Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I was appointed to serve as the Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector on March 17, 1995. I was elected to serve in the State Legislature for the 37th Senate District on March 17, 2015. So, let’s start the discussion on those willing to endure the process to serve the public.
Campaign season officially opened at 5 p.m. on March 9th for most of the races on the ballot. March 9th was the last day for a candidate to file to be officially recognized on the Primary ballot, unless the incumbent chooses to not rerun, thus giving a five-day extension. As this deadline was March 14th, what is affectionately known as “silly season,” is now upon us.
With campaigns come endorsements. My grid for making endorsements is rather simple. First, I usually stay out of races where two friends are running against each other, unless I have a long-time and close relationship with one of them. Second, as a member of the California Republican Party, the bylaws require that I only endorse Republicans, which I stick to rare exceptions in nonpartisan contests. And thirdly, in races with two or more Republicans, tradition dictates that I support the incumbent, with even rarer exceptions.
Today’s topic is the Orange County Congressional races. I’ll try to address the five ballot measures in a future UPDATE, as I am a signatory in opposition to two of the propositions, Propositions 68 and 69, something I haven’t participated in since Proposition 71 in 2004.
The Voice of OC provides a broad and in depth overview of all of the races in the first piece below. Note: It was released on March 12th.
The Laguna Beach Indy takes a closer look at the 48th Congressional District in the second piece below. When Scott Baugh contacted me, I reminded him of the protocol to not contest sitting incumbents. But, I was not there to tell him that Congressman Rohrabacher was a better candidate.
And the Daily Pilot provides an editorial perspective in the third piece below. The Congressman has stated he was going to retire in two years so many times in the past that he’s been dishonest and abusive to those that are ready to get some real work done in D.C.
After I reminded Scott Baugh of the Party’s protocol, I told him that if he decided to run anyway, I would support him.
I was there when Dana won in 1988. I oversaw the volunteer efforts of his campaign in 1992, finding volunteers to walk every precinct in Costa Mesa on his behalf. It was an effort that had a big impact on my life. But, 30 years later and that I cannot recognize any major committee chairmanships or legislative accomplishments by our Congressman is a tragedy. Especially from a District overloaded with talent. So, this is a very rare exception for me. A protocol should not be an umbrella that protects mediocrity and stagnation. The Republican Party deserves better. And, in my opinion, Dana has made severe missteps of late and I am one who really wants to improve the brand.
Candidates for OC’s Four Contested Congressional Seats
U.S. Capitol building. ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL
By SPENCER CUSTODIO AND THY VO
The crowded field of candidates running for four Orange County Congressional seats narrowed slightly Friday, as several candidates failed to file paperwork by the 5 p.m. deadline for their names to appear on the June 5 primary election ballot.
Democrats nationwide are targeting the four Orange County Republican strongholds, the 39th, 45th, 48th and 49th Congressional districts, in a campaign to secure 24 seats across the country that would give them a majority in the House of Representatives. They consider at least some of the four Orange County GOP-held seats vulnerable because for the first time in 80 years, the four districts voted for a Democrat, Hilary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats are focused on two districts where longtime incumbents, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) of the 39th district and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) of the 49th district, aren’t running for re-election. Because the incumbents aren’t running, the deadline for filing in those two districts is Wednesday, March 14.
Orange County Democratic leaders have tried in recent weeks to narrow the field of candidates in order to avoid a scenario in June where Democratic voters split their power among several candidates, allowing two Republican candidates to receive the majority of votes and move onto the November general election. California has a “top two” primary where the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary, regardless of their political party, face off in November.
But few candidates have stepped aside. In the 39th District for example, so far 19 candidates have filed, including 10 Democrats and seven Republicans.
The state Democratic Convention last month resulted in only two endorsements out of the four Congressional Districts because delegates from the 39th and 49th districts couldn’t decide who to recommend.
And there are no endorsements from state Republicans yet because their convention isn’t until the weekend of May 4.
39th Congressional District
There could be over 19 candidates will be on the June 5 primary ballot for voters in the 39th district, including nine Democrats. After 25-year Republican Congressman Royce announced in January he wouldn’t seek re-election, six Republicans entered the race. There also is one candidate registered as having no party preference and one from the American Independent Party.
