Will Rohrabacher Show at Debate Tonight? Plus, He and Mimi Walters Get Drilled

Will the 48th district congressman get smoked? Illustration by Bill Hunt

At least four Democratic candidates seeking the 48th Congressional District seat of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) are scheduled to debate tonight at UC Irvine.

Meanwhile, representatives of various groups plan to gather at the Huntington Beach Pier on Thursday to call on Rohrabacher and 45th Congressional District Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) to reverse their positions on oil drilling off the California coast. Both Members of Congress have come out in support of President Donald Trump’s proposal to do just that.

Rohrabacher has been invited to tonight’s debate, which begins at 7 p.m. in the UCI Student Center, but if he does not show up his Democratic challenger Michael Kotick will fill the empty slot. Democratic candidates Harley Rouda, Hans Keirstead, Omar Siddiqui and Laura Oatman are already in.

Left out are Rohrabacher’s fellow Republicans Paul Martin and Stelian Onufrei, who are also seeking the 48th district seat, as are uninvited candidates Brandon Reiser of the Libertarian Party and independent Kevin Kensinger.

That’s because the debate, the second in a series of four, is organized by Indivisible OC 48, a progressive group trying to flip the district to a Democrat. The ACLU of Orange County is a co-sponsor.

Constituents will be allowed to fire questions to each of the five candidates on stage about immigration and foreign policy, including DACA, the foreign aid budget, emerging threats and Donald Trump’s dream of a border wall, according to Indivisible 48.

The debate moderator is Andrea Bird-Steiner, a Marine Corps veteran intelligence analyst who went on to become an attorney, clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford in Santa Ana and work for several large law firms with the 48th Congressional District, including the one she founded, Bird Law Group in Costa Mesa. Bird-Steiner argued pro bono in the U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of Carey Avendano-Hernandez, a transgender woman from Mexico who was tortured by police and military officials, which resulted in a published Ninth Circuit opinion granting relief under the Convention Against Torture. She was a California Lawyer 2016 Attorney of the Year.

“The way we as a nation relate to the rest of the world and to the people that come to this country should reflect our values,” says Bird-Steiner of tonight’s debate topics. “It is important that we hear from the candidates about the values they want reflected, and how, if elected, they would enact legislation that would implement those values.” 

The debate is scheduled to run until 9:30 p.m. in the student center’s Crystal Cove Auditorium at 4113 Pereira Dr., Irvine. Admission is free but you should click here to RSVP to guarantee a seat. 

The event will also be live streamed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRpxBEC8sBs.

Illustration by Leslie Again

Next, Indivisible OC 48 joins Indivisible OC 45, Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, Orange County Voter Registration Project, Indivisible OC 45, HB Huddle, NextGen America, Resist Here, SoCal Healthcare Coalition, Working Families Party, Organizing for America and Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE) in organizing Thursday’s noon gathering next to the Huntington Beach Pier.

They will be there, with offshore oil platforms on the horizon, to urge Rohrabacher and Walters to oppose Trump’s offshore oil drilling plan before the official comment period ends on Friday. According to organizers:

Rohrabacher has come out in support of the plan, and Walters urged the Trump Administration to develop the plan. Meanwhile, Republican elected officials joined Democrats in Florida to oppose Trump’s drilling plan there and killed it. 

Recent polls show broad and bipartisan disapproval of offshore oil drilling in California at a time when Walters and Rohrabacher are embroiled in two of the most hotly-contested House races in the country. According to the highly-regarded and non-partisan UC Berkeley-IGS poll, Rohrabacher’s constituents oppose Trump’s oil drilling plan 61% to 37%.

The two also cast votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which were also far out of step with their constituents.

 “Orange County doesn’t want more oil drilling off our coast, so whose side are Congressmembers Rohrabacher and Walters on?” said Zane Rice of the SoCal Healthcare Coalition.

 Walters, who just took office in 2015, has already taken $192,850 in contributions from from oil and gas interests, while Rohrabacher has taken $97,854. 



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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