Congress hopefuls Kevin Kiley and Kermit Jones trade jabs in debate
In a rapid-fire back-and-forth that included more than a few personal attacks, Democrat physician Kermit Jones and Republican Assembly member Kevin Kiley faced-off on Thursday evening in a debate to represent parts of 10 counties: Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Nevada, Mono, Sierra, Yuba, Plumas, Alpine and Inyo in Congress.
The debate was hosted by CapRadio and KCRA 3 and can be viewed below.
Kiley, born-and-raised in Placer County, accused Jones of carpet-bagging and moving to the district to run for office. He also dinged Jones for working as a fellow in the Obama administration and wanting to keep Nancy Pelosi in power as House speaker.
And Jones, a physician who also served in the U.S. military, called Kiley a career politician with extremist associations looking for his next stint in elected office.
The debate began with a focus on clearing-up claims made by the two campaigns in political ads.
Kiley, for instance, has accused Jones of supporting an increase in the federal gas tax, during a time when many communities are experiencing high prices at the pump.
“My opponent has become the Don Quixote of the gas tax in California,” Jones responded to Kiley’s assertion, insisting that he would not support a raise in either the state or federal tax.
Jones, meanwhile, has painted Kiley as a radical who supports a total ban on abortion.
“It’s a state issue, so I wouldn’t be voting to restrict anything as a member of Congress,” Kiley said during the debate, adding that he would not support Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed national abortion ban.
Jones and Kiley are vying to represent a vast Congressional district, the largest in California. It extends northeast of Chester and south to Death Valley and includes both outdoorsy enclaves like Lake Tahoe and also suburban hubs such as Rocklin and Roseville.
The third Congressional district is majority white but with nearly 40% Latino residents. Republicans have an edge in voter registration, at more than 38%, with Democrats making up about one-third and no party preference at less than 20%.
Kiley has accused Jones of moving to the district, which was recently redrawn during 2020’s redistricting process, to run for office. Jones says he’s lived in the region for five years and blamed Kiley for “distraction tactics.”
The debate had many other contentious moments, including when Jones accused Kiley of associating with extremist groups, which prompted KCRA co-moderator Edie Lambert to ask the Assembly member if he supported neo-Nazis.
“This is just crazy stuff,” Kiley said, dismissing the claim.
During a yes-no question segment of the debate, both candidates dodged answers.
Kiley said he would not support raising the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, but Jones hedged and said that it would be “something that needs to be investigated.”
When asked if they blame former President Trump for the January 6 Capitol riots, Jones said yes but Kiley focused on the “folks that committed these acts of violence.”
And during their final remarks, both candidates got in a few last jabs.
“This is the district where I was born-and-raised,” Kiley reminded before adding that his “opponent doesn’t even live here,” a claim that Jones repeatedly denied during the debate.
“I’m not a career politician,” Jones said. “My opponent decided after college to become a politician. I decided to go to Iraq and serve our country.”
This past June, Kiley edged out Jones in the primary election, when Republican candidate Scott Jones also earned 17% of the vote.
The three candidates previously debated in May as part of a CapRadio-KCRA event.