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Baugh will only run if Rohrabacher steps aside

Is former OC Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh really going to run for Congress?

It all hinges on one thing: If his longtime friend Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), doesn't seek reelection this year.

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And that's a big if.

Rohrabacher recently stated that should a Republican president be elected, he could get a "top-level appointment."

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The sounds presumptuous and is probably not really fair to his buddy Baugh.

Regardless, Baugh filed a statement of candidacy last month to start to fundraising. He'd need to pull papers by March 11 to run this year.

As you can imagine, Baugh and I had a lively conversation about this.

He says Rohrabacher's made it clear to him that he's "looking for a departure in 2016 or 2018."

Baugh holds firm in his longtime belief that incumbents holding to party principles shouldn't be challenged by fellow Republicans.

So it's no surprise he feels the way he does about the race between Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) and incumbent state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

"Assemblyman Wagner should not challenge Sen. Moorlach," Baugh says. "Both are great men, but Moorlach has proven to be a strong voice for conservative values that is heard around the state."

Advancing the conservative agenda is important to Baugh.

"As a conservative, success is just not defined by that position," he explained. "Success is staking out a conservative position and getting others to join in that position."

The conversation then turned to the skill set he'd bring to Congress, given the opportunity.

Baugh, who served in the state Assembly from 1995 to 2000, called his proven ability to work with those on both sides of the political aisle an asset.

The "Republic is slipping into a divide," and that's one of the reasons he's considered running.

"I feel a duty to do something about it and feel our best days are still ahead of us," he said.

So what issues would be important to a Congressional campaign?

"Domestically, there's a ton of work to do with entitlements, streamlining tax policies, the failed Obama Care, Isis threats and massive expansion in government," he said.

He said we're a "country being choked to death in a mountain of regulations" and that the "proliferation of regulations (is) choking our freedoms".

Immigration is also something he feels strongly about, saying "it's how we frame the issue."

"People get caught up in the rhetoric: Do we have a citizenship problem in this country? I say, no," he said.

Creating a pathway to citizenship without documentation is not the solution, in his view, since the country has a legal pathway to citizenship that works.

The equitable way to solve the undocumented worker issue is to implement foolproof employer verification and work permit programs — and to secure the borders.

"If you have chaos at the border, you have de facto amnesty, which isn't good for anybody," he said.

Baugh and I have had many lively conversations over the years, as I've covered the local political scene.

He's never shied from my uncomfortable questions or backed down on how he views issues.

We've agreed to disagree many times.

And while some politicos I've verbally sparred with haven't been welcoming when we've been thrown together in social situations, that's never been the case with Baugh.

His attitude has always been: "It's just politics, nothing personal."

Which is why I think a little friendly competition between he and Rohrabacher would be good.

Baugh told me his wife, Wendy, supports the idea of him running for Congress.

When they were dating years ago, she asked him what his dream job would be.

"I told her serving in the U.S. Congress," he said.

Which begs the question: If a friend holds you back from your pursuing your dreams, is that person really a friend?

I think that's something Baugh and Rohrabacher need to figure out.

And Baugh's definitely excited about the possibility.

Maybe enthusiasm is what his party needs in Congress.

After all, Rohrabacher's been serving since 1989.

I don't know about you, but anything hanging around my house that long is pretty stale by now.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com. Listen to her weekly radio segment on "Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn" from 11 a.m. to noon on KOCI/101.5 FM.

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