Scores of people went away disappointed from a congressional candidates forum at Laguna Beach’s City Hall last Friday because Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the seated congressman in a newly redrawn district, did not show up.
“It was embarrassing,” said Jean Raun, Laguna Beach organizer for the League of Women Voters, which has hosted several political forums this year beginning with the June primary. “It was not good of him to not be there,” Raun said.
“I’m sorry if people went expecting to see me there,” said Rohrabacher, 65, who will be watching the third presidential debate this evening at Monahan’s Pub, operated by the mayor of Costa Mesa.
Reached earlier on Monday, the Huntington Beach Republican, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1988, said he was aware of the Laguna Beach forum but had never agreed to attend despite that Raun said the date was chosen with the assistance of his office staff and that she had notified him by registered mail.
“I haven’t participated with the League of Women Voters in 20 years,” said Rohrabacher, characterizing the group as possessing a left-leaning bias. “It’s not a unique criticism among conservatives,” he said.
Raun said she erred in assuming a lack of response meant the congressman had agreed to attend. She said a similar request to face off with the opposition candidate yielded an outright rejection from Mimi Walters, the seated Republican state senator now running in the 37th state Senate District against Steve Young, a Democrat.
An additional political boundary that includes Laguna Beach, the 74th state Assembly District contested by Allan R. Mansoor and Robert Rush, was also affected by last year’s re-districting, forcing previously elected officials to seek support in new territories.
Despite Rohrabacher’s absence, the forum went on without him, moderated by a league member from outside the 48th Congressional district who asked the opposition Democrat candidate, Ron Varasteh, questions from the audience that were screened by a balance of Democrats and Republicans, Raun said.
“He could not say we aren’t fair,” said Raun, rebuffing Rohrabacher’s characterization. Despite his dislike for the hosts, “he’s showing disdain for the people of Laguna Beach,” she said.
Rohrabacher refutes that as well, saying he has made more stops in Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel at small invited gatherings in recent weeks than in any other part of the district, including glad-handing during the opening of Laguna Beach’s Republican headquarters.
And in his 23 years in office, Rohrabacher said he has debated previous opponents, “but it has to be the right kind of forum,” he said. An unbiased college president would be a good convener, he suggested.
In other political news, Nick Hernandez, of Laguna Beach’s Democratic Club, said three-dozen Obama-Biden signs have either been slashed or stolen in recent days from local supporters.
“It’s scary,” he said. “That’s not in the spirit of the American election.”
The club, 1401 S. Coast Highway in the former Boom Boom Room gay night club, expects another big crowd for the final presidential debate, which begins at 6 p.m. PST.
And for a second time, a forum for Laguna Beach’s school board candidates will again compete for attention against a nationally televised political debate. The last one was scheduled during the vice presidential debate. This one takes place tonight at 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, 429 Cypress Dr.