One Tweet that says everything you need to know about this election

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Hey, thanks Democrats—for making my re-election efforts so much easier.

A couple of minutes ago I logged onto Twitter.

I checked out news on March Madness.

I checked out information on Donald Trump ruining America.

I checked out spring training and the Jets-Colts trade and some guy who really likes ice cream.

And then, to my great chagrin, I arrived at this …

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Seriously, I feel like screaming. Or, if I had much hair, pulling my hair out. Instead, I’ll just note that this Tweet, from Rachel Payne, absolutely infuriates me on 800 different levels. With good reason.

Payne, for those who don’t know, is one of our Democratic candidates for the 48th congressional district. This is her website, and while I don’t know Rachel personally, I have no reason (truly, no reason) to suspect anything but pure and decent motives. She’s a longtime volunteer to different causes, which means she cares and has empathy and … and … and …

Rachel Payne ain’t winning this election.

Like, it’s not happening. It can’t happen. It won’t happen. She’s Coppin State in the ongoing NCAA Tournament (Coppin State didn’t qualify for the ongoing NCAA Tournament). She’s Young MC in a rap-off against Tupac, Nas, Drake and Biggie. And I take no pleasure in writing this sort of thing because—again—I’m certain Rachel has good intentions. What she doesn’t have, however, are these things:

(Unless she’s sitting on a secret treasure that has yet to be reported) The money to match Dana Rohrabacher and Scott Baugh—not to mention Harley Rouda, Hans Keirstead, Omar Siddiqui, Michael Kotick or Laura Oatman. Here, this is from a Feb. 1 Daily Press article headlined, DANA ROHRABACHER’S CHALLENGERS RAISED MORE MONEY THAN HE DID FOR THE SECOND QUARTER IN A ROW.

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Name recognition (She entered the race way too late).

The support of the Democratic Party (which Hans—for good or bad—does have).

So … why run? Why stay in the race? Why do this?

I’m taking my overflowing frustrations out on Rachel, and perhaps somewhat unfairly. But there are Democrats who (factually) are no longer viable. And that’d be fine and dandy were we experiencing a traditional primary. But, alas, we’re not. Come June, two candidates will be selected for the November ballot—and right now, it’s, oh, 60/40 that those two are Baugh and Dana. Why? First, because we’re still a Republican-dominant region. Second, because the party screwed up and threw its weight behind Hans’ severely flawed (and uninspired) campaign. Third, because no one was willing to step aside (aka: Predictable-yet-sad candidate-wide egomaniacal selfishness).

Not all that long ago, every man and women in the race said (in one form or another) that this wasn’t about personal triumph, but ousting Dana Rohrabacher. Hell, I believed them. Yet here we are, a stone’s throw from the vote, and Rachel Payne is bragging about having her name atop the ballot—where she will, almost certainly, take away some votes from the leading Democratic hope.

I see nothing virtuous in this.

I see, simply, selfishness.

PS: And I don’t want to hear the ol’ tried-and-true “Some people insist I don’t belong in this race. Well, to them I say …” Bullshit. This isn’t about that. Every Democratic candidate is better than Dana Rohrabacher on his best day. But if we’re being honest, (politically speaking) there’s nothing overly unique about Harley. Or Hans. Or Laura. Or Rachel. Any of the Dems. They’re all good people, they’re all liberal enough, they all will represent us well. Right now, we just need to win. Period.

Kind of a bombshell

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In case you missed this, earlier today the Los Angeles Times reported that three major Orange County congressional Democrats are breaking with the state party and endorsing Harley Rouda over Hans Keirstead (and others).

This, from the Times

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I’m not sure of the motives of Correa, Lowenthal and Sanchez. Maybe they love Harley. Maybe they loathe Hans. Maybe there were some long-ago agreements that are now being adhered to.

Whatever the case, well, it’s wise.

As this website has repeatedly said, Hans is a brutally poor candidate; one thrust upon the 48th by a tone-deaf party that long ago settled upon his election bid. He has repeatedly underperformed in debates; has repeatedly bored the masses with dry statements and (on occasion) exaggerated truths.

That doesn’t mean Crazy Dana is endorsing a candidate. We’re not.

We just know a bad one when we see it.

So, apparently, do a threesome of congressional folk.

Why not vote … for me? (a guest post from Paul Martin)

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Paul Martin is a Republican running a long shot race to replace Dana Rohrabacher as our congressman. He wrote me an interesting e-mail the other day. I asked if he’d be OK with my printing it here.

He agreed.

Hi Jeff …

I’ve been reading your comments about the race. I don’t gloat in the predicament the Democrats find themselves in. As I told you when we met a few months ago, I’d rather see one of the Democrats than Dana.

He has no business representing our nation.

But I agree with you: A Democrat can’t win unless a bunch of candidates drop out. And that’s clearly not going to happen.

I believe a vote for one of the Democrats is a vote for Robrabacher or Baugh.

Here’s why.

