A Laguna Beach real estate broker this week declared his candidacy for Congress with the aim of impeaching President Trump and challenging 28-year House of Representatives incumbent Dana Rohrabacher on his views toward Russia.
Meanwhile, some constituents in the 48th Congressional District, a coastal span from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel, have joined an anti-Trump group, Indivisible OC 48, which its members say has met outside Rohrabacher’s office on four successive Tuesdays.
This week, Rohrabacher said protesters knocked unconscious his district director in a tumult outside his office door. Kathleen Staunton, 71, fell when exiting a door that was pushed after opening, surprising and striking a child nearby. Rohrabacher described the incident as “political thuggery.”
OC 48 founder Mike Lisenbery rejects that characterization and said constituents were attempting to request a town hall meeting to express their concerns.
“Thus far, Mr. Rohrabacher’s staff refuses to accommodate us, despite phone calls, emails, letters, and online requests to meet. We believe the congressman has an obligation to hear from his base,” said jewelry maker Patti Jo Kiraly, of Aliso Viejo, identified in a statement as an organizer of a political action group in Laguna Beach.
Meanwhile, Democrat Boyd Lachlan Roberts filed with the Federal Election Commission to establish a campaign committee to challenge Rohrabacher. The Republican from Huntington Beach won re-election with 57 percent of the vote last November.
“Republicans aren’t likely to stand up to this president,” Boyd says in a YouTube video posted Sunday, Feb. 12, urging voters to look ahead to midterm elections in 2018. “We must take the fight to every seat and every precinct,” said Roberts, who noted that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 23 congressional districts represented by Republicans, including in Rohrabacher’s own district.
Roberts’ long-shot candidacy relies on whether impeachment resonates with discontented voters. “I’m not viable unless I have money,” said Roberts, who expects the county’s Democratic Party will ignore his candidacy until he can amass some funds.
“To have that as your platform is not a sure path to success,” said Fran Sdao, chair of the county Democratic Party. Other nearby districts where the GOP voter registration is less dominant are likely to get more financial support from the Democratic Congressional Committee, she said.
Roberts might find some traction in his adopted hometown, though the candidate concedes his will only succeed with financial backing.
Laguna Beach voters last Nov. 6 did reject Rohrabacher in favor of his opponent, Suzanne Savry, a Democrat from Newport Beach, with 50 percent of votes cast compared to 44 percent for the incumbent.
Roberts, a former commodities broker who switched to real estate sales 15 years ago, came in last in his first bid for public office as a candidate for the Hemet school board in 2012. He also declared his candidacy the following year to challenge Rep. Ken Calvert, a Republican from Corona, in the 42nd Congressional District, but changed his mind.
“I never thought I would run for political office again,” said Roberts, the son of a historian who admits to being a political junkie. November’s presidential election results proved a tipping point. “I felt like I had to act,” he said.
Roberts contends that Trump-owned hotels violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits office holders from accepting payments from foreign states. “On day one he was impeachable,” Roberts claimed. A liberal watchdog group filed a lawsuit against President Trump making a similar point last month.
Rohrabacher has thus far proved invulnerable to Democratic opponents. The 69-year-old has said he intends to run in 2018 and has $237,000 on hand as of Dec. 31. He raised $887,000 in the previous two years, campaign disclosure reports show.
But he may face a challenge from within his own party. Scott Baugh, a former member of the state Assembly and former county GOP chairman, last January established a 48th District campaign committee. His war chest held $548,000 as of Dec. 31, election commission records show.
Roberts said he wanted a fresh start after a divorce and relocated his real estate business to Laguna Beach last October in part because of its art scene. His avocation is painting.
While he’s never sold a painting, it remains to be seen whether he can sell voters on his candidacy.