San José Spotlight asked readers what they want to know about the candidates running for Silicon Valley’s competitive Congressional District 16 race. We received more than 100 questions from readers for the candidates and narrowed it down to eight questions that capture a range of critical national issues — from immigration to foreign policy and partisan gridlock in Washington.
Here are Peter Dixon’s full, unedited answers:
How will you work “across the aisle” and overcome the challenges facing our political discourse?
Uniquely in this primary, I have reached across the aisle on Capitol Hill to overcome the challenges of our time and in our discourse. Not for a single issue or bill. But as the co-founder of a nonprofit movement responsible for over 150 pieces of bipartisan congressional legislation in the last three cycles alone. That record of accomplishment is why as a lifelong public servant, not a career politician, I have the endorsement of seven sitting Democratic members of the House of Representatives – the most of any candidate in this race.
The bounds of our democracy are being tested like never before. Serving in President Obama’s State Department, I’ve seen firsthand what it looks like when democracy fails overseas. And those local people who dreamed of political freedom pay an unthinkable price at the hands of extremists and autocrats. This is why here at home, we worked with bipartisan Members of Congress who remembered their oath to the Constitution and passed the Electoral Count Act, so that no politician could challenge the will of the American people as was attempted on January 6th. In Congress, I will continue to search out and find those members of all political stripes who will place country over party and service over self.
When it comes to the issues upon which no common ground is seen to exist, access to abortion care and gun control always make the top of the list. Yet in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting we worked with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress to pass the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which closed the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and was the first meaningful improvement in gun violence prevention in more than a decade.
These bright spots of action in a do-nothing Congress are why I have faith that big things are still possible. And a potent reminder that there is still more that unites us as Americans than tears us apart. I’ve seen that from working in a non-profit in Nairobi building a hospital, serving in the Marines after 9/11, and founding a public benefit business with Americans of every political stripe.
I am now asking for the trust of the people of this district to now continue that proven legacy of bipartisan accomplishment and undiminished promise for the future as your next Member of Congress.
What will you do if Trump is re-elected fairly and then he violates the constitution again through his decisions and actions?
As a former member of the Marines, State Department and Pentagon, and as a national security professional, it is hard for me to overstate how dire the immediate threat to our democracy is from a second Trump administration.
Congress has been steadily losing ground in the balance of powers. The Trump team has said outright that they would, in week one of a second Trump term, use martial law to pursue mass roundups of immigrants and the suppression of lawful protests. The painting of the military as ‘woke’ is not just political point scoring but a deliberate effort to inoculate the Trump political base against a mass resignation of military senior leadership in the wake of such use of martial law power. Similarly, we would likely see political purges across the US Government as large swaths of the hard-working, and deeply non-political, people of our institutions are reclassified as political appointees under Schedule F and then fired for lack of Trump fealty.
Not only would this instantly spell the end of American leadership on the world stage. The basic functioning of the Federal government from veterans benefits to Infrastructure and Reduction Act grants would immediately collapse. The national security community that has stopped 9/11-style attacks against America and her allies every year for more than 20 years would be gutted.
These sorts of outcomes would have been present in the first Trump term were it not for Republican appointees, like Jim Mattis, who took hard stands against needless military strikes overseas and misuse of military forces domestically. None of those guardrails would be present in a second Trump term.
In a divided Congress and with trust in the Supreme Court shaky, it would come down to the US House of Representatives to use the power of the purse to deprive funding of any justice or national security apparatus weaponized by the Trump administration for blatantly partisan purposes.
The Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives thus becomes the last bulwark of Democracy.
I will dedicate my efforts to fundraising as much as I have this year, but not for myself. For the veterans and other Democratic candidates – with backgrounds that look a lot like mine – who can win in purple, front-line districts. That is why if I am the Member of Congress for CA-16 it will likely be worth five to ten additional Democratic seats in the House of Representatives for every future political cycle.
Do you believe in, and will you publicly support, a two nation resolution to Israel and Palestine?
Yes. My faith in diplomacy was honed working in the Obama State Department and leads me to believe that a principled compromise represents the only sustainable path for breaking intractable cycles of violence. I’ve seen this firsthand as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite political difficulties and missed chances, a negotiated two-state peace remains essential and achievable with bold leadership on both sides and international partners.
This would further guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic homeland while fulfilling the aspirations of Palestinians for self-determination in an independent state. I believe a negotiated solution, creating two states living side-by-side in peace, will ensure security for both peoples and the region for generations to come.
What will you do to reduce the federal deficit?
The environmental community has a saying about planting trees whose shade you will never sit in yourself. Running up the federal deficit is like salting the earth for future generations. At the time that they will need resources the most to deal with strained supply chains and the effects of climate change, we will have shackled them with crippling debt payments. We must give opportunities for young people to be part of the solution to the challenges they will face in their time, to be stakeholders in this country, and to form relationships across political divides and the zip codes they are born into. The way to do that is to preemptively address—for pennies on the dollar—healthcare challenges and epidemics through an expanded Uniform Public Health Corps and climate catastrophes through an expanded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.
As we dramatically expand opportunities for public service, we will significantly bring down the cost of dealing with these persistent crises. It is high time that we stop pretending we’re surprised when once-in-a-hundred-year fires, storms, and floods now occur every three years. To pay for this expanded public service, we must implement reform through the introduction of American-style capitalism into the defense spending that consumes approximately 54% of our federal taxpayer dollars, while delivering a litany of failed weapons programs to the young people of the American armed forces.
