Why, Rachel Payne? Why?

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Payne: In the race.

In case you missed this, we now have a 12th (yes, twelfth!) Democratic candidate entering the race to oust Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th congressional district.

Rachel Payne, an Aliso Viejo-based technology executive and entrepreneur, declared her candidacy a couple of days ago, and we here at crazydana.com would like to welcome her to the race by saying …

Stop.

Everyone, stop.

This is not about Rachel Payne. Or Omar Siddiqui. Or Harley Rouda. Or Laura Oatman. Or  Hans Keirstead. Or even the one-of-a-kind Boyd Roberts. What this is about is winning a shockingly winnable election. It’s about a moment in time when Democrats can grab ownership of Orange County. It’s about a message finally being heard. It’s about a wounded incumbent. It’s about optimism. It’s about values.

Right now, we have a legitimate 50/50 shot. We truly do—and that’s not something I would have said a year ago, when this blog began. But (and this is a huge but) we can’t screw this up.

A week or so ago I sat down with Paul Martin, the longshot moderate Republican who also entered the election. And a big part of his strategy (a smart part of his strategy) is to have so many Democrat entrants that they cancel one another out. And, truth be told, that may well happen. We’re becoming a little Lord of the Flies-ish here, where so many people think they’re the one that, well, no one winds up the one.

Hell, take a look at Rachel’s website. She’s terrific. Optimism. Liberal platform. Good experience. Then take a look at Harley’s website. Then Laura’s website. Then Omar’s website. Then Hans’ website. Then Michael Kotick’s website.

Notice something? They’re all pretty much the same. Yes, some a nudge more to the left, some a nudge more to the right. But, mostly, what you’ll get with one in congress is what you’ll get with the other in congress. And that’s awesome, in a sense, because they’d all be far superior to Dana Rohrabacher.

But (and, again, this is a huge but) … ego is a motherfucker. And what happens in politics is those running become addicted to the hype, to the speeches, to the applause. And (words be damned) they wind up convinced that they need to be elected. It’s no longer about change, but about their placement in guiding that change.

At some point, sooner than later, many of the 12 need to ask themselves whether this is hurting or helping.

Whether it’s about the win, or their win.

Our own Roy Moore

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In this world, there is crazy. And there is crazy.

Crazy is thinking Ariana Grande has a better voice than Whitney Houston.

Crazy is enjoying the Whopper over a legit steak.

Crazy is vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale when Rome was available.

But crazy is a different level altogether. Crazy is Roy Moore thinking God sent him to govern. Crazy is Roy Moore thinking God sent him to govern—then, after losing an election, believing God’s will simply can’t be ignored. Crazy is thinking gays are damned to hell, blacks shouldn’t enjoy equal rights, education needs to start with the Bible. On and on and on.

Although they will not say so aloud, I’ve met a growing number of Southern California Republicans who think Dana Rohrabacher is crazy. Not crazy racist or crazy homophobic—crazy like the guy who thinks his slippers speak Spanish and his dog is a potted plant. And, really, how can’t they? Rohrabacher’s stances these days aren’t merely far right or far left. They’re pure wackadoo. He is a man, remember, who started as a Ronald Reagan speechwriter, which means his hero was as anti-Russia as they come.

But now, in full view, Rohrabacher can’t help but spew his pro-Russia propaganda. He doesn’t even do so in full sentences, oft opting for utterances, stammered half-phrases, grunts and grumbles.

I do not wish bad upon the man.

But he’s crazy.

Wait, no.

Crazy.

The Republican who wants to unseat Dana

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DANA POINT—I entered the Harbor House and immediately recognized Paul Martin.

Maybe it was the glasses. Maybe it was the curious glance. Maybe it was that something about the man looks … inviting. If that’s a confusing term, allow me to elaborate. Martin, the long-shot Republican candidate for California’s 48th Congressional District, has a certain air of openness about him. He’s a casual guy; a comfortable have-a-seat-and-let’s-chat mojo that’s immediately appealing.

