CA-39 Forum: Candidate Castaneda Endorses Jay Chen & Leaves!

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From left to right (not politically): Andy Thorburn (D), Sam Jammal (D), Jay Chen (D), Andrew Sarega (R), Steve Cox (NPP), Ted Rusk (D), Phil Janowitz (D), Gil Cisneros (D), and the soon-to-be-gone Julio Castaneda (NPP).

DIAMOND BAR, 7:37 p.m. — As of 7:00 Wednesday night, The League of Women Voters was holding an “all-comers” candidate forum that attracted five of the six leading Democrats — Jay Chen, Gil Cisneros, Sam Jammal, Phil Janowitz, and Andy Thorburn, or in other words everyone except Mai Khan Tran; two left-leaning independents, John Cox and Julio Castaneda; one Republican, Andrew Sarega; and one right-wing populist nominal Democrat named Ted Rusk, who spent most of his answers railing against “illegals.”  (Yes, all men.)  None of the three leading Republican candidates — Diamond Bar native Bob Huff (who might not have known the way to his hometown Community Center, Young Kim, and Shawn Nelson — attended.  [UPDATE: Tran reportedly chose to attend a OC Young Democrats event instead.  One hopes that even her audience there would realize that that was the wrong choice.]

Rusk’s first few speeches led to the expulsion of an outraged man — [UPDATE: Castaneda’s cousin Jose Castaneda, a likely candidate for Fullerton City Council this year, it turns out!] — who wouldn’t stop protesting the racism and only a time-out for a heavyset apparently disabled vet who wouldn’t stop hooting and applauding Rusk.

The more substantively dramatic moment so far came in the last of the nine opening statements.  The first NPP (independent) into the race, strong Bernie follower Julio Castaneda, announced that he was dropping out of the race and endorsing Jay Chen on the grounds that Chen had the best chance to become a progressive Congress member in that seat.  Lots of people on the left have been talking up Castaneda, so his endorsement — which seemed to me out in the cheap seats to have caught Chen by surprise — may be more significant than one would have guessed several months ago.  So now we are eight.  I like this winnowing!

Updates will follow.

UPDATE 8:20:

The forum so far has been substantive almost  to the point of being wonky.  Thorburn and Chen, for example, answered a question on Congressional priorities by focusing on its reasserting it’s control over war powers, with speakers also suggesting term limits, allowing for recall of Congress members, and other things that would require constitutional amendments.

Most candidates, excluding Rusk (who has watched a documentary on the “Little Ice Age”!), gave similarly warm answers on fighting climate change.  Sarega complains that we’re unjustly creating “green millionaires,” fostering fires by planting too many trees too close to each other, and that environmental agencies are doctoring their reports.

Update 8:30:

Next, a gun control question: what would you do regarding this issue in Congress?

Janowitz: I’d close the gun show loopholes and the online loopholes, outlaw bump stocks, go for all of the proposed reforms that most NRA members already like, such as universal background checks.

Cisneros: I have the Gabby Giffords foundation endorsement, which does lots of work on gun control.  He agrees with the above.

Thorburn: Same as above, with a focus on domestic violence — but the big problem with reform is the role of money in politics.  Needs reforms.

Jammal, yeah, and biggest problem there is NRA’s dark money donations to “pop-up” PACs.

Chen: we’re the only county where parents must worry about school shootings.  He’s a certified sharpshooter and wants weapons of war off of the streets.

Sarega: law-abiding gun owners aren’t problem.  We need more people carrying arms.

Cox: we have an insane number of guns and they aren’t going away.  You either need to eliminate guns or keep the out of the hands of the mentally ill.  We can’t get rid of guns, so we need to focus on mental health care.

Rusk: We’re too wound up.  It’s crazy.

8:40 UPDATE:  Q on Automation — how do we help displaced workers?

Cisneros: retrain workers

Thorburn: that, plus maybe shorten the workweek to 35 hours.

Jammal: govt is well behind the curve in dealing with this issue.  This is why I support Medicare for all, so we will all still have health benefits

Chen: we can’t let tech advances lead to abuse, such as when Uber workers are classified as contractors.  Need good schools so that people have the capacity to be effectively retrained.

Sarega: fault lies with Democrats raising minimum wage.  Need STEM to train people to service machines.

Cox: yeah, but they’ll make robots to fix robots.  Universal basic income, then you can work beyond that for more.