The 2016 primary (a Presidential primary which is always has a larger turnout) had 71,000 Democrats and 93,000 Republicans voting, respectfully. So let us assume 85,000 Democrats will vote in the June primary. (I’ve run this number by three well respected national consultants/polling experts, and all three, based on history and recent national turnout, think the number is too high.)

In any case, divide the 85,000 votes by the 7 viable Democrat candidates, perhaps giving one frontrunner 30%, which would be quite a feat. That candidate would get 25,500 votes. I realize that any of those Democrat candidates or supporters reading this firmly believe they/their candidate will be the exception and get 40% or higher. Of course, this is part of the reason none of them will get out. Or let’s give two of the candidates 35%. Each would receive 29,750 votes.

The Republicans will have around 100,000 voting in June. You have an incumbent and a OC GOP insider. Both with money. Both with expertise. Both incredibly connected. Then there a few other far right-wing candidates.

I imagine something like this. Baugh gets 35,000 votes, Dana gets 40,000. Or vice versa. I know you’ve done the math.

Then you have me.

The centrist candidate called a “liberal” every day of the week by right-wingers who read my tweets and blog.

The candidate who was encouraged last summer by a former Obama senior staffer to enter this race because, as he said, it’s a moderate Republican district and I’d have a unique voice versus Rohrabacher or someone who shares most of that far-right pro-Trump ideology.

Given the math above, I think the Democrats might consider asking themselves one of those “lesser of evils” questions. Namely, “Who would you rather have as your Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, Scott Baugh, or Paul Martin?

Hey, I get how disgusted Democrats are with the GOP. Trust me, I’m lambasted daily for being “one of them” You should see my Twitter feed, just today.

But I’m not one of them.

So what am I then? When voters ask, I sometimes answer by asking them to google the words “Liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller.”

But I usually tell them that no Democrat in this race has fought as hard for the social issues they care so much about.

I ask them to take a closer look at my background:

• I’ve devoted most of my professional/executive life to non-profit organizations ranging from the March of Dimes to homelessness prevention agencies, to working with at-risk teens, well before I dreamed of running for public office.

• Since 2015, I’ve written a blog,, where I have castigated the racist, misogynist, and xenophobic speech and policies of Trump and the GOP. Just one example is my post Making America White Again which was in response to racist rhetoric coming from Trump, and bigotry I saw in our local community. I also reflect on my father’s challenges being a Mexican growing up with segregated schools here in Orange County, and my mother’s challenges as an Italian immigrant.

• In response to Trump’s “Travel Ban” (which I have often referred to as a “Muslim Ban”), I launched a peacebuilding campaign early last year called The Christian Muslim Alliance with support from friends including Reza Aslan, Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other progressive Muslims. During that campaign, I was featured in a number of media channels including this short episode on Trump’s bigotry in UpWorthy.

• I host a podcast, with my friend and Costa Mesa resident Kristen Howerton. It started as a weekly Facebook live event during the presidential primaries in 2016. We talk about social justice, and the intersection of race, religion, and public policy, in a format that is accessible to all voters. Kristen is a self-proclaimed socialist, and also a well-known mom blogger who writes on racism (largely because of hate she has experienced firsthand because of her two black adopted sons). We agree, often and I am criticized by Republicans for “agreeing with her too much.”

• For years, I have written and spoken about the need for gun control, about wage disparity, and about other issues that groupthink Republicans don’t like to talk about.

I also ask them to take a closer look at my positions, during the campaign:

• I inform them that I speak frequently and strongly about Rohrabacher’s betrayal of country and human rights abuses at campaign events, on social media, and most recently in The Observer, NPR, Forbes Magazine, and The Beat with Ari Melber on MSNBC (forthcoming).

• I share with them that I am working closely with many who are “in the trenches” regarding Russia. For example, this week, I will be in New York City meeting with other activists, media, academics, and other influencers who are intricately involved in working to end the human rights abuses of Putin, via sanctions and other methods.

• I remind them that though I’m a Republican, people like Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, see my activism and enthusiastically support my voice. (Shannon has helped me in my work and has retweeted me for standing up to the NRA.)

• I ask them to visit the “Conviction” page of my campaign website. These videos are a way for me to share my unfiltered views on guns, DACA, homelessness, etc., oftentimes to the chagrin of people in my own party.

• I tell them that the values I espouse are far bigger than any political party and that I’ve lost friends and family by speaking up for them.

• I try to convince them I have a far louder and effective voice from within the Republican Party. The proof is that Republicans are listening to my message, locally, and nationally.

A few last thoughts.

I’ve told some Democrats recently that while Scott Baugh is clearly not an acceptable choice for them, should he slay the giant, at least we will have someone loyal to the interests of our great nation, as opposed to our greatest foreign adversary.

I can’t count how many lifelong progressives are donating to my campaign, volunteering, etc. It’s humbling. For every one of them, there are countless Independents and moderate Republicans that, like the Obama staffer had said, thrilled to finally have a centrist alternative.

Like you, like the countless local and national pundits who write about how the Democrats are splitting the vote, like local Democrat leaders including Fran Sdao — my Democrat supporters believe the vote will be split, and fear that two Republicans will advance.

