Meet the Candidates: A crazydana analysis

So about an hour ago I returned from the Faith Episcopal Church in Laguna Niguel. That’s where the Aliso Niguel Democratic Club hosted a debate/forum to meet the seven people fighting to run in next year’s 48th Congressional District general election against Dana Rohrabacher.

On a whole, I thought it was a pretty solid event. The room was packed—which was awfully encouraging. People were polite, deferential, informed. The six men and one woman were given a full four minutes to speak at the start, which was probably a bit long (for some reason, folks running for office always feel the need to milk every second. It’s often a mistake), but ultimately fine. The Q&A session that followed was a mixed bag. An inordinate amount of time was devoted to a potential military draft (predictably, none of the seven want one), while precious little attention was spent answering the most important question of 2017: How do you beat a 28-year Republican incumbent in a district that still leans heavily toward the right?)

Anyhow, it proved to be a solid opportunity to size up the candidates. So here, based on my observations, lies the best-to-worst rankings from the night …

• 1. Harley Rouda: So I met Harley for breakfast several months ago, and came away with mixed feelings. I liked him, I thought his heart was in the right place. But I couldn’t tell how well versed he was on issues, and whether his background (Ohio, not California) would hurt. Well, he sorta owned tonight. Harley has a presence—a factual presence. He speaks clearly, he stands straight, he looks like the president of a bank. When he referred to Donald Trump as “a madman … a threat to world security,” people felt the rage. Is he liberal enough for far-left Dems? Maybe not. But do the optics work when he stands next to Dana Rohrabacher? Yes. Can he hold his own in a debate setting? Based on this evening—also yes.

• 2. Michael Kotick: Throughout the early stages of this race, a solid 95 percent of the attention has been devoted to Rouda, Hans Keirstead and Laura Oatman. Among other things, that means guys like Kotick have sorta slipped beneath the radar. Well, tonight the 34-year-old Nestlé executive emerged. I found Kotick to be energetic, smart, extremely informed and articulate. Late in the evening the candidates were asked by a high school student to name what they considered to be the greatest threat to America. There were varied replies, most of them flat and predictable. Kotick’s statement, however, morphed into this poignant address on how we, as Democrats, need to stop bashing folks who voted for Trump, and instead work on wooing them. For my money, it was the moment of the night.

• 3. Laura Oatman: I met Laura for the first time earlier today, at Starbucks, and I walked away impressed. I thought she really soared through the first, oh, 40 percent of the event—then dropped precipitously. In particular, three of the candidates were asked a question related to the FAA, and planes flying inappropriate patterns as they leave Orange County. Both Rouda and Keirstead deftly offered their takes. Oatman, meanwhile, admitted she really didn’t know much about the problem. This was both honest and (to be blunt) unfortunate. People tend to hate politics because the practitioners are deemed full of shit. But sometimes you do (factually) have to bullshit your way through an answer. This was one of those moments.

Oatman also went on a bit of a riff on how, with women in charge, things work out better. Which may well be true. In fact, it probably is true. But those sort of lines, while good for quick applause, don’t fly in a general election when 50 percent of your voters are male.

Bright side: She owned climate change and spoke passionately about her desire to run out of love for Orange County. Those were stirring (and important) moments.

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 11.21.18 PM

• 4. Omar Siddiqui: Really interesting candidate with the most unique background of the bunch. Throughout the election I’ve repeatedly heard Siddiqui referred to as a “Reagan Democrat,” and (just being honest) I cringe. I mean, on the one hand, whoever runs against Dana Rohrabacher will have to be moderate. This is non-negotiable—you can’t win the 48th with a granola-eating, John Denver-quoting, Bernie Sanders-immitating uber liberal. I wish you could, but we’re not there yet. So perhaps “Reagan Democrat” is OK. But … well … um … when the phrase was uttered, you felt a cold shudder in the room. You just did. Stylistically, I also didn’t love his need to stand with every answer, as the other candidates sat. It felt rehearsed and inauthentic.

