Congressman Jeff Denham raised more than a few eyebrows when he proposed transferring the inmates at San Quentin State Prison and selling off the 400-acre parcel to offset California’s perennial budget shortfalls.
After all, the land itself is prime real estate with sweeping views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, and could fetch as much as $2 billion from developers looking to cash in on high-rise condominiums or upscale apartment buildings.
While the idea seemed out there at the time – garnering national attention for the then California legislator – it’s something that the 10th congressional district hopeful reinforced when he spoke to the South San Joaquin Republicans when they gathered earlier in the month to showcase party candidates and what they have to bring to the table this election season.
“I’m principled and I know what I’m fight for and those were new ways to raise revenue for the state,” Denham said of his proposed facility closures – which included Cal Expo, the Cow Palace in San Francisco, San Quentin State Prison and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “I think that as a state California should create a list with things that can turn to when that budget needs to be visited and they can deal with that then. It’s the smart thing to do.”
An Air Force veteran that served for 16 years – during both the Desert Storm conflict and the unrest in Somalia – Denham graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and started a successful agri-business company that provides plastic containers to farmers and growers in the Atwater and Turlock areas.
He cut his teeth in politics by taking his fight to Sacramento while representing California’s 12th Senate District – comprised of Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Benito and Stanislaus Counties. He ran in the 2010 election for California’s 19th congressional district – roundly winning with 65 percent of the vote.
Denham believes that three of the more pressing issues facing the country today include the immediate need to reduce the size of government, balance the budget and reduce the federal debt.
And just when he started to get comfortable in Washington, D.C., he rocked the boat again by pushing the Republican leadership for the opportunity to take on a role with more responsibility – something that’s not handed out to freshman congressman very often.
But it worked. He currently chairs the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management – the group that oversees FEMA – in addition to his roles on the Natural Resources Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
It’s a role that he takes seriously as he gears up to introduce himself to an entirely new block of voters in California’s 10th congressional district.
“I believe in solutions. I am very principled and I’m somebody who will get in there and fight,” Denham said. “But at the end of the day I want to solve things. I want to be able to leave a legacy for my kids.”