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Part 1: Jones, Bera Speak On Issues In Race For 7th Congressional District

Rich Pedroncelli / AP; Jose Luis Villegas / AP

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones (left), a Republican, is running against incumbent Rep. Ami Bera (right), a Democrat, for the 7th Congressional District seat.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP; Jose Luis Villegas / AP

This is the first part in a two-part series on the race for California's 7th Congressional District.

In about a month, most voters in California's 7th Congressional District will choose between a doctor and politician and a lawyer and sheriff. Capital Public Radio spoke with both candidates and compared them on the most controversial issues.

On immigration, Dr. Ami Bera, a Democrat, says he and Republican Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones are far apart.

"This is a guy Scott Jones who's extreme on immigration," says Bera. "You know he wants to build a wall. He wants to round people up and deport folks."

Bera says House Republican Leader John Boehner refused to allow a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill Bera supported and the Senate passed in 2013.

The first part of Jones’ immigration plan is similar to the 2013 plan.

"For some, that may mean work visas, for some that may be in family visas or employment visas," says Jones. "But, for every single person that's here, give them [a] pathway to legal status. That's the only way that you are going to have a single point in time where it is taken care of."

Border security is the second part of Jones’ plan.

"Securing the border could mean a number of things," says Jones. "It could mean a fence in some places, surely. But what it means to me, is an absolute consequence for crossing into this country illegally."

On fracking, both candidates say they are concerned about the environment. Jones says it's important to protect the environment and species that are endangered. He advocates for using updated science to gauge environmental impacts. He also says there should be a balance between human needs and environmental needs.

"The humans have been out of the equation," he says. "I just think that the human needs part needs to be brought back. Like everything else, it's about achieving and striking that proper balance."

Bera says he's concerned with fracking.

"In California, we rely a lot on groundwater and we've got to make sure we're very careful here," says Bera. 

Bera is also pro-choice and touts receiving an award from Planned Parenthood. 

"This is about making sure our patients and women have the ability to make their own healthcare decisions," says Bera.

Jones says he's pro-life. But Jones says he recognizes he will never be in a position to have to make the difficult decision of having an abortion.

"My stronger interest is to make sure that women who are in that position have the resources that they need to make their own decision that's right for them," says Jones.

Jones says he opposes federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, but he isn't an obstructionist.

"I will embrace and uphold that law ... which is to say: I wouldn't use it as an opportunity to shut down the government as has been done in the past," he says.

Bera doesn’t oppose concealed weapons permits outright. He says there are situations where a concealed permit weapon makes sense.

"But the fact that Scott Jones seems to give them out to anyone who wants them without really asking much about it is certainly of concern," says Bera. "That said ... [there] probably are legitimate times when it's necessary."

Jones says gun control is only needed for people who break the law.

"Last year, we took over 400 guns out of the hands of bad guys and girls and we're very ambitious in our efforts to try and take (them out of the) hands of people that don't deserve them and we also will revoke permits," says Jones. "I'm quick to give them, but I'm also quick to revoke (them)."

Since 2012, a total of 8,028 concealed weapons permits have been issued by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and 181 have been revoked.

On other issues, the two candidates are on two different sides. Bera opposes the Keystone Pipeline and Jones supports it.

On the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Bera hasn't taken a stance. Jones came out against it early.

Bera is for immunizations. Jones says he hasn't researched the topic enough to have an opinion.

Bera Jones -Issues Graphic

In Part Two of Capital Public Radio's conversation with the candidates, they will address the recent appearance of their names in court documents and speak to how much they should be associated with the presidential candidates.