Q & A: Poli sci professor and GBHS graduate Gina Bateson is making a run for Congress


Carissa Lewis

Gina Bateson, a 2000 graduate of Granite Bay High School, is running for Congress in California’s 4th District.

Editor’s note: The Gazette co-editors-in-chief had a chance to sit down with Gina Bateson, a Granite Bay High School graduate who has launched her campaign for California’s 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove). The interview with Bateson, a Democrat, was conducted on May 4, 2017.

On Sat., April 29,  Granite Bay High School alum Gina Bateson sent in the paperwork to become an official candidate for California’s 4th Congressional District seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Bateson’s resume is extensive and exhaustive. Following her graduation from GBHS in 2000, Bateson received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Stanford University. Bateson then served as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State before attending Yale University, where she earned a doctorate in political science.

Since graduating in 2013 from Yale, Bateson has worked as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the political science department.

She is returning home this year to challenge incumbent Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove), in an attempt to “better represent the constituents of California’s 4th District,” she said. “I, like a lot of people, felt the need to do something. To ‘do something’ with a capital D and a capital S. …  I felt that working to do something to get Tom McClintock out of office in 2018 was a way that I could make a big difference, (and) that this was my little corner of the world where I could come and have an impact on the race.”

Gazette: What do you appreciate most about growing up here in this area and also about your experience as a student at Granite Bay High?

Bateson: The thing that I value most is the relationships. That has really been this unexpected silver lining of running for Congress – people have been coming out of the woodwork. Our volunteer Speech and Debate coach who set up the very first Speech and Debate club here at Granite Bay High School – I haven’t talked to him in probably 15 to 20 years. He’s come out of the woodwork and I’ve gotten connected with him again. It’s amazing. That’s really been an unexpected gift. Rekindling those relationships has been really special.

Obviously, I feel like Granite Bay High School gave me a lot of the skills that just literally and concretely contributed to everything I did next. I’m always saying that almost every opportunity I have had in my life wouldn’t have happened quite the way it did if I hadn’t known Spanish so well. Had I not taken Spanish and learned it well here and done an exchange program while I was here … it’s played a significant role in all the things I did in college and in getting into the Foreign Service and the work I did in the Foreign Service and in the research I did for my PhD and frankly in this campaign too – I think knowing Spanish will be a huge asset here. That’s one example. But also the skills that I learned in Speech and Debate and particularly through the Gazette. (Editor’s note: Bateson was a Gazette staff writer in the spring of her senior year at GBHS and was the first-ever winner of the annual Jeff Kniffin Memorial Award.)

Just learning how you approach people, how you talk to them and ask them questions has been really useful. I think … having those relationships here … gives you guys here a really nice environment where you can explore and do real things but have some support at the same time.

Gazette: What has brought you to this point to run for the position you are going for? What has sparked your interest in government?

Bateson: Well to be very specific about running for Congress right now here in this district, I’ve been dissatisfied with Tom McClintock’s representation of this area for years. As you all probably know, he is from Southern California and in eight, going on to 10 years of representing this area, he has never even bothered to move to this district. I can almost see no evidence that he engages with community groups here – he doesn’t show up at high school graduations, he doesn’t show up at picnics, he doesn’t show up at even parades, and he acts against the interests and values of his constituents almost every time he does something in Congress.

So, I’ve been dissatisfied with him for a long time, and even when I was away for my PhD, my family lives here, I’ve always been coming back here, and I’ve always had my eye on him. Especially because when I had a National Science Foundation fellowship that supported my graduate research, he actually voted to try to remove political science from being eligible for National Science Foundation funding. So, he literally tried to take away the very fellowship that I had. It’s just reflective of his devaluing of science and the ways his priorities don’t match up with the priorities of the people here.

So, that’s sort of the background, but more specifically after the election in November 2016, like a lot of people, I felt the need to do something. To do something with a capital D and a capital S. I realized I’m from this area, I think that a lot of people here are moderate to conservative, but they are not well served by Tom McClintock. I felt that working to do something to get Tom McClintock out of office in 2018 was a way that I could make a big difference, that this was my little corner of the world where I could come and have an impact on the race. So, I started talking to people looking at different ways to be involved in the race. I started looking at candidates here, trying to see who was going to run against him, then eventually with encouragement from people here, I realized that maybe I should run against him.

I have a unique mix of skills and qualification. I’m from here, and we need a very strong candidate to run against him, someone who can reach out to the middle voters who are Democrats but also people who are moderates and who are Republicans, and that’s how I became involved.

Gazette: What are some of Tom McClintock’s strengths and weaknesses that you think you can learn from and pull from?

Bateson: Well, I’ll start with the strengths … I think that some of Tom McClintock’s strengths are he’s very consistent. He’s had an extremely consistent message all throughout his career as a politician, which stretches literally as long as I’ve been alive.

I do agree with a few of his stances – so, for example, his recent vote to protect our privacy on the Internet. I actually agree with that, so I do agree with some of his positions when it comes to privacy. I appreciate that, as far as the Republican Party goes, he has not been as actively opposed to marriage equality as some people.