So instead of rolling the dice, they are endorsing my campaign.

Here’s a comment I received from a very progressive millennial recently on Facebook:

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Like I said when we first met, I’d rather have one of the Democrats than Dana. He is utterly unacceptable.

But, like many including yourself, the numbers don’t add up.

I include my official Candidate Statement below. Yes, I want to reform the Republican Party. And I’m working to bring that about, even if those crazies on the far right keep calling me a “liberal.”



Paul Martin, Republican

I want to reform the Republican Party. Because for decades, GOP bureaucrats have failed us. They have politicized serious issues that affect all Americans. Today, the GOP has an identity problem. In order to stay relevant, the party must change.

I am a pro-growth strong fiscal conservative who will work for lower taxes and a smaller federal government. President Reagan’s axiom “peace through strength” is my guideline for national security. I will stand-up to Russian president Vladimir Putin and any other enemies of America who attempt to undermine our democracy and freedoms.

But protecting children through common sense gun safety, advocating for a cleaner planet so we can all breathe clean air and enjoy clean water and coastlines, and working to help prevent rising homelessness — these are not “liberal” issues. And though I am a lifelong gun owner, I am willing to confront the NRA — our moral duty is to protect our children. I will also defend the rights of seniors, the underemployed, minorities, the poor, and younger voters.

I have worked as a businessman, philanthropist, Christian pastor, and writer. I have always championed values of personal responsibility, compassion for those in need, and a belief that all share a calling to make our world a better place.

I am an Orange County native and lifelong Republican. I hold a B.A. from UCLA and an M.A. from Biola University. I am happily married to Gina. We live in Costa Mesa with our 5 amazing children, ages 22, 19, 18, 17 and 16.

On Scott Baugh

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Scott Baugh: Grosser than gross.

So Scott Baugh has officially entered the race, and I’ve made clear my feelings on this. In short, I think the Democratic Party has cornered itself into a position where the final two candidates come November will likely be a pair of Republicans.

So, yeah. That’s hugely disappointing.

But, for the sake of sanity, let’s move past that.

Let’s talk about Scott Baugh.

Now, I want to make clear that this is not a Republican thing. Hell, there are many Republicans I admire and respect. Paul Martin, a longtime GOPer running in this race as well, is a genuinely decent, honorable man; one I would be happy to have as my congressman. Ohio Governor John Kasich—truly good human being. Michael Steele—good human being. Jon Huntsman—good human being. This doesn’t mean I share all/most of their beliefs. But they’re at least reasonable and empathetic figures.

Scott Baugh, on the other hand, is slime.

He’s a politician’s politician. Slick. Greasy. Plotting. When you think of all the things you loathe about politics, picture this face:

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So Baugh is the former chairman of the California Republican Party, as well as a longtime state assemblyman (well, from 1995 until 2000). He graduated from Liberty University (the Jerry Falwell-founded school that doesn’t allow homosexuals), and in 2016 began raising money for a possible run against Rohrabacher, his former friend. At the time, Dana seemed to feel (understandably) genuinely betrayed, and issued this statement:

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Baugh’s record as a Trump-esque conservative is long and unruly. His record as an opportunistic conman is equally impressive. Back in the mid-1990s, he was—according to the Los Angeles Times—”charged by Orange County prosecutors with felony and misdemeanor campaign reporting violations stemming from the 1995 special election that first put him in office.” There’s also this typically gross gem, from 2013. He’s viciously opposed to unions (as GOP head he issued a manifesto, declaring that the party will not support candidates who take union support), has never offered even the slightest opinion on climate change, seems to give two shits about the environment.

And yet, he also has something Dana lacks: Charm.

He seems like a nice guy. He’s agreeable and engaging. You meet him and like him.

That’s something Rohrabacher likes.

And it makes Baugh, perhaps, the new frontrunner.

The Democrats are about to blow this—and I’m not exaggerating

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It’s time.

I didn’t think I’d be writing this blog post on March 8, 2018, yet I am. And it absolutely pains me. But the truth is the truth, and reality is reality.

So, I say again—it’s time.

With Republican Scott Baugh’s near-certain entrance into the race for the 48th District’s Congressional seat, the Democrats need to settle on a candidate—now. By official filing time. Friday at 5 pm. I’m not exaggerating about this.  I’m not hyping something up. I’m not blogging for attention. For clicks. For buzz.










Why? Because here’s the harsh reality: The Democrats need one of their own to qualify for the general election—when the two candidates (party affiliation be damned) with the most primary votes square off. Because we still live in a district that A. Is majority Republican; B. Draws far more Republicans to voting machines … the only shot for our party (truly, the only shot) is to have a singular Democrat. Otherwise, here is exactly what will happen (and if you don’t believe me, print this post and read it again come June): Hans, Harley, Omar, Laura, Michael, Rachel will split the party. Hans’ people will vote for Hans, Harley’s people will vote for Harley, Omar’s people will vote for Omar. On and on and on. They’ll say they’re doing so in the name of righteousness and democracy and decency and all that stuff.