So, earlier tonight, I had a seat. And we chatted.

As anyone who reads crazydana knows, I’m a pretty hard-core liberal. But that doesn’t mean I’m not openminded to the upcoming race. The No. 1 goal, right now, is for someone to unseat Dana Rohrabacher. If that’s Harley Rouda—great. If that’s Laura Oatman—great. And if that’s Martin—well, I’m good with it.

Why? Allow me to list the reasons:

• 1. Because he abhors Dana Rohrabacher: There was no ambiguity about this one. In our 1 1/2 hours together, Martin called the congressman “inept” and “criminal.” He said he would vote for any Democrat over Rohrabacher, and openly questioned what, exactly the man has done in his time in congress. “Over the last 17 years there’s been one bill passed that was his legislation,” Martin said. “That’s embarrassing.”

• 2.  Because he abhors Donald Trump: I asked Paul to list his five all-time favorite political figures. It read thusly:

  • 1. Abe Lincoln
  • 2. Winston Churchill
  • 3. George H. W. Bush
  • 4. John F. Kennedy
  • 5. Ronald Reagan 

I then asked for his three least-favorite:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. George Wallace
  3. Lyndon Johnson

Martin rightly blames Trump for the current awfulness of America. In particular, he cited decency, compassion, empathy. “All lacking,” he said. “It’s just depressing.”

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• 3. Because he’s just a guy: Martin is as much a politician as I am. Or as former Seattle Mariner DH Edgar Martinez is. Or as the members of Jefferson Starship are. He’s a former Anglican pastor who worked for many years as a self-employed technical writer. He blogs. He vents. His motivation to run is simple: He’s fed up with Rohrabacher. So he’s spent the past several months pressing the flesh, raising money, speaking to groups. “I just think we can do better,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

• 4. Because he’s very moderate: I asked Paul why, exactly, he’s a Republican. And while parts of his reply didn’t thrill me (he believes strongly in a small federal government), at least he’s sincere. Paul is of the mindset that, not all that long ago, the GOP was the party of decency and empathy. He loved Reagan and the elder Bush, and thought both men were open to negotiations with opponents.

Nowadays, under Trump, Paul smells pure anger and mistrust. He sees himself as the ultimate moderate. He voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney, but thought Barack Obama was ultimately excellent. He loves Bernie Sanders; greatly admires Joe Biden. He’s pro-life, but doesn’t believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. He’s 100-percent pro-gay marriage, and believes in protecting the environment.

•••

Now here’s the question: Can Paul Martin win?

Answer: A whoooooole bunch of things would have to happen.

First, a gaggle of Democrats would have to divide the liberal/moderate/left vote, thereby allowing Rohrabacher and Martin to somehow wind up the two final candidates in the general election.

This could, theoretically, happen, but it’s starting to feel like Harley Rouda will be the definitive Democratic torchbearer. This would not benefit Martin, who needs some chaos to emerge. But, interestingly, he had no ill words for Rouda. “I would go for him over Dana,” he said. “In a second.”

Second, he’d have to raise a lot more money. Martin’s fundraising page has a stated goal of $20,000—a sliver of what’s probably needed to run a legitimate campaign. Thus far, according to data, 20 people have donated $1,705.

Third, Rohrabacher needs to acknowledge him. That might sound odd, but it’s true. Somehow or another, Martin needs to get the congressman’s attention. He needs the legitimacy of being an irksome flea on the dog. That serves of an “I’m here!” announcement.

Again, it’s all pretty unlikely.

But I dig his integrity.

The traitor

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Back when I started crazydana, I didn’t love the idea of someone running against Dana Rohrabacher on the issue of his ties to Russia.