That all being said, Siddiqui has worked as a private advisor and consultant to the FBI, and he was the only person in the room able to name drop personal encounters with Barack Obama and James Comey. That kind of thing matters, especially when you’re running against a congressman who’s been around since the heyday of Juan Samuel and the Cabbage Patch Kid.

• 5. Hans Keirstead: So I’ve now seen Keirstead twice, and I’m increasingly confident that the Democratic National Committee—which seems committed to backing Hans as its candidate of choice—is making a mistake. Resume? Check. Money? Check. Turns invisible in a room? Check. I’m not trying to be mean, because he seems like a lovely guy. But Keirstead was barely noticeable, even though he sat in the front of the room. He also tends to answer in long, winding statements and sentences. When asked to name America’s top threat, he said, “Macroeconomic destabilization of the country.” And while this is, in fact, a valid thought, it’s also one that leaves 75.7 percent of the folks in any room collectively scratching their heads.

In short, he’s quickly becoming the Jeb Bush of this race. That needs to change.

• 6. Tony Zarkades: Of the seven people on the stage, this is the one I’d choose to have a beer with. That said, I’d also enjoy a beer with George W. Bush.

Zarkades goes by “Tony Z.” That’s mistake No. 1—it comes off amateurish. I’m selecting a congressman, not my son’s flag football coach. Mistake No. 2—he just didn’t seem to have a strong grasp on the specifics of issues. These sort of events can by dry and sleep-inducing, but they do serve to expose people who might not be ready for the majors. Tony Z was entertaining, sincere, dogged, funny. But I couldn’t imagine voting for him over the five other prime candidates.

• 7. Boyd Roberts: I mean … um … eh … I’ll just leave it with this: His stated goal is to have 100 percent of Orange County voting blue.

My stated goal is to fly to Jupiter in five minutes powered by Coca Cola and Thin Mints.


Coffee with Laura Oatman

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 10.47.01 AM

So a few minutes ago I wrapped up an hour-long coffee chat with Laura Oatman here at the Starbucks in Laguna Niguel.

Laura, for those who might not know, is running for the 48th congressional seat. By the relatively meaningless rankings of likely Democrats to unseat the awful Dana Rohrabacher, she’s hanging a strong third, behind (but not all that far behind) Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda.

Were I breaking it down (which I suppose I’m about to do), it’d go something like this:


• The only serious Democratic candidate who has lived her entire life in Southern California. If I’m Oatman, I milk that and milk that and milk that. It matters. It’s what representation is supposed to be about. This isn’t a gig for the person with the most dough. It’s a gig for the person with the most love and interest in his/her community. Harley isn’t from here. Hans isn’t from here. Laura is from here. This is her turf. She raised her kids here. Built a business here. She can make that pitch—convincingly.

• Self-made businesswoman who, after losing her architecture job during the economic downturn of the mid-2000s, started her own firm from scratch. Which she still runs. Generally speaking, people relate with the “self-made” designation. As they should.

Extremely personable. And that’s not code for “She’s a woman” or “Only female candidate.” Laura has a natural warmth to her that shines in one-on-one conversation. It’s easy to see her owning a room. It’s easy to see her as a striking contrast to the ornery, awkward, somewhat-senile-and-odd Rohrabacher.

• Very strong on environmental issues.

• Seems willing to slug it out with Dana Rohrabacher, need be. This is a major weakness for Keirstead, who seems reserved and a bit guarded. Oatman projects a certain toughness. Not a “fuck you” toughness, but a “I don’t need to take your shit” toughness.


• Dough. Or lack thereof. Which doesn’t mean Laura hasn’t succeeded in raising campaign money. No—it means she’s not as independently wealthy as Keirstead or Rouda. And while it sucks that this is a factor, well, it’s a factor. Races that once cost $75,000-to-$100,000 to run now cost (bare minimum) $750,000-to-$1 million. Can Laura raise that? Certainly possible. But it does help to know certain folks already have it in pocket.