And, come June primary day, the two men with the most votes will be Dana Rohrabacher and Scott Baugh. And all this will (poof) vanish.

I am telling you—it will happen.

So I am asking/begging Hans, Harley, Omar, Laura, Michael and Rachel to do something they don’t want to do: Figure this shit out. Meet up in a Denny’s one late Tuesday night, order some fries and burgers, set your differences aside and determine who is going to be THE Democrat in the race. I don’t care if you draw straws, thumb wrestle, box, dance, play Connect Four. Do whatever you need to, but refuse to leave until there is a singular candidate. One all of you will stand behind.

And, yeah, I know: You fucking hate this. I would, too. You’ve spent a ton of money, you’ve shook 10,000 hands, you’ve worked around the clock. You are convinced you’re the one who can topple Dana.

Well, that may be. But, truly, with multiple candidates splitting the vote no Democrat will qualify for the general. And all this work (not merely by you, but by supporters, backers, believers, strangers, donors) will be for nought.

So, pretty please, set aside ego and remember why we’re all here. You guys share 95 percent of the same beliefs and ideals with one another. You all stand for cleaner air, safer schools, fewer guns, fighting back against Donald Trump.

Do what we need to do in order to win.

Pick one.

It’s time.

Game changer

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Just saw this on Twitter a few minutes ago.

It changes everything.

Scott Baugh is the Republican you don’t want to see in this race. Yes, he’s a far-right conservative with extreme views and a tendency to walk the Donald Trump line. But, unlike Dana Rohrabacher, he doesn’t come off as a stumbling, bumbling fool. He also doesn’t have the Russia anchor; doesn’t have the years upon years of congressional votes to run against.

He’s a beast. And he’ll run hard.

Here are my quick, pre-digestion thoughts:

• This puts Dana Rohrabacher is a really weird position. Suddenly, he’s being directly challenged by an A-lister from his own party. If I’m a Republican, and I have to choose between Baugh and Rohrabacher, I’m picking Baugh. Simply because he’s sane and somewhat reasonable.

• That said, as much as political junkies know Scott Baugh, your average voter doesn’t. He’s barely more familiar than Hans or Harley or Laura. He enters the field with a ton of money, but little recognition. I still think, in these races, name recognition alone is worth $10 million. Dana has that.

• This gives Hans a powerful tool. He can now say, “Look, the Democratic Party is supporting me. They’re putting their heft behind me. Let me run and take on the Republican(s). Let’s not ruin this by splitting the party vote and winding up with two Republicans in the general.”

• That’s the huge fear right now. The 100 Democrats in the race split the vote 100 ways, and we wind up with Baugh and Dana in the general. I don’t think that’s anything to be taken lightly. It REALLY can happen.

• This is a pretty riveting look at Baugh. Make no mistake, we are far better off facing Dana.

Crazy Dana’s Official Endorsement: Shastina Sandman

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Many people (aka: no one) have been waiting for the official Crazy Dana 48th congressional district endorsement, and I am ready to announce it.

We are backing Shastina Sandman.

Now, one might ask, “Why, Crazy Dana, are you backing Shastina Sandman?” And that would be a fair question. Is it because Shastina Sandman is smart on foreign policy? Is it because Shastina Sandman understands the needs of the 48th? Is it because Shastina Sandman debates brilliantly? Is it because Shastina Sandman is big on climate change? On energy? On Russia?

Um, no.

We are backing Shastina Sandman because, at this moment, there are approximately 456,432 people running for Dana Rohrabacher’s seat, and Shastina Sandman is—hands down—the coolest name among them. And, really, what’s more important than a swell name?


Actually, I hate to make light of this, so I’ll get serious and say … stop. Stop filing to run. Stop adding to the confusion. Stop, stop, stop. By now, we know who the real candidates are. There are 17 people who signed up to run, and it’s just batshit crazy. Or, put different, the power of ego to believe you—and only you—should be the next congressman or woman is absolutely awful.

Hell, take Shastina. Upon deeper review, she’s a far-, far-right #maga parrot who pretty much says everything Dana Rohrabacher already does. Like Dana, she rambles on in videos nobody watches. Like Dana, she thinks we all need 17 guns. So, if you’re just like Dana, and Dana is in congress, why enter the race?

What’s the point?

It’s so weird.

And exhausting.

Too Many Democrats Are Running for Congress (By Mike Moodian)

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Michael A. (Mike) Moodian teaches for Chapman University’s integrated educational studies program. Contact him through his website and follow him on Twitter.

The Orange County Republican Party does something much better than the local Democratic Party; the GOP establishes a farm team of future state and federal candidates by getting them elected to city councils, school boards, and other local government offices.

This has occurred for decades. Harvard historian Lisa McGirr detailed the emergence of the party’s strong foundation in the county dating back to the 1960s in her book Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton University Press, 2001). McGirr explained the efforts of Birchers, religious fundamentalists, and xenophobic nationalists giving rise to a GOP stronghold in OC, and the effects are still apparent throughout the county.

