CA-46 Debate: All of the Democratic Candidates Look to the Left

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Bookended by OC NAACP Chair Donald Craig (at far left) and LULAC Chair Benny Diaz (at far right), the four candidates are: former State Sen. Lou Correa, former State Senator Joe Dunn, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, and Anaheim Council member Jordan Brandman.

Bookended by OC NAACP Chair Donald Craig (at far left) and LULAC Chair Benny Diaz (at far right), the four candidates are, from left to right: former State Sen. Lou Correa, former State Senator Joe Dunn, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, and Anaheim Council member Jordan Brandman.

Vern has offered up a liveblog along with his analysis of Saturday’s debate among the four announced candidates in CA-46.  This post aims at getting deeper into the weeds — or, at least, as deep as we can go without a video or a full transcript.  (We hope that someone posts one of the former, and creates one of the latter from it, soon.)

The candidates all leaned pretty far to the left in this debate, despite that it will likely be seen by lots of people who aren’t activist Democrats between now and the June primary, as well as before the November 2016 general election.  For those candidates who take consistent positions, this should not be too much of a problem.  For those who run away from what they said this past weekend, it will raise credibility issues.

I took notes on each of the 16 questions asked during the debate and the four answers they received.  I don’t take shorthand; this was just as fast as I could write in real time.  Responses are paraphrased and some elements of them may be slightly out of the order in which each was presented  Its content will be improved by the release of the video, if anyone wants to make comparisons to it.  While this is a complete recounting of my notes, this post should still be considered to be a work in process.  (I have more to say about my attempts to be evenhanded in the note in orange at the end.)

In what follows, “Lou” means former Senator Correa, “Joe” means former Senator Dunn, “Bao” Means Garden Grove Mayor Nguyen, and “JB” means Anaheim Council member Jordan Brandman.  My comments on answers follow, but are intended to make it easier for those of you who are inclined to skip them.  And … we’re off!

Q1: Would you defend Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to all those that were born here?

Lou: (He began by asking that all stand for an unexpected flag salute.)  It’s sad that we’re all Americans, but we’re not talking about immigration reform, but about who is a real American.  I sponsored a bill to grant posthumous citizenship for a non-citizen Iraq War veteran.

Weak substantive response after spending half his time on a flag salute.  And when did the state legislature get the ability to grant federal citizenship?  

Joe:  That’s an easy “yes.”  There’s too much debating now over immigration reform without results.  I’m happy to have led the State Bar to let (undocumented resident) Segrgio Garcia be granted a license to practice law.  I’m happy to have led the investigation into California’s false deportations in the 1930s.  We should embrace our diversity as a strength.

Pointing to these sorts of concrete liberal achievements in the State Senate is going to be a recurrent theme for Dunn.

Bao:  I’ll tell you the story of my leaving Vietnam.  I was born in a refugee camp after my parents left while my mother was 8 months pregnant with me.  We were not welcome to land in Thailand, where I would be born; we only made it to shore when Thai Buddhist monks waded into the water, formed a human chain, and got them to let us get to shore, where we were taken into a refugee camp.  I’m tri-lingual; I didn’t have citizenship in any country until my parents were naturalized when I was 12.

Strong story.  Somewhere in there, he also answered the question “yes”; this was apparently intended to explain why he feels strongly about “birthright citizenship.”

JB:  Yes I would.  We all have a special connection to this issue.  I am a relative of persons who escaped the Holocaust.  Anaheim has one of the largest refugee populations in the U.S, with a growing number of Syrians.  I introduced a resolution to the City Council asking to welcome all refugees.

I’m not a big fan of using Holocaust connections to get elected.  The Syrian refugee resolution, while welcome, was also cost-free and symbolic.

Q2: What is your position on climate change and what is your energy plan for the next 15 years?

Joe:  I had an almost 100% pro-environmental voting record in the State Senate.  Climate change is man-made.  We need more renewable energy from alternative sources.  Great scientific work is being done on this.

He may have mentioned his UCI connection here, as he often did elsewhere.

Bao: This is the challenge of our generation.  I think we can change it.  We’re missing out on the “Clean Energy” revolution.  Not enough is being done.  The Tea Party extremists continually block progress.  Too many communities of color have higher asthma rates due to greater exposure to air pollution.

The “U.S. is losing an international competition to lead the field” point was strong.  So was the last point, which got cut off.  (The moderator was strict, with only Correa repeatedly talking well past his limit.) 

JB:  We can so do this.  It passed the House but it couldn’t get through the Senate.  Public opinion is on our side.  Anaheim passed a sustainability plan.  The U.S. can do it too, a plan that is fair to every constituency and shareholder.

If this seems like mostly rah-rah rather than substantive, I have transcribed it correctly.

Lou:  Sacramento now gets a higher percentage of its energy from renewables.  They have more stations where people can refill hydrogen cars.  We have Mojave sun farms.  National security requires that we get away from Middle Eastern oil.

If you want to know whether Correa would favor strong movement towards renewables, stronger fuel standards, etc., rather than reintroducing nuclear power and maintaining a focus on coal and fracked natural gas, you will have to ask him another time.  Please get us the video!

Q3: Do you favor increasing the minimum wage?

Bao:  Income inequality is not only a political issue, but a moral one.  We have the most wealth in the world, but also the most child poverty among industrialized nations.  We need to have automatic Cost of Living Adjustments in the minimum wage, as with Social Security.  We have to make the wealthy pay their fair share, and we can lower taxes for the middle class.

Both a strong diagnosis and a clear prescription.

JB:  I favor increasing the minimum wage.  It’s tragic that Congress won’t allow a vote.  We must stand up and be counted and work across the aisle.  I will convince GOP members that this is the right thing to do.

Not much analysis here — and his belief that he will be the one to convince the GOP to go along with him is both a little charming and deeply disturbing.

Lou:  I love taking my daughter to school.  My mom used to support us on her salary.  Nothing has changed.  I have supported a [higher] minimum wage for 14 years.  I hope to convince the GOP to increase the minimum wage.  Don’t give people a handout, but give them a hand.

Correa is folksy here, but confusing.  A lot has changed since he was growing up!  He presumably said that he supported an “increased” minimum wage, but my notes don’t actually reflect it.  If I understand his last comment correctly, it seems to be opposing help for the non-working poor.  I really want to check my notes here against a video, especially on that last bit.

Joe:  Absolutely yes.  I always have and I always will.  The problem is not just raising the minimum wage, but improving people’s pathways to middle-class jobs.  We should let people go to school without incurring debt.  We should have more opportunity for them to join labor unions, which help create the middle class.

The most telling point in these answers is to see where people took the responses after the initial “yes.”  Dunn touched two major additional themes here: school debt and the importance of organized labor, in under a minute.

Q4 What’s your position on US involvement in the Middle East?

JB:  I favor an thoughtful and inclusive foreign policy.  We should be strong but diplomatic.  Obama has done a good job.  We should trust our friends.  The Iran deal was the right thing to do, though it’s hard for those of us of the Jewish faith.  We need not necessarily trust people prior to negotiation.  We should protect our friends.

Quintessential Brandman here.  Who’s against being thoughtful and inclusive — whatever the latter means in this context — and strong and diplomatic?  The problem is when, say, “strong” and “diplomatic” come into contact.  It’s not clear what the vague positions in the last two sentences mean: presumably that it’s OK to negotiate with Iran but we have to defend Israel.  Well, many believe that those two are in conflict right now!  (Also: I had been given to understand that Brandman has been worshiping in a Christian Church attended by Curt Pringle.  If he’s still actively Jewish — given that he mentioned it twice in his first four answers — as a Jew I’d like to know how he reconciles this with that.)

Lou:  Someone has said that in the Middle East there can be no war without Egypt and no peace without Syria.  We should keep our young men and women out of harm’s way, but maintain our strength as a military force.  We should stand with Israel and our other allies.

Third question out of the first four where Correa wastes the early part of his minute with a non-sequitur.  His middle sentence seems to suggest a desire to do two contradictory things.  Standing with allies is a “bold statement,” but what does “stand with Israel” mean in practice?  Ratify every move it takes?

Joe:  It’s a complicated issue.  Teddy Roosevelt said we should “speak softly and carry a big stick.”  We can’t carry the burden alone; others must step up.  Peace is long overdue; we have a role in creating it.  But we should use arms only when necessary, and ideally as part of a coalition.

More vague than his other answers — but quoting TR, requiring that others share the burdens of military and diplomatic action, and avoid unilateral and unnecessary use of arms at least takes some stands on major issues at hand.

Bao:  We Viets understand the costs of war.  Diplomacy is the answer.  Regarding Israel, I favor a 2-state solution, taking the lead in diplomacy.  Images of refugee children is a global issue.  Avoid human costs whenever possible.

I presume that those who have reported that everyone but Correa supported a 2-state solution are correct, but Bao’s is the only one that made my notes.  This was bit vague and people-pleasing compared to his other responses.

Q5: The U.S. prison population is the largest in the world.  80% of it is people of color.  How would you remedy the “school-to-prison pipeline”?

Lou: Many prisoners are there for drug offenses.  Many have mental and substance abuse issues.  If there are no “wraparound services” for them, we are courting problems.  Freeing people must be brought into the process.

The last point was probably that we need better services to help prisoners make the transition into free society, which several candidates called “wraparound services.”  While true, it doesn’t seem to do much to answer the “school-t0-prison pipeline” question posed.

Joe: Yes, drug addiction and mental illness are problems — but economic unfairness is a big problem.  Urban youth don’t have the same chance for success as do others.  We need to give them greater opportunity.

And Dunn thus shows that answering the “school-to-prison pipeline” question is entirely possible after all.

Bao: It’s complex.  Prisons are overcrowded.  This issue crosses party lines.  We’re not making the best use of our available dollars.  We do need wraparound services, but we also need to reform the mandatory minimum sentencing initiatives coming from DC.  We have non-violent offenders serving life in prison!

While this doesn’t do that much to address the “pipeline” problem, Nguyen does identify two concrete problems with the prison system: overcrowding and mandatory minimums contributing to it.

JB: We do need mandatory minimum sentencing reform.  I am proud that California is on the right track.  But it starts in classrooms, in schools.  We need to invest in classrooms, and extend the length of the school year.

Education is absolutely relevant to the “pipeline,” but it’s unlikely that the problem for minority youth is the quantity of the days in school compared to the quality of what is done with those days.  Is Brandman suggesting, as an answer to this question, that the lion’s share of the new “investment” should go into the schools for children of parents least likely to vote?  If so, good for him (at least in answering this question), but it’s not clear that he was going there.

Q6: What strategies or regulations would you favor to prevent another bank bailout?

Joe:  I led the investigation in the State Senate against Enron.  The problem wasn’t with rising energy prices, but with manipulation of the markets.  We brought Enron down.  We need changes in laws that have been repealed.  We need to reinstate the [Glass-Steagall] firewalls separating merchant and investment banks.

The implicit message here is: elect me and I will investigate the wrongdoers until they cry.  We think of Congresspeople as legislators, but increasingly — given gridlock — a great part of their role is as investigators because you don’t need to put together a majority to do it. One of Dunn’s strongest pitches is that he’s shown that he can handle that part of the job extremely well.

Bao:  Never forget 2008 when large institutions harmed us!  We need to strengthen Dodd-Frank.  No one person who caused these problems ever went to jail!

This was a good, right, and passionate answer.  It’s too bad for Nguyen that it came right after Dunn’s “I killed the bastards at Enron and put them in jail.”

JB:  We need to keep Dodd-Frank.  Nothing is more important than ensuring basic fairness.  We need Glass-Steagall.  It worked; it was a tragedy that it was allowed to fall.  We can be sure that it won’t be as severe.  Was uncalled-for.

If it’s not obvious, it’s not clear whether those last two sentences are garbled due to Brandman or my notes.  His policy positions here are good, but there’s a lot of sizzle and very little steak.  And I’d love to discuss his actions regarding analogous situations in Anaheim; especially if he makes the runoff.

Lou:  Joe was right on Enron.  But that comes from California’s deregulation.  The legislature should not give up its authorization to unelected boards.  I authored a bill to split auditing from accounting functions.  We need to have more eyes, more transparency, whether in utilities or financial areas.

Correa raises some good points here, the “unelected boards” one is of unclear relevance to Congress.  (Unless he opposes Elizabeth Warren’s commission.)  If he authored (vs. passively co-authored) the bill splitting accounting and auditing functions, I give him serious credit for that.  But how will he fight for “more eyes and transparency” in DC?  (I’d like to ask them all that.  Tax hike?)

Q7:  Are you in favor of “Fair Trade,” and what will you do to keep jobs in the U.S.?

Bao:  I favor fair trade.  We need to strengthen unions.  I’ve spent five years as a union rep after years as a community organizer.  We need to give working families a greater chance to organize.  Unions gave us to weekend and the 40-hour work week.  Remember that MLK marched with striking workers not long before he died.

Strong argument regarding “supporting unions” as an answer to the entire question, but one wonders if there’s more to be said on the topic.

JB:   I favor fair trade — if it’s fair.  Currently, what we’ve negotiated on the TPP is not fair.  Hillary said that.  It has to meet a standard.  Make us proud.  We can achieve that.  We must be assertive with out allies.  I have a record of expanding economic opportunity in Anaheim.

Usually people ask about support for “free trade,” to which union supporters say “I support free trade if it’s fair.”  Asking about fair trade — the question likely came from union supporters — seems to have detailed Brandman.  If it’s fair trade, then it’s fair by definition.  His opposition to TPP is welcome, but this is the first of a few times that he wraps himself in the Hillary banner to justify his position.  It would be interesting to know what he meant by “meet a standard” — meet specifically what standard, how?  The “proud, achieve, assertive, allies” part just seems like blather.  We won’t address his “record” in Anaheim here and now.

Lou:  I’m glad that you used the term “fair trade” — fair for workers and businesses.  Rules should be applied on a fair basis.  We lost that with NAFTA.  We were supposed to come back to discuss immigration, collective bargaining, and the environment — and we didn’t.

A solid answer — one that held the record for going overtime.  As workers tend to oppose “free trade” and businesses tend to support it, it’s unclear what “fair for workers and businesses” means.  His criticism of NAFTA is apt — so the question becomes: would he have voted for it and then said “whoops”?  Would he vote for TPP, like Charlie Brown kicking the football again?  Would he trade his “aye” vote for some benefit to his district?  Correa makes himself hard to pin down.

Joe:  We can all agree that our economy is consumer-based.  Unlike many other countries, we don’t have to rely on exports for our economic health.  The only way to maintain a consumer economy is to have a robust middle class with plentiful jobs.  Any trade agreement that cuts into the American job market is bad.

One gets the sense that Dunn understands what underlies this issue more deeply than the other three candidates combined.  He’s not for Fair Trade just because unions are good (a decent answer from Bao), or because Hillary supports it (a shallow answer from Brandman), or because of whatever Correa was ultimately saying (because NAFTA turned out bad so let’s try again?) — but because he understands how free trade, if allowed to impose greater domestic unfairness, can undermine the very basis for our economy.

Q8: Do you favor legalization of marijuana?

JB:  I’m in favor of marijuana legalization.  It’s time has come.  [LONG PAUSE]  How much longer will people go to jail?  Say yes to it.

Brandman is getting a lot of credit for his unequivocal support for cannabis legalization.  We’ll cover his track record in Anaheim — where this sure would have been good to know when the votes on dispensaries came up! — another time.  What’s odd is that after issuing his memorized ten-word opening, he sat silent until he realized that people were still looking at him expectantly.  He lost a good opportunity to show that he understood the issues and had some sense of how to go about making it happen.  But good for him for his ten words!

Lou: I worked with California’s police chiefs and the medical marijuana industry on come up with a system.  In my youth, we had heroin overdoses happening all around us.  I want to see what the initiatives look like.  I’m not positive yet.  I have concerns with full legalization.

Did you notice that his first sentence seems to suggest his support for at least medical marijuana legalization — but doesn’t quite commit to it?  Maybe the video will tell a better story.  The “heroin overdoses” ramble — it went on a while — was just irritating.  The rest is non-committal.  Vote Correa and you’ll get a man who favors … something.

Joe:  Every new generation should have the ability to decide on its priorities.  It’s clear that marijuana is part of life.  I can’t hold tomorrow’s voters to my own standards.  Legalization is coming — he’ll accept it when he sees the right proposal, which doesn’t have the downsides of what’s happened with alcohol.

