By Shea Johnson, Staff Writer
Posted Apr 29, 2018 at 8:16 AM

Congressional races throughout California promise to be particularly interesting this year as the state has positioned itself as a key bulwark against the Trump administration.

The race for the 8th Congressional District this year may look familiar to voters: Three of the five candidates ran for the seat in 2016 and a fourth pursued a local state Senate bid that year.

The only true political newcomer challenging Republican Rep. Paul Cook appears to be Marge Doyle, a Democrat and career health care professional.

Rita Ramirez, a Democrat and retired college professor, and Tim Donnelly, a Republican and well-known former state Assemblyman, are running for a second-straight cycle after finishing second and third, respectively, two years ago.

Ronald O’Donnell, a self-employed real estate business owner and Democrat whose policy platform he acknowledged doesn’t quite adhere to the modern party standards, will switch focus to Congress after losing in the general election to state Sen. Mike Morrell in 2016.

Congressional races throughout California promise to be particularly interesting this year as the state has positioned itself as a key bulwark against the Trump administration.

Paul Cook, Republican

“If you’re making a difference, if you’re moving this pile (forward), then you can say, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it again,’” Cook said during a recent phone interview about his thought process to seek re-election.

Cook, who has both come under fire from progressives for being too aligned with Trumpism and from hard-liners for not being aggressively allied enough, suggested that this election could be as contentious as the political climate in Washington.

But Cook views himself as a policy wonk, resigned to allow partisan rhetoric play out as he buries his nose in dense bill language. Several of the policies he has backed have been Trump staples: dismantling Obamacare, building the wall and fighting sanctuary cities.

On the recent tax overhaul, he expressed no regrets on supporting what Democrats argued was a giveaway to corporations and the rich, previously noting that 90 percent of taxpayers in this district would benefit by the tax breaks.

Particularly, he pointed to the Child Tax Credit expansion to $2,000 as a major win: “When you’re raising a family, those expenses are difference makers.”

Fighting the prescription drug abuse crisis and military issues are immediate priorities. Although he was certain that issues that have long plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs were being fixed, he wasn’t ready to endorse Trump’s pick for the chief job only days before Ronnie Jackson stepped down amid allegations of misconduct.

“I’m just skeptical because we’ve been burned so many times in the veteran administration,” he said. “The problem is you gotta go in there and you’ve got to break that culture of being a bureaucracy that is not responsible.”

Rita Ramirez, Democrat

Ramirez, who lost by a significant margin to Cook in the run-off election in 2016, is prepared to a progressive voice in D.C., emboldened to run again by the feelings sowed immediately after Trump’s election and by the activist spirit she saw in the Women’s March.

Ramirez proudly aligns with the Indivisible movement, whose anti-Trump activists last year pressed Cook to host a town hall and won major media exposure after clever milk carton marketing went viral.

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