Incumbent Rep. Barbara Lee faces former local Republican Party chair Sue Caro in District 13 elections

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Former chair of the Alameda County Republican Party, Sue Caro, is running to become the Congressional Representative of District 13 and does not expect to win.

Caro’s opponent and UC Berkeley alumna Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has been representing the East Bay for 18 years. Caro said that given the constituents of the area, she knows her chances of defeating a Democratic incumbent are low and pointed to the fact that only about 6.5 percent of voters in the 13th district are registered Republicans. Despite her expectations, Caro explained that she is running to give voters an alternative on the ballot if they don’t want to vote for Lee.

Caro said she hasn’t been doing a substantial amount of active campaigning because the district is “lopsided to one party.” According to Caro, she has struggled with campaign funding because donors aim for the “low-hanging fruit” and primarily fund candidates they know will win.

“The reason to (run) is because I really believe in competition in the elections,” Caro said. “There should be the opportunity for citizens … to not vote for someone they don’t like.”

Fellow representative Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, however, said that Lee is a strong, reliable candidate and a leader on progressive issues. He explained that she has focused her efforts on income equality, peace and diplomacy.

Grijalva said he believes that Lee has credibility and courage as a candidate and noted that in 2001 she was the lone dissenter in Congress against the authorization of military force post-9/11.

“She took the risk and years later you found a majority of the Democratic caucus voting against further intervention,” Grijalva said. “One has to admire Barbara’s courage, her consistency (on) issues. … Above all, her influence extends way beyond members of the progressive caucus.”

Caro said her stance on government spending differentiates her from Lee. Caro believes that current students, as Millennials, should consider as they vote that they could inherit significant government debt in the future. Whereas Caro wants to decrease overall government spending, Lee wants to increase federal funding for higher education through Pell grants.

“As a member of the education funding subcommittee, one of my top priorities is working to ensure that students can obtain a debt-free college education,” Lee said in an email. “In the next Congress, addressing this crisis must be a top priority and is a top priority for Democrats.”

External Vice President of Berkeley College Republicans Claire Chiara, who is a former Daily Californian staff writer, has found Caro to be a mentor and friend for the past three years. Caro took Chiara to Alameda County Republican Party meetings and helped her engage in the community and in politics. Chiara is now running for election in the 15th district of the California State Assembly.

“With regard to her campaign, I would say Sue represents a breath of fresh air in a political echo chamber in the Bay Area,” Chiara said. “Sue is a community member and a hardworking citizen, and I think her unique perspectives and experiences should be welcomed in Congress.”

Caro said as a constitutional Republican, if elected, she would work to decrease bureaucracy and government spending. She said she does not believe equal outcomes for citizens can be guaranteed, which she finds to be a key difference between Lee and her.

Alternatively, Grijalva said Lee’s work on poverty and focus on the needs of children are what distinguishes her as a candidate.

“The track record is important, the consistency is important and the times we’re at politically, the courage is important,” Grijalva said. “When you’re making the decision, (look at) who’s been there, who’s stood there with you, who’s taken the risk, and if you do all that, it’s going to be Barbara.”

Contact Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.

Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Rep. Barbara Lee was the only representative to vote against going into Iraq. In fact, Lee voted against going into Afghanistan.