By Donna Furey | NB Indy
Laguna Beach local and first time candidate Harley E. Rouda intends to challenge Rep. Dana Rohrabacher for the 48th Congressional District, which covers Newport Beach, he announced Thursday.
Rohrabacher, a Republican who lives in Costa Mesa, has represented the district, which spans the coast from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel, for 28 years.
“It is time for career politicians like Rohrabacher to get a real job,” Rouda says in his statement.
A resident of Emerald Bay with four grown children, Rouda founded Real Living Real Estate, a real estate network services franchise now based in Irvine and owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Rouda left as its president in 2012, the Columbus Dispatch reported, three years after its initial acquisition. He said he now serves on boards or acts as an advisor to other companies involved in real estate, retail and other industries.
In 2005, Rouda dissolved Trident Holding, which he established in 1990 with his father and namesake, a real estate icon who died at 83 in 2012.
Calling for an end to divisiveness and the need to find common ground among House representatives, Rouda cites the requirement that elected leaders believe in science and climate change, and support public education and clean energy. His platform also embraces human rights and affordable access to higher education.
Rouda, 55, holds an undergraduate science degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s in business administration from Ohio State University, and a law degree from Capital University Law School, also of Columbus, Ohio.
Rouda’s wife Kaira is perhaps better known locally as a writer of romance novels and a 2008 women’s empowerment guide entitled “Real You Incorporated,” which has since been extended to include titles on parenting and writing. She has also been selected for the newest internet publishing empire: Amazon Kindle Worlds.
Prior to his real estate career, Rouda specialized in capital information, securities and intellectual property at Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur LLP, a Columbus, Ohio, law firm, until 1990.
Local political activist Rita Conn, who was involved in recruiting Rouda to run for Congress said, “Harley knows the law, has business skills and isn’t in this for self enrichment. He seems like a non-nonsense kind of guy.”
She said she was impressed by his answers to queries about why he might run. “He talked about the future he wanted for his kids,” she recalled.
In his first public appearance as a candidate, Rouda plans to join two other declared Democratic congressional candidates at an activist training workshop in Newport Beach on Sunday, according to Conn.
Sara El-Amin, a political grassroots strategist and advisor to the Obama presidential campaign, is the keynote speaker. Conn says other candidates who plan to participate are challenging incumbents in other south-county districts, Ron Varasteh who aims to defeat Rep. Mimi Walter and Doug Applegate, who nearly unseated Rep. Darrell Issa.
Rouda also joins another early contestant, fellow Democrat Boyd Lachlan Roberts, a Laguna Beach real estate broker. Roberts filed with the Federal Election Commission to establish a campaign committee to challenge Rohrabacher in February.
Last November, Rohrabacher won re-election with 57 percent of the vote across the district, where Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president.
Laguna Beach voters, though, rejected Rohrabacher in favor of his opponent, Suzanne Savry, a Democrat from Newport Beach, who received 50 percent of votes cast compared to his 44 percent.
Another possible challenger to Rohrabacher comes from within his own party. Scott Baugh, a former member of the state Assembly and former county GOP chairman, last January established a 48th District campaign committee. His war chest held $548,000 as of Dec. 31, election commission records show.
Julian Babbitt, executive director of the Orange County GOP, said this week he has no knowledge of whether Baugh intends to run in 2018.
Rohrabacher has thus far proved invulnerable to Democratic opponents. The 69-year-old has said he intends to run in 2018 and has $237,000 on hand as of Dec. 31. He raised $887,000 in the previous two years, campaign disclosure reports show.
The Federal Election Commission as yet does not show information about the size of Rouda’s war chest and he declined to say how much he’s received in contributions. “It’s going to be a lot,” he said.
Fran Sdao, chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, said serious candidates need to accumulate $500,000 before June to mount a competitive campaign for 2018. Without that sum, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for Democrats in the House, is unlikely to contribute help towards the effort, she said.