More candidates could file by the extended 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline.
The 39th district includes most of north Orange County, including parts of Buena Park, Placentia and Anaheim Hills and contains all of Yorba Linda, Brea, La Habra and Fullerton. It also includes parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Candidate filing data came from the registrars of voters those three counties but the Secretary of State will compile the official list of candidates after March 14.
Democratic candidate Andy Thorburn raised the most money last year at $2.5 million, including $2 million of his own money, but former one-term Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim gathered the most endorsements including Royce, whom Kim worked for before she was elected to the State Assembly in 2014.
Kim also is endorsed by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and 2nd District Supervisor Michelle Steel. Seven Republican Assemblymembers have endorsed her as have numerous city council members from communities in and outside the 39th district.
Republican county Supervisor Shawn Nelson, another 39th district candidate, has been endorsed by five California Republican officeholders including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Assemblyman Phillip Chen of Diamond Bar, State Senator John Moorlach of Costa Mesa, Orange County 1st District Supervisor Andrew Do and San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman.
The Federal Elections Commission website has no campaign finance data for Nelson, Kim and the other Republicans who entered the race earlier this year. The next quarterly filing date for campaign finance is March 31.
Thorburn has garnered endorsements from some Democrats including Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles.
Like Thorburn, Democratic challenger Gil Cisneros gave himself a little over $1.3 million, and raised $1.6 million last year. But unlike other high fundraising Democratic candidates, Cisneros is endorsed by several Democratic state and federal elected officials: eight members of Congress, including Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Linda Sanchez of Whittier; and three Assembly members, including Sharon Quirk-Silva of Fullerton.
While the district spans three counties and has 361,000 registered voters, the bulk of voters are in Orange County at 223,000, according to a January voter registration report from the Secretary of State.
Republicans still hold a slight edge in the district with 35.5 percent of voters, with Democrats close behind with 34 percent. Voters with no party preference total 26 percent.
Election analysis website Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball lists the 39th as a toss up while another handicapper site, The Cook Political Report, lists the district leaning Democratic.
45th Congressional District
There are five challengers looking to unseat Rep. Mimi Walters in the southeast Orange County district, including five Democrats and one no party preference candidate. Walters raised the most money last year with $1.6 million, over half of it from a joint fundraising committee, Mimi Walters Victory Fund, which is used by other political action committees to fundraise and spend on events. Walters has been in office for three years.
So far, the closest anybody’s gotten to Walter’s war chest is Democrat Brian Forde, who raised $873,000. Around $100,000 of that was directed to his campaign through San Francisco-based Coinbase, a digital currency bank, but Forde’s web site doesn’t list any endorsements.
Katie Porter, a Democrat, is just behind Forde with $741,000 raised. She’s been able to score some high-level endorsements, including Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Democrat Dave Min raised $678,000 last year. Min won the state Democratic party endorsement in late February, which means he’ll likely be able to increase his campaign fundraising ability. He’s been endorsed by Quirk-Silva and her husband, Fullerton Councilman Jesus Silva.
48th Congressional District
Voters in the 48th district will have 16 names on their primary ballot, including incumbent Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher has been in Congress for nearly 30 years. He’s going up against five other Republicans, including former state Assembly Republican leader Scott Baugh.
Rohrabacher raised nearly $1.1 million last year, with a sizeable chunk coming from various political action committees like the California Victory Fund, a political action committee that doesn’t have any financial information on the FEC website yet.
Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Harley Rouda Jr. also raised about $1.3 million last year. He self-funded most of his war chest at nearly $750,000. ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising organization, also has been giving to Rouda’s campaign.
Rouda is endorsed by former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and state Senator Henry Stern of Canoga Park.
While Baugh didn’t raise any money last year, he enters the race with $545,000 in campaign finances left over from 2016 when he was setting up a run. He just entered the race last week.
Democrat Hans Keirstead raised $872,000 last year and, like Rouda, Keirstead also is self-funded, but much less at about $210,000. He’s also received numerous contributions from ActBlue. The state Democratic Party endorsed Keirstead at its convention last month. Keirstead also has endorsements from two Congressmen and State Senator Bill Dodd of Napa.
