4 Democrats Battle for Chance at Main Event
With little more than a week to go before the March 26 primary, Democrats in the 46th Congressional District are waging a spirited, well-financed race for the right to take on the likely Republican winner: conservative Rep. Robert K. Dornan.
Once again, the Democrats hope to wrest the seat away from the fiery, nine-term incumbent. Over the years, the lure of facing and possibly beating Dornan in the general election has tended to draw a crowded field to the 46th District’s Democratic primary.
This year is no exception, with four candidates, including 1994 Democratic nominee Michael P. Farber, in the race. But the winner had best be prepared for a bruising battle with Dornan, who has earned a reputation for launching vitriolic assaults on his opponents.
“Dornan is going to be sort of like a wounded lion” after he finishes his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, UC Irvine political science professor Mark Petracca predicted. “He’s going to be meaner than ever after he’s finished the fun and games on the campaign trail and he’ll want to come back with a win here.”
Still, the Democratic Party considers Dornan vulnerable. His central district is the only one in Orange County is which Democrats outnumber Republicans, holding an edge of 72,255 to 62,444 among registered voters, according to the latest figures.
Along with Farber, a 35-year-old businessman from Santa Ana, the Democratic candidates include Robert J. Brennan, 56, a heavy equipment repairman from Anaheim; James Prince, 33, a policy analyst and real estate redeveloper from Santa Ana, and Loretta Sanchez, 36, a public finance specialist from Garden Grove.
In an unusual sidelight, Prince, a former congressional aide and senior staff member for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, worked for the Farber campaign for several months in 1994. The two describe their current relationship as cordial, although Prince says he still is owed $15,000 for his work on Farber’s campaign. Farber disputes the claim.
According to campaign finance statements filed last week, Farber is easily the best-financed candidate in the race, reporting contributions of more than $468,000, compared with about $203,000 for Prince and almost $73,000 for Sanchez. Brennan has spent about $3,000 to date, he said, below the $5,000 threshold for filing reports with the Federal Election Commission.
The California Democratic Party, which endorsed Farber in 1994, this time has chosen Prince.
Orange County Democratic Chairman Jim Toledano said Farber has skipped most candidate forums during the campaign and has told some voters that he is the endorsed candidate. The party plans to send mailers next week telling voters that it endorses Price, the chairman said.
Mike Kaspar, Farber’s campaign consultant, said Farber himself has never told anyone that he received the party’s endorsement this time.
“Otherwise, I think there was one time when one of our volunteers may have made an honest mistake on the phone and told someone they thought he was,” Kaspar said. “That was it.”
But Toledano also said Farber, to his knowledge, has not appeared at any joint candidate forums or debates during the campaign.
“He is just invisible at this point. He’s got some beautiful [campaign] literature, but he’s not making any joint appearances at all.”
Farber said he learned in 1994 that debating issues before small groups was not as effective as contacting voters by phone and by direct mail.
“I believe I have a very efficient and very effective campaign style,” Farber said. “There are so many people to talk to in this district that I’ve found this a better way to reach them.”
Farber said he is emphasizing economic issues.
“The job market is changing so rapidly now,” he said. “We need to develop training programs and tax credits and look at coming up with something like a GI bill for America’s workers.”
The other three candidates say they are spending time speaking to small groups and walking throughout the district, which includes Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove.
Prince, who has a list of endorsements from Democratic activists, labor organizations, various elected officials, and Latino and Vietnamese community leaders, said he is emphasizing two issues in his campaign: education and jobs.
A member of the board of directors of SER-Jobs for Progress, a nonprofit job training program in Santa Ana, Prince said he has learned that such programs are effective.
“These are programs that are cost-effective and that work. We can move people into programs like this and off the welfare rolls.”
Sanchez, who grew up in Anaheim, said she believes her local roots will make it possible for her to win the primary without spending as much money as either Farber or Prince, who both moved to the district in recent years.
She said that she too sees the main issues in the race as jobs and education, and ways to increase funding for both. Another, she said, is what she described as Dornan’s failure to spend time in his district and lack of knowledge about his constituents’ needs.
“The incumbent doesn’t visit this district,” Sanchez said. “He hasn’t taken care of his constituents here, and that’s what I want to do: bring in new business and get some things done for this district.”
Brennan, a first-time candidate, says he was motivated to run after a lunchtime conversation with his friends about “how any of us could do a better job than that guy,” a reference to Dornan. The heavy equipment repairman is emphasizing his blue-collar roots in the campaign, using the slogan, “A common man for the common good.”
Brennan said he is focusing on such issues as raising the minimum wage and exempting unemployment and Social Security benefits from taxable income.
“I want to help people who are down there on the bottom rung of the ladder,” he said.
In November, the Democratic primary winner will face the Republican nominee, as well as Libertarian candidate Thomas E. Reimer, Natural Law candidate J. Carlos Aguirre and Reform Party candidate Lawrence J. Stafford. The alternative party candidates all are running uncontested in the primary.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Democratic Primary--46th Congressional District
Four Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination in the 46th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove).
