ROYCE-OFF! Chen vs Mulattieri: Who will survive June 5 to face the OC’s Blue-Eyed Pigmy Warlord?

Unlike his fellow OC Congressional dinosaurs Dana Rohrabacher and (now, since 2010) Loretta Sanchez, Fullerton Republican Ed Royce has never lowered himself to debate his challengers. Reminds me of the story of when I met him:

It was 2006, and I heard through some conservative grapevine that the then-seven-term Congressman was having a “town hall meeting” at the Diedrich’s (now a Starbucks) on the Orange Circle.  So I called my friend, labor lawyer Florice Hoffman, who was running against him that year, to check if there was anything she wanted me to ask him.  “Yeah,” drawled Florice, “ask him when he’s going to respond to my invitations to debate him.”

A few dozen yuppie-ish and elderly Orange Republicans were milling around the sidewalk waiting to see the great man.  Apparently what Ed calls a “town hall” consists of waiting in a single-file line and then getting to ask Ed a single quiet question and get a single quiet answer with a godfather-like hand-clasp.  Most of the others were only there for two things:  to thank him for keeping their taxes low, and to ask him when that wall on the Mexican border he promised would be built.

I explained to these Republicans that I was a Democrat, and was only there to ask him to debate his Democratic challenger.  They all enthusiastically agreed with me.  “A debate would be great!  That’s what democracy’s about!”  “So, you guys will back me up when I get up there, right?”  “Definitely!”

Ed Royce is striking in two ways – he can’t be much over five feet tall, and he has huge bright blue eyes.  Flanking him were two tall blondish, actually Mormon-looking aides or bodyguards.  I gave my spiel, telling him about the Lincoln Douglas debates (which I had just read about.)  Stephen Douglas was the well-known established Senator at the time, and Abe Lincoln was an unknown country lawyer running against him, who chased him to every campaign stop demanding a debate.  Eventually Douglas gave in and they had their famous series of debates.  What people don’t remember is Douglas won re-election, partly because folks thought he was such a good sport for finally agreeing to debate such an unknown rival.  I told Ed Royce this story and concluded, “Florice Hoffman wants to debate you.  What can I tell her?”

He smiled, stuck out his hand, and chuckled, “I want to debate YOU!”  “But I’m not running against you!”  Quite pleased with what he obviously thought was a clever response, he repeated “I want to debate YOU, young man!”  I looked around at all my new acquaintances for support, but all I heard was, “Mr. Royce!  Thank you for lowering our taxes!  Mr.  Royce, where is that border wall?”

All of which is to say I don’t expect Mr Royce to respond to this either, but he is certainly invited to our ROYCE-OFF next week.  If we get no response we will proceed without him, and someone familiar with his views, record and personality will stand in for him.

The New 39th Congressional District

Last year’s redistricting changed Ed’s district pretty dramatically – what was the old 40th, centered in Ed’s home base of Fullerton and completely contained in Orange County, is now the New 39th, still including Fullerton but stretching far north into LA and Riverside Counties as you see above.

Ed has lost two vast swaths of the OC where he had reigned supreme for years:  off to the southeast, gone are Orange and Villa Park; and off to the the southwest, gone are Vietnamese Westminster, Garden Grove, and those goofy little towns like Cypress and Stanton.

In their place he now has strange exotic Northern Territories with names like Diamond Bar, Chino Hills, Hacienda Heights and Walnut – places where the natives don’t know from this “Ed Royce.”

The partisan makeup of the district hasn’t much changed, with an 8-point advantage to Republicans.  There ARE now a lot more Asian-Americans though – a change from 15% to nearly a quarter;  Latinos remain around a quarter;  blacks remain an afterthought.

Three things to remember about Ed Royce.

Ed Royce gets away with a lot due to his smooth, quiet, genteel manner.   But he’s responsible for more damage to this nation than is a  crazed buffoon like Dana Rohrabacher.  Here are THREE good reasons why it’s really worth a herculean effort to retire the fellow:

1.  Royce was a chief enabler of the financial crisis. As his wikipedia page points out (and if he didn’t like it he would have it taken down) his “most important focus as a representative has been banking deregulation,” and his biggest campaign contributors have been banks – according to Open Secrets’ “Wall Street’s Favorite Candidates” a full 43% of his contributions have been from the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector.  And sure enough, the bills he has authored while on the House Financial Services Committee have all been geared to loosening up the regulations that protected the economy and us consumers from the reckless gambling that brought us crashing down a few short years ago.  And he’s still trying to do more of the same.

