October 18th, 2016
Where he stands could affect the women’s vote
By: Bartholomew D Sullivan
WASHINGTON — In a presidential campaign grown increasingly divisive with talk of sexual assault, the candidates for California’s 25th Congressional District — incumbent Republican Steve Knight and Democratic challenger Bryan Caforio — are arguing over whether a House bill would allow employers to fire single women who become pregnant.
A day after their last debate last week, Caforio’s campaign claimed Knight “co-sponsored legislation in Congress allowing single women to be fired for being pregnant.”
Knight’s campaign manager, Matt Rexroad, said the claim is false.
“Unfortunately Bryan Caforio is once again resorting to misleading attacks instead of focusing on how to make life better for 25th District families,” said Rexroad. “These attacks speak to a lack of integrity and passion for our community and a willingness to say whatever it takes to win, even if it isn’t true.”
The issue is whether language in the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from taking discriminatory action against anyone who believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is the union of a man and woman and that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Knight signed on as one of 172 co-sponsors four months after the bill was introduced by Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, last year in response to the Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal. It was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and remains there.
Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the language is so broad that the bill would allow someone, such as an employer, to use violation of the law, once enacted, as a defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, such as a complaint of discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by a single pregnant woman fired from her job.
Labrador told the fact-checking site PolitiFact the possibility of firing single mothers was never envisioned and employer-employee relations aren’t addressed in the bill. But he said he would tighten the language in the bill to make it clearer its aim is preventing the federal government from withdrawing benefits or tax-exempt status from institutions opposing same-sex marriage.
“The gender gap that has been apparent in recent elections is going to be even more pronounced in this election, with women much more likely to support Democrats for all offices than men,” said Scott A. Frisch, political science professor at CSU Channel Islands. “Recent events including the revelation of the Access Hollywood video and the drumbeat of allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Mr. Trump … are problematic not only for the presidential candidate, but for down-ballot Republicans as well.
“Fewer votes for Trump should translate into fewer votes for other Republican candidates. If this holds true in this election, Mr. Trump’s weakness among college-educated white women, in particular, could be harmful to the electoral fortunes for Republican candidates for Congress in swing districts,” Frisch said by email.
He said Donald Trump will likely drive down turnout among Republican women, who may choose not to vote rather than to support him, further worsening the prospects of Republican congressional candidates in close elections.
“Candidates like Congressman Knight who have views on women’s issues such as abortion that may be inconsistent with the views of more moderate Republicans, may have additional difficulty in this toxic environment,” he said.
Herbert Gooch, a California Lutheran University political science professor, noted that with roughly 20 percent of registered voters in the district independent and about 35 percent Hispanic, Knight has had to be careful what he says about Donald Trump.
“He (Knight) has a far-right base which likes The Donald,” said Gooch, “but recognizes the need to extend his allure beyond this. Just as at the national level, it is difficult to understand the evangelical, fundamentalist support staying with Trump, and Knight runs into trouble if he deserts (him). So Knight is waffling, issuing vague condemnation of the Donald but refusing to say he won’t vote for him.”
Gooch said the waffling has become “more exaggerated in its importance” as Trump is increasingly characterized as “a predator” accused of assaulting women. Caforio is trying to drive up the Hispanic and women’s vote in an effort to make the “down-ticket draft” from Trump a factor in the race, he said.
Caforio raised more money than Knight in the third quarter — $619,687 to $340,766 — and has collected more all year, although Knight had $478,879 in hand Sept. 30 compared to Caforio’s $225,852. Caforio has raised the majority of his funds, $815,182, from individuals while Knight raised his largest share, $852,576, from political action committees.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has given Caforio, a lawyer, $4,760. The National Republican Campaign Committee named Knight to its incumbent-protecting Patriot program last year but Federal Election Commission records show no NRCC contributions to his campaign.
While it appears to be a tight race, political prognosticators Stuart Rothenberg and Nathan L. Gonzalez say the district leans Republican. The authoritative Cook Political Report says the seat is a Republican-leaning “toss up.”
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