• Very strong on environmental issues: Weird, right? Because I just listed this as a pro. But here’s the thing—environmental issues are the ultimate double-edged sword. To win the 48th a candidate will have to (100% have to) steal Republican/right-leaning votes. And, generally, Republican voters focus on business before trees, air, water. So while one can be pro-environment, she/he also has to be pro-business and sound pro-business. There’s an awkward crossover there.

• Vegan: Laura is vegan. Which I applaud. And this might sound like a dumb criticism. But there’s an imagery Democrats have to overcome, especially in right-leaning areas. And it’s the whole granola, “Free to be You and Me,” let’s-all-hold-hands-and-hug mojo that (stupidly) causes some Republicans to say, “Uhg, enough with this touchy-feely shit.” I’m not sure if I’m being clear here, but it’s true. What Dana Rohrabacher does well is speak plainly, boldly, Republican-ly. “We need to stop immigrants! We need to build up the military! Force! Bluster! Bluster! Force!” It’s maddening, but the simplicity of message and tone resonates. So … there’s a line to walk.


My conclusion: Right now, Laura Oatman is the Ross Perot (circa 1992) of the Democratic field. Would I bet my house on her win? No. Would I feel comfortable betting my house that she doesn’t win? Also no.

She’s a potentially strong candidate whose local ties stand out. She has yet to break through.

But I think she might.

And can.


Dana and Nazi sympathizers

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 1.03.15 PM
A symbol that doesn’t much seem to bother our congressman

Crazy—and true—new report from

Dana Rohrabacher, the same man who attended a Huntington Beach march with Neo Nazis, recently brought Charles C. Johnson, a well-known Holocaust denier, to a meeting with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

This, from the article:

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 1.01.52 PM

To be clear: I don’t take Nazi symbolism lightly. I would never throw it around, use it to exaggerate, pretend someone has leanings they don’t. For example, I think Donald Trump is a crumb and a nightmare. Do I think he admires Nazis? No.

This, however, is different.

This is Dana Rohrabacher.

There are things worth using in 2018.

Repeated associations with Nazi sympathizers is one of them.

A big one.

Dana Rohrabacher on health coverage

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.25.45 PM
Marvin Hagler (right) treated Tommy Hearns like Dems need to treat Dana on health care

Now that Donald Trump has gone all in into dismantling Obamacare, it’s time for people to pay attention—close attention—to Dana Rohrabacher on the issue.

For the most part, ol’ Dana has stayed out of the debate. He talks tons about Russia and  surfing and surfing and Russia, but few are the statements from our congressman that concern overturning the health care law.

Why? Simple. Because, for him, it’s a big loser. The vast majority of Californians like Obamacare. Poll after poll shows this. So the worst thing Rohrabacher can do is dive headfirst into a debate he loses.

Which is why we need—need need need—to force his hand.

There are winning issues and losing issues in the 2018 election. Dana Rohrabacher stays in office if we make it about town halls. Why? Because the vast majority of denizens don’t really care. Dana Rohrabacher stays in office if we make it about Donald Trump’s personality. Why? Because while most people don’t enjoy Trump’s in-your-face antics, that (in and of itself) has little to do with Dana Rohrabacher. Dana Rohrabacher stays in office if we make it about taxes. Why? Because he’ll just brag about tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. And people like the language, even if the implementation stinks.

So where are the vulnerabilities? Well, there’s certainly his lack of bills. There’s certainly his weird obsession with Russia. There’s certainly his kooky and erratic behavior. There’s certainly his stupidity over the environment.

And there’s health coverage.

As people start to lose protections, Rohrabacher will stammer and shrug and try to distance himself from the fray. Well, that can’t happen. In boxing (to use a sports metaphor), you don’t let an opponent breathe. You hit him, you charge forward, you hit him again. You slug the ribs, then the gut, then the ribs again. You don’t let him regain his footing.

That’s Dana Rohrabacher. Health care is a slippery slope.

Push him.

