Mansoor/Rush Debate Roundup
Republican Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and freshly-minted Democrat challenger Rob Rush debated important issues before an attentive crowd at Laguna Beach City Hall Friday night. Newport Beach councilwoman Leslie Daigle - also a candidate for the new 74th Assembly seat, was a no-show. She notified the hosts earlier in the week that she would not attend.
BOTH WERE CORDIAL
Through the nearly 90 minutes of the program both Mansoor and Rush responded comfortably to more than 30 questions. If there was ANY personal animosity between them it certainly did not show. When they disagreed with each other they did so with maturity and professionalism. Several of us wondered if that same cordiality would have existed if Daigle had shown up for the event. Our guess was no, it wouldn't.
NOT SO DIFFERENT IN MANY AREAS
Mansoor, a far right Republican and Rush, a centrist Democrat, agreed on many more issues than I expected. Two areas where they had very different views were on abortion and same sex marriage. Mansoor is pro-life and does not support gay marriage. Rush is pro-choice and does support gay marriage. Although those subjects were mentioned more than once, they did not dominate the discussions.
A SMOOTH, RANCOR-FREE PROGRAM
I won't try to provide a detailed analysis of every response, but will give you impressions of the evening. My first impression was that both men came prepared and didn't fumble or stumble on answers. The questions posed to them were done with courtesy and each answered with clarity and no hint of sniping at each other.
A main theme ran through many of Mansoor's answers - Pension reform - including buying "Air Time" and pension spiking - is key to solving many of the problems in Sacramento and throughout the state. It was a constant drumbeat through the evening.
Both men disagreed with Governor Brown's fiscal program and didn't like the idea of raising taxes on folks making $250,000 per year. Curiously, both dodged a question about what, specifically, would they do to help the 74th Assembly district, instead addressing issues that were statewide concerns. Rush mentioned schools and Mansoor spoke of Pension Reform - again.
DRIVERS LICENSES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
They disagreed on whether illegal immigrants should be permitted to be tested for and receive California Drivers Licenses. Mansoor said no and cited his legal immigrant parents. Rush said yes, and cited the safety elements of having properly licensed individuals on the roads.
They disagreed on the need for more gun laws. Mansoor says we have plenty of gun laws and Rush felt they were too lax, citing the ability for a person to acquire 9-10 guns a year.
When asked what causes gridlock in Sacramento they had different answers. Mansoor said "special interests". Rush blamed it on the extreme right and lefts inability to compromise to get things accomplished.
PROPS 28 AND 29
When asked whether they support two items on the ballot - Props 28 (term limits) and 29 (cigarette tax increase) - they had different answers. Rush supported the term limits issue and had not made up his mind on 29, citing relatives who had died from cancer. Mansoor opposed both. He felt 29 would just funnel money to Sacramento that might be spent out of state and, regarding term limits, he felt they should be eliminated altogether.
Both men opposed re-opening the San Onofre Nuclear Plant, citing the age and shabby safety record.
When asked what should be done to lower tuition in state colleges Mansoor cited Pension Reform and Rush mentioned, among other things, Prop. 13. Unfortunately, that's a subject that is near and dear to most in the room. He was referring to Prop. 13 as it applies to business properties, not private residences. That part of his message was not clear until much later.
When asked about increasing revenues Mansoor said we need to change the things that are driving jobs from the state and again mentioned Pension Reform. Rush suggested further examination of expense cuts and, again, cited Prop. 13 - and again the crowd squirmed. When asked whether they would sign a "no new taxes" pledge, Mansoor said yes and Rush said no.
Both men opposed the new early-release program that is dumping convicted criminals into the counties and cities because the state prisons are full. Mansoor expressed that there should be "no unfunded mandates" - programs foisted off on local jurisdictions without a funding mechanism in place. And on and on it went.
OPEN DOORS VS. COMPROMISE
In closing Mansoor reminded everyone that his door is always open - a phrase that permeated much of his dialogue Friday night. Rush plans to meet with as many groups as he can to continue to get the pulse of the district. He reminded the crowd that his strength is negotiation and a willingness to compromise to solve problems.
How would I score the participants? Well, after much contemplation, I would have to say it was a draw. As almost everyone knows, I'm not an Allan Mansoor fan, but he did well in this venue. Bob Rush continues to show me that he has skills and more to be tapped. If he landed in Sacramento I have no doubt that he could be an agent of change. I can't say that about Mansoor. He's had two years to show us something and has failed to do so.
DAIGLE A ZERO
I believe this is the final opportunity for the three candidates to discuss issues face-to-face before the election on June 5th. Leslie Daigle missed a huge opportunity Friday night. Instead, she gets a big ZERO for not showing up. I'll be mailing my absentee ballot on Tuesday and there will not be a check mark beside her name.
NO POWER PLAYERS PRESENT
Interestingly, neither man had visible support from their Orange County party hierarchy. Rush has not received the endorsement of the Democratic Party of Orange County, but Mansoor is the fair-haired boy of the OC GOP which is pumping a lot of money into his campaign. Although each had an entourage of supporters and, in Mansoor's case, staff - none of the power players showed up. I'm not sure how to interpret that.
Now we'll see how the money being thrown around in this campaign will affect the results. Daigle, as most know, has received a huge influx of cash from Charlie Munger from northern California - around $500,000 so far. She and Mansoor are trading hit pieces almost every day. Rush is spending MUCH less and it's very difficult to measure the impact he's having. Since this is the first time we will have an open primary, cross-ticket voting may play a big part in determining which two of the three will be left standing on June 6th. We'll see...
In case you might be wondering what other folks are thinking about this race. You can read my friend, Bruce Krochman's views from his blog, Civil Thinking, HERE. And, you can read Jean Hastings Ardell's thoughts in her column in the Newport Beach Independent, HERE.