The district spans the coastal cities of Orange County from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel and stretches east into parts of Westminster and Garden Grove. It also includes Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach.
Rohrabacher, who has been a member of Congress since 1989, won reelection in 2016 with a nearly 17-point margin over his opponent. But this year, the Cook Report and Crystal Ball classified the district as a toss up.
The district is home to 400,000 voters and the Republicans hold over 40 percent of the registered voters. Democrats are at just under 30 percent of voters, while the no preference voters make up just over a quarter of the district.
Like the rest of the districts, about half of voters turned out for the 2016 primaries, a presidential election year, up from about a quarter on average in primaries before that. In 2014, the turnout was just under 25 percent.
49th Congressional District
The 49th could have least 10 candidates heading into the primary election, after the district’s Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista said in January he won’t seek reelection. Most of the district is in San Diego County but it also includes south Orange County.
There are four Republicans running for Issa’s seat, four Democrats, one Peace and Freedom candidate and one candidate from the K-9 party. The candidate filing data was pulled from Orange County and San Diego County registrars of voters. San Diego’s list doesn’t list anyone as qualified for ballot, even the candidates who’ve filed their nomination papers. The registrar’s website calls it the “unofficial list” of candidates.
Like the 39th district, the deadline to file candidacy papers has been extended to March 14 because of Issa’s announcement. The Secretary of State will make an official candidate list after that.
Issa, whose first term was in 2001, won reelection in 2016 by less than a percentage point against Democratic challenger Doug Applegate. Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, is running again this election.
Democratic challenger Sara Jacobs raised the most money last year with $1.3 million. She self-funded over $1 million of that amount. She’s received endorsements from three members of Congress.
On Jacobs’ heels is Democrat Mike Levin, who managed to raise $1.2 million, mostly through individual contributions and money from ActBlue. He’s received endorsements from eight Congress members including Adam Schiff of Burbank, two state Senators and three Assembly members.
Democrat Paul Kerr isn’t far behind with just over $1 million in his war chest. He self-funded the bulk of that at around $700,000.
Meanwhile, Applegate is behind at $680,000. He’s been endorsed by Assemblyman Tom Daly of Anaheim and former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
Republican candidates don’t have any campaign finance data available yet from the FEC website.
Applegate isn’t the only former Marine in the 49th District race, which encompasses Marine Corps Camp Pendleton in north San Diego County.
GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, also a retired Marine colonel, is running. While there’s no campaign finance data available for his campaign yet, he’s started gathering endorsements from various city council members in San Diego county.
Another GOP elected official, Board of Equalization Chairwoman Diane Harkey, entered the race after Issa’s announcement and has garnered an endorsement from 45th District Congresswoman Walters. Additionally, Orange County Supervisors Do, Michelle Steel and Lisa Bartlett are backing Harkey, as is Sheriff Hutchens.
The district touches the most southern cities in the county, including San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and San Clemente. The 49th also stretches down the west side of San Diego county, ending before La Jolla.
The 49th district is home to 380,000 registered voters in Orange and San Diego counties. Republicans still hold the majority at 37 percent, while Democrats are at 31 percent. Like the other districts, the no preference voters make up just over a quarter of registered voters.
The Cook Report and the Crystal Ball classify the district as leaning Democratic.
By : Andrea Adelson
Eighteen people qualified as June primary candidates in the congressional race for District 48 along Orange County’s coastal communities, including the last-minute entry of former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh.
Baugh, who served five years in the state Assembly 18 years ago, said his decision to challenge fellow Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher was partly compelled by the urging of co-workers, neighbors and supporters.
“This chorus of people encouraged me to run because Dana has said he wants to retire and I think it shows in where he places his current priorities,” Baugh said in an interview Wednesday, a week after he turned in his candidacy papers to the Orange County Registrar.
Rohrabacher, of Costa Mesa and currently serving his 15th term, is “preoccupied with Putin, Assange and marijuana,” said Baugh. “The chorus I’m hearing is that 30 years is enough.”
California’s “jungle” primary catapults the top two vote getters onto the November ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Republicans hold 40 percent of the district’s registration to 30 percent each among Democrats and no party preference voters.
