Incumbent Congressman Ami Bera has been endorsed by the Sacramento Bee in his re-election campaign.
Incumbent Congressman Ami Bera has been endorsed by the Sacramento Bee in his re-election campaign.

SACRAMENTO (Diya TV) — Ami Bera, currently the only Indian American serving in the U.S. Congress, is in the midst of another reelection campaign for his seat. Currently seeking his third term, Bera is campaigning against Republican Scott Jones.

The two brawled onstage during their Oct. 18 debate, accusing each other of ethical shortcomings. Immediately following the debate, polling website Election Projection predicted that Bera would retain his seat with a five percentage point lead over Jones.

A public service background of his own, Jones has served as Sacramento County’s sheriff since 2010.

Capitol Public Radio reporter Bob Moffitt reminded those in attendance and watching the debate that Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, would serve a year-long term in federal prison, beginning Nov. 18, for violating campaign finance laws. Babulal Bera, 83, reportedly used straw donors to funnel about $300,000 to his son’s first two Congressional campaigns in 2009 and 2011. According to court documents, Babulal Bera asked an estimated 90 family members to contribute the maximum allowable contribution of $2,400 each election cycle, promising to pay them back the full amount.

Before his Aug. 18 sentencing, the elder Bera wrote a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Troy Nunley, saying he was unaware he was violating election rules, and was simply caught up in the excitement of his son running for office.

“I am sad about what my father did,” Ami said during the debate. “He made a mistake. He is not a criminal, but he broke the law.”

“Had my dad reached out to me or to the campaign, we would have said, ‘dad, you can’t do this,’” said Bera, noting that the U.S. Attorney’s office has absolved him of any knowledge of his father’s activities. “We have fully cooperated with the investigation,” he said, adding: “We’re trying to get my mom and dad through this extremely tough year.”

Jones fielded the first question of the evening — he was previously found guilty of sexually harassing four female deputies. Jones has been ordered to pay $3.7 million to the victims, and almost $6 million in legal fees; the Sacramento sheriff said he denied all allegations under oath.

During the debate, Bera said Sacramento taxpayers would be footing the expensive bill for Jones’ sexual indiscretions. “A jury ruled against you. This is pretty disturbing.”

“No woman should ever have to face this type of harassment,” he said.

Jones attacked Bera’s support of a deal with Iran, in which $1.7 billion was pledged to Tehran, allegedly to prevent the country from developing a nuclear weapon.

Bera, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended his stance on the deal. “It was a difficult negotiation,” he said, noting that 13 meetings took place before the deal was offered. “The goal was to reduce the nuclear threat in the Middle East. We don’t want to get into another war,” said the congressman, noting that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had praised the deal.

The U.S. paid $400 million in August, at the same time as four hostages were released. “Why are we treating Iran like a friend?” Jones questioned. “They are never going to comply.”

“Paying $1.7 billion to secure four hostages puts every American at a risk of threat,” he stated.

The Sacramento Bee endorsed the incumbent on Oct. 22, writing: “Rep. Ami Bera is a hardworking and thoughtful member of Congress who has shown he is willing to find common ground with Republicans, to the extent possible in these partisan times. We recommend voters return the Elk Grove Democrat to Washington for a third term.”