Even though the county has a more balanced breakdown of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, Republicans still prevail widely at the voting booth. No Democrats sit on the county’s inept Board of Supervisors, and the county’s 34 city councils and numerous school boards are still Republican dominated. Despite close numbers in voter registration, OC Democrats are highly underrepresented in elected office.

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One can attribute much of this to poor chairpersonship of the OC Democratic Party in years past. Luckily for the party, Dems have an effective, charismatic chair in Fran Sdao, so this should change with each election cycle.

But we have a problem as we approach this year’s congressional primary and general elections: there are too many Democrats running in OC’s various congressional races.

Take Orange County’s 39th, 45th, 48th, and 49th districts. All traditionally vote Republican, yet all favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Some, if not all, are in play as Democrats attempt to regain the House this year. In the past, relatively weak Democratic candidates would run against heavily-favored Republican incumbents, but Donald Trump’s election and shifting voting trends have inspired a new cadre of capable candidates, including Mike Levin, Katie Porter, Dave Min, and many more. I believe this is the most talented group of progressives Orange County has ever seen in an election cycle, but these candidates are hurting each other because there are too many running against each other.

This state’s new top-two primary system presents a unique challenge. Primaries are low-turnout elections, and a higher percentage of OC Republicans vote in them than Democrats. In the races for open seats in the 39th and 49th, there are more Democratic challengers than Republican challengers, meaning the numerous Democratic candidates can split the vote, ensuring that two Republicans advance to the general. This occurred in 2012, when two Republicans advanced to the general in the 31st, a district with a 5% Democratic registration advantage.

The LA Times’ Christine Mai-Duc wrote about the Democrats’ conundrum in the 39th and 49th. Both seats are critical for flipping the House, yet there is a chance that both may advance two Republicans to the general.

The party needs to resolve this situation. Democratic officials need to work with the campaigns and convince high-potential candidates with little funding and minimal support to drop out of these congressional races. Simultaneously, the party needs to implement a full-court press to help these candidates get elected to local government offices. Those with no shot at Congress should serve on school boards, city councils, and water district boards. These boards have an important and direct impact on citizens’ lives. The talent base is there, but everyone is running for Congress.

In short, the Orange County Democratic Party needs to establish a countywide farm team for the first time in its modern history. The local GOP is often more disciplined and organized than the Dems, and disciplined and organized campaigns win elections.

With three months to go before the primary, this is a mess.

Guest Post: “Michael Kotick is working to change that one door knock”

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Michael Kotick

Kelli Malott is a second year PhD student at University of California, Irvine studying Environmental Health Sciences. She grew up in a suburb of Detroit and graduated from University of Michigan in 2014. Here is her take on the upcoming election

Full disclosure, I am a millennial and a PhD student. So, forgive me, but I am sick and tired of out of touch politicians. Particularly, I am exhausted by the large number of the liberal elite politicians in Orange County that claim to be for the average worker but fail repeatedly to show it. As I am writing this, the race that is on my mind is that of the Congressional Race for California’s 48th district. I am a new voter to this district. I moved to the 48th from a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. My family of immigrants, a working class, two-income household working to improve the lives of their children, is the exact kind of family that Democratic candidates have lost sight of. The race for the 48th is an excellent example of this.

California’s 48th is a microcosm of the United States. It’s a district that is typically red due to the large number of wealthier individuals that have the luxury to leave work to make it to the polls. However, there is a large disparity in wealth in this district and there are just as many Democrats and Independents as there are Republicans. Furthermore, the diversity in this district by nationality is incredible. Quite frankly, I’m amazed at how Rohrabacher has been able to hold on to this district for so long. This is a symptom of the out of touch liberal elite that I alluded to earlier. The potential in this district to be a force for positive in Washington is astronomical and I am amazed at how long the complacency has lasted in a district as highly educated as this one.

Luckily for me, I have found a candidate that is right for me. One that is a breath of fresh air and not getting enough of a spotlight. While other candidates in this race have been so preoccupied with their petty infighting about which millionaire will contribute more of their own money to their campaign, Michael Kotick has been rising above all that nonsense and working to connect with voters.

I had the pleasure of connecting with Michael when I was reaching out to candidates to get their opinion on funding for basic research. He was the only candidate that responded to me personally. We had lunch to discuss my concerns about the district at the environmental level and science policy as whole. I found Michael’s stance to be very compelling and he asked me a question that no one has ever bothered to ask me since I began my program, “Do you feel supported?” I was taken aback. The fact that a Congressional Candidate went out of his way to sit down with me for lunch to hear my concerns and then ask me if I feel supported was incredible to me. But, as I have gotten to know Michael and the team he has chosen to surround himself with, this is no longer surprising to me. This is indicative of the type of campaign Michael is running and the type of candidate that he is. Moreover, this is indicative of the type of representative he will be.

Michael Kotick has proven to me repeatedly that he has not forgotten about my kind of family, in fact, he came from a family just like mine. He has not gotten lost in the lunacy of this primary race. Michael has stood grounded in his values and has shown how much he cares about the people with every one of the thousands of doors he’s knocked on since his campaign started. Politics today has become more about money and power than about the people. I believe this is a huge reason so many in my generation have become disenfranchised. Michael is working to change that one door knock and conversation at a time. I think it’s time we see past the pettiness and start highlighting those that are putting in the work, not just the money.


