Democrats running for office in November’s election presented their platforms on health care, financial and education reform to a group of more than 30 people at the Unitarian Fellowship church in Laguna Beach on Wednesday.
Each candidate had 20 minutes to speak and take questions from the audience at the event hosted by the Laguna Beach Democratic Club.
Robert Rush is running for the 74th Assembly District, which includes Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach, against incumbent Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, both Republicans.
Steve Young is running for the 37th State Senate District, which includes Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach, against incumbent Sen. Mimi Walters.
Ron Varasteh is running for the House of Representatives’ 48th District, which includes Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach, against incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and marketing sales executive Alan Schlar.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Robert Rush was a certified personal accountant.
Rush, a Newport Beach resident and certified public accountant, presented first, speaking for less than three minutes. He named fiscal reform as his top priority, followed by education.
“I believe I bring the skill set and the experience along with my vision and my values to address these problems with real solutions, not gimmicks,” he said. “I think we’re too jaded; we’ve seen a lot of politicking going around. I don’t have that because I’m not a career politician. I’m willing to work with anybody at any time in any matter for the betterment of California.”
Rush answered questions ranging from his position on the governor’s tax initiative to single-payer health care.
"[The tax incentive is] a step in the right direction,” he said. “It has less gimmicks than we’ve seen in the past. It has some good things; it has some not so good things. I’d like to see some more spending cuts before we initially react with a significant tax hike.”
In the only reference to his opponents, Rush explained his stance on receiving special interest money.
“At a meeting last week, two candidates that I sat with made excuses about it and it’s not proper,” he said. “I made a pledge that I will not accept any special interest money from any issue, any person, any cause during my tenure. It’s kind of a ‘shoot myself in the foot’ approach, but I believe that it’s the cleanest.”
Daigle contended in a phone interview Thursday that the majority of her contributions were from local interest groups.
“Nearly 90% of my contributions from special interests are from within my coastal district,” she said. “So I have in-district support, and that’s contrasted with Mansoor’s ... Unlike him, I haven’t received any money from Sacramento interests.”
“People need to be aware of opportunist politicians,” she added. “Robert [Rush] registered as a Democrat a few weeks ago, in anticipation of the open primaries.”
“People don’t register as Democrats in Orange County to run for office,” Young said Wednesday in response to similar criticism Rush received last week. “They will lose.”
Mansoor’s campaign aide Saulo Londoño also responded to Rush’s comment.
“We don’t have anything against what Rush said. It is a broken system,” Londoño said by phone Thursday. “That’s why we’re supportive of an initiative to get special interests out of politics. Allan [Mansoor] has the highest percentage coming from the district out of everyone. Above 60% coming from in-district. It’s Leslie, in our opinion, who is being dishonest about Allan’s record to hide what her true issues are.”
Young, the regional director of the Democratic Party and a civil justice attorney, spoke for 10 minutes on the importance of education, job creation and reaching accord to move issues through government. He paced the front of the room in black cowboy boots.
Young’s campaign manager Marion Pack, who directed the evening as the club’s vice president, introduced his segment.
“He has a passion for politics,” she said, “but not politics as a politician, politics as a leader. Because that’s what we really need here in California right now: leadership to make the changes that we all know need to take place.”
Lamenting California’s status as 48th in the nation for educational accomplishment, Young commented on the interconnectivity of his campaign issues and how they need to be addressed together.
“There is no such thing as a discreet issue that you draw a border around and it never touches anything else,” he said. “We need an education-, people-friendly state that grows jobs by keeping business and developing together, and that’s what I offer — leadership.”
Varasteh, a small business owner, engineer and mathematician, used his 20 minutes to discuss financial reform. He announced a tax reform idea that would permit individuals making up to $80,000 a year to pay no income tax.
“I consider myself a patriotic, progressive, liberal American. Patriot and liberal together? Why not. If you Google me, you’ll see I’m always the one holding the American flag.”
Varasteh said he is assembling a team of researchers to compile data to support his idea and thinks it will be well received by both parties.
“Republicans think a lot with the left side of their brain,” he said. “So what works logically is their pocketbook. To them, Rohrabacher isn’t willing to change much except keep the tax breaks as they are.”