What’s the most important issue facing this country? Some would say the economy, others national security and geopolitics, while others might say the erosion of personal liberties and freedoms.

Certainly, they all are. But a 39-year old entrepreneur and former member of the San Diego City Council has another first priority should he win the House seat in CA-52 this November.

Carl DeMaio, who brands himself a “New Generation Republican,” is touting his “Fix Congress Act” as central to his campaign to bring “a reformer with results” to Washington in his bid against freshman incumbent Scott Peters (D).

The “Fix Congress Act” bill, already written and ready to be introduced to the House floor should DeMaio defeat Peters, includes some provisions certain to catch the eyes of not only Republican conservatives, but also Independents and possibly moderate Democrats fed up with a Congress less popular than cockroaches.

On his website, DeMaio promises to “send a budget to Congress” and that he “can actually read a budget, spot the waste, and offer common-sense solutions both political parties can agree on.” Other key facets of his reform initiative include:

  • No Budget, No Pay –  When Congress does not submit a budget on time, every member forfeits their salary each day it is not passed.
  • Lifetime Ban on Members of Congress Becoming Lobbyists ­– Nearly half of all Representatives and Senators go on to become lobbyists, DeMaio’s website indicates.
  • No Free Travel or Gifts – On the San Diego City Council, DeMaio banned free travel and gifts. He wants to write legislation bringing this ethic to Congress.
  • Performance Audits for Every Government Program – DeMaio helped in the passage of the Government Performance and Results Act but claims the reports are largely ignored. DeMaio promises to be the “taxpayers’ watchdog” and “demand accountability for results from every government program.”
  • Transform How Government Works: Doing More With Less – DeMaio characterizes this as smart cost-savings, not “gut and cut” mentality.

Fresh out of college, DeMaio founded the Performance Institute in Washington, D.C., a for-profit think-tank that assists government agencies in optimizing practice management that does $10 million in business annually. DeMaio has since sold his business and worked in California state and federal government advisory roles. In 2008 he successfully ran for election to the San Diego City Council.

He crafted the Roadmap to Recovery, which included pension reforms, spending cuts, and line-by-line review of the city budget, to bring the city from the brink of bankruptcy.

n 2012, he lost by a thin margin the race for mayor of San Diego to the now-disgraced Bob Filner.

As a New Generation Republican, DeMaio falls neither in line totally with the libertarian-leaning Tea Party nor with moderates or the so-called Republican Establishment.

While a fiscal conservative, DeMaio does not share the traditional conservative platform regarding social issues. He is pro-choice, for legalizing marijuana, and if elected would become the first openly gay Republican to hold national office. In an interview on Fox News DeMaio discussed how his political opponents, including unions, have played the “gay card” as a means to attack his economic and fiscal platform before the primary election.

On his website DeMaio writes, “I see myself as a ‘new generation Republican’ who wants to challenge the party to focus on pocket-book, economic and quality of life issues in a more positive and inclusive way, rather than issues that are, frankly, none of the government’s business in the first place.”

Left-wing websites and pundits have been quick to label DeMaio a partisan extremist supported by either, or both, the Republican Establishment and the Tea Party. Peters’ campaign manager MaryAnne Pintar was quoted in Times of San Diego calling the new generation Republican a “Tea Party candidate” with a record of “divisiveness and extremism.” In retort, DeMaio has called Peters “extreme and reckless” for taking “positions on automatically increasing government debt.”

Echoing Sen. Harry Ried’s favorite war cry, Peters also tried linking DeMaio to the much-hated libertarian Koch Brothers, but Voice of San Diego has largely disproven this claim.

Peters, who unseated the Republican incumbent after a 2012 redistricting of CA-52, is by no account a far-left progressive. The former San Diego Port Commissioner is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, which brands itself as a caucus of pro-economic growth, moderate Democrats. He is considered of the most conservative, or non-Democratic, freshmen Democrats, a so-called DINO. Political blogger Howie Klein labeled him one of the worst of the Democrat freshmen class.

Despite the criticisms, Peters has not completely disappointed his core supporters. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hour, to limit public land leases to energy companies, and to extend unemployment insurance.

California uses a top-two primary system, where hopefuls from any party run in one primary and the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

In the June 4 primary for CA-52, Peters came out on top with only 42.4% of the vote, with DeMaio receiving 35.9% and other Republican contenders Kirk Jorgensen and Fred Simon Jr. receiving 17.9% and 4% respectively. The total percentage voting for Republicans was 56.8%.

CA-52 was recently redrawn after the 2010 census to account for population growth in metropolitan San Diego. This led to Peters’ narrow victory in 2012. He is the first Democrat to serve CA-52. The current CA-52 district, however, did not become lopsided in favor of Democrats. Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index rates CA-52 currently at D+2, meaning that is 2 percentage points “more Democratic” than the national average.

While most of the politically-inclined will scrutinize for the next five months the 8-10 competitive Senate elections whose outcomes will largely define the next two years’ political climate, money and attention are pouring into some of the most competitive House elections. Already, each candidate in CA-52 has over $1 million in their respective war chests.

A victory for DeMaio might signal what type of candidate Republicans and Independents will most passionately back come the 2016 presidential election. But for now, DeMaio and Peters are locked in a close, contentious, and captivating congressional race certain to solicit growing national attention and scrutiny.

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Casey Breznick is a student at Cornell University studying finance and is the editor-in-chief of The Cornell Review, the conservative student newspaper on campus.