Live Blog: Candidates to Replace Waxman Face Off at CA-33 Forum
I'm at the University Synagogue on Sunset Blvd. in West Los Angeles for the first candidate forum for the 33rd congressional district--the district that retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D) has represented for forty years.
There are eighteen candidates in this Democratic Party stronghold--10 Democrats, 3 Republicans, one Libertarian, one Green, and three independents. This is the first time that all will have appeared on the same stage.
The forum is sponsored by the Brentwood News, and there are seventeen candidates onstage, in two rows. "What we are going to do today is very important. Henry Waxman is retiring, and this is our first opportunity to elect a new congressman in forty years," the News' Ed Jeffhall says (though, of course, Waxman has faced re-election every two years, and won his last race by fewer than ten points against an independent challenger.)
I'm here not only because this race is one of the most interesting in the country, but also because it happens to be the home district of Breitbart News. What follows is a live blog of the forum and the candidates' interactions.
All of the candidates receive polite applause--except for independent Marianne Williamson, who receives a raucous cheer from her very large contingent of volunteers, wearing t-shirts in the audience (below).
The candidates were selected in random order.
1. Tom Fox, Independent - Fox talks about how he's not a career politician and wants to get money out of politics, ending America's involvement in war and using the income tax code to address economic inequality.
2. Ted Lieu, Democrat - Lieu, a state Senator and the Democrats' official endorsee, starts by recalling his immigrant background and Air Force career, talking about how he wants to extend those opportunities.
3. Lily Gilani, Republican - Gilani talks about her journey from an immigrant family to Harvard Law and a legal career. She talks about her work in public affairs, including advocacy for access to legal services.
4. Mark Matthew Herd, Libertarian - Herd talks about why he became a Libertarian: "I fell in love with Ron Paul," he says. He takes a few shots at the other candidates and talks about cutting defense spending.
5. Michael Ian Sachs, Green - Sachs talks about his family background, how the system is "broken" in Washington, and how even the Democrats have no power. He describes himself as "something different."
6. Vince Flaherty, Democrat - Flaherty recalls tagging along as a boy with the Kennedy campaign. He recalls his community experiences and promises to be a "citizen legislator" with no "special interest money."
7. Zein Obagi, Jr., Democrat - Obagi notes that he is the only candidate who ran in 2012, and says he did so because, at 30, he wants to fight for young people, who are struggling to compete in today's economy.
8. Brent Roske, Independent - Roske promises to hold similar forums if elected, allowing constituents a chance to discuss the issues. He jokes that he best reflects the district because he is a writer and director.
9. Kevin Mottus, Republican - Mottus says his most important issue is transportation, and also tackling what he says is the major public health risk of "radio frequency exposure" due to cellphones and WiFi.
10. Wendy Greuel, Democrat - Greuel starts by praising the service of Rep. Waxman. She recounts her career in public service, calls for a moratorium on fracking, and pledges to address gender wage inequality.
11. David Kanuth, Democrat - Kanuth says he has "a history of getting things done" in small business and as a public defender, and promises that he will not add to the "fighting" that has frustrated Washington.
12. Elan Carr, Republican - Carr thanks the organizers, and his very pregnant wife. He says he is running to "reach across the aisle" and "craft solutions." He talks about his service in the Army and as a prosecutor.
13. Matt Miller, Democrat - Miller (below) notes his public radio career and in the Clinton White House, where he worked on balancing the budget. He says he is the only one who understands business and education.
14. Michael Shapiro, Democrat - Shapiro says that our democracy is not working because of the Koch brothers and other interests. He cites his long-standing local involvement in politics, dating back forty years.
15. Barbara Mulvaney, Democrat - Mulvaney talks about her work with Janet Reno on domestic violence, and her work on women's issues and public corruption, and prosecuting with the UN in Rwanda and Iraq.
16. Kristie Holmes, Democrat - Holmes praises her fellow candidates and the organizers for allowing all to participate. She says we need to install quotas for women on the ballot, and to take money out of politics.
17. Marianne Williamson, Indepdendent - Williamson agrees with Mattus on cellphones, saying the idea brought maturity to the debate. She attacks inequality and the Citizens United decisions on campaign finance.
"Lightning Round" and "Wild Card"
These were each 30-second rounds: in the first, candidates were asked to answer a tough question on the spot; in the second, they were allowed to discuss whatever they wanted.
The most coherent answers in the lightning round came from Lieu, who was asked about transportation and spoke about his experience in pushing for light rail, saying more federal funding would be needed in future; and from Fox, who endorsed a balanced budget through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.
In the wild card round, the best answers came from Lieu and Carr: Lieu highlighted immigration reform, and Carr focused on education.
Many of the candidates focused on the question of money in politics, with Williamson backing a constitutional amendment to remove money from politics, and Greuel citing her experience in restricting campaign finance.
Mulvaney spoke about her personal experience as a breast cancer survivor--recounting a dramatic evacuation from Iraq to treat her illness--and how it helped her relate to public concerns about health insurance reform.
Kanuth spoke with fluency, emphasizing his personal qualities rather than a specific policy agenda.
Lieu is possibly the most polished candidate, and in his closing statement he made sure to mention--as he had throughout the afternoon--his record, his endorsements, his biography and his campaign website.
Carr concluded by promising to keep the district safe, reiterating his two-prong focus on crime and education.
Holmes said she would work across party lines, and added that she supported the legalization of marijuana.
Williamson spoke with passion about the need to elect a "game-changer," someone who would "disrupt the status quo," capturing a spirit of frustration that was reflected by many of the candidates and attendees.