As the June primary draws closer, Steve Knight finds himself in a situation similar to many incumbents: He’s the only member of his party running for re-election in his district, and he runs on his record.
In some ways, Knight (R-Palmdale) finds himself in a different situation as he attempts to secure a third term as 25th congressional district representative.
He’s widely considered among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the state; three of his Democratic challengers have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars – though none as much as Knight. And although California has a top-two primary, in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election, Knight is unconcerned, but takes nothing for granted. He pointed out that in 2014, he and fellow Republican Tony Strickland made the cut.
But privately, this is what people say about him: He stays in the background for much of his two-year term, voting party over country, and then as the primary/general election draws near, he suddenly comes out from under his hole and trumpets everything he’s done in his term.
Knight’s response: He prefers to work behind the scenes, the party in control sets the agenda, and Congress moves so slowly that it takes so long to get anything done, but once there is something to report, he will.
“I don’t think I’m loud and on Fox (News) and MSNBC a lot,” he said by phone during a 39-minute interview Monday. “I do it on purpose. This is a hard job.”
As Knight sees it, there are three types of people serving in Congress: those who seek as much publicity as possible, those who put their heads down and work to get things done, and those he calls “seat fillers” – those whose districts are so safe they can just show up and be re-elected again and again without needing to sponsor any legislation.
“I put myself in the second group,” he said. “We do as much as we can. This is not a city council, where you can get a lot done every two weeks. It takes a while. … I ran for this office to get something done. It takes a lot of time and energy. But when we get something done, we’ll make it known. We’ll put out press releases. If you don’t tell anybody, nobody knows.”
As for voting party over country, Knight calls that “an absolute lie,” even though the website FiveThirtyEight.com estimated Knight has voted in line with President Trump’s positions 98.6 percent of the time.
Knight says the party in power dictates the agenda. When the Democrats controlled Congress, he said, the Democrats voted for the Democratic agenda 99 percent of the time.
Other topics on which Knight commented:
-The border wall and DACA. Knight said the Democratic leadership is being “disingenuous” because it’s using the so-called Dreamers as “pawns” and isn’t really interested in solving the problem of what to do with the millions who came here as young children when their parents illegally immigrated.
“If you really want to get things done, come back to the table,” he said of the Democrats. “Let’s do DACA. Let’s do border security. … One bill. I’m ready to do that right now.”
Knight did not specify what “border security” means. As far as he’s concerned, it could be a wall, an electronic barrier or more guards. But he said he is ready to vote in favor of granting the DACA children permanent residency.
“They should be here. We should be done with it,” he said.
-The so-called “People’s Pledge.” Democratic challenger Katie Hill declined last week’s offer to join Bryan Caforio and Jess Phoenix in pledging not to accept any money from outside funding unless they were ready to give the same amount to charity. Knight questioned what exactly constitutes “dark money,” wondering if money from labor unions would count (Caforio has been endorsed by 20 unions, Hill by none; Phoenix has no endorsements listed on her website). He also credited Hill for not letting herself be put into a box that Caforio and Phoenix wanted.
-The state’s sanctuary law. Knight said Gov. Jerry Brown signing SB 54 into law was an example of “politics over policy.” He said he and other California Republicans tried to show Brown that signing such a law would make it more difficult to get things done because the other 49 states see California as doing its own thing, so they might do their own thing and cause less cooperation than there already is.
“He (Brown) wanted to thumb his nose at President Trump, and he did, and now Trump is mad about it,” Knight said. “This is what you get: You get the politics of sanctuary cities.”
As for cities opting out (Los Alamitos, Aliso Viejo, San Juan Capistrano and Huntington Beach have, and Orange County plans to support the federal lawsuit against the state), Knight says he leaves it to the cities to decide and has no reaction if cities within his district decide to or not.