So those are some things I appreciate about him, and I also appreciate his transparency. He’s very direct, and he makes his rationale for every vote that he’s cast in Congress known on his website. He posts all his speeches on his website – at least speeches on the House floor – and he sometimes posts speeches that he’s given to private groups on his website. So I appreciate that about him, but onto the weaknesses.

The very consistency of his positions over time shows that he has not taken into account the interests or values of this district at all. So these are positions that he developed when he was representing southern California in the state legislature, and he really is just using this district as a perch from which he can spout his own ideological views and the demands, the interests, of his donors who are largely from outside this district. It’s essentially just the next stepping stone in his political career, and so I think … my main message to people here is that this district deserves real representation from someone who knows the area and who’s going to defend and advocate for people’s interests and their values here.  

I really encourage people to go look at his website carefully, to look at the rationales for why he’s voting the way he is, to look at the statements he’s making and to ask themselves if he really speaks for them – and I think people will conclude he doesn’t.

Gazette: What are some things you can do to make sure everyone feels like they have a voice?

Bateson: Yeah, so this is something I feel really strongly about, and I think that it’s one of my strengths as a candidate. … I have a lot of experience in my academic career doing qualitative field research with people, so I’m a big believer in the value of spending time with people in their everyday activities, doing participant observation and having really in-depth interviews with people and then trying to take the experiences and learn from them.

I’m a big believer in the value of spending time with people in their everyday activities, doing participant observation and having really in-depth interviews with people and then trying to take the experiences and learn from them.

— Gina Bateson

And so I think that the first thing I need to do to really represent this area is be willing to treat people with respect (and) to take their concerns seriously. … You’re not going to always agree with everyone, right, but the first step in finding solutions for this area is to be able to understand other people’s perspectives. So I think that’s something that I’m very committed to doing and I’m already doing. I’ve been going around and visiting community groups in Truckee and in Moke Hill and having a really good back and forth with people.

In terms of town hall meetings in particular, yeah, it was really his behavior at the April 8 town hall meeting that drove me to start my campaign as a potential candidate. I was sitting there in the audience, and going back to the importance of participant observation … I just could not stand how he was treating people so rudely. There were people who stood up and asked questions that were prefaced in very personal, emotional stories, and he didn’t even have the basic decency to say to them, “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “That’s terrible that happened to you. We have to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

People were talking about relatives who died, and he couldn’t even respond to them with any kindness or any empathy … It’s insulting to the people who were there in the moment, but it also makes our region look bad. … This is an area where people are friendly, people are decent, people are respectful (and) people value family and treating each other well, and his behavior doesn’t reflect that. So it’s something that I think I can do quite differently if I’m elected.

Gazette: Why do you think that 2018 will be the year that you or another Democrat could win the District 4 seat?

Bateson: People think that this Congressional district, which stretches from here to Lake Tahoe all the way down to Yosemite, is a safe Republican seat. And that’s why Tom McClintock came here in the first place. But I think that’s the wrong perception. Going back to 2006 and 2008, Charlie Brown as a Democrat nearly won in both of those years. In 2008, he came within about 1,500 votes of winning.

And the district has changed a lot since then. It’s been redistricted so the boundaries are a bit different, but also here in Roseville there are a lot of people who have moved here from other places. There’s a lot of population growth and younger people getting registered to vote. I think that some of the demographics of the district have actually changed, and the people have become a bit more moderate.

Something else people don’t realize is there are more registered Republicans in this district than there are registered Democrats. But if you add together the people with no party preference and the Democrats, there are more of them than there are registered Republicans.

Finally, I think that this particular moment in history and the particularly poor representation provided by Tom McClintock mean that a lot of people agree there needs to be a change. And that extends to some Republicans, too. Tom McClintock has not faced a serious, well-funded opponent since 2008, so a lot of people frankly don’t know anything about his record. I think that even Republicans, the more they learn about his record, about the way he treats people and the things that he does that are against the interests and values of this district, I think the Democrats are going to be very competitive here in 2018.

Gazette: And it is a possibility that Charlie Brown will be running in 2018 as well. Were you aware that he would be?

Bateson: Charlie (came) to the candidate’s forum (on May 4) as a potential candidate, so he’s just testing the waters and looking at his options of what he might do in 2018. To the best of my knowledge, the two people who have actually filed forms with the FEC to become candidates are myself and Rochelle Wilcox, who is also … a Democratic candidate.

Gazette: So if he were to throw his hat into the ring, would that change your campaign strategy or plan at all?

Bateson: Well, I think it’s early days. So at this point we’re all just focused on putting forth our qualifications and letting voters get to know us and trying to show people what we can bring to the table.

Gazette: So do you feel as if you have a calling card? A lot of times we remember certain candidates because of a certain issue. Do you have a certain issue you would like to focus on, or do you want to be widespread versus focused on one thing in the district?

Bateson: I think I would most like to be known for my approach. I’m someone who’s from here and I know the area well, but I also I also have a lot of skills and qualifications that I can bring to bear to solve practical problems here and to being really a good, effective representative for the area. So I think that practical, commonsense problem solving is what I would most like to be known for, but in terms of issues to focus on, my strategy is to focus on the areas where people here already have broad agreement and where Tom McClintock is far out of step and to really highlight those things.

