OAKLAND -- The nation isn't watching the 13th Congressional District race.
It's not like any of the hot races in California -- or even here in the East Bay -- that could help tip the balance of the House. Redistricting didn't make the incumbent an outsider or reduce her base. No young Democratic insurgent mounted a challenge; the incumbent didn't make any embarrassing gaffes.
Yet conservative independent Dr. Marilyn Singleton toils on in her quest to give 13th Congressional District voters an alternative to the liberal policies of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.
For those few who want an alternative, at least.
Lee won re-election in 2010 with 84.3 percent of the vote, against four challengers; in 2008, she had 86.1 percent, also against four; in 2006, she had 86.4 percent against two. Her district generally loves her, and it's been a long time since she's had to lift a finger to campaign. And redistricting didn't change that -- in fact, Democrats went from having a 54.9 percentage point edge over Republicans in voter registration to a 55.2 point edge.
Still, Singleton, 64, of Oakland, said she's getting a warm response as she pounds the pavement to get her message out to voters.
"They like the idea that I'm fresh, they're tired of stale ideas," the anesthesiologist and lawyer said Thursday. "It's not about good people vs. bad people, it's about lighting a fire in people's minds ... and not just sitting back and let the government
Singleton said her top priority in Congress would be job creation -- in part through reduced taxation and regulation of businesses -- but she also says employment is rooted in education. She said she would abolish the U.S. Department of Education and direct more funding to local districts and schools, which can spend the money more wisely. She advocates school choice, and though she said she doesn't want "public schools to be left by the wayside," studies have shown they step up their game in voucher systems and other competitive situations.
She wouldn't raise taxes but would simplify the tax code and close loopholes to increase revenue, while cutting spending throughout the government and reforming Social Security and Medicare in part to reflect longer life expectancies.
Singleton is campaigning on a shoestring. Federal Election Commission reports show Lee raised 26 times as much money as Singleton -- $1.04 million to $40,000 -- in this election cycle, and had about 13 times as much cash on hand as of Sept. 30. Singleton's campaign had $6,001 left, but still owes her the $21,500 she loaned it from her own pocket.
Yet she remains optimistic. "When you talk to people, there's more than unites us than divides us," she said.
But Lee doesn't have the answers, Singleton said.
"Her core message -- and as a black person, I really don't like it -- is that if you're low-income or a minority, you can't do it on your own, you need rich Uncle Sam to help you," Singleton said. "It doesn't mean leaving someone to dangle and struggle, but my bottom line is that safety-net programs don't cure poverty -- education and jobs do."
Lee, 66, said she's seeking another term to "fight for the progressive values I share with so many in the East Bay."
"Of course, creating good paying jobs, growing our economy, and fighting for our children to have access to a world class education are my top priorities," she said. "But we cannot and must not turn our backs on the most vulnerable among us: our seniors, disabled, and children. I will continue to fight to protect our vital safety net programs, even more so during these difficult times."
Name: Barbara Jean Lee
Education: Bachelor's in psychology, Mills College (1973); Master's of Social Work, UC-Berkeley (1975)
Experience: Congresswoman (1998-present); state Senator (1996-98); Assemblywoman (1990-96); aide to Rep. Ron Dellums (1975-90); founded & managed a community-based mental health clinic in Berkeley (1973-75)
Name: Marilyn Marie Singleton
Party: no party preference
Education: Bachelor's in psychology, Stanford University (1969); M.D., UC-San Francisco (1973); Law Degree, UC Berkeley School of Law (1995)
Experience: Part-time pain management practice & constitutional law instructor; past anesthesiology jobs at Alta Bates Hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Medical School and Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Hospital; past legal jobs as associate at two San Francisco law firms