The 74th Assembly District candidates each got “singed” at Thursday night’s Newport/Mesa Feet to the Fire forum.
All three candidates got into heated discussions, some more often than others, about a range of topics at the event, held at the Costa Mesa Community Center.
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, both republicans, and Democrat Bob Rush, were sitting in the hot seats.
Attendees heard the candidates answer some hot questions by a panel of local journalists, including Newport Beach Independent Editor, Roger Bloom. Other panelists included former Indy publisher and now general manager of The Current, Tom Johnson, Daily Pilot editor and forum co-creator, John Canalis, Voice of OC Editor Norberto Santana Jr., and former Indy columnist, now at the Daily Pilot, Jack Wu.
Barbara Venezia, Orange County Register columnist, moderated the event.
The candidates were quickly thrown right into the flames with the first question about the proposed 19th Street bridge and whether or not they support it.
Rush and Mansoor both plainly and quickly stated no, they do not support the bridge. Daigle hesitated, drawing the night’s first big reaction from the crowd. She ultimately said no, she doesn’t support the bridge, but does support appropriate offsets to handle the traffic.
Mansoor questioned Daigle’s position, saying she has switched between opposing and supporting it.
“I think it’d be great if you were to stay on the City Council until you decide what side of the bridge you’re on,” Mansoor said.
Daigle retorted and asked Mansoor that, if he is so opposed to the plan, then why didn’t he “delete the bridge” while he was on the Orange County Transportation Authority.
The discussion became heated and went back and forth between Daigle and Mansoor about why the other one didn’t do something to stop the bridge.
Rush jumped in and called the bridge “DOA” and that spending another minute on the issue is a waste of time.
Following Rush’s comments, Wu brought it back to the bridge while getting another laugh from the crowd.
Since the bridge is now off OCTA’s table, Wu said, he questioned Daigle’s position concerning what Newport Bach City Attorney Aaron Harp said about the city perusing litigation against OCTA regarding their decision.
Daigle suggested Wu talk to Harp about whatever he said. She then claimed that Rush gathered that information from Harp and passed it on to Wu. She challenged Wu to “get out from behind that keyboard” and disclose his relationship with Rush.
The argument escalated between the writer and the councilwoman before Wu restated his question and Daigle responded that the city is not suing OCTA. Wu posed it as a hypothetical situation and asked if she would support a lawsuit against OCTA.
“We will discuss it at our next meeting and it depends on what has taken place in the last week or so,” Daigle answered.
Most of the forum went between Daigle and Mansoor, countering and challenging each other on most points, neither were ever without a comeback.
“This is what we don’t want in Sacramento,” Rush said about Mansoor and Daigle’s back and forth.
Although the flames did get to his feet, Rush was the quieter voice on stage, even once joking that he was there to get coffee. When he did get a word in edgewise, he talked about his reasons for entering the race and declaring himself as a Democrat, as well as pension reform and rehab homes.
Bloom grilled Rush about his intentions on entering the race and whether or not it had to do with simply trying to kncok Daigle out of it.
She hasn’t been voted in as mayor by her fellow council members, Rush responded, and hasn’t been able to garner support for certain issues and there are much bigger issues in Sacramento, he added.
He later said he threw his hat into the race, as well as $100,000 of his own money, because he can be effective in Sacramento and offers what people want, “a little of this, a little of that.”
There are a lot of “closet moderates” in the district, Rush said.
He’s not going to put in that much of his own money into the race with the thought that he’s going to lose, he said. He also collected $30,000 from non-special interests within the last two weeks, Rush reported.
When questioned about his position as a “moderate democrat” he said he had been a “decline to state” because his views crossed party lines and he chose moderate democrat because it seemed to be where he fit in.
“The difference between myself, as a moderate Democrat, and perhaps a moderate, or a liberal, Republican, if you will, is that I’m being honest with you,” Rush said.
When asked about whether or not if they take special interest money and if there are any “good” special interests, Daigle and Mansoor said a lot, without actually answering the question to the panel’s liking. Rush said he will refuse to take special interest money tied to anybody, any issue, any cause appearing before him during his tenure in the Legislature.
“If it’s a good cause it’ll stand on it’s own, I don’t have to take money from it,” Rush said. “I know that that’s kind of a ‘shoot myself in the foot’ approach, I’ll deal with it.”
The candidates seemed to agree that reform was needed.
Mansoor noted that he got a pension reform bill out of a committee, but it got killed by the larger unions. Daigle mentioned the pension reform in Newport Beach.
The candidates discussed Banning Ranch, all three somewhat agreeing that it should be developed to some extent while being environmentally conscious. They also talked about regulating rehab homes and creating jobs.
Venezia ended the forum with a few hot topic questions readers emailed her to ask the candidates.
On medical marijuana, Rush and Mansoor answered for it, Daigle is against it. On abortion, Rush and Daigle are pro-choice and Mansoor is pro-life. And the last question of the night, on gay marriage, revealed that Rush is for it and Daigle and Mansoor are against it.
We need more candidates like Robert Rush – articulate, honest, candid, and not willing to accept special interest money. It is shocking that the two republican candidates have zero private sector experience. Rush is a small business owner with a CPA – skills needed considering the biggest problem with the state is they can’t balance the budget and are creating a non friendly business environment.