Julieanne Benzel has an upward climb.
And she knows it.
But that isn’t stopping this sassy ex-schoolteacher from tossing her hat into the ring to become the U.S. representative from California District 4.
“It is unprecedented and unorthodox,” said Benzel, who has filed as a Republican and will be on the ballot in March.
The biggest obstacle is that she will face off against Rep. Tom McClintock, who has held the seat for five terms.
“He had his toughest race last year and my goal is to fortify District 4,” said Benzel, who lives in Rocklin.
Benzel came to the national spotlight last year when she was placed on administrative leave by her high school “for challenging my students to think critically.”
In 2018, Benzel questioned if school officials would support an anti-abortion march the same way they encouraged students to participate in the National School Walkout for gun control. She was placed on administrative leave soon after.
She then filed for President of the United States, however, has since turned her attention to the District 4 race.
Benzel said she is “not talking about McClintock” and said she does not like the “divisiveness” he brings to the office.
“I have yet to meet very many people who are fond of him,” said Benzel.
She called McClintock “a placeholder” and said the district instead “needs a firebrand.”
Benzel believes she is that firebrand, but she has just about five months to convince the voters in the vast District 4 that she should replace McClintock and then move on to face the Democratic challenger in November 2020.
“I’m kind of a populist,” said Benzel. “It’s on the rise. I am going to the people.”
She’s doing that by attending art festivals, parades, senior citizen meetings and more. She calls it “engaging with the people.”
Benzel said any organized Republican groups are in “lock step with McClintock,” so she is taking her case directly to the people.
There are many issues on the table when it comes to national politics, which also ticks down to the local level.
One is the impending impeachment of President Donald Trump, something that seems more likely by the day.
“I’m an originalist to the U.S. Constitution,” said Benzel.
Benzel said she feels Trump has been targeted “before he took office,” and feels there is a movement to try to undermine his presidency.
But, Trump is accused of using the office of the presidency for his own political gain, including asking a foreign national to investigate a political opponent.
Does Benzel think that is ever okay?
“No,” she said.
She does think the U.S. House of Representatives should “take a vote” on impeachment before the investigation is complete, saying that would follow “precedent” of previous impeachment proceedings.
“It’s not in the constitution, but let’s follow precedent,” said Benzel.
In her biography, Benzel said she has studied foreign policy for her entire life and feels she can bring reasoning to that debate, including her experience as a history teacher.
One foreign policy issue now in the forefront is in Syria and how the U.S. has abandoned its Kurdish allies, leaving the region susceptible to other world powers, including Russia and Turkey.
Though Benzel did say she does “understand” that Trump is “trying to keep a promise” about bringing troops home, she thinks the Middle East might not be the right starting point.
“I am concerned we are sending a message to the enemy,” said Benzel.
Though Benzel said she believes America’s “presence has to be in the world to secure it,” she also said “we should not be the policemen of the world.”
Does she think Trump’s moves may be opening the door for other countries to have major influence in that region?
“I don’t see why they wouldn’t say this is an open door for us. Do we want our presence there or do we want someone else’s?” she said.
Closer to home, another major issue in this region is the wildfires that have devastated many areas over the past several years.
“Forest thinning,” said Benzel about how to start solving the problem. “We’ve been overrun by laborious and extremely unnecessary environmental laws. The balance has swung to one side.”
Benzel said when the Environmental Protection Agency was created in the 1970s under President Richard Nixon, “they set some standards that were rational.”
Now, she said, it is out of control.
“We need to introduce legislation and usurp California laws,” said Benzel. “Therefore, we are going to start deforestation. (If we have) to save one bird species, what is the cost? I think we need a little more boldness and presence.”
This issue has also had a statewide impact recently when Pacific Gas & Electric began planned power shutdowns in an effort to prevent wildfires from starting.
“There needs to be some sensibility,” said Benzel. “I’m sifting through the evidence, but what I’m hearing more and more is there was less attention paid to infrastructure. When you don’t keep everything up to the premium standards … at some point, those ramifications are going to ensue.”
She also believes issues like wildfires and government shutdowns are crucial to the lives of everyday citizens and can cause havoc to entire communities.
“If a congressman is going to vote for a shutdown, they need to put their lives on hold,” said Benzel. “They need to not get a paycheck.”
All of that goes to her love of small businesses, something she fears regulations are harming.
“I feel like we have it here,” said Benzel. “It’s everything in my estimation. The entrepreneurship of America is what sets us apart from the rest of the world.”
Another interesting issue Benzel brought up is having a landmark in District 4. She called it a “pet project. In all sincerity, where is our landmark? I want a landmark to say this is the outdoor capital of the world.”
Benzel said she would seek private funding for such a landmark, but thinks it could add to the already attractiveness and diversity of the district.
So why should people choose Benzel for the job?
“I’m fighting for families, freedom and your future,” she said. “My main platform is the U.S. Constitution. We need to get back to basics. The heart of ingenuity, being able to live out your life where you see fit. No other place in the world allows you personal liberties like the United States.”
For more information on her campaign, visit www.juliannebenzel.com.