Democratic Field Grows More Crowded

Michael Kotick
Michael Kotick

Another Laguna Beach resident and political newcomer is entering the race to oust Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from Orange County’s 48th Congressional District.

Michael Kotick, 33, of Laguna Beach, said his experience managing businesses as one of Nestlé’s youngest executives and academic training understanding the interplay of policy and economic forces has prepared him for his next goal.

In declaring his Democratic candidacy this week, Kotick said Orange County and the nation seem unprepared to take advantage of changes transforming work places that are confronting a shortage of skilled labor. Equally important, Kotick said, he promises to roll up his sleeves and knock on doors to meet voters and hear concerns that the incumbent has ignored. “Our representative is out of touch,” he said, citing Rohrabacher’s voting record on health care and climate change.

“Inaction is as ineffective as no action,” said Kotick, conceding he will need to raise his profile to connect with voters and overcome the district’s voting history.

Kotick joins a growing field of Democratic candidates who plan a challenge in 2018 to Rohrabacher, one of several Republican incumbents targeted by state Democrats in districts where a majority of votes cast last November demonstrated anti-Trump sentiment.

Not in recent memory has Rohrabacher confronted such a phalanx of opponents for the district that spans Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach. Others vying for the Democratic nomination are scientist Hans Keirstead, business entrepreneur Harley Rouda, and mortgage broker Boyd Roberts, also all from Laguna Beach; architect and nutritionist Laura Oatman, of Newport Beach; and pilot Tony Zarkades, of Huntington Beach.

“There is so much energy about standing up and making a difference,” said Kotick, who in May resigned from Nestle Purina to devote himself to his campaign. “We need to be talking about programs and partnerships to train workers for jobs of the future,” said Kotick, who in 2008 says as a consultant he devised an alliance with the U.S. Army and Hyundai in Fountain Valley to address veteran employment and an auto industry technician shortage. “That challenge is not unique to Orange County.”

“He understands how to lead a team and position Orange County in a new era – from automation to AI,” said campaign spokeswoman Michelle Czernin. “If we can start preparing, the community can be at the leading edge,” she said.

Kotick is also the author of “Create Brand Attraction,” a book published in May that outlines business strategies for the digital and social media age.

His business career is underpinned by an economics education that includes postgraduate degrees in marketing and finance in 2009 from Michigan State University and in management from Arizona State University.

Kotick grew up in La Canada and now lives in North Laguna. He joined Nestle in 2009 and directed digital and social media for Nestle Purina, the Swiss-based company’s pet products division headquartered in St. Louis. One of Kotick’s initiatives involved developing connections with pet owners on Twitter. Its playful rather than promotional approach using a cat “correspondent” was described as a more advanced use of social media than that of many companies in 2013.

Kotick declined to outline a strategy for his campaign, which relies on crowd sourcing for funds. So far, he’s raised $10,000 towards a $50,000 goal. He thinks voters are more likely to respond to the person than to party affiliation. His bet is that “who puts in the hours, who has the grit and commitment to meet with people on a personal level” will win out.

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