I don’t feel great about Hans Keirstead

Earlier tonight I attended a meeting of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club. It was my first time at their gathering, and the scene was fantastic. Mostly filled seats, free snacks and an uplifting optimism in the error era of Donald Trump.

What had most of the attendees jazzed was a scheduled appearance from Hans Keitstead, considered by many to be the person who will offer the greatest challenge to Dana Rohrabacher in next year’s District 48 congressional race. Keitstead is a smart, successful, handsome scientist who is known to many as one of the world’s leading innovators in stem cell research. His bio is impressive; his individual wealth important. Even though there are nearly a dozen men and women running to snag Rohrabacher’s seat, the Democratic National Committee had already deemed Keitstead its brightest hope. That’s why they are putting a good chunk of money behind his candidacy—and none behind any of his opponents.

I digress.

Keitstead had to cancel a live showing tonight because he’s in Washington, D.C. So he Skyped in, apologized and spoke to the assembled folk for, oh, 20 minutes.

And he was bright.

And he was devoted.

And he was overflowing with conviction.

And he was …


… so boring and uninspired.

I know. I know. This sounds awful, and we need to support our own. But Hans Keitstead was making a first impression to most of us in the room, and it was dry as toast; dull as cardboard; flat as Velveeta. After introducing himself, he spoke at length about the value of health insurance, and told the inspiring story of someone who can now walk after being certain he never would. The tale was plenty fantastic, but (again, being honest) I kept thinking, “What the hell does this have to do with winning my vote?” I can’t speak for everyone, but a whole bunch of folks looked to be paying more attention to their phones than Keitstead. No good.

This is a big problem, because to overcome Rohrabacher (a man as cagey as he is nutso) one must come armed with more than an inspiring story and a smooth stump speech. Nope—he must arrive with a sword. A big sword. He must be willing to chop Rohrabacher to bits; to show (repeatedly) that our congressman is equal parts crazy and unaccomplished; batshit loco and callously indifferent. It sucks, but we won’t win this thing solely on the basis of better ideas. No, no, no. We need better ideas mixed with nonstop reminders that Rohrabacher belongs inside a straight jacket.

Hans Keitsetad struck me as polite and kind. Those are virtues I want in a friend, in a relative, in a representative. But, in a candidate in 2018, I need more.

Much more.

Right now, I’m not convinced he has it.

Dana Rohrabacher had ONE thing going for him

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 9.09.01 AM
“Mr. President, it’s Rohrabacher again …”

Say what you want about Dana Rohrabacher, but he had one thing going for him, and it was a biggie: President Trump seemed to like and respect him.

I know … I know—yuck. Trump. I agree. But whether you like or loathe a commander in chief, it’s certainly not a bad thing for your local representative to be on good terms with someone with so much power. Especially here, in California, a state the president barely seems to know exist. Heck, the argument can be made that of all the elected officials in the Golden State, Dana Rohrabacher most had the president’s attention.

That, if nothing else, was something our man could hang his hat on!


Eh, right?

Um … hello? Cleveland?

As it turns out, the White House wants nothing to do with Dana Rohrabacher. Which, oddly, speaks well of the White House.

According to Business Insider, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is actively blocking Rohrabacher from meeting with Trump. And, wonderfully, the source of this information is … Dana Rohrabacher.

Here, take a gander …

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 9.06.25 AM

So, let’s think about this. When Dana Rohrabacher runs for office, he always—like, always, always, always—cites his foreign policy credentials. Hell, that’s his go-to mojo. Yet now, the president of the United States will not grant him an audience. Think about that: A fellow Republican will have nothing to do with Dana Rohrabacher.

If I’m someone running against Rohrabacher in 2018, that’s not merely something I evoke on the stump.

It’s a chunk of my platform.

Thoughts, prayers, Dana Rohrabacher

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 11.44.29 AM

I am not devoting today to thoughts and prayers.

I am not kneeling and thinking about the victims.

I am not kneeling and praying for the victims.

Fifty-eight victims have died.

They are gone.

Lost to time

Invisible to existence.