Robert J. Brennan
Occupation: Heavy equipment repairman
Government positions: Served in Marine Corps for five years, attaining staff sergeant rank
Education: Attended Santa Ana College
Family: Married; five children, six grandchildren
Funds raised as of March 6: Reports raising about $3,000; not required to file a campaign finance statement unless $5,000 is raised.
ON THE ISSUES
Do you support a congressional welfare reform proposal that would deny most social services to immigrants who enter the country illegally? “I don’t feel I can deny medical attention and food to anyone who’s already here. The federal government should be able to take care of the problem of illegal immigration, though. They need to work on how to do a better job of securing our borders.”
Do you favor any proposals for changing the tax code, perhaps through either a flat tax that would eliminate all exemptions or other changes that might alter the way capital gains or inheritances are taxed? “I oppose the flat tax, and we do not need to reduce capital gains taxes. I want to give tax relief to the people at the bottom of the ladder, not the people at the top.”
Do you agree or disagree with the position of GOP leaders who have refused to compromise in budget negotiations with President Clinton, holding firm to a belief that a balanced budget is of paramount importance? “I disagree with the way they’re [GOP leaders] trying to pass it and not compromising at all with [Clinton]. Besides, the people in Congress authorize all the federal government spending in this country. They do not really need a constitutional amendment in order to balance the budget.”
Michael P. Farber
Government positions: None
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Chinese studies, UC San Diego
Family: Married, two children
Funds raised as of March 6: $468,000
Endorsements: American Federation of Teachers
ON THE ISSUES
Support welfare reform to deny social services to illegal immigrants: “Yes. We’re having budgetary problems in this country anyway now, and we have to help those with the greatest need. If you’re here illegally, we have to say ‘no’.”
Do you favor any proposals for changing the tax code: “I would look at a flat tax, although Steve Forbes’ [flat tax] proposal had some problems. I’m opposed to the idea of the rich getting richer and I think it would have done that, to some extent. I think we have to tax all forms of income, including capital gains. We can’t tax only what we would consider salary.”
Do you agree or disagree with GOP leaders on the budget: “I disagree. I think a balanced budget is of paramount importance, but I think the tactics [GOP leaders] are using are really immature. I don’t think you hold the country or federal employees hostage to get legislation passed.”
Occupation: Policy analyst and residential real estate redeveloper
Government positions: Former aide to U.S. Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) on education and judiciary issues; former senior staff member for the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA; master’s degree in U.S. national security policy from George Washington University
Funds raised as of March 6: $202,903
Endorsements: California Democratic Party; Pro-Choice Orange County; Americans for Democratic Action; Communication Workers of America; U.S. Reps. Howard Berman, Matthew G. Martinez, Louis Gutierrez and Jane Harman, and former U.S. Reps. Jerry Patterson and Mel Levine
ON THE ISSUES
Support welfare reform to deny social services to illegal immigrants: “There are already laws on the books saying that illegal aliens cannot get federal benefits. A national [version of Proposition] 187 would fail for the same reason 187 failed in California. It was poorly written and is costing California millions of dollars in court costs, and has yet to be implemented.”
Do you favor any proposals for changing the tax code: “I definitely believe we need to have a ‘flatter’ tax, but a flat tax is a gimmick that would not work. We need to cut the capital gains tax--although not eliminate it--to spur investment. And we need to drastically reduce the regulations on small business.”
Do you agree or disagree with GOP leaders on the budget: “I believe we need a balanced budget. I believe that Medicare and Medicaid should not be cut, but I believe both sides in this debate need to compromise. Both [Congress and President Clinton] are not doing their jobs.”
Occupation: Public finance specialist
Government positions: Former Orange County Transportation Agency finance manager
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, Chapman University; MBA in finance, American University in Washington
Funds raised as of March 6: $72,884
Endorsements: Women in Leadership of Orange County; Assn. of Mexican-American Educators; U.S. Reps. Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente), Lucille Roybal-Allard and Xavier Becerra (both D-Los Angeles); L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina; Placentia Councilwoman Maria Moreno
ON THE ISSUES
Support welfare reform to deny social services to illegal immigrants: “My feeling is that if people are at a hospital and in need of emergency health care, it shouldn’t matter whether they are illegal or not. As decent human beings, we should do what it takes to help them.”
Do you favor any proposals for changing the tax code: “There needs to be tax reform. But [former presidential candidate] Steve Forbes is kidding us in saying that a flat tax could be only 15% or 17%. If we were to keep the same level of spending as we have today, a flat tax would have to be more like 22% or 23%. . . . Is the current tax system confusing and very convoluted? Absolutely. I would love to see it streamlined in some way, but not like this.”
Do you agree or disagree with GOP leaders on the budget: “Balancing the budget is important for the long-term stability of the U.S. But I believe the real issue in this debate is who gets hurt in balancing the budget: People like the elderly and people who are trying to send their children to college and having student loans cut. For people in the middle class, balancing the budget sounds good, but the programs the Republicans have targeted for cuts would really hit at the pocketbooks of those people, including many in this district.”
Source: Individual candidates
Los Angeles Times
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