Republican candidate Leslie Daigle, a Newport Beach City Council member, will not participate in a candidate’s forum for the 74th state Assembly District in Laguna Beach on Friday, May 25, which will go on in Council Chambers without her, said an organizer.
An empty chair and nameplate will represent the candidate in absentia. “I don’t think that’s unfair,” said Jean Raun, organizing the forum sponsored by the Laguna Beach branches of AAUW, the League of Women Voters, and the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach.
Daigle did not explain the reason for her nonattendance when informing Raun on Monday. She could not be reached for comment midweek.
Daigle criticized last month’s “Feet to the Fire” candidate forum in Costa Mesa where she did participate, in part because one of the panelists who questioned would-be officeholders had endorsed one of her opponents.
Others on the June 5 primary ballot include Newport Beach’s Robert L. Rush, a CPA by training and a Democrat, and Costa Mesa’s Allan R. Mansoor, a Republican and the unofficial incumbent since he was elected to the previous 68th District now partly absorbed by the new 74th. State campaign finance records show Mansoor received $91,000 in contributions between Jan. 1 and March 22, including a $10,000 contribution from the Lincoln Club as well as from several political action committees including car dealers, contractors and disability insurers. He did not return a call seeking comment.
“Daigle’s hiding is an example of a politician ducking the voters and avoiding having to take public positions, while letting Sacramento special interest money do her bidding and pull her strings,” said Rush, a critic of Daigle for accepting donations from city contractors, such as Ware Disposal and Waste Management, and for flip-flopping on positions.
State campaign records show Daigle with a $108,000 war chest as of March 22, while Rush collected $129,000 through May 19, including a $99,999 contribution from his own US Realty Group. He has a cash balance of $66,000.
Rush entered politics when drug rehab facilities began to concentrate in his West Newport neighborhood, which he blames on a relaxation of Newport’s land use regulations. “The law says your community should have facilities based on local need; Newport allowed them to become profit havens,” said Rush, who believes out of state clientele make up half the residents of the 18 state-licensed alcohol and drug facilities in Newport. Five similar facilities are licensed in Laguna Beach.
The Laguna forum represents the only public opportunity for local residents to size up the candidates side by side.
This year’s election is a special challenge, Raun said in a statement. Citizens need to be aware how the voter-approved open primary differs from previous elections. In the open primary names of all candidates for state offices and Congressional offices are placed on the same ballot. They may, or may not, list their party. The two receiving the most votes will be on the November ballot, even if they are from the same party.
Second, due to redistricting, many previous incumbents are running in districts where they are little known, she said. It is important to know positions of candidates, their priorities in governing, and how they stand on specific issues, she said.
On Friday, candidates will give opening and closing remarks and there will be a question and answer period. Audience questions will be screened to avoid duplication, Raun said. The moderator will come from outside the district, and will ask the submitted questions.
I encourage you to contact Jean Raun, Laguna Beach League Women Voters spokesperson (949-494-2247) to confirm Daigle’s failure to respond after weeks of attempts, as well as contact Daigle herself and find out why she has disappeared.
Daigle’s position to not participate in a candidate forum is cowardice and calls into question her ability to lead and serve the public. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I will take this into consideration when casting my ballot.