Today, kids have lost mothers.

Mothers have lost kids.

Brothers have lost brothers.

Grandchildren have lost grandparents.

Friends have lost friends.

Fiances have lost fiances.

There are children who, until last night, were destined to be born. Grandchildren. Generations of families, eternally wiped out before they could ever arrive, plant seeds and thrive.

I will not insult them by kneeling and praying and thinking.


Today, I will stare down our congressman, Mr. Dana Rohrabacher, who has repeatedly turned a blind eye to gun violence (while gladly taking NRA dough) and I will say, “What the fuck will it take?”

Have you not received enough NRA coin?

Is your A rating from the NRA not enough?

Was your vote to block gun registrations in Washington, D.C. not enough?

Was your vote to decrease the waiting period not enough?

Was Columbine not enough?

Was Sandy Hook not enough?


San Bernardino?

You insult me by offering thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers do not stop weapons like the one used last night. Thoughts and prayers do not help society prevent future catastrophes.

Thoughts and prayers are your mental laziness … your political cowardice.

I know you will do nothing. So go think and pray.

Go think and pray.

Dana XVI: Even Crazier

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 4.29.50 PM
Vote for me: I’m crazy.

Sooooo … earlier today the San Francisco Chronicle published a profile of Dana Rohrabacher.

And …

Eh …

Ah …

He’s insane.

Here’s the link. Trust me—read it. This is new level stuff; the sort of material that, in the pre-Trump world, would serve to eliminate a candidate from any future public office. Back in the old days of, um, 2015, a human couldn’t be this outspokenly batshit insane and thrive in the political world.

But here we are, in September 2017, facing the potential 16th term of a man who …

A. Is convinced the violence in Charlottesville was caused by a former “Hillary and Bernie supporter” who got Civil War re-enactors to gather violently while pretending they were angry about a Robert E. Lee statue. “It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors,” Rohrabacher told Joe Garofoli, the writer. “It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation” and to “put our president on the spot.”

B. Thinks Russia had nothing—absolutely nothing—to do with our 2016 presidential election. “That story,” he said, “is a total fabrication in order to do one thing: To prevent Donald Trump from exercising the legitimate authority he was given by the voters in the last election.”

C. Is itching to cut a deal with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who he visited this past summer at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

This goes on and on and on.

Trust me.



Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.20.13 AM

As predicted, Dana Rohrabacher has 100-percent supported Donald Trump’s DACA movement. This is from the Orange County Register

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.17.02 AM

I’m not sure if Russia is, in and of itself, a winning issue against Rohrabacher.

I’m not sure if a refusal to hold town halls is a winning issue, either.

This, however, is.

It shows heartlessness, cruelty, indifference. It paints the happy surfer grandpa in a truthful light.

We need to us it.

Dana’s silence on DACA

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 3.59.35 PM

Is there’s one thing we’ve learned about Dana Rohrabacher since the inauguration of Donald Trump, it’s that he’s terrified of Daddy.

Rohrabacher won’t criticize Donald Trump.

He won’t speak up on issues that are important to Donald Trump.

He certainly won’t oppose Donald Trump.

That means, when the president officially announces tomorrow that he plans on ending DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Dana Rohrabacher won’t utter a peep. He won’t complain, he won’t gripe, he won’t rip, he won’t bemoan.

He’ll stay silent.

It’s fantastic.

Why “fantastic”? Because, with the exception of his beloved Huntington Beach-based skinheads and wanna-be Nazis, most everyone in Southern California has empathy and understanding for people who were brought here as children. I’m being serious about this—I know many Republicans, but I know (literally) zero Republicans who think we should deport people who arrived (with no say) as children; who have never actually lived in the nations they’ll be deported to.

It’s a mean, vicious thing the president is about the do, and Dana Rohrabacher will—100-percent guaranteed—sit back and grimace.

No words.

No anger.

Just grimace.

Well, that grimace is a poster. It’s a commercial.

It’s the stuff that loses elections.