Why? Because it just felt like a bit of a disconnect. While the Russia thing is disconcerting, alarming, puzzling, awful, I wasn’t sure whether the right-leaning Orange County resident would be moved to vote against Rohrabacher on the strength of such information. Hell, even the congressman seemed to be thinking along these lines. “I feel like I’m in good shape politically,” he recently said. “My constituents couldn’t care less about this. They are not concerned about Russia. They are concerned about the taxes on their home. They are concerned about illegal immigrants coming into their neighborhood and raping people.”

Um, no.

In case you missed this one, four days ago the New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos wrote a piece headlined: HE’S A MEMBER OF CONGRESS. THE KREMLIN LIKES HIM SO MUCH IT GAVE HIM A CODE NAME. The story is a damning look into Russia’s love of Rohrabacher, a man considered by Vladimir Putin’s government to be an invaluable intelligence source. It also delves into the GOP’s growing distrust of Rohrabacher. Writes Fandos: “At the same time, fellow Republicans — questioning his judgment and intentions — have moved to curtail his power as chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. And back home in Southern California, where Democrats and Republicans alike smell blood, the 15-term congressman is facing his toughest re-election contest in decades, with well-funded candidates from both parties lining up to unseat him.”

There’s also these gems:

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This is no longer a wedge issue; no longer something Democrats might use, might not want to use. We are talking about a potentially traitorous congressman; a man who has put country over Orange County—and not even his own country. I would use this in advertisements. I would use this in speeches. I would use this in debate.

Dana Rohrabacher isn’t merely a bad congressman.

He’s a traitorous American.

Dana Rohrabacher does something right. Seriously.

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The seas have parted.

The skies have cleared.

Dogs and cats live in tranquility.

The original KISS lineup has reunited.

And Dana Rohrabacher, America’s craziest (and worst) congressman, did something right.

I’m being serious. Earlier today he was one of a small handful of Republican congressmen to vote against the House tax overall. His reasoning: It raised taxes on Californians.

If you’re sitting, stand. If you don’t smoke, have a cigarette. If you never play the lottery, play the lottery. Hell, buy 100 tickets.

Because today is a weird day.

That being said, don’t be fooled. If you know politics, you surely smell what this is: The desperate move of a man in a suddenly tight re-election bid. Rohrabacher is in trouble. Real trouble. And while you can march with neo-Nazis all you please, and praise Donald Trump all you please, and hide behind a door all you please … well, at some point you need to appeal to a wider range of voters.

That’s what this is.

Still, I’ll give him credit. He did the right thing.

Dana Rohrabacher finally steps up

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In case you missed this, earlier today the Washington Post broke the story of Roy Moore, the Republican Senatorial candidate in Alabama, having a history with underage women.

A solid number of GOP officeholders spoke up, insisting that, if the charges are true, Moore should immediately withdraw from the race.

To my great shock, no man or woman spoke with greater ferocity and strength than Dana Rohrabacher.

First, our congressman Tweeted: “I am disgusted by Roy Moore. For the good of America, and out of decency, he most leave the race immediately.”

Then, on Facebook, he wrote this eloquent post: “If there is one thing I believe about America, it is that we must both respect and love one another. Roy Moore, the Republican in name only, clearly violates this 1,000 times over. When I think of him, I think of a man who has no business serving the public, or running for office. We are nothing without our honor, and Roy Moore has none.”

Next, he went on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to bemoan Moore—and, again, demand his departure from electoral politics.

Bravo, Dana Rohrabacher!

Bravo!

Eh, I’m kidding.

He said shit.

But, on the bright side, two weeks ago he prepared Christmas stockings with some Brownies.

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Dana is too crazy for Republicans. Really.

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In case you missed this gem of gems, Dana Rohrabacher no longer has the trust of his fellow Republicans.

According to a report from Sarah D. Wire of the Tribune News Service, Rohrabacher’s congressional subcommittee is being “heavily monitored by GOP leaders” over concerns that out beloved congressman is in cahoots with Russia.

