74th Assembly District - My Decision
THIS DARN BALLOT!
Today is the day I'll complete my absentee ballot for the June 5th primary election. It will be in the mail Tuesday. As always, part of it is cause for consternation. For example, we have twenty-five (25) candidates for the United States Senate! Who in the world has the time, or inclination, to try to sort through all those folks to make an informed decision? Even if you try to vote a straight party line, trying to sort out those of your party from the others can make your head hurt.
But that's not the reason for this post. Nope, today I'm going to tell you who I'm casting my ballot for in the race for the 74th Assembly District, and why.
We've thrashed this issue around on this blog for a couple months. To refresh your memory, you can read what I wrote about the Feet To The Fire Forum in April, HERE, and Leslie Daigle's reaction to that particular post the next day, HERE. You can also read what I wrote about the candidate forum in Laguna Beach last Friday night, HERE. That's the one Daigle decided to avoid, leaving only Allan Mansoor and Bob Rush to face the public and discuss issues.
CHECKING THE RESUMES
So, off we go. Let me preface my comments by saying that I don't ever expect to agree with every candidate for any office on every issue. While a lovely fantasy, it's not the way the world works. I look at each candidate based on what they potentially bring to the office they're trying to achieve. I look at their track record. If they've held elective office before I want to know what they accomplished. I want to know if they have the intellectual horsepower to handle the new job. Does their academic history form a solid foundation for the rigors of the work ahead? What kind of preparation for this job has their employment history provided? Politics is, in great part, the art of negotiation, so I want to know if the candidates have shown us that they are skilled in that area. Are they willing to compromise where necessary for the greater good, or do they dig their heels in and not give an inch?
I also want to know if they've demonstrated the ability to build consensus in difficult situations. Have they taken a leadership role when tackling tough issues? Does their style unify or divide people? In the case of the Assembly, since California is a very diverse state demographically, have they demonstrated the ability to reach across ethnic boundaries to solve problems? Have they been effective in their professional lives and in other public positions they've held? Will their personal lives - financial and otherwise - permit them to spend enough time in this new job? What is their personal philosophy of governance? What, or who, do they look to for guidance, mentoring, inspiration and financial support? These factors, among many others, are things I consider when assessing candidates for any elected position and are among those I will look at when considering candidates for the 74th Assembly District. Let us begin...
Allan Mansoor is a man about which I know a great deal. I've watched him in action for eight years as a Costa Mesa City Councilman, including his multiple tours as mayor. I actually knew a little bit about him before that, too. He was a frequent commenter on the now-dormant Concerned Costa Mesa Citizens web site - basically a chat room created by some Costa Mesa residents as a place to "discuss" issues in the community. Without going into all the lengthy details, suffice it to say that several items caught the eye of the local media - Daily Pilot reporter Lolita Harper wrote a 3-part expose' on the site - and the Orange County Human Relations Commission became aware of it and started nosing around. One of the issues was the posting of anti-gay articles by Allan Mansoor who, at that time, was a member of the Costa Mesa Human Relations Committee. Following the public scrutiny the owners of the site eventually just folded it up. As a sidebar, during Mansoor's tenure on the city council the Human Relations Committee was unceremoniously defunded then disbanded without so much as a simple "thank you" to the participants, some of whom had devoted decades to the work done by that committee.
Mansoor was a career Orange County Sheriff's Deputy and, despite his presentation that he spent time in patrol and other assignments, most of his tour of duty was spent as a jailer. That's not necessarily bad - those jobs are essential - but his performance on the city council clearly demonstrated that he had little, if any, grasp of real law enforcement.
BIAS AND DIVISIVENESS MARKED HIS COUNCIL TENURE
During his tenure on the Costa Mesa City Council Mansoor was a divisive figure. Although the son of immigrants - a badge he proudly wears and brings tears to his eyes in public - is personal animosity for the immigrant population of our city was evident in many of his actions. Few will forget the night he had immigrants-rights activist Benito Acosta dragged from council chambers by a half-dozen officers and arrested. That ham-handed handling of an already volatile situation split our city and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and Acosta's name continues to appear on warrants for payment to our legal counsel years later. He was embraced by the radical right because of his "bravery" and made an honorary "Minuteman" by the Grand Pooba of that organization himself, Jim Gilchrist.
AN AMIABLE EMPTY SUIT
Mansoor's platform for the Assembly seat is founded on Pension Reform, yet during his tenure on the Costa Mesa City Council - including his time as mayor - he accomplished NOTHING in that area. In his two years in the Assembly he has accomplished NOTHING. He has shown no leadership in either job - which is not surprising to me, having watched him in action for more than a decade. He is academically and intellectually unprepared for this job and his philosophy is only an echo of words provided for him by the leadership of the Orange County Republican Party, who have plowed lots of money into his campaign in the form of Independent Expenditures.
