Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series profiling the candidates for the 47th Congressional District representing Long Beach and northern Orange County. This week’s profile is of Republican Gary DeLong; next week’s story will profile Democrat Alan Lowenthal.
Don’t call Gary DeLong a conservative.
DeLong, the Republican candidate for Congress in the newly formed 47th District, agrees that he is fiscally conservative, but says he is socially moderate. Further, he says he isn’t interested in toeing the conservative Republican Party line.
“This is not a liberal versus conservative race,” DeLong said. “I am looking for a path that can move this country forward… I always try to take a balanced approach. In issues between businesses and residents, I can tell when I’ve been successful because both sides are equally mad at me.”
DeLong has lived in Long Beach for more than 25 years and is a Southern California native. He lives in Park Estates with his second wife, Dawna, and daughters Danielle, Elizabeth and Katie.
A 52-year-old, DeLong is the principal of The RTP Group, a telecommunications firm that designs and implements systems for corporations. He said the firm currently has three employees, including himself. He also owns and operates rental residential properties.
“I have to make payroll twice a month and try to see that there’s a little left over for me, just like any small business,” he said.
DeLong won his second term to the Long Beach City Council in 2010 in the primary, defeating Terry Jensen and Tom Marchese. He easily beat fellow Republican Steve Kuykendall in the open primary, but finished behind Lowenthal, who was the only mainstream Democratic candidate.
DeLong has been endorsed by the Long Beach and U.S. Chambers of Commerce, and said that making the economy work again is his top priority. That can only happen if business owners are allowed the freedom to get back to work.
"It isn't one thing that needs to changed, but one hundred things,” he said. “Ask any small business owner, it is more difficult to start a business or grow a business than ever before. This needs to change if we're going to get our economy growing again and reduce the unemployment rate.
“The difference between my opponent and I is that he has taken an anti-business approach, and I can show that through his voting record.”
During his six years on the Long Beach City Council, DeLong has butted heads with the unions, particularly those representing city employees. He has voted against contracts that have included pay increases, and is one of the sponsors of a request to prepare a ballot initiative to roll back general employees’ compensation to 2010 levels.
“It’s true that I have put residents’ interests about union interests in the council,” DeLong said. “It was pretty lonely when I voted against the union pay increases, but in retrospect, I was right — we couldn’t afford them. But I have had union support. The ILWU supported me in the last election.”
DeLong points to his support for environmental programs such as the restoration of Colorado Lagoon and the Los Cerritos Wetlands as testimony that he is not a diehard conservative. He said his energy policy would be tempered with a concern for the environment.
“I support the Keystone pipeline, as long as it can be done in an environmentally sensitive manner,” he said. “…I do think we should increase our investment in our natural resources, but we should look at alternative as well as traditional sources of energy. I could support drilling offshore if it could be done in an environmentally friendly manner, but the jury is still out on whether that’s possible.”
DeLong points to the healthcare debate as another example of his independence from the Republican Party and a primary place where compromise is required. He said the Affordable Care Act is far too expensive, but that he would not vote to repeal it. Instead, he said, he would vote to fix it.
When it comes to the economy, though, DeLong says he believes in a thoroughly conservative approach.
“If a piece of legislation crosses my desk, I’m going to ask first if it improves the economy or is it anti-business,” he said. “Does it create more regulation, or more of a tax burden? The number one issue we face today is getting our economy growing again, and the only way we can do that is get our businesses going again.
“I’m opposed to any tax increases until the economy turns around. However, we can generate more tax revenue by closing loopholes. But allowing any of the Bush tax cuts to expire is a tax increase… We can’t cut our way all the way out of the deficit. We need more revenue. But the way to do that is through a better economy.”
While DeLong willingly talks about policy, he says the biggest difference between himself and Lowenthal is the ability to compromise. He said he has made it clear to Republican Party leadership that he would go his own way, particularly on social issues, while Lowenthal has toed the Democratic Party line.
“The biggest problem people see is that the two parties are not working together,” he said. “That’s the biggest difference between my opponent and I. I'm not just running as a Republican, I’m running as a representative of the 47th District. I will maintain my independence now and if I am elected, as opposed to my opponent, who voted to kill RDA because he said he ‘had to.’
“This election is about picking people who can work with each other and move our country in the right direction. It’s not about the right or the left, it’s about moving it forward.”