Little Arabia hosts opponents

ANAHEIM — Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor parlayed problems with his microphone into a joke about communications problems with the Middle East during a Wednesday night forum, quipping that maybe he could sponosor a bill to improve sound systems, if elected to the state Assembly.

"Maybe that's what's wrong in the Middle East," he joked in addressing the Network of Arab American Professionals Orange County chapter at Andaluz Bakery and Restaurant here.

Mansoor, a Republican, didn't draw laughs from the crowd that invited him and his Democrat rival for the 68th Assembly District, Phu Nguyen, to the heart of "Little Arabia" before the Nov. 2 election.

When no one laughed, Mansoor said, "I'll stop now," and began talking about his conservative platform.

"I'm running because I want to make a difference," he said. "There's too much overspending. There are many important issues to address: public safety, education and good quality of life."

Mansoor said his priorities would be to cut spending, cut taxes, help small businesses and bring jobs back to California.

Nguyen spoke "from the heart," said NAAP Treasurer Amira Mualla.

"I'm running to address the real-life challenges facing our state," Nguyen said. "That's the stark difference between me and my opponent. I'm not a politician. I never ran for office before. I'm not running to serve special interests. I'm running to serve the people of my district."

The event got even more serious when the candidates were asked what they would do for the Arab American community.

Mansoor, whose father emmigrated from Egypt, said he will represent a wide range of interests.

"I want to do the same thing for everyone," he said. "Most people want the same thing in their communities — they want a safe place to raise their families. I will have an open-door policy for everyone, regardless of who you are. I want to represent everyone."

When emotions are running high, and a group of people are getting attacked because of their religion or ethnicity, it's the perfect time for politicians to help foster understanding in their communities, Nguyen said.

Nguyen said as a Vietnamese America, he can relate to the anger and complaints he gets and hears about during holidays or religious observations.

Like Mansoor did earlier in the forum, Nguyen suffered a slip of the tongue in front of the crowd.

He was quickly corrected by several attendees when he confused the Koran with the Torah. But he apologized and got it right the next go-around.

Mansoor said he doesn't believe that his opponent will address state spending or attempt to reform the public employee pension system, which has bankrupted the state, because his campaign is supported by unions.

Nguyen fired back, saying, "Who are these people? They are the firefighters, the police officers, the nurses, the teachers that run our state. We can't be in the pocket books of corporations and alienate the people who run our state."

After the forum ended, Saber Ahmed still couldn't make up his mind on either candidate.

"They are typical politicians, promising they can accomplish something," Ahmed said. "We're being attacked left and right by Democrats and Republicans. Once they get elected, you don't see them."

Rabi Chehade of Costa Mesa said experience matters referring to Mansoor's time as an Orange County deputy sheriff and as a city councilman and mayor.

"I think in reality, these are the things a person needs to have when you're put in a position they are running for," he said.

Omar Masry said he's likely to vote for Nguyen.

"I believe he represents my core values better," Masry said. "I think Mansoor is well-intentioned, but I think he's going to give me the same old get tough on crimes. All that hasn't really worked and it's not cost-effective."

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