SPEWING THE PARTY LINE
In a recent post on his blog, Civil Thinking, my friend, Bruce Krochman addressed this race and said the following: "What Mr. Mansoor does bring, is the ability to stay in line with party leadership. In the broader scheme of things, of this group of candidates, that is the one quality that above all else makes Assemblyman Mansoor the one to vote for. " And, in my opinion, that single characteristic is what makes him unworthy of my vote. What we need in Sacramento are people willing and ABLE to work across the aisle to make things better for all Californians. Mansoor does not possess the skills to do that - never has and probably never will. He won't get my vote.
Leslie Daigle has been a HUGE disappointment to me. I had high hopes that she would be a very viable alternative to Mansoor in this race. She's been a member of the Newport Beach City Council for several years but I don't have a sense that she's been a consensus-builder in that role. She won re-election two years ago, so I'm assuming the voters in Newport Beach thought she was doing a good job. I WANTED to like her as a candidate and tried to establish a rapport with her early in her campaign. Then came the Feet To The Fire Forum.
FEET TO THE FIRE FAILURE
At that event, which pitted the egos of some journalists against the egos of politicians, Daigle failed miserably. She was clearly uncomfortable trying to field questions from some members of the press who may have had an ax to grind with her. I was not the only person who felt that way following the event and when I wrote about it Daigle took extreme exception to my characterization. I wrote about that, too.
CHARLIE MUNGER'S MONEY
Daigle has managed to win very significant financial support from the Chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Party, Charles Munger. His group has plowed somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 into her campaign. My mailbox has been flooded with literature supporting her and bad-mouthing Mansoor - and vice versa. I've saved them all. I'm not so naive to think that tons of cash wouldn't be thrown into this race - there's a lot to lose.
A NO-SHOW - WHY?
Despite my plea - which went unanswered, by the way - Daigle decided to NOT participate in what is likely the last chance for the three candidates in this race to meet face-to-face and discuss issues. Last Friday night only Mansoor and Rush showed up at the Laguna Beach City Hall for the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and other community groups. A chair on the dais with her name on it remained reserved for her the entire evening. I suspect, considering her poor performance at the Feet To The Fire Forum earlier, she and her advisers may have decided tactically to just blow off this event for fear of doing more damage. Well, it didn't work. I heard not a single comment in support of her absence from that event that evening.
AFRAID OF CONFRONTATION?
Despite her otherwise attractive - to me - more moderate positions on issues, if she is unwilling to discuss important issues with her opposition during a campaign, how in the world can we expect her to handle the interests important to the voters of the 74th Assembly District in Sacramento? If she is afraid of confrontation she has NO chance of being effective up there. Much to my disappointment - because I feel the Republican Party is letting this state slip away, and I feel we need strong, competent elected Republicans in both houses of the Legislature to improve things - I cannot support Leslie Daigle in this race.
Which brings us to Robert Rush - the political neophyte and freshly-minted Democrat. I must tell you right off the bat, I wish Rush had chosen to register as a Republican for this race - he could have, after all. His views on most issues are moderate, although he differs with the GOP party line on abortion and same sex marriage. So, he switched from "Decline to State" to Democrat to run in this race. I guess I understand why.
THE RIGHT SKILL SET
Rush, while never a candidate for any office before, has become an avid community activist. He launched and led the battle against the proliferation of rehabilitation facilities in Newport Beach, a baptism by fire in anyone's book. That activism didn't make him popular among many of the entrenched politicians in that city, but he plowed ahead. And, he's a CPA and a very successful businessman, both of which are extremely desirable attributes for someone charged with trying to sort out California's abysmal fiscal situation. He knows how to negotiate deals.
He was, in the view of many people, the "winner" at the Feet To The Fire Forum, demonstrating an ability to think on his feet and speak off the cuff and knowing when to just quietly sit there and let those around him implode. At the Laguna Beach forum he also did well, handling himself with self-assured maturity and never hesitating to answer tough questions. He just seemed confident. At the time I felt he and Mansoor had a draw for the evening. My opinion was based purely on how they each did that night. Their differences were clear, as were the many areas in which they shared a common vision for change. The question, of course, which of them can get that change accomplished.
The Orange County Democratic Party apparatus has been slow to embrace him. I suppose that's understandable, since he's an unknown to them, too. I'm OK with that. It actually makes him a more attractive candidate to me. However, he's done a good job of reaching out to Democrat enclaves over the past couple months and has generally avoided the mud-slinging that Mansoor and Daigle have employed in their campaigns.
And so, as this new, scary Open Primary permits - and although I'm a life-long Republican who has NEVER voted for a Democrat in a partisan race before - I'm going to lean over and mark my ballot for Bob Rush for the 74th Assembly District seat. I've decided that it is unacceptable to place an incompetent ideologue - Mansoor - who has no chance at all of accomplishing anything in Sacramento, in that chair. And Daigle - who might have been my choice except for her unwillingness to engage her opponents - leaves me no alternative. Although I disagree on some issues with Rush, his centrist leanings lead me to feel he has a much better chance of influencing issues that cry out for change than either of the other candidates. If he manages to be one of the two candidates left standing on June 6th, the November election will be even more fun.
Now, back to the rest of the ballot. Heck, since Diane Feinstein will probably have this thing wrapped up again, I might just vote for Orly Taitz for Senate, just for fun.