Dana Watch: Baugh’s In Your Court

Illustration by Bob Aul

However you feel about the man, his political party or what he stands for, you have to tip your Kangol to Scott Baugh. A former Huntington Beach-based California assemblyman, state Assembly Republican Leader and Orange County Republican Party chairman, Baugh made a stunning last-minute entry into the 48th Congressional District race on March 9.

By filing paperwork to get his name on the June 5 primary ballot on the last possible day, Baugh turned the race upside-down. Based on his reputation, name recognition and money on hand, Baugh and his political mentor, incumbent Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s Vapor Rubber), could emerge as the only candidates on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot.

That’s thanks to California’s “jungle primary” system, in which the top two vote-getters from any party advance to the general. Despite the impressive war chests and endorsement lists that Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda have generated, they, along with the six fellow Democrats running in the primary, may very well cancel one another out so none make it onto the ballot.

While a Baugh campaign apparatus remained invisible at press time, he had collected $545,403 to run for the seat as of Dec. 31, 2017, which was more than any other candidate except Rouda ($833,668) and Rohrabacher ($713,444).

Baugh collected most of his money when he claims to have believed 70-year-old Rohrabacher was going to retire and leave the seat open. The incumbent reportedly took offense, accused Baugh of disloyalty and announced he was running again.

As Baugh employed radio silence in the months before the filing period ended, the assumption was he would sit the race out in deference to Rohrabacher. Instead, Baugh filed and piled on, based on an email he sent to Orange County Register political reporter Martin Wisckol on March 9: “Three decades in Congress can change a person, and unfortunately, Dana has changed. He has lost focus on what’s important and does not seem to understand that the middle-class families in our district care more about their jobs, the economy and taxes than about Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange and marijuana.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Rouda, Keirstead and other 48th candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties have been saying the same thing about Rohrabacher for months.

So, with little effort, Baugh could become a freshman congressman or the candidate who cock-blocked rising Democrats to keep a Republican incumbent in office, cementing his GOP-hero status.

Got Dana Watch fodder? Email mcoker@ocweekly.com.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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