Brett Murdock to Challenge Ed Royce for Congress: Democrats Get the Guy They Wanted

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Brett Murdock



I’ve been sitting on this information for a while, and it’s good to finally see it come to pass.  Former Brea Mayor Brett Murdock will be running for Ed Royce‘s seat in Congress.  As a contender, Murdock should have as much money as Jay Chen did when he scared the hell out of Royce in 2012 — but is also better known in the area and can cut into Royce’s Orange County advantage.  This is who Democrats — and not just local ones — wanted for the race, and they landed him.

I’ve written about Brett Murdock before.  He’s a Business Democrat — more moderate (in some ways perhaps even conservative) than I’d like — but that’s probably the best chance to succeed in this district.  My problem with most Business Democrats is not so much their ideology as their tendency to sell out their constituents for either personal gain (Jose Solorio, Tom Daly, Miguel Pulido, Jordan Brandman) or for campaign contributions (Lou Correa — who, as I’ve always acknowledged, doesn’t seem to be dishonest, just someone who can be honestly rented by conservative contributors.)

Murdock’s different.  While he has the sort of focus on pension reform and other economically conservative issues that fits the district, he’s also honest — and courageous.  In fact, if he lacked either quality, he would still be on the City Council.  I’ll explain:

Brea, a regular readers know, is in the midst of approving a $13 million, $10.7 million, $whatever million new parking structure for the benefit of its Downtown business owners, who are pretty much explicitly holding Downtown hostage over it.  The most prominent local one of them, Dwight Manley, has led the charge for this astounding gift from the City to — by and large — ultimately his pockets.  (More on that another time.)

Manley was also the biggest contributor to campaigns and to IEs in the Brea Council election, which (based on what I’ve been told, but haven’t verified) may have been the most expensive one ever.

In 2013, Manley threw Murdock a party at TAPS to help his 2014 reelection.  Nice of him!  Then, the bill came due — Manley wanted Murdock’s support for his parking structure.  Murdock tried to come up with a way that the deal could be restructured to give the public its full due value — but Manley wouldn’t budge.  (Still hasn’t budged, in fact.)  And so Murdock — despite threats that Manley would destroy him in the next election if he didn’t go along with the program — told Manley that he wouldn’t support the project.

Manley responded by funding Murdock’s opponents — both of whom have proven themselves to be on the feeble side and one of whom a civil judge asserted committed a felony — and Dishonest Dave Gilliard’s pay-for-pay PAC with a big enough gob of money to defeat Murdock.  Murdock knew that this was coming and — despite being a politician — he still wouldn’t play along with the bigfooted local multi-millionaire that wanted the tribute of receiving public funds.  When’s the last time you’ve heard that?

So I just don’t care about his being a lot more conservative than I am.  I care that he’s honest enough to not go along with a rotten deal, brave enough to tell the big donor who had promised to destroy him to take a hike, and committed enough to stand by his principles even to the point of a narrow electoral defeat.

[Interest stated: my daughter has been and still is Murdock’s Campaign Treasurer.  That does not effect this story one bit.  She gets way too little compensation for the job, in my opinion, but squeezing vendors is one sign of an adept politician!  Her not making that amount of money wouldn’t change a word that I wrote above.  I don’t always like her clients (though if she were to consider someone I absolutely hated, I might tell her why and keep whining until she reconsidered) and despite Reckless Chumley’s loose allegations I do not do her clients any favors as a blogger on that account.  If I write positive things about them, it’s because I legitimately like them.  So my opinion on Murdock has nothing to do with that familial business contact — it has to do with his showing a commitment to principle that is almost unprecedented in my experience of OC Democratic politics.  Also, he speaks fluent Spanish, and if Ed Royce ever agrees to debate him he’s going to make Ed Royce cry.  And if Ed Royce doesn’t agree to debate him, he’s going to make Ed Royce squirm.]

My dear friend, progressive Democrat, and Jordan Brandman’s Campaign Manager Melahat Rafiei is handling his campaign — that’s one way you know that the County’s Democratic powers-that-be assent to the choice — and she just sent around this email:

October 1, 2015

Brea, Calif. – Brett Murdock, a lifelong Orange County resident, attorney, professor, small business owner, and former Brea City Councilmember and Mayor, today announced his candidacy for California’s 39th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Congressman Ed Royce.

“I am running for Congress to empower middle class families, help local businesses succeed, and fight against the reckless policies of Washington politicians,” said Murdock. “Like many folks in our community, I have supported Congressman Royce in the past. But I can no longer stand by and allow Washington extremists like Royce to put politics before people. Working families deserve a representative that will stand up for them, find common ground, and move our country forward.”

California’s 39th Congressional District, which includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties, is one of the best pickup opportunities in the state for Democrats. By registration, Republicans outnumber Democrats by only six percent. President Barack Obama nearly carried the seat in 2012, as did Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Murdock is a lifelong Orange County resident and twenty-year small business owner. He teaches American Government at Cal State Fullerton. He was elected to the Brea City Council in 2010, and served as Mayor in 2014. In these roles, Murdock worked with leaders from both parties to keep local neighborhoods safe and improve the delivery of city services.

Murdock’s long history of community involvement includes serving as President of the Orange County Division of the League of California Cities, Chair of the Orange County Council of Governments, Chair of the Orange County Waste Management Commission, and Chair of the Operations Committee of the Orange County Sanitation District. He’s also an active member of the Brea Rotary Club, and the President of a non-profit organization that provides and maintains low-income housing for seniors.

Murdock holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Chapman University School of Law. Brett lives in the City of Brea, with his wife, Roni, and their two children.

Despite our occasional permanent disagreements, I acknowledge that Melahat’s very good at her job.  At least as good, I’m guessing, as whoever Royce will have in his corner.  She has the excellent Derek Humphrey in Murdock’s corner as well.  This will be a pro race.

Beating Ed Royce would be a tall order — but it’s not impossible.  If Royce dares to stint on his campaign spending this year, it’s not even that improbable.  (Royce was only able to bury Jay Chen’s challenge by spending $3 million — and Jay didn’t have the OC contacts that Murdock will have.)  Royce has so much to answer for — especially in a Presidential election year! — so this will be an interesting race to watch!

Much more on this story to come in time — and for a long time!  I love seeing North OC in play!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)