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Column: Republicans are tripping over each other in the 48th Congressional District race

Last week I wrote about former Orange County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh jumping into the 48th Congressional District race, challenging his longtime friend and incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

This didn’t sit well with the O.C. Republican Party since Baugh dared to not abide by a party maxim: “Thou shall not run against an incumbent Republican.”

For the record:
10:40 AM, Mar. 23, 2018 An earlier version of this column incorrectly identified Fred Whitaker as Ken Whitaker.

He even received a letter from OC Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker and other heavy hitters, chastising him for his actions.

One name on that letter: California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte.


Only problem is no one informed Brulte.

Brulte wrote to me saying, “I did not sign the letter. It was never sent to me, and no one asked me to sign.”

Guess these guys need to get their act together if they plan on sending letters to other protocol breakers — Republican Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s running against incumbent District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, also a Republican, as just one example.

And what about candidates running in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach? Republicans in these races challenge each other all the time.


Considering the Republican Central Committee has a history of endorsing candidates in these nonpartisan council races — pitting Republican against Republican — I’m confused as to why party panties are in a bunch about Baugh running against Rohrabacher.

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) shared his thoughts about all of this in his email blast.

“The congressman has stated he was going to retire in two years so many times in the past that he’s been dishonest and abusive to those that are ready to get some real work done in D.C.,” Moorlach wrote.

Moorlach talked to Baugh.

“I told him that if he decided to run anyway, I would support him,” and went on to explain that though he’s supported Rohrabacher’s past runs, he won’t this time.

Moorlach says that 30 years later he “cannot recognize any major committee chairmanships or legislative accomplishments by our congressman.”

Though this is a rare move for Moorlach, he feels, “A protocol should not be an umbrella that protects mediocrity and stagnation. The Republican Party deserves better. And, in my opinion, Dana has made severe missteps of late, and I am one who really wants to improve the brand.”

So Moorlach’s sticking to his political moral compass — not the party line.


But is Baugh’s entry some kind of twisted political conspiracy to make sure the two top vote-getters in the open primary are Republicans, as one reader wrote after my column posted last week?

“Arrangements don’t involve threats, intimidation tactics and letters dropped off at doorsteps in the dark of night,” Baugh says. “There are very real and legitimate differences of opinion as to whether a party protocol should try to silence an alternative choice for the voters when the incumbent has been in the same office for 30 years.”

“How many years are too long?” he asks. “I don’t know the magic number, but 30 years seems to be considerably past that number.”

Though the Rohrabacher-Baugh match-up is an explosive upset for their county party, and there are a total of five Republicans in the race, Democrats are pretty messy too.

With far too many candidates — eight at last count — for any one to be viable, it seems their county party can’t reign in loose cannons either.

This is political theater at its best and too good to pass up. So for the first time the Feet to the Fire Forum gang will tackle a congressional race at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Orange Coast College Robert B Moore Theater. We’ll speak with the two 48th Congressional race primary winners.

Initially, we were planning for May 30, before the June primary, but with so many Democrats, Republicans and at least one independent candidates, not to mention the media panelists, we’d have almost 16 to 18 people on stage. That isn’t feasible.

So we’ve decided to wait until after the primary for a 60-minute chat with the top-two candidates, which could very well be Rohrabacher and Baugh, or one of them and a Democrat.


Baugh says he welcomes facing any challenger on F2F — if he’s a primary pick.

There are other live forums. On Sept. 19 the F2F conversation will be dedicated to Costa Mesa. The 90-minute debate will be split into two parts — the first devoted to council candidates, the second to the mayoral race.

We’ll turn our attention to the Newport council race Sept. 20.

All forums will be taped for re-broadcast on CMTV, NBTV, YouTube and streamed live. I’ll have more information as production meetings progress.

And we’re also doing Feet to the Fire podcasts. Check out the latest at

BARBARA VENEZIA is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at