Venezia: Forum had clear winners and losers

On April 17, the Costa Mesa Community Center was once again ground zero for the Feet to the Fire gang of Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, OC Register columnist Jack Wu, Voice of OC Editor Norberto Santana Jr. and special guest Daily Pilot City Editor Alicia Lopez.

On stage were candidates for the 74th California Assembly District: Newport Beach Councilman Keith Curry, Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper, educator Anila Ali, business owner Karina Onofre and Assembly aide Emanuel Patrascu.

And though this forum is over, the buzz about it is still humming as CMTV, NBTV and other stations within the 74th District start to air the show.

CMTV will start airing the forum this month: 1 p.m. April 21 and 22; noon April 24; 7 p.m. April 25; 1:30 p.m. April 26 and 1 p.m. April 29.

It will also be online in the coming weeks.

It was one of our best forums. The questioning was aggressive, the pace of the show fast-moving, and the sparring between candidates revealed much.

Going into this forum I didn't see any major burning issues on the table, so I knew our political talk show format would center more on candidates' backgrounds, credentials and personalities.

And boy did it ever!

With this being our sixth Feet to the Fire — they started in 2010 — you'd think by now candidates accepting the invitation to participate would consider that behavior matters and, above all, try not to look or act crazy.

Apparently not.

Right out of the blocks, first-time candidate Karina Onofre baffled panelists and the audience by saying she was pro-life and pro-choice.

Starting this race as a Republican and then switching to Democrat, she claimed the Republican Party left her. I'm thinking that after the forum airs on TV, Republicans will be glad she jumped ship, and Democrats would be smart to distance themselves from her.

Onofre's performance on stage was nothing short of bizarre as she chastised older people in the audience for being disrespectful and then called Wu a racist.

Really? Directing a comment like that to the only Chinese guy on the panel?

And when she claimed Latino voters will be attracted to her campaign because people vote for people who look like them, I took exception.

Call me crazy but I choose to cast my vote based on a candidate's experience, credibility and approach to government. Besides, I'd have a hard time finding a candidate who looks like me, tattoos and all.

Onofre certainly made for good TV, but that was about it.

Ali, the other Democrat on the panel, was articulate and sincere but naive in thinking she could maneuver the stormy political waters of Sacramento with no previous political experience.

This newcomer could have a future in politics, but she should be running for local school board or city council, not Assembly at this point.

I was disappointed in Matt Harper. I thought he could have handled himself much better on stage.

When I asked each candidate how much money he or she raised, and he said between $30,000 and $50,000, he lost me.

Fundraising is key to the business of campaigns. You may not like it but it enables you to reach your constituency through mailings, since it's impossible to meet every constituent.

Harper either was embarrassed to say what he raised, or he really didn't know. And if that was the case, then he's not running a tight ship. Both don't sit well with me.

Patrascu was the surprise of the night for me. His experience in Sacramento shows that he knows his way around the political landscape there. His answers were concise, and I felt he had a strong showing.

But the night belonged to Curry. Taking some hard questions about Newport Civic Center costs and fire rings, he was well-spoken and articulate, and he handled himself like a statesman.

After the show I milled through the audience and, from what I heard, most people thought that he certainly commanded the stage.

So now we are on to the next forum, which will take place Monday at the Costa Mesa Community Center.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7. For more information, visit http://www.feet2thefireforum.com.

There we will grill candidates for the Orange County Board of Supervisors, 2nd District seat. On stage will be Coast Community College District board member Jim Moreno; Huntington Beach Councilman and retired business owner Joe Carchio; California Board of Equalization Vice Chairwoman Michelle Steel; and California Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa).

I spoke with Mansoor and his very pregnant wife, Janniffer, at the recent forum. I'm happy to report Janniffer gave birth to their daughter, Avalon Jane Kimberly Mansoor, on April 23. Congratulations to the Mansoor family. I hear baby and mom are doing well.

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