As Rep. Chris Cox’s confirmation as head of the Securities and
Exchange Commission nears, possible Democratic candidates are taking
a more serious look at Cox’s congressional seat.
One Democratic contender is Newport Beach attorney Steve Young,
who said Monday he plans to run for the seat that’s been held by Cox
for the last 17 years and by a Republican for what seems like time
But Young will likely face a crowded Democratic primary, as well
as a fight to keep his party’s voters from jumping ship. At least
half a dozen Democrats are mulling runs for the 48th District seat,
but some of the party faithful aren’t convinced one of their own can
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee was scheduled this morning to
begin confirmation hearings for Cox and two Democratic nominees for
posts on the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Young, 51, is a trial lawyer who takes over cases for other
attorneys, sometimes on the eve of a trial. Describing himself as a
fiscal conservative with Democratic ideals, Young said he’s angry
that Congress recently cut medical benefits for veterans returning
from the war in Iraq.
A lifelong Republican until 2 1/2 years ago, Young hasn’t been
politically active before now. He changed parties because of the Iraq
“I didn’t think that people were being honest in the
administration. When they couldn’t tell us why we were going to Iraq,
it really started to bother me,” Young said. “We shouldn’t be
invading another country to establish democracy.”
Cox was “an outstanding representative for his district” and would
have been unbeatable if he were staying in Congress, Young said. But
with the incumbent out, he thinks a Democrat could win.
“Now that there’s this opening, I believe I could run the same
type of office as Chris Cox did and be just as responsive and
hopefully more,” he said.
But Young may have to duke it out with other Democrats. UC Irvine
business professor John Graham, who has lost to Cox three times, has
said he might run again. About half a dozen Democrats have expressed
interest in the seat, said Susan Freeze, a member of the Orange
County Democratic Party’s central committee.
Such an abundance of Democratic candidates in the 48th
Congressional District is unusual, but this is also an unusual
situation. The seat will be filled in a special election, but who
gets on the ballot will be decided in an earlier open primary, when
voters can choose any candidate, regardless of their party
But a Democrat winning isn’t inconceivable, UC Irvine political
scientist Mark Petracca said. For that to happen, first there would
need to be several Republicans on the ballot to split the GOP vote.
So far, so good: state Sen. John Campbell and former Assemblywoman
Marilyn Brewer are already raising money, and former Rep. Bob Dornan
-- a lifelong Republican -- has said he might run, although he’s
flirted with running on the American Independent party ticket. Other
GOP candidates have said they’re waiting until Cox officially quits
the House to decide.
But hopefuls might run into trouble with step 2: a Democratic
candidate would need the full backing of party voters, high name
recognition and lots of money, Petracca said.
Jene Witte, a Democratic voter who lives in Newport Beach, thinks
Democratic votes could be siphoned off by other considerations. She
has supported Brewer in the past, and she plans to again because
Brewer has stood up for women’s health issues such as abortion
“It’s just that I think that, pragmatically, she has a far greater
chance of winning, and we’d like to get another pro-choice vote in
Congress,” Witte said.
“I want to go with the person I think can win.”
Brewer’s stance on abortion rights has won her the backing of
Women In Leadership, an Orange County-based nonpartisan political
group that has planned a fundraiser for Brewer Aug. 4 in Costa Mesa.
The group’s goal is to elect women who support abortion rights. So
far, no Democratic candidates fill that bill, said Pam Gilmour, Women
In Leadership’s board president.
“A Democrat is not going to win Chris Cox’s seat. It’s not going
to happen, whereas being a moderate Republican will win that seat,”
Gilmour said. “We’re looking for viability and Marilyn definitely has