So the issues I would focus on in particular would be first, the environment of the great outdoors. A lot of people live here precisely because they enjoy being outdoors. People like hiking, skiing, camping and just riding their bikes around or their motorcycles around, or whatever it is they like to do. That’s something that we all value. We value clean air, we value clean water and people in this district actually believe in climate change. A lot of people don’t realize that. There’s good survey evidence that in the 4th District, 69 percent of people here already think that climate change is real. Eight-one percent of people here support funding research for renewable energy, and these are positions in which Tom McClintock is completely opposed to the views of his own constituents.  I would try to reach out to people on that level and show them that people already have these views. They’re views that I share and they’re views that Tom McClintock does not share.  That’s how I would try to approach some of these issues.  

I would also make a similar pitch in regards to Health Care.

The third issue I would run on would be basic decency and shared values – the idea that we treat each other with respect, that we value fairness. People here are opposed to discrimination, and these are all areas in which Tom McClintock does not match up well with this district.  He’s rude to people. Even his writing, if you go and look at the vote notes on his website, is full of sarcasm.  This is the face of this region he’s presenting in Congress, and we’re not putting our best foot forward.  In terms of the stuff about discrimination, Tom McClintock actively supports wage discrimination.  He is against equal pay for equal work, and he thinks that one person’s labor should be worth exactly what another person is willing to pay for it. Full stop, that’s it.  Implicitly, that means that if there’s systemic discrimination in society against an entire group of people, it would seem that Tom McClintock is fine with that, and I’m not. So, I would try to appeal people around those shared values also.

Gazette: McClintock has come under a lot of fire because  because his constituents approve of Obamacare, whereas he does not. Also, today, the (House of Representatives) voted to repeal Obamacare. What’s your stance on healthcare, and, if you see a necessity for reform, how would you propose that reform?

Bateson: So, yes, today Tom McClintock voted in favor of the AHCA, (which would repeal and replace) key elements of the Affordable Care Act. The thing about the Affordable Care Act is that Republicans want us to believe that you can piecemeal and pick it apart, but it’s very complicated and all parts are inter-tangled with each other. So really, by voting the way he has today, Tom McClintock has endangered the entire viability of the Affordable Care Act, all of its provisions.

I strongly believe, and the evidence shows, that the Affordable Care Act helps us all.

Obviously, it helps people who haven’t been able to buy insurance through the marketplace, through health exchanges. It helps people with expansion of Medical. It also helps people with employer-provided insurance. It helps seniors through Medicare. People with employer-provided insurance (have their) annual out-of-pocket costs … capped now because of the Affordable Care Act.

Medical expenses were (once) the leading cause of bankruptcies in the U.S., and most of the people who declared bankruptcy because of medical expenses had health insurance. … You could still be hit with tremendously large bills. A lot of health insurance plans still, today, if you go to the hospital, will pay 80 percent of the expenses, and you pay 20 percent. In the past, that meant if something happened – like with Jimmy Kimmel’s son’s surgery, which cost about $100,000 – you would have to pay $20,000. That’s a lot of money. And, now, the Affordable Care Act has put actual caps on the amount of out-of-pocket expenses people can be hit with.

So I would make that pitch to people that the Affordable Care Act helps us all. I would absolutely defend the Affordable Care Act, and I think our most immediate priorities would be stopping the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Or, depending how far this bill goes now, undoing whatever damage is done now when the next Congress comes into office in 2018.

Gazette: What is your concluding message you’d like young people to be aware of?

Bateson: My first message would be that I’m looking for volunteers. So, if anyone wants to volunteer they can send me an email. (Editor’s note: Bateson’s email is [email protected])

I think my broader message, not just to young people but to people in the community, is that this has been really empowering. And I think there are a lot of reasons for people to feel concerned, to feel sort of dark and hopeless and despondent, especially today with the vote about the Affordable Care Act, with the executive orders and the travel ban, for example, that came out. There are a lot of things that are really unnerving that’ve been happening. … You can see it in the online groups that form, you can see it in the protests that are happening. Even here, people are upset.

But I think that it’s time to start thinking about the 2018 election, things we can do to change this. So there are ways to take action now. I think that volunteering is one, I think that attending events that are happening (like) candidates’ forum(s) and also starting to talk to our friends and neighbors.

By my calculations, if all the people who are quite active right now – people who join online groups, people who go to events – I would guess that there’s about 10,000. That’s my estimate. If all of those people each go and find 20 people – 20 friends, 20 relatives, 20 neighbors, 20 colleagues – people who live here and can vote here – and for the next 18 months, each person keeps track of their 20 people, educates them, informs them, makes sure that they show up to vote in 2018, that would probably be enough votes to beat Tom McClintock.

So that would be my pitch to people. If people are feeling upset, they’re feeling angry (or) they’re feeling disempowered, find 20 people, write down actual names and focus on shepherding those people along until the 2018 election.

Editor’s note: Gazette/GraniteBayToday.org adviser Karl Grubaugh is a volunteer in the Bateson 2018 campaign for Congress. He did not actively participate in the production of this story.