Some party insiders have expressed concern that eight or more Democratic contenders in District 48 will splinter support and jeopardize the chances that any one of them will succeed in the primary. Now the county GOP, whose state party followed protocol by endorsing the incumbent, is in a similar situation with five Republicans on the June primary ballot.
“The fact that Scott Baugh is moving forward regardless of the party endorsement shows there is now division within the Republican party,” said Omar Siddiqui, 50, of Costa Mesa, one of the Democratic rivals in the contest. “Anything is possible; the key thing is to get out the vote. The no-party preference vote can make a world of difference.”
Dan Walters, in a post on the political newsletter Calmatters, suggested that Baugh’s candidacy exploits the lack of discipline among Democrats and the California primary system to block Democrats from reaching the November ballot and thus preserving an embattled seat for Republicans.
“There is a lot of talk here of the two Republicans winning,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, a friend of Baugh who nevertheless expressed surprise at his candidacy.
District 48 Democratic candidate Michael Kotick, 34, of Laguna Beach, disagrees with that scenario. He thinks Baugh lacks both name recognition outside of party insiders and a campaign infrastructure. “I don’t think this changes the game plan. I think it’s going to be won by who goes door to door and who puts in the work to connect with voters in the district.”
In anticipation of Rohrabacher’s retirement in 2016, Baugh, 55, of Huntington Beach, raised a campaign war chest that stands at $576,000, which now ranks third in the fundraising race among candidates, based on Dec. 31 Federal Election Commission filings.
Democratic challenger Harley Rouda, 56, of Laguna Beach, leads with $834,000, while the incumbent has $713,000 on hand, followed by Siddiqui with $540,000 and Hans Keirstead, also of Laguna, with $490,000. The district spans the coast from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach and includes Garden Grove.
“He’s proven he’s a money raiser,” Moorlach said of Baugh. “That’s impressive.”
As a lawmaker, Baugh developed good relationships with state Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg, now a state senator. “He displayed an ability to work across the aisle,” said Moorlach, but noted that Baugh’s candidacy upends the party protocol ceding deference to incumbents. “This is a rebellion,” Moorlach said.
Baugh denied trying to sabotage the chances of success by a Democrat in the primary in his own bid to unseat Rohrabacher. “That is not my intent,” he said. “This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made,” he said, citing mutual friendships, his own friendship with the lawmaker and party protocol. “All of those make it really difficult.” Even so, Baugh said, “the time is now to start working on things that matter and I think Dana’s lost that focus.”
Baugh said his decision was also partly shaped by a recently forwarded 1993 article where Rohrabacher voiced his support for term limits. In explaining his position, Rohrabacher said, “you’re actually part of the system here rather than representing your people back home.”
“He’s become precisely what he predicted,” Baugh said.
Rohrabacher did not respond to a request for comment about Baugh’s candidacy. Neither did OC GOP chair Fred Whitaker.
In a statement, Keirstead, who has received the endorsement of the state Democratic party, said “Orange County voters have zero confidence that Donald Trump, Dana Rohrabacher, or Scott Baugh are looking out for them.”
The district is one of several in the county where Trump lost in 2016 but Republican incumbents were re-elected.
About the Author
The author is the editor of the Laguna Beach Independent. Prior to taking the job in 2005, she worked previously as a reporter at five daily newspapers, including the Daily Pilot in Costa Mesa, the Daily News of Los Angeles and the New York Times. Reach her by emailing andrea.
Congressional primary makes rivals of two old Republican friends
By BARBARA VENEZIA
A political insider goes rogue, challenges powerful friends and a core principle of his party: Thou shall not run against an incumbent.
An intriguing pitch for a TV pilot, sure, but this drama is actually the new reality facing the Orange County Republican Party.
Republicans have a renegade in the 48th Congressional District race with former O.C. Republican Chairman Scott Baugh challenging incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa.
In 2016 Baugh told me Rohrabacher made it clear to him that he was “looking for a departure in 2016 or 2018.” This prompted Baugh to file a statement of candidacy and start fundraising to the tune of about half a million dollars.
Baugh said he wouldn’t run for the seat unless Rohrabacher retired.