The 48th: Unmasked


Back during my boyhood, I absolutely loved KISS.

There was a larger-than-life mojo to the band. First, obviously, was the kabuki makeup. Gene—the fire-breathing demon. Paul, the star child. Ace, the spaceman. Peter, the cat. The music was loud and fierce. Drums pounding; lunging electric guitar solos; Paul’s voice attacking each note. It was, for my young ears, intensity personified, and I’d sit by my parents’ record player and listen to the songs over and over and over again.

Then something changed. In 1980 the band released an album, “Unmasked.” And it was brutal. Hard rock was replaced by ballads. Subtlety was substituted for ferocity (Here, take a listen). Worst of all, I came to find out that KISS—as a band—hadn’t even played the album. Peter Criss, the drummer, appeared on none of the tracks. Ace Frehley, the lead guitarist, came to the studio every now and then. Even Gene Simmons was a no-show for a good chunk of the time.

In short, on the surface it was KISS. But if one dug deep enough, he/she could see what was going on behind the scenes.

And it wasn’t pretty.

I evoke KISS because, as I sit here at my kitchen table on a Monday night, what transpired over the past few days in the 48th Congressional District race has brought forth certain familiar feelings and emotions. Or, put different, it seems like what we’ve all been witnessing for the past, oh, year (or so) is mere mirage. Illusion. The 48th Congressional District: Unmasked.

OK. To begin …

As many readers here know, on Saturday at the Democratic state party convention in San Diego, the local party caucus voted to endorse Hans Keirstead, the noted neuroscientist, as its preferred candidate to take on Rohrabacher. Here is how the voting went down:

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I wrote at length about the evening (which you can read here). I was, admittedly, angry—as were m-a-n-y. With good reason. From the very start of this website, I was told by folks who (very much) know that Hans was the state and national party’s candidate of choice, and that people with influence were committed to bringing him forth as the one to face Dana Rohrabacher in November’s general election. This was hardly a secret. I imagine—gun to head—Hans would admit so much himself. Hell, it’s no crime.

That said, it’s one thing to hear “The party wants Hans” and another thing to actually see it delivered. And that’s what so infuriating about the vote. Anyone who has paid attention to the 48th Democratic race will tell you Hans has been … what’s the word? Milquetoast. Not awful. Not wonderful. Just … meh. Of the debates I’ve witnessed, he’s never stood out. Of the talks I’ve heard, he’s just … sorta … kinda … there. Straw polling has supported this. Again—nothing dreadful. Seems pleasant. But find me a room filled with people who are inspired and pumped at the sight of Hans Kierstead, and I’ll find you a room of Kiersteads.

But the party wanted Hans, and they delivered him. And it feels shady and sneaky and sorta bullshit. Not illegal, to be clear. I’m not saying any laws were broken. But the spirit of this race—as well as the joyful, inspired spirit of local political action—seems crushed. It reminds me of post-Bernie Sanders v. Hillary Clinton, when supporters of the Vermont senator (I was not one of them, in full transparency) were presented with myriad good reasons to believe their guy was never going to be allowed to run in the general election. Or, to put in different (and local) terms: A lot of people woke up Sunday and Monday wondering why they wasted so much time and energy getting involved in a 48th race that was, from the start, pretty much pre-determined.

By pre-determined, I mean this:

Throughout the past few months, the Democratic candidates worked to secure delegates. They all knew the rules, all agreed to play by them. But then (according to multiple people I’ve spoken to) shit started to change. I spoke at length with Laura Oatman yesterday—of all the candidates in the race, she has (in my opinion) handled herself with the most dignity and class. There’s nothing to read into with that sentence. Hell, I’m the one who wrote a post a few weeks back saying she couldn’t win.

Anyhow, Laura has been doing what candidates do: Calling delegates, asking for their support. But recently, she said something changed. She noticed that backers suddenly went gun shy. “Delegates who had agreed to vote for me started turning quiet and backing away and out of their promise,” Oatman said. “Terse text messages. ‘I really appreciate you so much, but …'”

This was not mere coincidence. Throughout the past few weeks, the Democratic Party has been pushing the narrative that delegates need to get behind one candidate—ASAP. Why? Because if a bunch of entrants split the votes, you could wind up with two Republicans in the general election. And, indeed, this would be a possibility—were a major Republican entering the race to take on Dana (apologies to Paul Martin—a genuinely great guy who just doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to be a player this time around). By now, though, it’s pretty clear Dana Rohrabacher—and only Dana Rohrabacher—will be defending his crown for the GOP.

Still, delegates were urged (some might say thugged) to back Hans. Behind the scenes, his campaign pushed this, too. And—to be 100-percent clear—I don’t blame them. It was a smart strategy. Politics isn’t soft and genteel. It’s brutal, ugly, nasty, crappy. That’s unfortunate, but also true. So I’m not mad at Hans or his staff for this one. I’m mad at the party.

