Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Singeing Supervisor Candidate's Digits

Last night the four candidates for the Orange County 2nd District Supervisor race met at the Costa Mesa Community Center and were grilled for a fast-paced hour by Barbara Venezia and her merry mob of interrogators - Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, City Editor Alicia Lopez, Orange County Register columnist Jack Wu and Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana, Jr.

 Board of Equalization Vice Chair Michelle Steel, Coast Community College District Board member Jim Moreno, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, and Huntington Beach City Councilman Joe Carchio endured this edition of the now-famous Feet To The Fire Forum - the seventh in the series - and all walked away without the need of resuscitation.

Steel brought with her an enthusiastic crowd of admirers, who were planted front and center fully a half-hour before the event began.  Support for the others seemed sparse and scattered by comparison.
The "format" - described by some as Jerry Springeresque - was rapid and random, with some candidates being able to fully answer questions and others not so much.  As has been the case in previous events like this one, interrogators talked over each other and candidates and some were left with their hands in the air as the questions moved on without them.
That being said, at the end of that whirlwind hour I suspect most in the audience of around 100 souls  had a pretty clear idea of each of the candidates.  I notice several other political players in the room, including some of the young cadre of OC GOP up-and-comers.  Supervisor Todd Spitzer was there, but termed-out John Moorlach - who's seat is in play for this election - was not.  And, our matriarch of Orange County politics, former Assemblywoman, State Senator and Secretary of Education Marian Bergeson, attended this one, too.
Canalis led off the questioning by asking each of the candidates whether, if elected, they would forgo their pensions?  Steel said yes.  Moreno gave a long answer about trying to use it to fund necessary programs.  Mansoor said he "probably would", then danced around the issue, stating that he was not "independently wealthy" - a slam at Steel.  Carchio said he had done so in Huntington Beach and saw no reason to change.
The question then turned to whether they would support a move to remove Supervisor's pensions.  Only Moreno answered that one, and then only partially, before the conversation got sidetracked into a broader "pension" dialogue.  Santana attempted to get each of them to answer specific questions, but they each dodged them like a ring full of bullfighters.  Moreno said pensions are "a horrendous problem".  Mansoor said he led by example - indicating that he didn't take any pay raises while in Sacramento.  That, of course, didn't answer the question.  Carchio discussed his experiences in Huntington Beach.
The issue of the beleaguered CalOptima program came up.  Several of the candidates didn't seem to have done their homework on it so the discussion sank.

Mansoor was asked why people who supported him just two years ago for his current seat should support him now for this move, speculating that they might worry that he would jump again in another couple years.  He said, "I can respect that", but that he was supporting Huntington Beach councilman Don Hansen for this role, then he chose not to run, so he felt there needed to be someone with strong roots - again alluding to Steel's perceived carpetbagger status.  He indicated that "we need someone who can hit the ground running." - meaning himself.
Jack Wu, during that discussion, made an oblique reference to Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, talking about how Mansoor appointed him to the Planning Commission only a short time after he moved to Costa Mesa from Fountain Valley.  The discussion was frenetic, but Mansoor was clearly rattled by that one.  He said something curious about Righeimer "being able to walk over from Fountain Valley."
Each managed to include a little personal history, including Carchio.  His verbal resume seemed tailor-made for the job of Supervisor.  He's been on the Huntington Beach City Council, lived in Orange County 35 years, coached baseball and football, is the Chairman of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), is in the PTA, on the board of the Orange County Waste Management Board, the Vector Control Board, California League of Cities and many others.  I got exhausted just listening to the list.
There was an amusing exchange when Mansoor was asked why he was running when Carchio was running.  He said he "liked Joe, but I don't think he can win."

At that point Moreno discussed his background working as a Deputy Supervisor in Los Angeles County for thirteen years - part of his 35 years in that county government.  He also spoke of his time on the Coast Community College District Board for the past 7 years, during which more than 60,000 students received degrees or transferred to other schools.
At one point each candidate was asked to tell the panel how much money they had in their campaign war chests, excluding personal loans to it.  Their answers were:
Carchio - $75,000
Mansoor - $100,000
Moreno - $40,000
Steel - $550,000

Yes, that is NOT a typo... Steel has more than a half-million bucks to spend!  Mansoor told the crowd that he's been outspent in every race he'd ever run in and won them all.

A RECORD OF..... ?
When asked about his accomplishments in Sacramento Mansoor was unable to point to any bill of his that had passed - he apparently forgot the one that took the word "retard" out of the official Sacramento lexicon.  Funny, because that was it - his "accomplishment".

And on and on... it was much like watching doubles badminton, with candidates taking giant whacks at the shuttlecock, only to have it drop softly at the feet of the opponent.  Still, it was entertaining and you'll soon be able to watch it on Newport Beach Television and, if they provide a DVD to CMTV, on that station, too.

I came away with the following impressions:

Michelle Steel is probably a very smart woman and probably really knows her subject matter, but she has a problem communicating it in memorable sound bites.  She has a gigantic war chest and likely will outspend all the other candidates combined.  That doesn't make her the best choice, though.  There's this whole "carpetbagger" perception issue and the almost slobbering embrace by the OC GOP hierarchy that just doesn't seem to square with her actual qualifications.  Early in the race and my mailbox seems to have something from her campaign every day.

Allan Mansoor, a brand new father, seemed very defensive and was clearly the most aggressive candidate on the stage.  His not-too-subtle barbs aimed at Steel demonstrated to me that he thinks she's the one to beat.  He's in the unenviable position of having decided to bail out of his current gig with no apparent fall-back position if he loses to her.  And, virtually all the big name GOP support is going to Steel.  Having watched him in action for more than a decade I can say that Mansoor is, well, Mansoor - an affable, not very smart and ineffective politician who seems very uncomfortable with that role in life.

Jim Moreno has a lifetime of public service, including some very relevant experience working for an LA County Supervisor - whom he did not name, by the way.  His experience on the Coast Community College Board is also impressive.  He was not rattled last night during the verbal food fight we witnessed.  I came away from the evening thinking he was probably a pretty steady hand.

Joe Carchio - a man whom I've never met before - had the best "resume" of the bunch.  His experience seems to perfectly position him for this job - he actually does know Orange County.  He's held several elected and appointed positions simultaneously and, apparently, successfully and he managed the chaos the best last night.  He was unflappable.  I don't know what kind of a council member he has been in Huntington Beach, nor am I familiar with his other contributions as a member of other boards, but I'd like to know more.  If I had to vote today, based only on what I know about the candidates right now,  I'd vote for him.

So, another Feet To The Fire Forum in the can.  The next one is way, way out in September, on the 18th, when the Costa Mesa City Council candidates will get their chance to be spindled and toasted on the campus of Orange Coast College - a new, larger venue.  Thanks to Barbara Venezia and her team for another enlightening, entertaining evening.  Again, I found myself wanting more...

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