Mansoor, Rush debate issues at forum in Laguna Beach

LAGUNA BEACH — Two State Assembly candidates for the 74th District espoused nearly identical fiscal positions at a forum Friday night, but diverged sharply on social issues.

Democrat Bob Rush played well with the left-leaning audience at an event hosted by the League of Women Voters of Orange Coast, while incumbent Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) stuck to his conservative principals and was more tepidly received.

The third candidate, moderate Republican Leslie Daigle, was absent, disappointing some members of the three Laguna Beach Women's groups that sponsored the event. They left an empty chair with her name, despite knowing well in advance that she would not attend.

The forum at Laguna Beach City Hall drew a crowd of about 50 people in advance of the June 5 open primary.

On the issues state lawmakers have the most control, such as the budget and education funding, both men essentially agreed. They said they would seek to reform public employee pensions, lower taxes and regulations, reduce unemployment benefits and stop cutting education.

Mansoor repeatedly hammered the points of pension reform and doing more to make California business-friendly, but said he has been stymied by special interests. Recently he introduced a bill addressing local public employee pensions, he said, but it died because of opposition from statewide labor groups.

"These are issues that are ballooning our budget," Mansoor said.

Rush called himself an "independent-minded, fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrat with socially progressive views and values."

Indeed, he offered a few ideas beyond Mansoor's list of conservative ideals. Rush said the state should reexamine Prop 13 and perhaps calculate commercial property taxes differently from residential property taxes, a so-called "split" tax roll. He also called for an oil extraction tax and for cutting more administrative waste before raising income taxes.

Neither candidate supports Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to raise income taxes on wealthy residents.

Mansoor's stance on welfare — "I think the best welfare program is a job." — caused some grumblings.

But the crowd approved — silently by raising their hands — when Rush called for more gun control, abortion rights and comprehensive immigration reform, all issues Mansoor opposed.

Rush, a community activist and businessman, sought to portray himself as a centrist.

That is the role that most have assumed Daigle would play, but some in the audience were left wondering.

"We need to know more from her," said Jean Raun, who helped organize the event and said she was not satisfied learning about Daigle from mailings.

Daigle did not return an phone call or email seeking comment.

Twitter: @mreicher

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