A Republican Marine Corps veteran and with extensive intelligence and national security experience in Washington, D.C. is challenging Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who has twice beat back GOP challengers in one of California’s most competitive House districts.
Andrew Grant, a political newcomer who is currently president and CEO at the Northern California World Trade Center, is eying the 7th Congressional District Bera has held since 2013. He said he’s long wanted to run for Congress, but acknowledged it could be a challenge.
“This is a guy who takes his elections seriously and fundraises quite a bit… I’m truly doing this because I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Grant, 45, who formally entered the race Monday, according to the Federal Elections Commission. “I think I can represent the people of this district better than how they’re being represented now.”
Last year’s battle between Bera and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican, was expensive, with total spending at $14.4 million.
The Sacramento-area district is considered highly competitive – it’s one of four Democratic-held seats being targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The 2014 race between Bera and Republican Doug Ose was the most expensive Congressional race in the country.
“The thing about Andrew Grant that’s so exciting is that he has great private sector and business experience, and he has a great background in national security and international affairs,” said Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “His military experience is another powerful asset for him and another reason we’re really excited about him.”
Grant, who lives in Folsom and voted for President Donald Trump last year, said health care, foreign policy and tax reform are among the central themes of his campaign.
“I think a lot of this translates into the oversight responsibility of Congress,” he said. “Congress has an important role on a wide spectrum of issues.”
Grant moved back to Sacramento in 2008 after stints in the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Department of Defense. Before that, he was deployed on two combat tours, in Kosovo in 2000 and Afghanistan in 2001.
Before his current position at the World Trade Center, Grant was a senior executive at Raley’s.
He did not have a firm position on whether he supports Republican promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“The question around health care is what is truly the role of government in the health care industry and care for individuals,” he said. “That’s the conflict – does government play a larger or a lesser role.”
Grant said he’s concerned about rising premiums under Obamacare, and employers refraining from hiring because of the mandate to offer insurance, but he would not say whether he backed Republican health care proposals, which would leave 22 to 23 million uninsured, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
On tax reform, he said he’d “focus on keeping it simple and predictable.”
“It’s a massive burden that’s impairing not only businesses but also jobs and employment,” he said. “Government has a significant role right now of figuring out reform.” Grant said he’d also focus on trade relationships, international security and the U.S. “sphere of influence” around the globe. On Afghanistan, Grant said the U.S. still has a responsibility to the country its been involved in conflict with for more than 15 years.
“Some people would question whether Afghanistan can have a democracy,” he said. “At the end of the day, I haven’t seen a better system…it’s still worth the mission; it’s still the responsibility.”
He said he’s concerned about threats posed to America by North Korea.
“The North Korean threat to America, and particularly California, has never been greater,” he said, referencing the country’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Grant said he supports the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel leading the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with President Donald Trump and his campaign associates.
Many Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and both Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, have also called for an independent commission to investigate Russian interference. Grant didn’t go that far.
“I’d give (Robert Mueller) all the necessary resources to complete the investigation,” he said.
Grant said he doesn’t support Trump’s executive orders barring people from seven – then six – Muslim-majority countries.
“I think that concern people have about threats coming from overseas is valid, but I also know there are many people who have worked in countries I’ve been to. They’re some of our strongest patriots,” he said. “The decision to blanket seven countries and say people from these countries can’t come here did raise a concern for me.”
He said he voted for Trump “recognizing with his message that the ‘unprotected’ need ‘protecting,’ and because he was thinking of running and “people would expect me to make important decisions in the moment –which I did.”
The 2016 Bera-Jones race was bruising. Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, remains in federal prison in Southern California, where he is serving time after being convicted of election fraud in connection with his son’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012.
Grant, as Jones did during the 2016 campaign, cast doubt on whether Bera knew about his father’s campaign activity.
“I don’t know what to believe at this point, there’s a lot of stories out there and a lot of questions about if he knew or he didn’t know the exact role his father had,” Grant said. “A family divided is always hard…Congressman Bera has to answer himself if he’s comfortable with his degree of honesty. My plan is to focus on Andrew Grant right now, and my team and building that out.”