Ami Bera is a physician and son of Indian immigrants who grew up in California’s 7th Congressional District, just east of Sacramento. In 2010, Bera ran against incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren (R). In a tough year for Democrats, Bera was the only Democratic challenger to outraise an incumbent opponent and held Lungren to 51% of the vote. This year, the district has been made more Democratic through redistricting and Bera is running a strong campaign to challenge Lungren again.
At one point, progressives thought Republican Rep. Lungren was a conservative who could be a valuable ally in working toward nuclear arms control. Working with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Lungren was the sponsor of legislation calling for reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and directing a portion of the resulting savings toward child survival, hunger, and universal education. However, Lungren’s activism on the issue never went beyond publishing the text of the legislation on his congressional website. In his more than 15 years in office, Lungren has earned a 2% on the PeacePAC voting scorevard.
Bera, on the other hand, is clear eyed about the dangers posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons:
“The greatest single security threat to the United States is nuclear terrorism. The United States needs to use its intelligence and military capabilities to make sure al Qaeda does not get its hands on nuclear weapons. Our country must support efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons and technology to ensure that ‘loose nukes’ don’t fall into the wrong hands. In the long run, America is best served in a world free of nuclear weapons, a bipartisan goal supported by both Presidents Reagan and Obama.”
Bera supports new nuclear weapons reductions negotiations with Russia, fully funding programs to secure loose nuclear materials vulnerable to theft by terrorists and sustained negotiations to end the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
Bera will be a principled voice for nuclear arms control in Congress. He is building on his strong showing in 2010 to make this one of the highest profile House races in the country. Republicans will unite behind Lungren however, and spend large sums to try to halt Bera’s momentum.