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Former child actor Ben Savage (Dem ) is running for Congress from the 30th District, which includes neighborhoods in West Pasadena.
Q– Let’s start with the most pressing issue right now. What are you hearing from the local Jewish community on the campaign trail?
A– It’s a heartbreaking situation, just heartbreaking. As you know, Los Angeles has the largest number of residents from Israel anywhere in the United States. It is a very, very sensitive and heartbreaking time for the community. I am talking with people all day. I’m involved with many organizations that work with Israel, with groups in Los Angeles, helping refugees and people from Israel resettle in Los Angeles. We’re working with organizations that combat anti-Semitism in Los Angeles. It’s such a complicated issue with so many different facets. .
In terms of making a difference, there are a lot of things that can be done. For example, Senator Rosen just introduced a measure requesting that the Defense Department transfer two missile batteries in the United States to Israel to help them in their efforts. I think there’s funding and money that could be transferred to Israel to ensure that they have proper defenses and what they need to defend their citizens.
Then, other issues go into more policy, like adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. Institutions around the United States are adopting this definition. It’s a multifaceted effort to combat anti-Semitism and ensure we’re protecting Israel. We’re firmly enforcing that definition, and we’re firmly behind it.
“The result of anti-Semitic rhetoric is violence, as we’ve seen.”Ben Savage
We’ve worked with several organizations throughout Los Angeles that are combating anti-Semitism, which a lot of people have experienced and been subjected to in the community. The result of anti-Semitic rhetoric is violence, as we’ve seen.
We’re getting daily reports and briefings. Things that happen on the other side of the world result in violence and unfortunate incidents in the Los Angeles community. I just got information that two women were attacked at the Topanga Mall because they were dressed in clothing that may have indicated they were Jewish. Sometimes, people hear about things in the news and say, “Well, why are we getting involved in that? We should focus on the United States. We should be focusing on California.”
But these incidents abroad have very real consequences for us here.
Q– Let’s talk about the union issues during what has been called the summer of strikes. We have the United Auto Workers, the hotel workers, the medical workers, the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA strikes. How are these important issues for the community?
A– I’ve been a SAG-AFTRA member for 35 years – since I was seven years old. I have a union pension and union health care. From a very early age, I always understood the importance of being part of a union and how hard the unions fight for their members. My union fought for everything from hours on sets to anything you can imagine for child actors, e.g., the Coogan laws to protect their funds.
So, I understood very early on that the union can help you and that they can fight for your contracts and they can fight for collective bargaining. They can fight for a whole host of issues that an individual member couldn’t possibly stand up and fight for against a corporation. This is not a foreign concept to me, watching these unions come together and fight. I think it’s important. I think it’s necessary. And I’m glad to see these unions organizing and striking in order to fight for fair contracts.
I’m still on the picket lines of SAG-AFTRA. We also came out very strongly supporting the WGA. We also support Local 121 RN, which is the nurses’ union.
Q– Our platform is saving local news. A lot of the candidates don’t have any local reporters asking for interviews. National agencies are much better funded and more aggressive in their pursuit of an interview.
A– Well, we were thrilled to get your call, and it’s nice that local news reporters are investing in this political race. I would echo that sentiment. We get calls from national news, but national news can alienate viewers and readers. The issues are usually somewhat abstract. They don’t necessarily resonate with local voters and with local residents who are dealing with real issues in their lives.
I think local news and local reporters can speak to the concerns and issues that people are going through every day. It’s also a whole new era for news. I believe that traditional legacy media has gone by the wayside, but I also think there’s a pendulum shift and that as one form of news becomes dominant, people yearn for the other. So, it could be the case that people are yearning more for local news if they feel alienated by national news.
Q– There is legislation before Congress about saving local news, local news tax credits and other legislation they are trying to implement.
A– We’re keeping track of everything, but I’d certainly be in favor of local tax credits to keep local news alive. I think that’s important.
And as you said, national news just covers the national news, but this is an important election and many important issues are happening right here in Southern California. We need local news coverage. National and international stories are obviously important, but it’s just as important to cover what’s going on in the LA area.
Q– Do you have any new laws you would like to introduce if you get elected to Congress?
A– I’m working with an organization that’s dear to my heart: the American Center for Cures. They are pulling together all the best scientists, doctors, and medical professionals in the world in order to begin curing diseases. Our country has not invested in curing diseases but only partially treating them. That goes into the whole issue of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. Still, I’m very interested in investing, funding and bringing people together to find solutions to some of the more complicated medical issues the community is experiencing, e.g., cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc. So many people in our community are in poor health.
“A country as advanced as ours, as wealthy as ours, should be focused on solving and curing diseases, not just temporarily solving them with medicine.”Ben Savage
A country as advanced as ours, as wealthy as ours, should be focused on solving and curing diseases, not just temporarily solving them with medicine. I think we need to actually start curing diseases.
Q– How can celebrities use their profiles to bring health issues front and center?
A– A celebrity can use their profile and status to help bring attention to health issues. But I want to see some cures. It sounds a little idealistic, but I think it’s important that we start putting that out in the atmosphere, that we start focusing on becoming a cures-based country.
Moreover, I want to bring a more solutions-based mentality to Washington. People laugh, roll their eyes, or sigh when I make that statement, but I don’t see an alternative. I want to see positive, honest people in government who are fighting to get things done, bring change, and solve things. I want to start with healthcare and medicine. That affects everybody, no matter who you are, no matter what party. Everyone, in some way or another, is affected by disease. I’d like to see a more solutions-based healthcare system in this country.
Q– What are people telling you is important to them?
A– It depends on who you ask. Right now, the most critical issue in the world is to combat anti-Semitism. I don’t want to see any members of the Jewish community treated poorly. I want to ensure we work on legislation, such as the Never Again Education Act, to ensure that children are taught about the horrors of the Holocaust. It only takes one or two news cycles, and anti-Semitism unfortunately rears its ugly head very quickly into the national conversation.
“I think people have lost faith in institutions, government, and the media.”Ben Savage
Based on some of the messages I’ve been getting over the past few days, but that’s the world we live in. I want to bring a more positive approach to government. I want to bring more of a solutions-based approach to government, and I want to bring a little more enthusiasm and positivity.
I think people have lost faith in institutions, government, and the media.
We need some new people in office who can bring a new perspective, more energy, and a more positive tone. Our message resonates with people. I’m not a negative guy. I don’t have an axe to grind, and I’m not running on an agenda. I’m just interested in bringing people together, being positive for the community, and doing everything I possibly can to help.
Q– Where is that focused?
A– It’s health care, as I was referring to earlier, housing, crime, homelessness. I ran for City Council last year in West Hollywood, and the biggest issue was homelessness.
We’re in the richest city in the richest state and the richest country in the world. We should be taking care of our community members, especially those who are unhoused.
“We should be taking care of our community members, especially those who are unhoused.”Ben Savage
We need to provide more affordable housing, mental health care programs, jobs training, and a whole host of solutions in order to help stem the homelessness crisis in the community. We could talk about housing and healthcare all day.
I don’t ever think it’s kind of a one-or-the-other situation. There are a whole host of issues.