MERCED -- Rep. Dennis Cardoza said Tuesday that he's pushing the Obama administration to emphasize job creation, especially in the San Joaquin Valley where the unemployment rate in some areas is at Great Depression-era levels.
"Really, what we need now is jobs. We need people to be put back to work," said Cardoza, D-Merced. "Twenty percent unemployment is not a sustainable situation."
Cardoza shifted his emphasis from foreclosure assistance -- long one of his major platforms -- to job creation through federal grants. He lamented that his calls for homeowner help fell on "deaf ears" for more than a year.
Cardoza, along with House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, spent an hour with The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star editorial boards discussing the decision not to hold town hall meetings, health care reform, the economy and America's two wars.
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Hoyer, a representative from Maryland and the leading House Democrat after San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi, was in Merced County so he could see the issues Cardoza has been talking about in House leadership meetings.
Cardoza wants to change the Economic Development Administration so more money can be directed to the valley for job training and road investment.
Hoyer's visit highlights Cardoza's pull in Washington at a time when he's facing critics at home. It's also notable that he didn't invite Pelosi, who could have tarnished his reputation as a Blue Dog, a fiscally conservative Democrat.
Cardoza was dismissive of the people calling for town hall meetings through letters to the editors and of his 2010 Republican challenger, Ceres rancher Mike Berryhill.
Cardoza said no one he has spoken with during his visit has asked him to hold a town hall meeting to discuss health care reform. The meetings have become lightning rods, often filled with shouting that is highlighted on TV news networks.
"We will not achieve a consensus that's good for the American people if we're all shouting at each other," he said.
He touted his telephone town hall meetings, which reach about 4,000 people at a time and don't provide controversial fodder for news outlets.
Cardoza said he's committed to making sure health care reform helps the valley by bringing in more doctors and nurses, and by supporting a University of California at Merced medical school.
Berryhill, a Turlock Irrigation District board member, announced Monday his intention to run for Cardoza's seat. The challenge won't be a distraction, Cardoza said, adding he won't focus on his re-election until the middle of next year.