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Q&A: Representative Barbara Lee Discusses Housing Crisis, Student Loan Debt, and Senate Ambitions

Credits: San Diego Union-Tribune

Rep. Barbara Lee, a leading contender for the vacant United States Senate seat in California, engaged in a discussion with Matthew Royer, the Daily Bruin’s national news and higher education editor, shedding light on her candidacy, legislative achievements, and why she believes she is the most qualified candidate for the position.

The primary election, scheduled for March 5, aims to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Laphonza Butler, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The top two candidates from the primary will advance to the Nov. 5 election, coinciding with the 2024 Presidential Election. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Daily Bruin: What sets you apart as the top candidate for the U.S. Senate in California?

Rep. Barbara Lee: My candidacy stands out due to my extensive experience as a legislator, appropriator, negotiator, and advocate for securing federal funding to enhance the lives of Californians amidst the affordability crisis, wage gap, and other pressing issues. I have a proven track record of fighting for progressive causes and amplifying often overlooked voices.

My personal experiences resonate with the struggles faced by many Californians. As a single mother who once relied on public assistance to make ends meet, I understand the challenges of accessing affordable childcare and navigating economic hardships. I bring these lived experiences to the table and am committed to advocating for policies supporting needy families.

Barbara Lee (Credits: People)

DB: Student loan debt is a significant concern for UCLA students. If elected, how do you plan to address this issue?

BL: I am fully committed to advocating for the cancellation of all student loan debt and supporting legislation such as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill to make public higher education tuition-free. Financial barriers should not hinder access to education, and I will work tirelessly to ensure that all Californians have equitable opportunities for higher education.

DB: Many UCLA students are Dreamers or undocumented individuals. If elected, how do you plan to support these communities?

BL: I am dedicated to fighting for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and their families. Additionally, I will advocate for expanded opportunities for Dreamers, including access to internships and fellowships in congressional offices.

It is essential to provide resources and support to undocumented youth to ensure their success and inclusion in our society.

DB: Housing insecurity is a pressing issue in California. What steps would you take to address this issue if elected?

BL: Housing should be treated as critical infrastructure, and I will work to secure federal funding to invest in affordable housing initiatives. This includes implementing a national eviction protection policy, supporting legislation to end homelessness, and championing measures like the DEPOSIT Act to provide financial assistance for housing security. Additionally, I will advocate for policies that prioritize environmental justice and address the criminalization of unsheltered individuals.

DB: Voting rights have been threatened in recent years. If elected, how do you plan to protect the right to vote?

BL: I will prioritize ending the filibuster to pass critical voting rights legislation such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Additionally, I will advocate for campaign finance reform to reduce money’s influence in politics and ensure equitable access to the ballot box for all Americans.

DB: Climate change is a top concern for many college students. If elected, how do you plan to address climate change?

BL: I have pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies and support legislation like the Green New Deal to transition to a renewable energy economy. I will advocate for environmental justice policies and work to ensure a just transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry. Additionally, I will push for the declaration of a climate emergency and prioritize environmental sustainability in all legislative efforts.

DB: You have called for a permanent ceasefire in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Can you elaborate on your position?

BL: a permanent ceasefire is essential for achieving peace and stability in the region. The ongoing violence and destruction in Gaza are counterproductive and detrimental to Israel’s security. As a seasoned advocate for peace and diplomacy, I will work to promote dialogue and negotiation to resolve conflicts and address the root causes of violence in the Middle East.

DB: In conclusion, why should Californians vote for you?

BL: Californians should vote for me because I have a proven track record of fighting for progressive values and delivering results for our state. I bring a unique perspective and lived experiences to the table, and I am committed to advocating for policies that uplift all Californians. As a trusted leader with a deep understanding of our state’s issues, I will be a strong voice for change and progress in the U.S. Senate.

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