Democratic Rep. Mike Levin faces Republican Brian Maryott in 49th District race

Candidates for the 49th Congressional District are incumbent Rep. Mike Levin and Brian Maryott
The candidates for the 49th Congressional District are incumbent Rep. Mike Levin and Brian Maryott.

(The candidates for the 49th Congressional District are incumbent Rep. Mike Levin and Brian Maryott.)

Voters in the 49th Congressional District, which straddles San Diego and Orange counties, will choose between Democratic Rep. Mike Levin and Republican challenger Brian Maryott on Nov. 3.

Levin won the seat to represent the once-solid Republic district in 2018 amid changing demographics and opposition to President Donald Trump.

Heading into the 2020 election, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the district for the first time.

Levin, the first-term incumbent and environmental attorney, has served on key environmental and veterans’ affairs committees.

He said he has tried to work across the aisle on local and national issues. He noted that he has introduced 20 bipartisan bills on veterans’ issues — four of which were signed into law.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed six veterans bills Levin introduced — almost all with bipartisan sponsorship — under a legislative package known as the Dependable Employment and Living Improvements for Veterans’ Economic Recovery Act, or the DELIVER Act.

Maryott, a certified financial planner and mayor of San Juan Capistrano, said he believes Levin is out of step with voters in the district. In a recent interview, Maryott labeled the lawmaker a “hard-left progressive whose ideas are truly socialistic,” pointing to his alliance with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“My baseline political philosophy and the way I feel about the issues is more in tune cumulatively than Mike’s,” Maryott said.

The race marks the second time Levin and Maryott face off. Maryott ran in 2018 in a crowded field of candidates who vied to replace former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. Levin beat the top-vote-getting Republican, Diane Harkey, by almost 13 percentage points — the largest victory margin among Democrats who flipped congressional seats up and down the state.

Levin said that, moving forward, a top priority must be to “crush” COVID-19 through testing and, eventually, a vaccine. “We can’t have a healthy economy unless we have healthy people,” he said.

He characterized the Trump administration’s attack on the Affordable Care Act as a top concern.

For his part, Maryott criticized the law as a one-size-fits-all approach that forces families onto a government-run system. He said he favors a competitive private insurance market.

He spoke of building out the VA Mission Act, which expanded health care options for service members outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs system.

Regarding environmental issues, both Levin and Maryott agree that the fight against offshore drilling must continue and that the removal of spent fuel from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station must be a priority.

A month after assuming office, Levin formed a task force to look at possible solutions to safely move and store waste. The task force has helped inform legislation that would fund research for solutions, Levin said, adding that the proposal under the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act passed the House last month.

Maryott said the taskforce — which he labeled “useless” — is focused on a topic that has been studied before and it has not delivered results. He said he would back a federal plan to build a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

“We need to get that done,” he said.

Maryott said he also favors incentives to study and explore newer technologies to further lower greenhouse gas emissions and re-capture carbon emissions.

Levin cosponsored the Climate Action Now Act, which aims to keep the Trump administration from withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

On the topic of law enforcement, Levin supported the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aims to curb police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias. The legislation is not expected to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Levin said he hopes both sides iron out a compromise to ensure that men and women like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd “did not die in vein.”

Maryott said he doesn’t support police reform legislation that addresses a wide range of issues at the national level. “I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all federal policing bill,” he said.

Specifically, he said, he opposes efforts to eliminate qualified immunity for police officers alone, if other professions, like politicians, get to keep their immunity. The legal doctrine shields police officers and government officials from lawsuits.

Maryott said he believes recruitment, training and accountability are important areas whereCalifornia has made progress. He supports the idea of a national registry that would catalog certain records and complaints against officers.

“A national registry that makes it difficult for (an officer) to whitewash their past history is a good thing,” he said.

The Levin and Maryott campaigns have unfolded against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. They, like other candidates, have had to adjust in their campaigning efforts — to some degree.

While Levin has largely contacted constituents by phone and mail and online, Maryott said he has tried to get in front of as many district voters as “humanly possible.” After a brief pause, his campaign has hit the streets, holding events and going door to door.

Maryott said he would be a “pragmatic representative in Congress — a leader, not a provocateur.” He said he doesn’t want to be a celebrity; he wants to “get things done.”

He called out Levin for what he views as a disinterest on Levin’s part in working with the Trump administration. Maryott promised to work with either a Trump or Biden administration.

Federal Election Commission records show Levin has outraised Maryott. Records show Levin raised nearly $2.8 million from January 2019 through June of this year. He received another $150,400 in transfers from committees, such as political action committees. He spent almost $1.9 million.

In the same period, Maryott raised about $1.5 million, with an additional $54,000 from committees, including a PAC known as “Take Back the House 2020.” He spent $1.5 million.

Maryott’s endorsements include San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and organizations such as the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego County. Levin’s endorsements include the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, San Diego Police Officers Association and council members in coastal cities including Del Mar, Encinitas and Carlsbad.

—David Hernandez is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune