Jared Huffman to talk ‘party unity’ at Friday town hall in Eureka

Congressman to talk about local, national issues

Rep. Jared Huffman, pictured in 2017 at Arcata High School, will visit Eureka High on Friday. (Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard file)
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Rep. Jared Huffman’s latest visit to Humboldt County arrives within a fortnight of the March 2020 election in California, but the congressman’s focus will be on the “imperative of Democratic party unity,” he said.

“I’m not planning to make an endorsement (for the Democratic nomination) until at least after California,” Huffman said Wednesday, in reference to the state’s March 3 presidential primary. “I don’t want to do anything that could drive a wedge in this Democratic race.”

Huffman, the North Coast representative in the U.S. Congress and an outspoken Democrat, will speak at Eureka High School on Friday.

The four-term congressman is up for re-election and faces four primary challengers, including Republican Dale Mensing, of Garberville, in an election that saw Huffman capture two-thirds of the Humboldt County vote.

As the race for his party’s nomination heats up, Huffman will look to preach civil dialogue among Democrats in Humboldt County.

“Don’t burn bridges,” Huffman advocated, “and don’t fall into this trap of condemning other candidates in vitriolic and toxic terms that make it hard for us all to come together later on.”

Huffman did spend part of 2019 stumping for former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a close personal friend of the congressman. O’Rourke ended his campaign late last year.

Future of the harbor, Humboldt County’s energy

For a change, Huffman said, there will be some good news to discuss. He noted that Humboldt Bay’s interior channels and certain jetties will soon be dredged with a new, $20 million work plan for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The congressman said he’s heard of economic development in the harbor, namely Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed $400 million land-based fish farm. He hopes aquaculture will be compatible with existing wild-caught fisheries in California.

“I realize there will be a bit of a local debate,” Huffman said, adding that he won’t be weighing in on any decisions. It would be inappropriate, he said, to “parachute in” from Washington, D.C. to offer his take on local developments.

The same was true for Huffman and the county’s failed wind energy proposal. The company Terra-Gen wanted to build clusters of wind turbines on the Bear River and Monument ridges (land considered sacred by the Wiyot Tribe).

Huffman distanced himself from commenting on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ rejection of the proposal late last year, but said he supports wind and solar energy in other spots on the North Coast.

As for the county’s energy future, Huffman was hesitant about local officials’ calls for permanent energy-independence from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s main transmission lines.

State Sen. Mike McGuire had offered cautious support for the idea last year, in the wake of the utility manually shutting off power throughout the state — including all of Humboldt County — to safeguard for wildfire potential.

“The truth is, segregating a place like Blue Lake or the McKinleyville airport into a microgrid, we can do that,” Huffman said. “For a whole county, it’s much more complex. I really don’t know how viable it would be to have Humboldt operate on a complete standalone basis.”

Broadly speaking, Huffman said he is pleased to see Gov. Gavin Newsom hold PG&E to a high standard as the utility tries to emerge from a bankruptcy declaration.

Impeachment vote a ‘cover-up’

Huffman didn’t hold back during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, tweeting and speaking publicly about the case against the president.

Trump was acquitted earlier this month after a trial in the U.S. Senate examined whether he had abused the power of his office in his communication with the president of Ukraine.

“Our impeachment was unsuccessful because the U.S. Senate decided not to have a real trial and instead take part in a cover-up,” Huffman said.

Anticipating strife among Democratic voters at this week’s town hall, Huffman said the challenge facing the electorate is not to “give up on accountability.”

“Maybe the most important takeaway for regular Americans is, if you care about holding this president accountable and the U.S. Senate is unwilling to do that, it puts a pretty fine point on this fall’s election,” he said.

If you go

What: Community town hall with Rep. Jared Huffman

When: Friday, Feb. 21, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Eureka High School auditorium, 1915 J Street, Eureka

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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