When that didn’t happen, Baugh backed off.
That was until last week, when he pulled papers to run against his pal and challenge his party’s principle.
Was his original strategy not to have a two-year fight with Rohrabacher, but rather a three-month primary battle now?
Baugh chuckles at that suggestion, saying that certainly wasn’t his long-term game plan, and tells me he didn’t make the decision to run lightly.
“We have big issues facing the country — from the debt, dysfunctional heath care, open borders — and we need everyone pulling together, working on solutions,” he says.
Baugh points to his work as party chairman, managing opposing viewpoints and coming to consensus.
“I have a record of reaching across the aisle with the Democrats and solving problems,” he says. “If you’re in public office and not doing that then you’re not doing your job.”
Baugh explains it’s not enough to “vote the right way, but more important to create the voting opportunities with coalition building,” to get things accomplished.
Squarely in Baugh’s corner is state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who understands his party won’t be happy with him supporting Baugh, but there are bigger issues at stake.
Both Baugh and Moorlach feel Rohrabacher has been in this seat too long, 34 years, accomplishing nothing monumental, and it’s time for a change.
Considering the current fractured state of the party, disenchanted Republican voters might welcome this shake-up, offering someone other than Rohrabacher to support.
Couple that with the fact Baugh and Rohrabacher have been long-time friends (who knows your strengths and weaknesses better than a close friend?), this is going to be an interesting battle.
As party chairman, Baugh was a maverick of political strategy and fundraising, using these skills to support his candidates, including Rohrabacher’s past reelection bids.
He’ll certainly be a force to reckon with.
I wondered how Rohrabacher felt about all of this, but he wasn’t available for comment, according to his press person.
Rohrabacher’s already facing a crowded field of Democratic opponents. If this herd doesn’t thin, they risk splitting the opposing vote, because of California’s open primary, which means the top-two vote-getters face off in the general election.
In this scenario Rohrabacher could win, unless he faces another strong Republican, which Baugh is.
The county party isn’t happy with the prospect of this Clash of the Republican Titans.
On March 12, OCGOP Chairman Fred Whitaker sent out an email statement saying he’s “fielded dozens, if not a hundred emails and phone calls, asking why the Republican Party would allow Scott Baugh’s challenge to Congressman Rohrabacher in the 48th Congressional District.”
“Let me reiterate, we are a republic, not a dictatorship,” he wrote. “We can persuade, but we cannot prevent, nor should we want anyone to have that type of power. Party leadership actively communicated with Scott Baugh and others that challenging an endorsed Republican incumbent in good standing would not be well held.”
Whitaker acknowledges he holds the chairmanship in part because of Baugh.
“I would not be chairman, but for him asking me to run to succeed him,” he says. “I consider Scott to be my friend. I hope to work with him for our cause in the future. However, this path he’s taken is pitting Republican against Republican, taking dollars, donors and volunteers from our efforts to fight Democrats.”
Attached to Whitaker’s email notice was the letter sent to Baugh urging him not to run.
“Proceeding on your current path is destructive to the Republican Party of Orange County, which you helped build,” the letter warns. “It is divisive and presents an unnecessary distraction.”
As I read the release and the letter, nowhere did Whitaker call out specific accomplishments of Rohrabacher over the past three decades, but rather hung on to the principle that Republicans shouldn’t challenge incumbents.
Baugh’s reaction to Whitaker’s letter?
“It was very immature,” and dropped at his doorstep at 10:30 at night, Baugh says.
Baugh questions an attached list of names, including Orange County-area elected officials, supposedly endorsing the letter.
“About half the people either never heard of the letter or called to apologize for the letter,” he says. “I also received several calls from people who were being pressured to sign it but declined. The party has some well-meaning people but they are following dogma that protects all incumbents, even those that have been there for 30 years and should retire. It’s time for a change. My campaign is focused on voters, not back rooms where schemes are hatched.”
Feet to the Fire plans to explore this interesting race, giving all parties an opportunity to face each other, with a candidates forum at 6 p.m. May 30 at the Orange Coast College Robert B. Moore Theater.
BARBARA VENEZIA is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at bvontv1
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