- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation’s response to the Ebola virus became a campaign issue Friday in one of the nation’s closest congressional races as candidates for a San Diego seat responded to the public’s alarm with calls for more forceful action.

Republican challenger Carl DeMaio is calling for an immediate ban on any direct flights to the U.S. from countries affected by Ebola outbreaks. He also criticized President Barack Obama’s choice of Ron Klain to coordinate the federal government’s response to Ebola, saying Klain’s background is in politics, not public health.

The incumbent, Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, says heightened screening at airports is a good first step. He is not calling for a travel ban but said it should be an option under consideration.

“I am very concerned about infected individuals boarding flights to the United States,” Peters said in a press release issued late Thursday.

DeMaio is joining other Republicans who are attempting to make the case that the Obama administration has not adequately address the threat. He also is trying to link the administration’s response to the outbreak to Peters, saying in a news release issued Friday that both Obama and Peters have so far only been willing to consider a travel ban.

“Action is needed,” DeMaio said.

The race between DeMaio and Peters is one of the most expensive congressional contests in the country, with special interest groups from both parties spending millions of dollars on advertising.

DeMaio’s campaign issued a release early Friday calling for the appointment of an “Ebola czar” to cut through the bureaucracy and address the Ebola threat swiftly. About four hours later, he issued another statement critical of Obama’s choice, calling Klain a political insider with a legal background.

Klain served as a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden.

“He is the wrong choice,” DeMaio said.

Peters cited funding as a problem. He said money for scientific research at the National Institutes of Health has not kept pace with inflation.

“This has put us at risk, and stunted the ability of our talented researchers to innovate and discover,” Peters said.

Peters noted that heightened screening will cover 95 percent of the passengers coming from countries where Ebola is present. He said the U.S. should consider a travel ban but did not demand it.

“At the very least, we must have mandatory screening and quarantine areas available at airport screening centers,” Peters said.

Peters also said he has been talking to area hospitals and health clinics about the protocols they have in place to detect the Ebola virus. He is organizing a fact-finding workshop on Monday for local health care workers to ensure preparedness before any local infection might be detected.

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