This makes sense—considering our beloved congressman is in cahoots with Russia.

Writes Wire:

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Earlier this year, Royce actually fired Paul Behrends, Rohrabacher’s pal and committee staffer, over concerns about his Russian connections. This infuriated the congressman, though he downplayed any anger to the media.

Sooooo … here’s the thing: If Democrats don’t like Dana Rohrabacher, and Republicans don’t trust Dana Rohrabacher, why is he in office?

Anyone?

Coffee with Omar Siddiqui

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Just had coffee with Omar Siddiqui, the attorney running to overtake Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th District.

At the start of the morning, pre-interview, my biggest issue with Omar Siddiqui is geography. In short, Omar doesn’t technically live in the 48th District. According to a Nexis/Lexis search (the exact same Nexis/Lexis search any opposition research team will use), Omar has resided in a house in Fullerton for years. He also had addresses in La Mirada and, back in the day, Riverside. This is a problem. Potentially a huge problem. Now, when I asked him about it, Omar was—I believe—up front. He’s had an office in Costa Mesa for years and years. It’s where he spends (his words) 99.9 percent of my time. He has a gray couch that he often sleeps on. He identifies with the 48th, he feels the 48th, he loves the 48th. This, from the opening paragraph on his website bio

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Now, does this matter as an actual ability-to-represent-my-interests issue? Eh, probably not. But does it matter in an election. Yes. Not only yes—a seemingly big yes. Were I Dana Rohrabacher, running against Omar, I’d hammer this home time after time after time. I’d pay for ads and flyers that say, in the boldest letters possible, OMAR SIDDIQUI DOESN’T LIVE IN OUR DISTRICT—SO WHY SHOULD HE REPRESENT US? And while Omar will fire back with his lifetime in Orange County, his love of Orange County, the “I spent 99.9 percent of my time here” reasoning … well, it’s a toughie to tackle.

But here’s the thing: Should Omar be able to overcome this, he’s a very impressive guy; and to sit with him is to be in the presence of someone who is smart, who is engaging, who would, undoubtedly, make a strong candidate (again, if he can overcome geography). I don’t need to list the man’s biography (it’s here), but he’s both the most multifaceted and politically connected person in the race. At first I thought some of his James Comey and Barack Obama name droppings were a bit much. But, as Nexis and newspapers.com searches show, they’re legit. He has conversed with the 44th president on multiple occasions. He has worked directly with the FBI. Those are true feathers in the cap; especially when juxtaposed against the image of Rohrabacher playing footsie with Julian Assange. We have several good candidates. Successful businesspeople; well-regarded professors. But Omar’s experience is … different.

We chatted for about, oh, 50 minutes, and the conversation ranged from his identification as a Reagan Democrat (he’s a former Republican who leans more fiscally conservative on some issues) to his dismay over the Trump presidency (Omar says this is the first time he’s woken up, middle of the night, thinking politics) to the complications of running as a Muslim man with the name Omar Siddiqui in a conservative neck of the woods (he thinks people ultimately vote for policy. I tend to agree. We’re not living in Kentucky). The strength of his message is a genuine desire to work with both sides without surrendering his ideals. Omar said that if, tomorrow morning, Donald Trump pledged to support abortion rights and set aside any talk of a Muslim ban, he would applaud the move. That doesn’t mean he’d like Donald Trump—that was emphasized.

It means he’s pro-ideas more than pro-party.

I dig that.

Again, can Omar Siddiqui overcome geography? I don’t know.

Would he have my backing if he winds up a general election candidate? Absolutely.

PS: Omar was accompanied by two employees—a campaign manager and an assistant.  That was an initial turnoff, in that it just felt sorta … corporate. But, to their credit, both were lovely. Plus, after the interview I retreated to the bathroom and noticed a Texas-sized zit atop my lip (I’m eternally 12). None of the three noticeably cringed during coffee. They get huge props for that alone. 🙂

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.

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• 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.

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