Democratic challenger Barry Gordon stepped up his attack on Rep. James Rogan (R-Glendale) on Thursday, criticizing the freshman Republican for being on the "opposite side" of voters on the assault weapons ban, abortion rights and anti-tobacco legislation.
With the Nov. 3 election fast approaching, Rogan has stuck to a more conservative strategy, emphasizing the balanced budget and other accomplishments of the Republican-led Congress as well as his background as a prosecutor and municipal court judge.
Rogan and Gordon had debated once before--a 30-minute face-off on public radio last week--but the pair met twice Thursday in two low-impact "candidate forums" in Glendale.
Gordon's own polling shows his voter support continues to lag Rogan's, but the Democrat said he is confident he will be able to close the gap by exposing the Republican's record in Congress.
A poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the group boosting Democrats for Congress, showed Rogan ahead by at least 10 points several weeks ago.
"On virtually every major issue, he is wrong in relation to the voters in the district," Gordon said. "This is a pro-choice district, and he is anti-choice. This is a pro-gun-control district, and he's supported by the National Rifle Assn. This is a pro-tobacco-reform district, and he is supported by tobacco interests."
Gordon's assault Thursday coincides with a flurry of campaign mailers from the Democrat, criticizing Rogan on those issues.
Rogan has opposed an assault weapons ban, saying the form of gun control he favors consists of measures that impose tougher sentences on criminals who use guns during their crimes.
"He knows what works from being a gang-murder prosecutor and a judge," said Jeff Lennan, Rogan's campaign director.
Rogan also is anti-abortion but has consistently voted to allow the procedure in cases of incest or when the life of the mother is in danger, Lennan said.
Rogan attacked Gordon for opposing parental consent laws for teenagers considering abortions, and for opposing a ban on late-term, so-called "partial birth" abortions.
Gordon is trying to unseat Rogan as the representative of the 27th Congressional District, which includes Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena.
At the lunchtime forum hosted by the Women's Civic League of Glendale, the candidates agreed that the nation's public schools are in desperate need of assistance and reform, but they differed on how to go about improving classroom quality.
Rogan said Congress needs to make public education a top priority, and to do so the federal government must provide funding directly to the local school districts and cut the "layers upon layers" of bureaucracy that siphon off education dollars. Rogan said he has a proven track record on education that began in the state Assembly, when as Republican majority leader he helped pass comprehensive legislation to reduce class size.
Gordon said the nation's schools also need additional federal money to repair rundown classrooms, and said he supports the education platform first introduced by former President George Bush that included national testing to provide a "benchmark" for local districts. Gordon criticized the Republican-led Congress for blocking those measures.
Gordon, an actor, lawyer and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, continued to attack Rogan for his role in the pending congressional impeachment inquiry of President Clinton. Rogan voted for the inquiry and sits on the House committee that will conduct the proceeding.
"There is perception of unfairness" about the inquiry led by House Republicans, Gordon said. Rogan's involvement in the process will be a political liability, Gordon predicted.
Rogan has continuously maintained that the impeachment inquiry will be a fair and balanced process, and said Clinton must be given a "presumption of innocence" unless and until the evidence proves otherwise.
Pasadena businessman Bob New is the Libertarian candidate for the district, and Thursday he criticized the Republicans and the Democrats in Washington for giving the federal government too much control over voters' lives.