This is a list of the delegates, acquired by

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I’ve been told each candidate had the opportunity to purchase the delegate list for $75. The list I received had addresses and phone numbers for every delegate. Some of the candidates, however, said their lists included incomplete information. Maybe e-mails were missing. Maybe phone numbers were missing. Addresses here, but not there. I’m not saying there was duplicitous behavior in this regard. I’m saying, if you’re charging for a list, it damn well better be complete.

Anyhow, there’s some quirky shit here …

* First, Anita Narayana—political director of the Keirstead campaign, Secretary of the Democratic Party of OC (unpaid position) … and delegate. Now, that’s a weird thing, right? I mean, why would someone working for a candidate (being paid by a candidate) also be allowed to vote in the small, hyper-specific election to determine which person will earn the party’s support? Hell, call me Wayne Tolleson, but that makes no sense. Especially in the Democratic Party, which (we’re all told 1,000 times—and choose to believe) is far more reasonable and honorable and ethical than the Republicans.

I actually haven’t been able to get past this one. How can you serve as a delegate and work for a candidate? How is that even slightly legit? Slightly OK?

So, I asked Anita. To her credit, she answered. Here’s the exchange:

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Soooo … yeah.

I mean no beef toward Anita. I truly don’t. But this is the sort of thing that only seems perfectly fine and kosher when you’re deep, deep, deep into a movement, and what matters is solely the outcome. Because, from afar, it’s ugly. The optics are horrific.

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To digress, Anita Narayana is a riveting piece of this election; one of those lingering-in-the-background figures who—depending on where one stands—you either love or loathe. There are people who see her as a beacon of light. There are others who think she symbolizes everything wrong with local politics gone sinister. Narayana actually began as Harley Rouda’s communications director (Said Anita: “I worked on social media and getting him meetings with unions and other community leaders.”), but shifted to a position with Hans’ rival campaign. When I asked Rouda, on the record, why the relationship ended, he said, “We found her behavior to be unethical so we parted ways. We did not believe her behavior represented the ethics we wanted to see in this campaign.” (For her part, Narayana (who was very vehement in defending herself about this) e-mailed: “I understand that Harley Rouda told you he fired me. That is simply not true”). In her e-mail to crazydana, Narayana included a resignation letter, dated July 17, that she said she sent to Rouda. Whatever the circumstances, it does strike me as a bit weird to resign from one campaign to join another campaign in the same election. Because doesn’t that mean you were talking to the rival of the guy you were working for about leaving the guy you were working for for his rival?

After Narayana began working for Keirstead, members of Rouda’s inner-circle say weird things happened with their Twitter feed. They would log on in the morning and find @harleyrouda following pornographic accounts (According to one person familiar with the campaign, Rouda would instruct staffers what to Tweet, but didn’t generally use Twitter himself). There was also a Tweet, from @harleyrouda, supporting Kierstead. The Rouda campaign made clear its belief that either Narayana or Kyle Quinn-Quesada, Keirstead’s campaign manager, had been responsible for the Twitter mischief. The following exchanges, the first between Quinn-Quesada and Rouda’s campaign manager; the second between Quinn-Quesada and a Rouda supporter, took place on Oct. 25 and Oct. 27, 2017, respectively, and seemed to support the suspicions.

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Both Quinn-Quesada and Narayana, though, vehemently deny the allegations. This is the exchange I had with Narayana:

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Furthermore a delegate I DMed with said he felt borderline harassed by the Keirstead campaign and, specifically, Narayana. This is what he wrote: “She was extremely aggressive calling us delegates and getting Hans to call multiple times. I felt hounded by them and when I quit taking calls they even called my business and had the receptionist put Hans through to me. [I don’t know if they had our information before the other candidates], but it makes sense because as a delegate we were getting a ton of calls from her and Hans way before the others had access to the delegate list.

“Anita came across as extremely aggressive and, like I said before, almost hounding the delegates. I guess you could say she did an extremely good job because she got her candidate the endorsement. Everyone tells me that’s just politics get used to it … but if we don’t speak up and voice our opinion and frustration with the process things will never change.

“The crazy part is I don’t think any of this is against the party rules, it’s just the way they’ve always done it. But they’ve never had a year like this year and if they don’t make changes it will drive people away from the party.”

I don’t disagree.

* Second, the various candidates and campaigns had all sorts of complaints about the delegate process. Among them:

— One of the delegates became a delegate two days before the vote.

— Another delegate arrived after the cutoff time to pick up credentials, but was still allowed to vote.

— Several delegates didn’t actually vote, and were represented by proxies. “How responsible do you take your role as a delegate if you can’t even bother to attend?” a party representative told me—and it’s hard to argue this point.

— One of the proxies was not a District 48 resident.

