October 17, 2008

Bob Hamilton: Making Waves in the 49th Congressional District

By Mark R. Day

Democrat Bob Hamilton, candidate for the 49th Congressional district, sat in his comfortable ranch style home overlooking the Fallbrook Golf Club and said he was hoping for a tsunami on Nov. 4, not the tropical kind, but a wave of voter anger that would sweep the Republicans from office at every level.

This includes his opponent, Congressman Darrell Issa, a staunch supporter of President George Bush and John McCain.

Months ago, nobody would have given such an idea a second thought. But that was before the Wall Street quake, and the uneasy rumblings that are currently shaking the McCain-Palin bandwagon.



Bob Hamilton at work in his Fallbrook home. (Mark Day photo)

Today’s politics have their own brand of global warming, and nobody can predict what will happen when voters go to the polls Nov. 4.

Hamilton’s credentials are impressive for the conservative electorate in North County. He is a formal naval officer and a retired banker who spent 25 years working for American Express and the Bank of America.

Hamilton considers himself a progressive Democrat and a centrist on most issues. He wants the troops out of Iraq, the cultivation of alternative sources of energy to reduce global warming and to cut down dependence on Mideast oil. He seeks the restoration of trust and respect from our allies abroad. He also wants quality health care for all Americans and comprehensive immigration reform.

His opponent, incumbent Congressman Darrell Issa, is a strong supporter of President George Bush and Senator John McCain. Among other measures, Issa has voted No on banning CIA torture of prisoners, No on funding health care and Yes on warrantless electronic surveillance.

In its recent endorsement of Hamilton, Esquire magazine editorialized: “Name a Bush-era controversy, the U.S. attorney’s scandal, disappearing White house emails, disastrously unqualified appointments, torture, and Issa’s been there to defend the party line.”

Hamilton puts it more succinctly: “Darrell Issa is out for himself and does nothing for the people he is supposed to represent. All I can say is that we need change, and Issa is not the guy that should be sitting in Congress for the next four years. What concerns me is not so much Wall street—but Main street, the moms and the pops, the workers, the students who need loans, and the families who need to pay their mortgages.”

Defeating Issa is no small task, since the Vista-based congressman is the third wealthiest politician in Washington. He sold his car alarm company business for $500 million dollars and is considered the GOP’s top fundraiser. According to Hamilton, Issa has contributed an estimated $5 million to his re-election campaign.

Said Hamilton, “Jess Unruh, the late Assembly speaker once said that money is the mother’s milk of politics, and he was right about that. We have about $54,000 in campaign funds, and we take no money for corporate PAC’s or trade unions.”

Drive about ten minutes west of Hamilton’s home in Fallbrook on Highway 76 to Bonsall and you will find one of the busiest day labor hiring sites in North County. It is the place where the San Diego Minutemen frequently harrass day laborers, accusing them of taking the jobs of U.S. workers.

“These workers are decent people, and the Minutemen are bullies,” Hamilton said indignantly.

“As for taking U.S. jobs, I keep thinking of Jay Leno who said ‘if you want to find U.S. jobs, it’s best to go to India.”

While Hamilton had only sketchy knowledge about the infamous bracero program or the newly proposed guest worker program, he says he favors comprehensive immigration reform that meets the needs of business as well as the rights of workers. He also wants to encourage Latin countries to provide jobs and education as an alternative to migration.

Hamilton called the recent upsurge in ICE raids on undocumented immigrants extremely divisive. “These people are part of their community and it tears people’s hearts apart when they witness these actions.”

Asked about his ability to reach out to the Latino community, Hamilton recalled his boyhood days growing up in Havana, Cuba where his father worked as a businessman. He lived under both the Batista dictatorship and the Castro government.

At times he drifts into flawless Spanish and says his knowledge of the language makes it easy for him to communicate with Hispanics. “I have good people skills,” he says. “I have lived all over Latin America and Europe and I think I understand the globalism that is taking place.”

Globalism, said Hamilton, is unstoppable, and Americans need to expand their horizons. “We are at a tremendous disadvantage,” he said. “The French speak five languages, and the Germans speak six. I know some people who speak 14 languages, and our kids only speak English. Actually, learning Spanish is not a bad idea.”

As the interview comes to an end, Bob Hamilton looks wistfully out the window at the Fallbrook countryside. “The bottom line is that everyone needs to vote. If you are not registered, then register. Otherwise politicians will pay no attention to you. If you don’t vote, you cede power.”

It may or may not take a tsunami to dislodge Darrell Issa and the Republican establishment from power. In the meantime, Bob Hamilton and his followers are making a few waves.

Mark Day can be reached at mday45@sbcglobal.net

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