Rusk: automation makes us more productive, which is good, but need to keep out cheap labor.  Minorities get hurt worst.

Janowitz: education, tuition-free community college without raising federal taxes.  Cut costs of health care.


Cisneros: I’m all about service: military, philanthropic.  I’m endorsed by the Hispanic Caucus.

Janowitz: Who represents us?  I’m endorsed by local leaders like Connie Leyva.  I’m out there knocking on doors helping Josh Newman.

Rusk: watch Idiocracy.  We can’t trust Dems who hate Trump.

Cox: we have such potential.  Both parties mess it up.  I am change.

Sarega: politicians lie and serve special interests.  As a cop, I would help strangers.  I care about honor.  Need to get rid of RINOs.

Chen: I hope to see more women run in the future.   People should know that you can make great change in local office, even though it lacks some of the glamor.  I have the best chance to flip district.

Jammal:  I’m not angry, I’m hopeful.  I know how the system works, how to get $ back to our community, which Royce didn’t do.

Thorburn: our country is the wealthiest and we have the most freedom.  He wants to retain those advantages and to appeal to the better angels of nature.

Nice round of applause.


[NOTE: Sadly, I could not find Cisneros and Cox after the forum — I was finding and interviewing targets of opportunity —  but I’m sure that they would say that they were happy with their performances, which were among the better ones.]

Incisive question: “How do you think it went?  Please talk slowly into the mic.”

Andy Thorburn: Well it was a great for me to speak to a packed house.   We had a mature exchange of views and I think if we had this kind of a dialogue more with voters it will help.  [Note: my phone did not take well to Thorburn’s accent in dictation, so much of this is a reconstruction from memory and mangled words, the inclusion of which seemed preferable to deleting it.  I’ll happily accept his revisions.]

Jay Chen:  I think this forum went really well. It was really well run by the League of Women Voters and I feel like the answers that I gave came from the heart.  Hopefully the residents here in the constituents saw that — that I’m committed to this district. I understand this district and I’ve got ideas for how to move us forward.

Andrew Sarega: It was a pleasure to attend the forum. Thank you to League of Women Voters putting it on.I thought the night went very well; we had a lot of dignified discussions on policy issues. It was substantive and at the end of the day people were able to get their points across and the voters are going to side who they choose to go forward.

Q:  What do you think about the three current or former Republican officeholders among  not showing up tonight?

Sarega: It was their personal decision not to be here or perhaps they were away.  However, I never shy away from an opportunity to speak my beliefs,  regardless of the crowd that’s in front of me. So I was very happy to do so this evening and I hope they can join us the next time.

Phil Janowitz:  I thought tonight went very well. We had several questions that were asked for a variety of different topics and we got to explain our positions well.  It was a good forum: things got a little bit testy in the beginning, but it got better as things went on. I thought tonight went very well and I’m glad that my platform is out there for many people to hear.

Sam Jammal: I thought it was interesting with the independents and the Republicans up there. I think they also help to remind us that this is a broad district, and with a lot of folks we really have to explain our positions and actually get into the solutions.  The format was really good — I thought it allowed for a good back-and-forth. The questions were a little more specific. And I enjoyed the conversation. I felt I did well tonight.

Ted Rusk: I believe it went pretty civil. though the one kid that yelled at me and called me a racist when I was telling him I’ll get green cards the day or the week I get sworn in.  I’m gonna get green cards for the undocumented and he yelled at me racist because I said I’m going to throw out the others, you know, I think I used the word “trash.”  I did not mention one specific race, but he assumed I meant Mexican.  I mean Chinese mafia, Russian mafia … I don’t care who they are — if they’ve committed crimes we need to get them out, that’s plain simple.

Q: HOW would you be able to get people their green cards as soon as you got into Congress?

Rusk: I would get them cause I’ll be one of the few Democrats who who is willing to call Trump and say I want to come in and talk to you. We’ll cut a deal just like  the Midwestern Democrats who are starting to break now. They’re saying we need to cut a deal.  We got a deal: we secure the border, we get rid of the ones that have committed crimes and we give everybody else green cards and Trump will go for that. He’s a businessman; he’s just given us his first price — you know, seal the border and get everybody out.  That’s not what he really believes.  He’ll be willing to negotiate and will get those green cards for those undocumented.

(Coming soon tomorrow: my own thoughts on the forum.)

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 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. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. 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. A family member 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.)