By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
Retired U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, made his first appearance on "First Look with Scott Cox" and came out swinging Monday on several issues, but mainly against Leticia Perez.
The former chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Thomas wasn't shy about attacking Perez, a Kern County Supervisor and Democrat, who is running against Republican Andy Vidak for California's 16th District Senate seat. Thomas criticized Perez for a series of comments during a televised debate on KGET Channel 17.
"There were challenges, about financial records, in which Leticia blasted Andy Vidak about not voting in every election and, in fact, she didn't vote in every election either," said Thomas, who served in the House of Representatives for 28 years and retired in 2007.
While the debate aired Sunday, it was taped on Thursday and the newspaper published a story on the debate in Friday's edition. Thomas argued that it should have been covered in Monday's newspaper, as well.
At one point Californian President and CEO Richard Beene said, "Having Bill Thomas in here (for the simulcast) is like introducing a pit bull in a puppy mill."
Thomas responded, "I would prefer a dog that's gone to obedience school versus those who haven't."
Thomas described the debate as fascinating, and said Perez wouldn't really answer some of moderator Jim Scott's questions.
Perez wasn't the only target. During the hour-long interview, Thomas railed against The Californian's Editorial Page Editor Robert Price's column about the controversial construction of a wall that blocked a footpath in Stockdale Estates, and the recent election of 22-year-old Willie Rivera to the Bakersfield City Council.
Thomas spent the first segment excoriating Price's column.
"That probably is No. 1 on your list of things happening in and around Bakersfield and Kern County," Thomas said. "I was going to ask you, though, what page in today's Californian is the coverage of the major debate for an hour last night between the two Senate candidates that are going to represent more people than are represented in a Congressional district in Sacramento after the July 23rd election. What page is it on in this paper?"
In the column, Price disagreed with property owner Michael Hansen's right to close the pathway between cul-de-sacs.
"You spent an entire column talking about the fact that there was a tract map that showed the passage," Thomas explained. "Then there was the newer tract map that didn't show the passage.
"You never showed the multiple ways in which children could get to school. It was as though it was an impossibility to get from the school if you didn't cut through his private property, which is admittedly in one tract had planned to be public access. Did you question why the school district hasn't responded to a closed method of getting to the school, and change the school bus route, which would have solved the problem for most of those people?"
Price, along with Beene, defended the column and the newspaper's coverage of the 16th Senate District debate that Thomas suggested the newspaper didn't cover.
"It was a talker," Price said of the column.
But Thomas, who was termed as one of the brainiest and meanest members of the House by Washingtonian magazine, wasn't having any of it from Price and Beene. He then moved on to Bakersfield City Councilman Rivera, who had considerable backing of key Democrats, including Perez.
Thomas went on to say the newspaper ran three pages on a newly elected Bakersfield City Council member. He didn't name Willie Rivera, but talked about the sources of donations he received. With what Thomas said were more than $78,000 in contributions, or more than $100 a vote, Thomas wanted to know if all the money was spent, or what campaign fund it's in.
"Those are the kinds of questions, that I think, more than 15 people would be interested in finding out," Thomas said.
The conversation turned to immigration. Thomas noted that people have come from Mexico to the United States because there was an economic motivation to do so, and they would have preferred to stay in Mexico if the economy had been OK. Some brought children or had them here.
"I really did agree with the approach that you would deal with those differently," Thomas said.
"If they're going to school, if they're successful, if they've joined the military, if they're trying to make a better life for themselves," Thomas said. "First of all, it's impossible to round everybody up and send them back. But two, there are ought to be some kind of an understanding. There was a bill that went through the House of Representatives dealing with that Issue."
Then, he said, there was a Senate bill that was more massive and significant, Thomas said.
Beene said he can't really get anything out of current Rep. Kevin McCarthy on where he stands on comprehensive immigration reform.
"Kevin has really been absent on this," Beene said.
"You're going to have to ask him," Thomas responded.
On news coverage last week about Congress and McCarthy's spending on food, Thomas said that is just a function of the office. If you're having a vote at 8 p.m. and it's already 7 p.m, and the cafeterias are closed and people are going to restaurants, you bring in some food.
At one point, simulcast host Scott Cox said he was sitting next to the person who was "at one point, one of the most powerful people in the world."
"Oh, come on," Thomas sighed at him.