By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy
Candidate Hans Keirstead outscored five opponents vying to become the Democratic Party standard bearer in congressional District 48 to win the endorsement of a majority of party delegates at its annual convention in San Diego.
Keirstead, a stem cell scientist from Laguna Beach, received 63 percent of 69 votes cast on Sunday, a distinction that will give him coveted visibility on mailings by the state and county Democratic Party in the coastal district that includes Newport Beach.
According to party rules, a 60 percent threshold is necessary to win the endorsement at the convention.
Voter awareness of the candidates trying to unseat 30-year incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, of Costa Mesa, could play a significant role in the outcome of the race, complicated by an unusual pack of contenders and the district’s voter registration, which favors Republicans.
In a last-ditch plea before the delegates at the convention, Democratic candidates Harley Rouda, Rachel Payne, Michael Kottick, Laura Oatman and Omar Siddiqui all urged them to cast votes for “no endorsement.”
Rouda, a former real estate entrepreneur also from Laguna Beach, remains the campaign’s fundraising front-runner. His campaign statements and ads criticize the political party’s endorsement process and selection of delegates for attempting to winnow the field before voters make their own decision in the June primary.
After Keirstead, eight delegates cast their ballots for no endorsement, following by three votes for Oatman, two for Rouda, one for Payne and none for Kotick or Saddiqui.
Rouda campaign manager Michael McLaughlin said the vote reflected that some supporters “agreed with us.”
Yet, some longtime activists fear the consequences of Democrats splintering the voting pool by continuing to battle between themselves for the attention of voters.
“If ‘no endorsement’ had won, it would give all the candidates a reason to stay in the race,” said Diane Valentino, a Keirstead supporter and Democratic activist in Laguna Beach, who went to the convention as an observer.
“The endorsement process has never been an issue because we’ve always only had one candidate,” Valentino said. “This time, it’s very important; we can’t divide the vote.”
Valentino was critical of Rouda for “demonizing” delegates to a political party he only joined last year.
Judie Mancuso, a supporter of Newport Beach based candidate Oatman, said a Rouda ad, portraying delegates as making “backroom deals,” “may have turned people off with that message.”
“We’re normal folks,” she said.
For Keirstead’s campaign, the party endorsement is welcome, but will not make a change in tactics, said spokesman Kyle Quinn Quesada.
“It doesn’t change the race. Hans is not going to call on anyone to get out of the race,” he noted.
The public can hear from the candidates themselves at a forum on immigration and foreign policy at the UC Irvine Student Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday .