent and mortgages across the valley when the average price of a house is half a million dollars like it is in California," Harder said. "It’s no secret why so many folks are struggling to get by or, even worse, living on the streets.”
He said that he’s put forward an effort to cut costs for new construction and get more housing built in places like the Central Valley.
“Our population has expanded, but the number of new homes has not," he said. "Until we get that fixed, the price of housing is going to continue to expand.”
Harder's two key areas included lowering the cost of prescription drugs and bringing more doctors to the area.
"Right now, people in the Central Valley pay 11 times the price of insulin that people pay in Australia and other developed countries across the globe," he said. "That’s not acceptable.”
Harder said he voted for a bill that would help lower the cost of insulin and prescriptions by up to 75%, but noted that the Senate hasn’t been able to take it over the finish line.
In regard to bringing in doctors, he pointed to a bill that he worked on that would create a loan repayment program for physicians working in areas of need. He said it would bring 10,000 doctors to the area along with other areas like it.
“For a long time, the water wars have paralyzed us," Harder said. "We’ve had nonstop fights between farmers and environmentalists and all too often the Central Valley has been on the losing end of those fights.”
Harder said he’s been looking at water projects with popular support and has been working to get those “across the finish line.” He said that he was able to get the first funding for a new water project in his district in 50 years.
“If we have a drought next year after all the economic costs that have happened across the Central Valley this year, it would be truly devastating," he said. "To avert the job losses we see in drought, to make sure that the Central Valley can continue to have the jobs in the ag sector that we need, we have to build water storage projects.”