Dr. Kermit Jones, Candidate for Congress, Visits Sierra County

Dr. Kermit Jones, congressional candidate, speaks with Downieville medical practicioner Frank Lank at an event on April 29th

By Duncan A. Kennedy and Carl J. Butz

(SIERRA COUNTY) – This past Friday, April 29th, Dr. Kermit Jones, a candidate for the open seat in California’s newly-drawn Third Congressional District (an area consisting of all or parts of Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Yuba, Placer, Sacramento, El Dorado, Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties), conducted a “whistle-stop” tour of Sierra County.

Jones started his visit, accompanied by Sierra County Supervisors Paul Roen and Sharon Dryden, with a tour of the sawmill and currently idle biomass (co-gen) plant located in Loyalton. Next, Jones traveled over Yuba Pass to visit the Sierra County Democrats’ office in Sierra City to greet and encourage supporters. His last campaign stop of the day took place at the Gazebo in Downieville. Once again, he met with Democrats to answer questions about his reasons for running and garner their assistance in promoting his candidacy.

This tour also included interviews by The Mountain Messenger. Here is a synopsis of his responses to the questions we asked him.

Can you quickly tell us about your life story?

Jones was born and raised on a blueberry farm in rural Michigan. Inspired to pursue a medical career by his mother, a nurse in their isolated community, he attended Georgia Tech and then Duke University. During his third year of medical school, the 9/11 attacks spurred him to join the U.S. Navy. After returning from two deployments in Iraq as a flight surgeon, Jones became a White House Fellow specializing in veteran’s issues before moving to Northern California in 2016 and becoming an internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente in Roseville.

Why did you run for Congress instead of remaining with your successful medical career?

“I have a lot of patients who can’t afford their healthcare, and I want to change that,” says Jones, regarding his reasons for running. His family had to sell the aforementioned blueberry farm to pay for his mother’s lung cancer treatment, which has led him to seek office to reduce the complexity and cost of American healthcare. He also wants to be “a voice for the underrepresented” parts of the nation, including rural areas, which he says his party needs to “try to understand better.”

What core policy issues are you running on?

Jones’s platform principally concerns pursuing ways to drive down the cost of living and the effects of inflation, and improving access to healthcare while reducing the cost. He also strives to improve forest management to develop clean energy, expand federal fire insurance programs for people living in fire-prone areas, and lower education costs.

Can you give us your stances on each of these issues?

Inflation: Jones believes that inflation is a result of a post-COVID demand boom for goods and services hitting at the same time as supply chain instability, and outlines three key steps to solving this problem – shortening supply chains by encouraging manufacturers to bring their facilities back to America, reducing sources of inflation and policies that hurt those most affected by it, suggesting a suspension or repeal of the federal gas tax for the near future, and by eliminating tariffs that drive the price of goods higher, such as current tariffs on Canadian lumber.

Law and Order: “Law enforcement needs to be given the resources they need to succeed,” says Jones, regarding this issue. He does not consider himself a proponent of “Defund the Police” and is endorsed by the Peace Officers’ Research Association of California (PORAC). He advocates for implementing programs to help law enforcement groups better integrate with their communities to minimize friction between peace officers and the general public.

Drought/Agriculture: With drought becoming a significant issue across the American West and worldwide drylands alike, Jones believes we need to improve our water catchment and runoff reduction techniques while finding better ways to store water. He is looking into novel ways of reducing evaporation from open channels previously implemented in Israel, among other possibilities, and wants to allocate better funding to research and development here.

Climate Change: In line with his party’s mainstream, Jones acknowledges climate change is real and says that the fires and drought are both symptoms of this issue. This belief leads to his forest management and energy policy answers, tackling one of the leading causes and most notable symptoms.

Renewable/Alternative Energy: Jones supports taking steps to expand renewable energy use and establish local microgrids running off of those energy sources wherever possible. His energy policy focus is the idea that households should be more individually sustainable regarding their energy use, and should try to meet their own power needs if they feasibly can. He is a strong supporter of biomass energy, despite the view of it by some as “the bastard child of green energy,” and is more than willing to buck the party line regarding expanding the use of this resource.

