Political Landscape: Righeimer declines to discuss Israel trip

Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer recently returned from Israel, but he has not commented on whether he traveled with Republican leaders on a controversial trip sponsored by two conservative groups.

Members of the Republican National Committee went to Israel from Jan. 31 to Feb. 8 on an excursion sponsored by the American Family Assn., a fundamentalist Christian group, and the American Renewal Project, which is financed by the association and housed in its Mississippi offices.

Righeimer has not told the Daily Pilot whether his travels in Israel were in conjunction with the RNC trip or just coincidentally at the same time.

After issuing a statement by email about his trip, Righeimer has declined to return numerous phone messages and emails left by the Daily Pilot seeking further clarification.

In the statement to the Pilot, he said he is “not a member of any group. I paid my own way.”

He called the journey “personal” and one that “has nothing to do” with his elected office on the City Council.

“I had an opportunity to travel to the Holy Land and also see what is happening in this part of the world,” Righeimer wrote. “I would recommend it to anyone who gets the chance to make such a pilgrimage.”

The RNC trip drew the attention of Time magazine, Politico and the Huffington Post, and the Voice of OC, mainly because a former spokesman from the American Family Assn. was credited with making insensitive comments about race, religion and sexual orientation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, deems the American Family Assn. a “hate group,” a description the association has rejected, according to published reports.

A former spokesman for the association, according to a post on the law center’s website, said gay men were responsible for the Holocaust, Hispanics are socialists by nature and African Americans “rut like rabbits.”

That spokesman was removed from his position before the Israel trip, according to the Huffington Post, but allowed to continue hosting an affiliated radio program.

The Anti-Defamation League privately warned the RNC that it would be “inappropriate” for its members to travel on the dime of groups known for “incendiary and bigoted” language, according to Politico.

Time called the trip, attended by about 60 RNC members, “mired in controversy.”

The Pilot was unable to obtain a roster of RNC members who participated in the trip. An RNC spokeswoman did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Scott Baugh, a former state assemblyman and former chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, and Jon Fleischman, publisher of the conservative FlashReport, appeared in a Facebook photo with Righeimer in Israel. It was unknown whether Baugh and Fleischman were with the RNC group, however.

Fleischman declined to comment.

Baugh could not be reached for comment.


Namazi, state Senate candidate

For Naz Namazi, politics in Orange County can be described with language used by President Dwight Eisenhower, the former five-star general who famously warned of America’s “military-industrial complex.”

“There is a political-industrial complex within the Republican Party in Orange County that likes to select our candidates for us,” Namazi said in an interview this week. “I see it as my duty to give people a voice.”

Namazi, a Republican, is running for the state Senate’s 37th District, a seat vacated by Mimi Walters, who was elected to Congress last year. The election is March 17.

The 47-year-old works as a district representative for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). She worked for Rohrabacher’s campaigns in 2012 and 2014.

Namazi recently moved to Irvine from Laguna Niguel. The 37th District includes Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach and portions of Huntington Beach.

Namazi, the daughter of an Iranian diplomat, moved to Orange County in 1982 and graduated from Laguna Hills High School and UC Irvine.

In the race for the 37th District seat, Namazi faces state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) and former county Supervisor John Moorlach of Costa Mesa. Both are Republicans.

Namazi said she pulled papers the day of the deadline, which caused a delay in securing from state officials a campaign identification number. She was also unable to place a candidate statement on the ballot.

Namazi said her campaign is about running as an independent voice from two “establishment” politicians.

“I want to bring responsibility into this process,” she said.

Namazi said she urges state senators and assembly members to vote remotely, instead of in Sacramento. This way, she contends, is more fiscally sound than having everyone gather in the Capitol and spend money to get there.

“I think that we need to be down here working in the district, representing our special interests, which are the people in our district,” she said. “I don’t think we should be in Sacramento.”

Namazi said she will vote against new taxes and fees. She also wants to help recruit other Iranians to the Republican Party.

“When you have integrity, when you have honesty, you can grow the party and you can bring change,” she said. “You can bring good change.”


Rohrabacher endorses Wagner for Senate

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has endorsed state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) in his bid for the 37th state Senate district.

“Don Wagner has my support because I know that he’ll lead the fight against illegal immigration,” Rohrabacher said in a statement. “He opposes amnesty, respects the rule of law and will never waiver in the fight to end illegal immigration and secure our borders.”