Ballot Round-Up: Challengers Out-Earning Incumbents in Congressional, Assembly Races

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48th Congressional District incumbent Dana Rohrabacher (left) and challenger Harley Rouda.
— Photos courtesy of Dana Rohrabacher and Harley Rouda

Newport Beach voters have several decisions to make next week at the ballot booth.

A notable race is for the hotly contested 48th Congressional District, which includes Newport Beach and spans Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel.

During the primaries, it was a narrow roller coaster race for second place, including several switch-ups as officials counted votes after June 5.

The incumbent, 15-term Republican Dana Rohrabacher, easily took the top spot in the “jungle” primary election with 30.3 percent of the votes.

Out of more than a dozen challengers, including former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh, the two at the top of the list were Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda, both Democrats from Laguna Beach. Both swapped spots several times, once as narrowly as a difference of 45 votes.

Rouda ultimately snagged the coveted second place position with 30,099 votes, or 17.3 percent. Keirstead earned 29,974 votes, or 17.2 percent, and Baugh placed third with 27,514 votes, or 15.8 percent.

Now that there is less than a week before election day, things are heating up.

“During this volatile time, I desire to continue serving the residents of the 48th Congressional District,” Rohrabacher said on his website.

Unlike his well-financed opponent, he has “seniority and experience,” that will serve Orange County the country well, he added.

But Rouda argues that Rohrabacher has been “doing the bidding of special interests,” and not the residents of Orange County.

“Our Democracy is not built by career politicians. It’s not built by corporate PACs,” Rouda said this week. “It’s built by We the People.”

“Yes, we will unseat corrupt, career politician Dana Rohrabacher,” Rouda declared on social media recently.

California’s District 48 is one of the most expensive House races in the country during this election, according to Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics. It lands in sixth place of total spent, including both candidate campaign committees and outside groups.

A total of $24.16 million has been spent on the 48th District race, with just over $8 million of that coming from candidate campaign committees and rest, nearly $16 million, coming from outside spending groups.

Rohrabacher has raised $2,397,848. About 75 percent of his funds come from large individual contributions. Less than $84,000, or 3.48 percent, of that comes from small individual contributions of $200 or less.

Just over 12 percent of Rohrabacher’s funds come from PACs or other candidate committees. No self-financing reported.

Rouda has raised $6,771,526, with 74.6 percent of that coming from in-state donors. More than half of Rouda’s funds have come from large individual contributions. About 20 percent come from small individual contributions of $200 or less.

The Laguna Beach businessman also self-financed about $1.14 million, or 16.82 percent, of his total funds. About 5.4 percent of funds come from PACs or other candidate committees.

Rouda’s biggest contributor is University of California, $55,746, followed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., $40,794. Others include Swing Left, Stanford University, and Comcast Corp.

Rohrbacher’s biggest contributor comes from Centaurus Financial, for $21,600. Other contributors of $10,000 or more include AT&T Inc., Signal Hill Petroleum, Lincoln Club of Orange County, and Futek.

The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families.

Newport Beach voters will also consider candidates for the 74th Assembly District race.

Huntington Beach Republican incumbent Matthew Harper will face Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris, a Laguna Beach Democrat.

Huntington Beach Republican incumbent Matthew Harper will face challenger Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris, a Laguna Beach Democrat, on the ballot on Tuesday.
— Harper photo by Sara Hall/NB Indy file photo ©
— Petrie-Norris photo courtesy Petrie-Norris for Assembly 2018

The primary election for the 74th was a bit crowded as well. Harper easily took the top spot with 41.6 percent of the votes. Petrie-Norris collected 28.3 percent.

District 74, which includes Newport Beach. Costa Mesa, Irvine and Laguna Beach,

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 20, Petrie-Norris, with $ $983,136, has raised more contributions than Harper, at $391,949. Both received large donations from their state political parties.

Donors for Petrie-Norris include several other Democrat groups, Women in Leadership and other female leadership or political groups, many individuals and other Democrat candidates, including some she beat during the June primaries, United Workers of America Action Fund, California Professional Firefighters PAC, as well as some self-financing.

Harper’s donors include Edison International, Pacific Life, Poseidon Resources, AT&T, Pfizer Inc., G&M Oil Co., and more.

Another race Newport Beach residents will consider is for Orange County District Attorney. Both, incumbent Tony Rackauckas and OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer, spoke at the community meeting Speak Up Newport in October.

The challenger, Spitzer, was animated and held up newspapers to emphasize his points. Once saying he would “whisper” because he felt he was yelling. Passionate about the position, Spitzer highlighted a number of changes he wants to make in the office.

Rackauckas was even-toned and conversational. He touted his record and endorsements. Rather than focus on the things that need to be fixed, Rackauckas

Voters will also select their choice for several open seats on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees. Another school-related item on the ballot will be Measure H regarding NMUSD board term limits.

Locally, residents will choose between eight City Council candidates in four districts (incumbents listed first): Diane Dixon and Mike Glenn, running for District 1; Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Tim Stoaks, in District 3; Kevin Muldoon and Roy Englebrecht, in District 4; and Scott Peotter and Joy Brenner, in District 6.

District 1 covers Balboa Peninsula and West Newport; District 3 includes area around Castaways, Dover Shores, and up the bay to Santa Ana Heights; District 4 covers Eastbluff, One Ford Road, Bonita Canyon, and Baypointe; and District 6 includes Corona del Mar, Cameo Shores, and Pelican Hill.

Newport Beach residents will also vote on Measure T, which will ask to amend the City Charter with language that would require 55 percent voter approval prior to issuing lease-revenue bonds, like Certificates Of Participation, greater than $50 million to finance capital projects.

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