Immigration: “The last time we had comprehensive immigration reform was during the Reagan Administration,” says Jones, regarding this issue. He recognizes the need for immigration reform, but thinks that focusing on outright exclusion projects such as the border wall could cripple sectors such as agriculture and healthcare, which both derive large chunks of their workforce from immigrants of various classifications and legalities.

Second Amendment: Dr. Jones is a gun owner himself and supports the Second Amendment; he advocates for gun policies to ensure that deadly weapons don’t end up in the hands of the mentally ill or violent criminals and supports background checks on gun buyers.

Rural Broadband: “In the world’s richest nation, broadband should be available nearly everywhere by 2030, if not 2025,” says Jones on this issue. He thinks expanding broadband access is the last big hurdle rural areas face to fully catch up with the digital age and lauds the broadband funding included in the infrastructure package passed in 2021.

Foreign Policy: Regarding the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, Jones believes NATO as a whole is the best force to deter further action by Putin et al. However, given his battlefield experiences in Iraq, he opposes sending U.S. troops into battle against Russian ones.

Do you have any personal connection to the rural Sierra Nevada?

While he may not live here, Jones frequents the Sierra Nevada to escape from the hustle and bustle of suburban life – including hiking Mount Whitney, the highest point in the district (and the contiguous 48 United States) four times. He thinks that we should take steps to protect this region by and for its residents to ensure that they and their descendants can live there far into the future.

How will you represent this area’s interests in Congress?

“I aim to listen to the locals at the community and individual level,” says Jones, regarding the communication he hopes to establish between himself and his district if elected. He believes that Congress needs to focus more on local issues and responses than on big-picture federal problems that get all the media attention and will attempt to tour his district and communicate with his constituents whenever he has the chance.

Are there any political pet projects you want to accomplish? Specific legislation?

One of the main goals Jones hopes to accomplish in D.C. is to acquire more funding for Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management firefighting and fire management programs to reduce overall fire risk while increasing resource access and response times to incidents. He also wants to funnel more funding to biomass energy projects, opining that the Lost Sierra “can be a sustainable energy model for the nation,” if given half a chance.

How can you help this area recover from recent wildfires?

According to Jones, decreasing the fire risk levels presented by an overload of fuel is critical to ensure that further devastation cannot occur. To achieve this goal, coordination and sharing of resources such as funding and equipment between state, local, and federal fire agencies will need coordination. Additionally, expanded federal fire insurance access can help improve the peace of mind and rebuilding potential for people living in these fire-prone areas – one of Jones’ major campaign issues.

Do you see a way for us to diversify economically, and how can you help?

Jones thinks that the area needs to diversify its agricultural sector to maximize its potential to grow valuable crops while also capitalizing on its forest resources by producing clean energy and building materials. He also thinks that the Lost Sierra could study their neighbors to the south in Mono and Inyo counties and expand their tourism sector without exploding into full-on destination development.

Would you participate in local candidate forums, such as those hosted by the League of Women Voters in Plumas County?

“Yes, absolutely.”

(Audience question in Downieville) How did you end up being named ‘Kermit’?

Dr. Jones was named after one of his uncles; himself named after a family ancestor. However, growing up during the era when Jim Henson’s Muppets were prominent, he says that “the name helped build character.”  Moreover, his name’s distinctiveness has ensured “no one forgets who he is,” and he isn’t confused with any other Jones.

The Mountain Messenger would like to thank Kermit Jones and Michaela Kurinsky-Malos for agreeing to this interview, Sylvia Lopez of the Sierra County Democrats for setting the meeting up and feeding our intrepid reporter a free tri-tip sandwich, and Supervisors Paul Roen and Sharon Dryden for allowing us on a tour of the Loyalton biomass plant (more on that later).

This is part two of the Messenger’s coverage of the 2022 elections in the Lost Sierra, following the interview two weeks ago with Scott Jones. Next week, we will have an interview with Assembly candidate Belle Sandwith, and then the following week we will focus on District Two Supervisor candidate Gerald “Sandy” Sanders.

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