‘Feet to the Fire’ brings out the fight in candidates

The 74th Assembly District candidates raked each other over the coals during the “Feet to the Fire” panel Thursday night.

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, and Newport Beach businessman and Democrat Bob Rush debated about how they would represent Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach if elected to the state legislature.

An earlier version referred to Bob Rush as Hill on second reference and incorrectly said Assemblyman Allan Mansoor spearheaded an effort to ban soccer in local parks. He helped remove sports from one Costa Mesa park.

Though technically not an incumbent because of the newly redrawn 74th District, Mansoor sought to set himself apart from his two opponents by talking up his experience the past two years in Sacramento.

His biggest accomplishment, he said, was getting a pension reform bill out of a committee, though it died before ever becoming law. Lawmakers are obstinate up there, he said, and expressed frustration at how difficult it is to reform California.

Mansoor painted himself as the establishment candidate. He signed a pledge to not raise taxes, supported tempered development on Newport Beach’s Banning Ranch, and maintained that many of the district’s local issues — specifically the 19th Street bridge between Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach — should remain local issues.

Daigle, meanwhile, sought the middle ground.

“The way to get things done is not to vote no,” she said. “The way to get things done is to work together to find true solutions.”

Daigle repeatedly suggested compromising on a host of issues, from development on Banning Ranch and finding an alternative to the 19th Street Bridge (which the Newport Beach City Council supports), to regulating rehab homes.

Rush tried to capitalize on his argument that he is an outsider when the debate took a personal turn: Mansoor brought up a controversial exchange Daigle had with a security guard years ago.

Daigle reportedly threw her weight around as a Newport Beach City Councilwoman and threatened to have a Latino security guard deported and suggested he must be from Costa Mesa.

“There were incidents I could’ve handled better,” she said. “On my public policy record, I have not done anything adverse to anyone else.”

She fired back at Mansoor, accusing him of being anti-immigrant and stifling free speech — a reference to a federal lawsuit against him and the city related to a Costa Mesa City Council speaker in 2006.

Mansoor is the son of immigrants, and while leading Costa Mesa he spearheaded the closure of a job center for day laborers, forbid sports in one local park, and backed immigration checks for local arrestees.

While Daigle and Mansoor traded barbs, Rush leaned back in his chair quietly and waited to be called on by the moderators.

“This is what we don’t want in Sacramento,” Rush said.

Rush said his business background would work in Sacramento at a time when jobs are fleeing the state.

Daigle said her success in working with state and federal lawmakers to restore Newport Beach’s Back Bay, and convincing the Federal Aviation Administration to review commercial flight takeoffs from John Wayne Airport point to her success in reaching agreements.

Mansoor argued he showed leadership when he was Costa Mesa’s mayor during the recession, when the city laid off hundreds of workers to balance its budget and got employees to agree to increase their pension contributions.

The only specifics came at the end, when all three were asked for their stances on three social issues.

On legalizing marijuana, Rush and Mansoor support it; Daigle opposes it. On gay marriage, Rush supports it, Mansoor and Daigle oppose it. Lastly, Rush and Daigle are pro-choice, while Mansoor is pro-life.

Twitter: @JosephSerna