By Jonah Dylan
When Kenneth Wright ran for Congress in California’s 33rd district in 2016, he knew he would lose.
But the pediatric eye surgeon said he didn’t want to see incumbent Ted Lieu (D-California) run unopposed, so he ran anyways and eventually earned about 34 percent of the vote.
“It was like seeing an accident on the freeway, and being a doctor, you have to stop,” he said. “I wish I didn’t see it. If I didn’t see it, I could keep going. But I saw this. No offense to him, but he just seems to be a real bought-out politician. And we have enough of those.”
This time, though, Wright believes he has a chance. In the June primary, Lieu earned about 61 percent of the vote while Wright earned about 30 percent. Lieu has held the seat since he won a 2014 election to replace longtime congressman Henry Waxman.
Wright campaign staff member David Lorango said he’s not particularly concerned with the fact that the district generally leans democratic. He said district voters want someone who will get things done in Washington.
“We feel that most folks are saying look, we want someone who actually works for us,” he said. “So, we feel strongly that we are a campaign that is gonna go out there and work hard for the people in the district and get the job done.”
While he’s running as a Republican, Wright said he has views that align with both Republicans and Democrats. He voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and while he said he wishes Trump would tone down his rhetoric, he likes some of what Trump has done in office.
“Do I like the fact that he moved our embassy to Jerusalem, which Clinton couldn’t do, Obama couldn’t do? Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Do I like the fact that he’s for jobs here and not the outsourcing of our jobs? Absolutely. He’s bringing manufacturing back. African-American unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been.”
Lorango highlighted three key issues Wright hopes to focus on during the campaign: crime, homelessness and keeping the California coast clean. On the issue of homelessness, Wright has a comprehensive plan.
He wants to build a township, possibly in Fort Ord, made up of 4-person domes. Residents will have structured lives that include meals and chores, and will have access to a number of services. Wright said he’d like the township to be privately funded and run by a non-profit with assistance from the government.
As a doctor, Wright also has some doubts about the Affordable Care Act and said he would vote to repeal it if given the chance.
“My problem with Obamacare is that it overreached, in my opinion, individual freedom,” he said. “I don’t like Obamacare, because I don’t like the individual mandate. And I don’t like the collusion and price fixing that went on with it. Before Obamacare, did you see dead people in the streets, walk over dead bodies? No. Everybody was getting care.”
Wright emphasized that he supports individual freedom on a number of issues, including gay marriage. And while he said he doesn’t think the government should fund Planned Parenthood, he believes in abortion rights and does not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
Both Wright and Lorango acknowledged that a win would be an uphill battle. But if Wright can earn the support of the voters who aren’t registered with either party, he could have a chance. And Wright thinks his platform is one that will appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike.
“I think a lot of the Democrats, like me, just want to solve the problems. If they know that there’s a doctor like me that just wants to solve problems and get to root cause, maybe I’ll get five or eight percent of them,” he said. If I can get the Republicans at 24 percent, if I get 25 percent [of no party preference voters], and I get a few Dems, I win. So that’s the strategy. But if Republicans don’t show up, I’m dead.”
The midterm election is set for Nov. 6.