Kirby: Doolittle ‘doesn’t have a prayer’
Nobody can accuse Bill Kirby of lacking confidence.
“John Doolittle doesn’t have a prayer,” Kirby said Thursday in an interview with the Sierra Sun.
Kirby and U.S. Rep. Doolittle (R-Roseville) are battling it out for the 4th District Republican congressional nomination, which will be decided in Tuesday’s primary election.
“If he wasn’t running scared he wouldn’t have to bring Dick Cheney in for a secret fund-raiser,” Kirby said, referring to Doolittle’s fund-raiser in Sacramento with the vice president, held Thursday, Feb. 21. The fund-raiser was closed to the public and the press, and Kirby claimed that showed contempt for Doolittle’s constituents.
That’s just the latest shot fired in a primary that may become a referendum on the direction of the Republican Party in Northern California.
Doolittle has represented the 4th District, including Placer County, for 12 years. Thanks to redistricting after the 2000 census, the 4th District will change shape in 2003 to now include Nevada County and the counties north to the Oregon border.
Kirby’s upstart campaign against Doolittle, who has not had a primary challenger in a decade, has gained momentum as the March 5 election approaches. Last week he received the endorsement of The Sacramento Bee, the district’s largest newspaper, which said that Kirby “has the smarts and confidence a newcomer needs.”
Kirby says he is running as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” with a more moderate stand on the issues than Doolittle.
The two differ on many
topics. Doolittle is pro-life, conservative on environmental issues and a vocal supporter of the controversial Auburn Dam, while Kirby is pro-choice, against the Auburn Dam and takes a gentler line on environmental issues.
In the Republican majority 4th Congressional District, the candidate who wins the party’s nomination is a heavy favorite to take the November election. The Democratic candidate will be Mark Norberg, a 74-year-old retired sales manager from Roseville.
Kirby, however, doesn’t want to be called a moderate. Instead, he says that Doolittle is an “extremist” out of step with the Republican party’s mainstream.
“I don’t like the word ‘moderate,'” said the outspoken Kirby. “I’m not moderate about anything. I consider myself mainstream.”
Kirby, 54, is a urologist from Auburn who has had offices there and in Grass Valley for the last 20 years.
He has also come to Truckee one day a week to practice at local physician Gregory Tirdel’s office for the past year and a half, frequently flying his Cessna Turbo 210 up from the foothills.
Kirby served as chief of surgery at Roseville Community Hospital, chief of staff at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, and as the first chairman of the institutional review committee at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley.
Kirby entered the Republican race with little experience in elective politics. His only elected office is his seat on the Auburn Recreation District’s board of directors.
Kirby decided to run in the primary against Doolittle because no one else was, and because many of his patients suggested he give it a try.
“I have 20,000 patients between Roseville and Truckee,” he said. “Everybody told me I’m a better vehicle to run against (Doolittle).”
Due to redistricting, Doolittle’s district has radically changed shape since the last election, losing conservative Sacramento suburbs such as Folsom and gaining the more independent areas of Sierra, Plumas and Modoc counties.
Kirby said he believes it’s time Doolittle was voted out of office.
“I don’t believe in career politicians,” Kirby said. “John Doolittle has never held a real job in his life. We need to get him a job.”
Kirby calls his lack of elective experience a strength, rather than a weakness.
“I think it is an absolute strength,” he said. “We need citizen legislators to bring common sense to our government. I have life experience that can make a difference in Congress tomorrow.”
If elected to Congress, Kirby said he will be a strong advocate for rural health care issues.
“I’ve been taking care of rural health care for years,” he said. “I consider myself very knowledgeable about rural issues.”
Kirby also laid out some of his positions on other issues. On education, he is against school vouchers and for helping public schools.
“I’m a big proponent of public schools,” he said.
Kirby is also pro-choice, a minority position in the Republican party.
“I’m a Catholic, I’m not pro-abortion, but I firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “As a urologist, I can tell you that there’s no men’s health issues that the government chooses to interfere in.”
On environmental issues, Kirby said that a common ground needs to be found between developers, environmentalists and local residents.
“I am for planned growth,” he said. “When a developer comes in they need to take care of the community and provide an infrastructure.”
When asked about the Martis Valley Community Plan, revisions of which are currently underway and designed to provide a framework for planned development in the valley between Truckee and Northstar, Kirby said he felt a congressman’s duty was to be a voice for all parties involved.
“We need some leader to step in and get the various parties to work together. That’s part of what a congressman does,” Kirby said. “John Doolittle is clearly in the the back pocket of the developers.”
Kirby is also vocally against the Auburn Dam, which has been a pet cause of Doolittle’s for years.
The dam on the American River near Auburn has been proposed for both flood control and to increase water storage capacity, but concerns about cost, earthquake safety and alternative solutions for flood control have kept the project dormant. Construction on the dam actually began at one point in the 1970s and a foundation still remains today.
The Sacramento Flood Control Agency and other interests believe raising the Folsom Dam by 7 feet would accomplish these goals without the high cost.
“No elected official in Sacramento, including the water district officials, wants the Auburn Dam,” Kirby said. “It will be useless for recreation and a mudhole and an eyesore for Placer and El Dorado counties.”
Kirby said he supports increasing Folsom Dam’s capacity to meet flood control demands.
When interviewed by the Sierra Sun last month, Doolittle said that Kirby’s charges of extremism were ridiculous.
“He seems like he’s almost a liberal Democrat,” Doolittle said. “He’s standing over here far to the left and looking at people over in the middle and saying they’re right wing.”
But Kirby disputed that charge.
“John Doolittle is a right wing extremist E I am a lifelong Republican,” Kirby said. “There is no way in the world I am a liberal.”
Kirby claims that Doolittle has been nearly invisible to his constituents in the 4th District, while he promises to be available to all.
“My phone number will stay in the phone book,” he said. “I will maintain a limited (urology) practice. I will have town hall meetings in the district once every two months at minimum.”
Although they are in what may be the toughest campaign of their respective political lives, Doolittle and Kirby have yet to meet face-to-face in this election.
Kirby claims Doolittle has turned down every offer he has made to debate with him.
“John Doolittle has not been held accountable for his record in this district at all,” Kirby said.
(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles on the 4th Congressional District candidates. Congressman Doolittle was previously profiled in the Jan. 17 issue of the Sierra Sun.)