The biggest gripe came Saturday night, when Rouda—knowing Keirstead would take the delegate victory—tried a Steve Bartkowski-to White Shoes Johnson Hail Mary. As I wrote the next day: “There’s an odd-yet-well-known rule whereas one can temporarily table an endorsement of an opponent if he/she can collect 300 signatures from the 1,000-plus delegates in attendance at the convention (geography be damned). So Rouda did what you do in this world—he went after the autographs.”


Seriously, this was bad. Really bad. Say what you want about Harley Rouda, say what you want about Hans Keirstead, say what you want about Diet Coke’s new soda lineup—this crossed myriad lines. And I’m not the only one who feels as such. Howard Dean, the former governor and Democratic Party head, saw the video clip and didn’t mince words …

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I asked Narayana about it. This is what she said:

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Yes, that’s a poor try at defending the visually indefensible.

Later in the day I spoke with Mike McLaughlin, Rouda’s campaign manager. He was upset with the process of signature collections for two reasons. (A). Because even though a campaign needs 300 signatures to table the party endorsement, they were given one piece of paper, with 24 lines on it. “You have to find a copy machine somewhere and make enough copies so there are 300 spaces for signatures,” he said. “We ran to the Hilton across the street and asked the nice lady if we could use the copy machine. It was obviously made to be hard.” (B) Because he said, come 10:50, he believed they had 300 signatures. “I went to the room to hand in the signatures,” McLaughlin said. “I met with staffers and they said I needed to wait in the hallway. So I went to the hallway, and a security guard came out at 11:02 and said the room was closed and not accepting signatures.”

I asked Narayana. This was the exchange:

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And there it is.

Right there.

The thing that drives me crazy about politics.

Two weeks ago, the Orange County Register’s Martin Wisckol quoted Vigna defending the endorsement process as “transparent and fair.”

“Our endorsement is decided by our delegates, the vast majority of whom are volunteers who contribute their time and energy to our party—teachers, nurses, labor union members, environmental activists and civil-rights advocates,” Vigna said. “Transparency is a core value of our party and that’s why every vote is cast in public.”

But then, in the immediate aftermath of the vote, Vigna is simultaneously praising Keirstead’s campaign and bashing Rouda’s. Keirstead is a beacon of positivity; Rouda is a guy using “scorched-earth tactics.” Again, this is in the immediate aftermath of an election you (the California Democratic Party) supposedly had no influence upon. The CDP didn’t care who won, right? It didn’t matter. It was about the people picking their desired leader.




Here’s the thing, by the way: I don’t think Hans Keirstead is a bad guy, and I don’t think Harley Rouda is a bad guy. Politics suck, because everyone enters hoping to make a change, and everyone leaves covered in soot and dog shit.

For all the, “We’re just the innocents here,” Rouda’s efforts have turned—in my opinion—far too negative. There’s a lot of trash talk (and trashing) via social media. One of his people told me he/she would never vote for Keirstead—that he/she might as well go for Dana Rohrabacher because it’d be the same thing (To be clear—that’s a fucking insane sentiment).

When I asked a person close to this election who was more in the wrong, Rouda or Keirstead, he took a long pause. “I don’t know,” he said. “Have you seen some of the negative ads out of Harley’s camp? Not cool. But with Hans, there’s a lot of slimy stuff. So … I really don’t know. It’s gotten ugly.”

The final point I’ll make is this: Over the weekend, I was angry. Really angry. And not because Hans seized the day. Truth be told, while I don’t think he beats Dana Rohrabacher in the general, I do believe he’d be a perfectly fine congressman; one I’d vote for over Dana sans reservation.

No, I was angry because the party picked their guy and did everything possible to make sure he’d win. I feel—to a certain degree—as if this website has been a big waste of time, because why try and educate and inform when that education and information gets you nowhere but the very spot where you began?

And yet maybe, just maybe, there’s a different way to look at this. Say what you want about Hans Keirstead’s campaign, but it’s not run by a bunch of softies. Anita Narayana rubs me wrongly 100 different ways. But would I want her on my side in a sure-to-be-ugly election against Dana Rohrabacher? Yeah, I think I would. Same goes for Kyle Quinn-Quesada. They’re probably not people (from afar, at least) I’d enjoy more than 10 minutes with. But they attack. They spear. They fight. They jab. They cross lines. In a world of Mother Theresas, they’re Mike Tysons.

Is that pretty? No.

Comfortable? No.

Enjoyable? No.

Is it the route to chalking up a win against a longtime incumbent who has rarely been smacked in the mouth during an election?

Honestly, maybe.


PS: Just received this e-mail, from a friend who tightly follows SoCal politics:

Even though Keirstead won the endorsement, I still believe it guarantees nothing. None of these guys have name ID. I promise you that if you walk down your street, many will know who Rohrabacher is, a good number will not even know there is a gubernatorial race this year, and no one will know any of the Dems running for Rohrabacher’s seat. That means it’s still an open race for the #2 slot. The party is putting ints monetary resources into flipping Issa and Royce’s seats, not so much Rohrabacher’s.
One more note: if Rouda, or Oatman, or Siddiqui win in June, these activists will forget Keirstead and get behind the nominee. The primary and general are like two separate wars with a reset button pressed after the primary.
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