Ken Calvert, 69, Republican incumbent
Calvert, the longest-serving GOP member of California’s congressional delegation, was first elected to represent the Inland Empire in Congress in 1992.
Supporters laud the Corona native’s ongoing presence and accessibility in the district as well as his work to secure funding for regional priorities, including transportation and flood-control projects, infrastructure upgrades and the area’s military facilities. He was also the author of legislation that created the E-Verify system, which employers can use to check the immigration status of new hires.
His tenure is not without controversy. In 1993, police caught Calvert with a prostitute in his car; he was not charged and later acknowledged the incident. The following year during Calvert’s reelection campaign, one of his allies outed his Democratic rival as gay, and Calvert’s campaign sent voters pink and purple mailers implying his opponent’s sexuality disqualified him from representing the region.
Calvert voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, and against the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gay service members. He points out that his views were held by most politicians at the time. This year, he voted for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the 1996 act, and he says the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage should stand.
Calvert has said he doesn’t support a national ban on abortion, and that the matter should be left to the states. He has said he believes women should have the right to abortion in cases of rape, incest or if the woman’s health is jeopardized by the pregnancy, and that he opposes third-trimester abortions.
In the hours after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, Calvert voted against certifying the electoral college votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania, but he has acknowledged that Biden legitimately won the election. Calvert, who has been endorsed by Trump, voted against impeaching him for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Calvert has raised nearly $2.4 million this election cycle, and had $1.4 million in the bank as of June 30, according to filings with the FEC.
Will Rollins, 37, Democrat
Rollins says he became interested in public service after seeing the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was a high school junior in the South Bay. He wanted to join the military after the terrorist attacks, but at the time he was living as a closeted gay man, he said, and feared being outed.
Rollins became an attorney and went to work for the national security division at the Justice Department, focusing on counterintelligence and domestic terrorism cases in Southern California. His portfolio included the prosecution of Jan. 6 insurrectionists.
He is among the few Democratic congressional candidates making the Capitol siege central in their campaigns, saying that the insurrection and Calvert’s votes to throw out electoral votes for two states that backed Biden are among the reasons he decided to leave his job last year and run. He also prioritizes fighting disinformation and polarization; protecting reproductive, voting and LGBTQ rights; and working to address climate change and bring green energy jobs to Riverside County. He called the Supreme Court’s stripping of federal protection for abortion “horrifying” and supports codifying reproductive rights.
The Calvert campaign aims to portray Rollins as a carpetbagger, noting that he first voted in Riverside County in June. Rollins grew up in Manhattan Beach and was registered to vote in Los Angeles County from 2003 to 2021. He moved to Palm Springs this year from Canyon Lake, which is also in the district.
Rollins had a financial disadvantage in the latest campaign fundraising disclosure reports: He raised nearly $1.5 million and had about $479,000 in the bank as of June 30, according to FEC filings.
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