A four-term congressman representing the Riverside metropolitan area is trying to fend off a challenge in next month’s election from a U.S. Air Force Reserve technical sergeant, who says she can do a better job representing the area to address a range of issues.
Mark Takano, D-Riverside, is seeking his fifth term in office, having served the 41st congressional district since 2013. His Republican challenger is Aja Smith, who grew up in Moreno Valley and would be the first Black woman to serve the district if elected.
Takano is running on a record of strengthening social welfare programs, including Medicare and Social Security, as well as promoting the rights of working-class people.
He has been involved with programs aimed at ensuring veterans receive services to which they’re entitled, and as a former educator, he has supported increasing funding and resources for schools, according to campaign literature.
Takano has also been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and took an arguably hard line against the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in early May, when the board first voted to reduce local austerity measures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Takano openly opposed the move, citing public health concerns, despite some vocal public support of the effort.
“I have expanded access to healthcare for veterans, defended immigrants (and) worked to create high-paying jobs in the Inland Empire,” the congressman said in a campaign statement. “Since taking office, I have passed laws that have supported students, extended health benefits for Vietnam veterans and protected veteran-owned businesses.”
Smith has made preserving March Air Reserve Base, which has been threatened with closure under federal base realignment measures in the past, as well as lowering taxes on businesses, fortifying national defense and improving public safety among her top campaign priorities.
She pointed to her deployments overseas as broadening her understanding of international affairs and the need for the U.S. to remain strong militarily.
In campaign literature, Smith sharply criticized Takano for supporting President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, resulting in the Middle Eastern nation, which the U.S. State Department has long designated a terrorist sponsoring state, receiving sanctions relief and access to upwards of $100 billion in previously frozen assets. In exchange, Iran was supposed to table its nuclear ambitions.
Smith said she is not out to score “cheap political points” by making lofty promises she cannot fulfill, and said like other constituents, she is “sick of Washington, D.C., politicians who aren’t Black lecture Riverside County African-Americans about race.”
According to the military veteran, she could genuinely speak to race issues and do a better job than her opponent addressing them.
The 41st congressional district encompasses all of Riverside, Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley, Perris and unincorporated communities that are immediately adjacent to the cities.
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