2.  Royce is a war-mongering, saber-rattling chickenhawk. Hence, the sarcastic “warlord” in my title.  Pro-war groups give him their highest ratings.  He was a dependable cheerleader from the beginning for Bush’s misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fought stalwartly against all attempts to impose any kind of timetable on these misbegotten crusades.  The last two times he’s been in the news here was for hectoring Obama to be tougher on North Korea, and to send more troops to sub-Saharan Africa.

This warmongering is in stark contrast with Mr Royce’s own record.  After all, he turned 18 in 1969, and somehow made it through five of the harshest years of the Vietnam War without serving in the military, while most of his contemporaries were being called up and shipped off.  We citizens have yet to hear an explanation of how he pulled this off – even Dana and Gary have somewhat shaky medical excuses.  Maybe his number never came up – but still, you would think that someone so gung-ho to defend America’s supposed interests with firepower would at least have volunteered.

This is why, along with the rest of the OC’s Republican delegation, Mr Royce is often depicted as a “chickenhawk,” as in this ancient frieze to the right.

3.  Royce is an irresponsible anti-Muslim demagogue. It appears his reputation has been sullied, rightly, by his participation in last year’s infamous Yorba Linda Hatefest, that climaxed in mobs of Islamaphobes shrieking out hate speech at a peaceful crowd of Muslim men, women and children waiting in line to attend a fundraiser for a battered women’s shelter.  Now he blames some unnamed “splinter group.”  But those of us who studied the event know how it happened.

Wild-eyed Deborah Pauly’s over-the-top rhetoric of “pure unadulterated evil” and “giving these terrorists an early meeting in paradise,” which whipped the crowd into a frenzy, was prefaced and legitimized by Congressman Ed Royce‘s speech detailing in gruesome detail fundamentalist atrocities that happen in rural Iran and Afghanistan, and his declaration that “multiculturalism is paralyzing America.”   What could possibly have been the sense of hurling charges of anti-woman violence at a crowd that was there to help build a battered women’s shelter?  That day, Ed Royce showed himself to be nothing more than an irresponsible demagogue.

These are three reasons that normal people, normal Americans, should be strongly against Ed Royce.  I hope to hear from Tony Bushala why conservatives should also oppose him, and exactly why they, apparently, consider him a “RINO.”

The Line-Up for June 5

Jay Chen, Ed Royce, D’Marie Mulattieri.

SO.  Two candidates have stepped forward to challenge this blue-eyed miscreant in his new district:   Hacienda Heights Democrat Jay Chen and independent Occupier D’Marie Mulattieri.  Only one will make it past the June 5 top-two primary, after which that candidate will have the truly daunting task of taking on Ed Royce’s big money and GOP institutional support.  Let’s meet these two brave souls.

A second-generation Taiwanese-American and Harvard grad, Jay Chen started his own small business, investing and managing commercial properties throughout Southern California.  He is also an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, in dramatic contrast to Congressman’s Royce avoidance of military service.  He’s currently on the Hacienda-La Puente School Board, and recently hosted a naturalization seminar that taught more than 100 immigrants how to become U.S. citizens and greater participants in our democracy – in even more dramatic contrast to Congressman Royce with his xenophobia, aversion to multiculturalism, and blather about a border wall.

D’Marie (pronounced Dee-marie) Mulattieri was one of the major driving forces behind Occupy Orange County, and is hence well-equipped philosophically to take on Royce’s ideology of unbridled financial de-regulation.  D’Marie describes herself as “socially progressive and fiscally conservative.”  A successful small businesswoman herself, she was “frustrated with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Citizens United, appalled by the abuses of Wall Street perpetuated by the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act and the resulting economic crash of 2008, and could no longer stand on the sidelines and watch the decline of the American Dream; rather she felt it was time to be part of the solution.”

Sometime later this month I’ll interview them both in Fullerton, in a sort of Royce-less debate (unless we can talk Ed into showing up.)  What do you all think I should ask them?

For one, I will ask D’Marie what she means by being fiscally conservative.  Does that mean she would cut even more, from services and taxes?  Is Jay also fiscally conservative?  Does anybody actually call themselves fiscally liberal any more?

Why is D’Marie not affiliated with a Party, and why on the other hand is Jay a Democrat?  How will he defend his Party from what’s likely to be a fairly withering attack from both D’Marie and Ed?  Why should the 22% of independents in the district who will decide the race vote for Jay, or for D’Marie?  If D’Marie makes it through the primary, why should the district’s Democrats vote for her?

How will they restore the economy, how will they bring jobs to their district?  Will they fight to add a public option to Obamacare?  Will Jay fight to re-instate Glass Steagall (we know D’Marie will.)  At what times will they support President Obama and at what times will they resist him?  Would D’Marie “caucus” with the Democrats?  Would Jay or D’Marie be in the Progressive Caucus?  What else should I ask these two bold contenders, in the Royce-Off?

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.