For the past two years, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, has been at the vanguard of the so-called resistance movement, the effort to push back against Trump administration policies that Democrats see as harmful to the country and the planet.
Chief among the policies Huffman has fought are the administration’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its reversal of Obama-era environmental protections to combat climate change.
Huffman, a three-term congressman, is optimistic that a wave of predicted Democratic victories in November will be enough to put the House in control of the Democrats, a scenario where opposition to the White House would be more effective.
“I’m excited about the possibility of setting a forward leaning agenda,” Huffman, 54, said. “We need to stop these terrible, wrong-headed roll backs. If we’re in the majority, I can stop these things.”
First, though, Huffman will need to retain his seat in the November election, a prospect that is not in serious doubt. Huffman’s district, which spans from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, is one of the bluest in the country, and Huffman has strong support from the progressive base.
He faces a nominal challenge in Republican Dale Mensing, a grocery store clerk from Scotia in Humboldt County. A proud supporter of President Trump, Mensing has lost the last two congressional elections to Huffman, gaining at most 25 percent of the vote in 2014.
“I’m running to defend the Bill of Rights,” said Mensing, 60, who is also pro-gun rights, anti-abortion, but breaks with Republicans in wanting legal marijuana. “I am a Republican originalist.”
Huffman is running on his record. In a district that has been ravaged by wildfires, he said he has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief. He said there needs to be better fire prevention policies, but he also recognizes the role climate change plays in worsening the wildfire season.
“I don’t want to say this is the new normal. There is nothing normal about it,” he said. “I’m going to keep talking about climate change.”
Besides being in better position to pass legislation, Huffman said he is hoping Democrats win back the House to hold President Trump personally responsible for several scandals gripping his administration, including potential collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.
Many leading Democrats have stopped short of talking about impeachment before the election — that discussion appears to be on hold until after special counsel Robert Meuller finishes his investigation — but Huffman said if Democrats are in the majority, they will hold Trump accountable.
“We critically need oversight to get to the bottom of these scandals,” he said in an interview on the same day President Trump’s former lawyer pleaded guilty and his former campaign manager was convicted of financial crimes. “I think there are going to be more days like this.”
Outside of Washington politics, Huffman hopes to get more done locally. He said he is still pressing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund a dredging project on the Petaluma River, and he continues to look for creative ways to fund dredging in the future. The river was last dredged more than a decade ago, and accumulated silt has imperiled commercial and recreational traffic.
“I’m determined to get it done,” he said. “There is study activity taking place, with funding for dredging perhaps next year. I’ll keep pushing to make that happen.”