The starting line-up in the now hotly contested race for the 48th Congressional District includes two additional political newcomers, but from the more conservative side of the political aisle.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from Costa Mesa, now faces a member of his own party and a Libertarian challenger in addition to a half dozen previously declared Democrats battling among themselves to take on the incumbent in 2018.
This week, Brandon Reiser, of Corona del Mar, declared his aim to unseat Rohrabacher, who he describes as too inaccessible to average voters in a district that spans Huntington Beach to Laguna Beach.
People with conservative values are disenfranchised by the Republican agenda set by the Trump administration and the district’s current representative, said Reiser, who switched his party registration to Libertarian from the GOP only recently.
Reiser, 31, grew up in Massachusetts and relocated to Orange County a decade ago. He and his wife Janine, an attorney, have two young children. He is a top administrator of Capital Group, based in Irvine, which manages the huge American Funds portfolio. He graduated from Bentley University in 2007, with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing.
In the run up to the 2012 election, Reiser said he found himself disagreeing with the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, particularly over marriage. Instead he found ideological compatibility with Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, whose values include preserving personal freedoms and dialing back government controls.
Reiser is counting on appealing to the rising number of voters who declined to state a party preference. “They are a good representation of dissatisfaction with those in Congress,” he said. If elected, Reiser would be the lone Libertarian among 435 representatives. “One individual could be a critical vote,” he said.
Reiser’s strongest criticism of Rohrabacher stems his lack of visibility in the district. “He won’t get with people in his district; you need to listen to people,” he said.
His platform calls for reducing government regulation, tax reform, gender equality, decriminalizing drug use, immigration amnesty for non-criminals and opposition to mandated health care.
Federal Election Commission records show Reiser has collected $6,900 since April.
Rohrabacher, too, has paid attention to fundraising, doubling his campaign contributions since December to $508,712, according to the June 30 filing.
Two of the five Democrats in the race are also proving their appeal to supporters. Real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach has raised $319,335, and architect and nutritionist Laura Oatman of Newport Beach amassed $121,412. Other declared candidates include Michael Kotick, scientist Hans Keirstead, and mortgage broker Boyd Roberts, all from Laguna Beach; and pilot Tony Zarkades, of Huntington Beach.
The GOP entrant in the race, Stelian Onufrei, established a campaign committee only recently and has yet to declare any contributions, FEC filings show.
Onufrei lives in Huntington Beach with his wife Marcela and their son, Stelian Jr., according to his website, votestelian.com. He did not return calls seeking comment.
On his site, Onufrei describes growing up under an oppressive political regime in Romania and escaping to the U.S. at 19, where he struggled to gain a foothold.
A 25-year Orange County resident, Onufrei owns Diamond Construction and Design, based in La Habra.
He believes his experience with business regulation, which he describes as “overbearing,” gives him the knowledge necessary to make America work again for people.
Onufrei’s platform includes tax and education reform and term limits.
His opponent is in his 13th two-year term.
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