It is three weeks before Election Day. Doctor and candidate Sid Gold sits in a booth at Jerry's Famous Deli in Woodland Hills and orders a large breakfast. He looks like he could use refueling. The 57-year-old father of four is running a difficult campaign against Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon for the 25th Congressional District, and already on this Sunday morning he has been up walking precincts in North Hills and Sepulveda.
"I think there's been a disconnect between people and their elected representatives, that they don't care, that once they're elected the only thing they care about is lobbyists and big money. The individual gets lost," Gold said. "As a doctor, I deal with people one at a time, and that is the focus I want to bring as a representative."
The 25th District encompasses the Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley and the northeast part of the San Fernando Valley, which includes the communities of Granada Hills, Northridge, Sepulveda and North Hills. While not as "Jewish" demographically as the West Valley or the North Hollywood/Van Nuys area, it is attracting more and more families owing to the district's affordable housing and easy freeway access. The district has long been a Republican stronghold; prior to McKeon, parts of the district (which was reapportioned following the 1990 census) were overseen by Rep. Bobbi Fiedler and current House member Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley).
Gold hopes to change that reputation.
"There's already a shift going on as more young, married couples move out here," he said. "We've registered 200 new Democrats in the Antelope Valley alone. There are many differences between the two parties, and that's going to come out in this election."
A naturalized citizen born in Canada, Gold has lived in Granada Hills for 25 years and prior to that in North Hills. He is employed by Kaiser Permanente as the assistant chief of psychiatry for the Valley service area. He has served as president of the District 17 region of the Los Angeles Medical Association and was chosen to be a delegate to the California Medical Association and the American Medical Association. He has strong ties to the Jewish community in the San Fernando Valley, having served on the executive boards of The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance and of Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School. He currently participates in The Valley Alliance's planning and allocations committee. His endorsements include California Democrats such as Rep. Brad Sherman, State Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg and Speaker Emeritus Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as Gov. Gray Davis.
Gold feels the Jewish community's interests have not been supported by McKeon, whom he accuses of insensitivity in the wake of the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Center last year.
"His response to the victims was pathetic. He was on vacation at the time but did not send representatives to any of the rallies or meetings," Gold said, adding that McKeon's opposition to hate crimes legislation also showed his lack of interest in the Jewish community. "The Republicans have been sitting on the hate crimes bill. The argument is that a crime is a crime is a crime. To me, a hate crime is an attack on the Constitution and should be treated as something special."
The contender also accused the congressman of not being strong on backing Israel. However, McKeon said that he disagreed with President Clinton's abstention from the United Nations resolution condemning Israel earlier this month, saying the U.S. should have exercised its veto power.
McKeon also disagreed strongly with Gold's assessment of his record on the Middle East, pointing out that he had voted for funds to implement the Wye River Accords.
"Our government should encourage both sides to come to the table to discuss peace, as well as provide financial assistance to implement any peace agreement," McKeon said. "However, I do not agree with the Clinton-Gore administration's tactics in pressuring Israel to give up lands that it believes necessary for its security. I've stood on the Golan Heights. It's a small area. Israel needs some real estate to provide it with security."
As for the hate crimes legislation, McKeon said he believed the proposed expansion of hate crimes laws unnecessary, calling them "a legislative press release."
"The North Valley Jewish Community Center shooting was committed in a state that already has a tough state hate crimes statute, and that certainly didn't deter the shooter," he said. "The defendant in that shooting is already facing the death penalty. We can't get any tougher on him than that, with or without an expanded hate crimes law."
McKeon also disagreed with Gold's statement that he was not responsive enough to issues important to the people of his district. He pointed to his record on recent bills he co-authored, including the Higher Education Act Amendment of 1998, which cut the student loan interest rate to its lowest level in 17 years, and the Work Force Investment Act, which provided jobless Americans with a voucher to use to obtain the job-training services of their choice.
"I have always voted as I saw fit," McKeon contends. "My opponent is simply unhappy that I haven't supported liberal, big government programs that trust bureaucracies rather than trust people. The fact that I have been reelected every two years [since 1992] indicates that the people of my district don't have a big problem with the way I vote."
Though active in the North Valley Democratic Club, Gold has never held public office. His hope is that his personal experience with two of the most important issues in this election, education and health care, may help draw much-needed attention to his campaign.
"As a doctor, I am very concerned that there are 45 million uninsured people in the United States," he said. "As a country, it is not viable to have so many people at risk with their health status.
"The number one issue, however, is education. The federal government contributes only about 7 or 8 percent to schools and I think we can enhance the rolls and enhance teacher's salaries. We do not want to continue with a situation like we have here in Los Angeles, with so many uncredentialed teachers."