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    Two new Republican candidates in race for Rep. Mike Levin’s seat want unity in GOP
    • October 17, 2023

    Congress has been without a House speaker for two weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, was ousted from the position, and two Republican candidates vying for California’s 49th congressional district say a divided GOP is hurting the country.

    Kate Monroe, a U.S. Marine veteran and Margarita Wilkinson, a longtime media executive, are the latest to jump into the race. There are now four Republicans vying for the seat as well as incumbent Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano.

    Monroe, who launched her campaign in August, said the lack of “strong leadership at the head of the Republican Party” is one reason why she is running.

    “It’s interesting, the dichotomy between the left and the right,” Monroe said. “On the left, whether they hate each other or not, they stay snugged in very tightly. On our side, we tend to break into little coalitions, and we don’t have a united front.”

    The San Diego resident said her experience in the military and running a company — solving problems, respecting different perspectives, encouraging transparency — would help her unite members in Congress. Monroe heads VetComm, an organization she said helps veterans collect disability compensation that otherwise may go unclaimed.

    “I’m a very strong leader. All of my employees are always rowing in the same direction,” Monroe said. “We may have differences, but we have a vision that we’re trying to accomplish, and I know without every single person, we can’t get it done right.”

    Wilkinson, who threw her hat in the ring for CA-49 last month, said the Republican Party needs to unite as one.

    “Having a functioning Congress is too important for everything that is happening today,” she said. “Some of the most important things is to unite the party, support each other and support the needs of your district.”

    The 49th district is one of 37 California seats held by Democrats that the national GOP’s campaign arm sees as a “prime pick up” for Republicans.

    Levin, who like other Democrats voted to oust McCarthy, said on social media that “it’s time for (Republicans) to put partisanship aside and cooperate with House Democrats to get back to work serving the American people.”

    The coastal district, spanning both Orange and San Diego counties, runs from Dana Point and San Clemente to Solana Beach and Del Mar.

    Wilkinson, who resides in Del Mar, is the senior vice president and general manager of Entravision Communications, which owns and operates Univision San Diego and broadcast affiliates in Tijuana.

    “I understand the community very well. I deal and talk to community leaders on a daily basis,” Wilkinson said.

    “Over the past 32 years, I’ve served as the eyes and ears to my community. My job is to provide meaningful content and information to our viewers,” she said. “Now I want to be the voice that represents each and every one of us in our district.”

    Wilkinson said she’s seen firsthand economic struggles, and growing the economy will be one of her main priorities if elected.

    Illegal border crossings, too, are another issue she wants to tackle in Congress, especially as an immigrant from Mexico who took the legal route to come to the U.S.

    “I grew up in a border city, El Paso–Juárez, and now I live in another one,” Wilkinson said. “We have millions of illegal immigrants who have come in. We have the fentanyl crisis; we are one of the biggest ports of entry for that. We need a safe and secure border.”

    Monroe, who said she has been closely following homelessness in San Diego, said she wants to push for building “base camps” that will shelter unhoused people and provide them with various services, including a cafeteria, shower facilities and drug rehab.

    And Social Security, especially for the unhoused, should not be taxed, Monroe said.

    “If you look at the amount of people that are homeless in the district, a lot of them are 65 and older, trying to live on Social Security. And they just can’t do it,” Monroe said. “They just don’t have the resources financially to afford to live here.”

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    Looking out for veterans is another top priority, Monroe said. As the representative of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Monroe said she will fight to untax military retirement pay.

    “That would give (veterans) more income to spend in their states that would benefit the state,” she said.

    Since launching their campaigns, Wilkinson and Monroe have each brought in a little over $1 million and $175,965, respectively, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

    About a tenth of Wilkinson’s $1 million haul was fueled by individual contributions, and she personally loaned her campaign $825,000. Monroe loaned her campaign $150,000.

    Levin leads the field in fundraising. In the third quarter, he brought in $510,789 and has around $1.1 million cash on hand.

    Two other Republican challengers, Matt Gunderson and Sheryl Adams, each raised $89,785 and $596,380, loaning their campaign $50,000 and $500,000, respectively. Gunderson ended the most recent filing period with $789,912 cash on hand while Adams closed out with $172,678 still left to spend.

    On the speaker race, Gunderson said, “Washington is a dysfunctional mess.”

    “Orange County families suffer back at home with inflation, high taxes, rising crime and other real-life problems,” Gunderson said. “I’m running for Congress to serve the people of the 49th District, not to feud with career politicians in the swamp.”

    ​ Orange County Register