In this race, I am the only one able to jump the seniority process that dominates the Democratic leadership in the House and as a veteran serve on the House Armed Services Committee. And in my very first year I will thus be able to pass legislation through the National Defense Authorization Act, the only omnibus bill in Congress that reliably passes into law.
Our district can’t afford what we would otherwise almost certainly get: a Member of Congress taking strictly symbolic votes and waiting the better part of a decade as a backbencher before meaningfully delivering for our community.
How do you plan to help our region, state, and country to kick the reliance on fossil fuels as we make our way to a carbon-free energy future?
I proudly took the Fossil Fuel Free Pledge in December of last year. My fear of the world that we are handing off to our children is a fundamental motivating force for my desire to serve. We must be clear-eyed and focus on what can make a difference in the time we have. No more ‘red herrings.’
Let’s be clear, we have six years to mitigate the worst outcomes of climate change. Within that countdown, as just one example, it takes 14 years to obtain permits for the transmission lines that take the power from the wind and solar farms to the communities where people actually live. The green revolution will only succeed if we take concrete steps to streamline execution in the next 18 months!
I have spent my career as a lifelong public servant doing exactly that and implemented the technology and process reform necessary to do so across the State Department, Pentagon, and US Armed Forces. The Inflation Reduction Act has set aside $282 billion (as of Oct. 2023) for green energy which can be turned into $900 billion (by 2031) by crowding in private capital but that private capital will never get off the sidelines if the bureaucratic inertia cannot be overcome.
This isn’t the ‘sexy’ part of being a politician but this is central to the nuts and bolts of governance—how things are accomplished. It is something that I developed in Federal government and honed in the business world, but it stems from the fact that I was raised in Silicon Valley and learned from an early age that with the right creativity and persistence, no problem is so big that it can’t be overcome by American ingenuity.
What would you do to remedy the root causes of homelessness, such as providing better mental health and addiction services?
Two words: housing first. The root causes of homelessness can’t be solved without making housing available to people in crisis. The cost of trying to deal with these issues on the street is enormous, and helping people who are experiencing homelessness while they are still on the street results in less successful outcomes. Therefore, the first thing that we must do to address this problem as a nation is to ensure we have sufficient housing to place people in. People need to be able to rebuild their self, self-worth, security, and safety within accommodation that has four walls and a door that locks. Without the basic necessity of safe accommodation, achieving a higher level of treatment is impossible. We have to stop nibbling around the edges on this and do something bold. My team is working on a plan to transform some of the derelict military bases, some of the last available land on the Peninsula, into thousands of housing units.
Alongside housing, we need people-power. We need adequate resources to ensure that there are enough caseworkers to do the labor-intensive work of getting care to people who need it. To do that, we must fundamentally transform how we think about service. I’m not just advocating for aspirational fixes—I have a track record of expanding opportunities for public service. We drove the passage of legislation that increased the size of our country’s Uniformed Public Health Corps, under the Surgeon General, for the first time in history during the COVID-19 pandemic. This expansion of the Uniformed Public Health Corps should be further scaled to deal with the root causes of the opioid epidemic, mental health challenges, and homelessness. Our current medical system is at a breaking point and cannot possibly adequately address these systemic problems.
Will you support fully funding BART to San Jose and the High Speed Rail projects?
Yes, as a candidate in the race who has actually built and scaled a tech company, we know what Silicon Valley can do. I support fully funding the BART to San Jose. I applaud the Federal Transit Administration for providing up to 50% of the funding for the BART Silicon Valley extension which will benefit a significant number of San Jose constituents. In Congress, I will fight to bring more federal funding to transportation projects in the district and across the Bay Area because a more connected Bay Area is a benefit to the constituents of CA-16.
Like any failing initiative, the high-speed rail project still holds elements of its initial promise but requires drastic reform and public/private partnerships to establish viability and remove it from being a drain on the Californian taxpayer. I will work to secure federal resources to transition the high-speed rail to a more sustainable path forward that takes an unvarnished look at what is still achievable and within the realm of possibility.
What are your solutions to the border crisis and do you believe we should have an open border for any and all to be allowed into the country?
No. Immigration is not America’s weakness, it is its strength. If you walk into any tech startup in the Bay Area, it looks like the UN— and for good reason. But not just high-tech immigration, I’ve served alongside immigrants who believe so much in the American dream that they’re willing to go overseas to fight for it. Because I care about immigration, and because we have a duty of care to all immigrants illegal and legal who are seeking to enter the country, it must be said that the situation on our southern border is heartbreaking. I worked against cartel violence in Ciudad Juarez as a State Department official and I’ve seen what the cartels do when they traffic people across the border. I’ve also seen what fentanyl has done to our streets here in the Bay Area— and how it is even now present in pill-pressed into Adderall to hook unsuspecting students.
This chaos is not something we can solve with people or walls alone, it is something that must be solved through sweeping policy reform. Ultimately, we cannot have an open border without comprehensive immigration reform—I stand with the President in supporting the current deal.
Also, I’m particularly proud of the members of my campaign who had a leading role in making sure efforts to keep our promise to our Afghan interpreters made it into the Senate version.