A Savary Choice for 48th Congressional District

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A column or two ago I voiced some bravos and a brava to candidates who are willing to submit themselves to the political process.

Here’s another: Suzanne Savary enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. She lives in a Balboa Island cottage half a block from the beach and belongs to the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club. And like many grandmothers in town, she dotes on her grandchildren, all six of them.

In the fall of 2007, she was sitting with friends on her patio when the question arose, “Are we the only Democrats in town?”

They decided to find out. It turned out they were not – plenty of local women were tired of sitting on the sidelines of Republican politics. The following year the Democratic Party of Orange County chartered the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club. The club began to grow, participating in grass-roots democracy by walking the precincts during election cycles, taking part in community events, such as the annual Balboa Island Parade (coming up June 1), and hosting speakers on political issues.

When California’s congressional districts were realigned inn 2010, Newport Beach became part of the new 48th district. Republican Dana Rohrabacher, first elected to Congress in 1988, won the seat in 2012. Club members may have disagreed with the congressman’s politics – as Democrats, that was understandable – but they found some of his positions deeply disturbing.

For example, his continued resistance to accepting humankind’s role in climate change – Rohrabacher recently called it “bogus” before a House Science Committee hearing. The term “antediluvian” comes to mind to describe the man who sits as vice chair of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, who chooses to ignore the essential facts of climate change. This despite the reality that his district runs comprises the Orange Coast, always and ever at the ocean’s whims.

(Just this morning, a “New York Times” headline ran, “Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt,” to a story about the shearing of a massive ice sheet in West Antarctica. Good-bye, Venice, Italy. Good-bye, islands of Newport Beach.)

But I digress.

Members of the club encouraged Savary to run for office. A retired Associate Professor of Management Communication at USC’s Marshall School of Business and a management consultant who specialized in turnarounds for companies paralyzed by resistance to change, she chose to run against Rohrabacher. (She then stepped down as president of the club after which I was elected to that office.)

I asked why she chose to leave her comfortable lifestyle to take on an entrenched Republican in a conservative district.

“As a woman, if you’re asked to run for office, I think you have an obligation to take the request very seriously,” she told me. “Women don’t run in the same numbers as men, but we do win in the same numbers.”

There was another reason, too: As she looked at Rohrabacher’s record and the dynamics of the district, “I came to believe that for the first time in 26 years he was defeatable. Three-fifths of the 48th, due to redistricting, have only seen him in action since 2012…. My moderate Republican friends tell me they don’t feel he is a good fit for the district.”

I, too, have heard from embarrassed Republicans around town (I’m married to one of them) who have grown disenchanted by the GOP’s abandonment of such Judeo-Christian values of social justice, stewardship of the environment, and respect for diversity.

In July 2013 the Orange County Business Journal reported on a poll said to have emanated from his own party: “The business community… to see if there’s an opportunity for change for a district that’s become far more sophisticated over the last 30 years.”

Rohrabacher is now facing challenges from the right and the left. But the projected turnout in the June 3 primary is estimated to be around 30 percent. That’s unconscionable.

If you’re a moderate Republican, Democrat, or Decline to State, consider this: Suzanne Savary gave up her comfortable lifestyle to take a chance on the political life. Let’s get off the comfort of our couches and vote for her on June 3.


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