This is an oddly philosophical answer — “the kids are taking over so let them order society as they will.”  It may operate — and may be intended — to soften the opposition that those of us of his age and older may have towards it.  It’s not particularly stirring, but it’ll do.

Bao:  I’m for legalization, but how does one regulate it?  We can look to Colorado and Oregon.  Colorado has an underground economy still, even though it’s legal.  How would we set things up so that money is reinvested in neighborhoods, so that we have greater power and equity?  We also have to plan for regulation and taxation.

This is a really good, adult, serious, contemplative, informed answer.  That some people seem to prefer Brandman’s slogan-flinging to one that says “yes but let’s take a hard look at how we can do this the best way” is mystifying.  In one minute, Nguyen asks a bunch of the questions, in a sophisticated way, to recognize that this is not only about legalization but creating a structure in which cannabis sales can either strengthen economies or damage them, depending on choices legislators make.  Anyone who doesn’t see how this is far better that just memorizing a bumper sticker needs to sober up for a while.

Q9: Do you favor the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act?

Lou:  I oppose it.  We all have a fundamental right to vote.  People get their right to vote challenged.  Whatever we can do to protect the VRA should be done.  I’m happy with the Secretary of State’s decision to automatically register voters at DMVs.

The Supreme Court does not actually recognize a fundamental right to vote, just a right of equal opportunity to vote.  Other than that, this is a solid answer.

Joe:  None of us support that.  I’m proud of my part in the 10-year fight to establish UCI Law School.  Its founding Dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, has a new book, The Case against the Supreme Court, looking at its bad decisions.  The Citizens United decision is one of them.  This decision may also make the list.  This underlines the importance of the Supreme Court.

When one gets an obvious question like this, it’s interesting to see how good of a job a candidate does of taking the obvious answer to somewhere else it ought to go.  Turning the answer to Chemerinsky and his broader critique of the Court was a very good decision.

Bao:  I know better than most how much every vote counts.  In 1965, the VRA was passed to protect our counting every vote.  To cut out DMVs to make it harder for people to vote is wrong.  In Vietnam, our votes did not count.

Your faithful correspondent laughed immediately at Nguyen’s witty reference to his narrow victory in the Mayor’s race; it’s unclear how many others in the audience got it.  His attack on the plan to cut DMVs in Alabama to prevent the “Motor Voter” bill in minority areas — which is the sort of thing that a Member of Congress, as opposed to a state legislator, will be involved with — showed that he’s on top of the topic.

JB:  The VRA decision was an outrage!  We’ve had to deal with bad decisions from the Supreme Court before this.  Let’s remember Bush v. Gore.  We need good, thoughtful people on the bench, so we get justice the right way.

Look at this answer next to the others and assess which of the four candidates is least likely to understand any of the federal issues going on regarding voting rights.  What’s interesting about this answer is that you can substitute any other recent bad decision for “VRA” and the rest of the wording doesn’t have to change a bit.  If you like that sort of thing, here it is.

Q10: What would be a fair solution to the immigration crisis?

Joe:  The local community is one of the diverse around, with among the highest number of immigrants.  DAPA and DACA were great steps by the administration, even though both are now tied up in court.  This is not time for mere tinkering around the edges.  Our changes to the immigration laws must be rational and sensible.  This is who we are.

Nice, solid answer.  The “let’s not just tinker around the edges” part is the most important.

Bao:  I am a proud immigrant.  We built this country together and we will continue to do so in the future.  We need to stop demonizing of immigrants and attacks on our citizenship.  Our country needs immigrants so that we can improve on our current 2:1 ratio of workers to recipients of Social Security.

This one was definitely right up Nguyen’s alley.  He took on the easy targets, but the really good part of the answer is the last line, about how Social Security demands an expanding workforce.

JB:  We are a nation of immigrants.  I’m proud that we approved a resolution to the President on immigration.  The House stomped on the immigration bill.  We must help the better Republicans break free from the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus.  I would work to make this happen.

Some blather up front, but the last two lines are important.  Whether and how Brandman could do anything serious to facilitate those changes in the GOP is open to debate — as is whether he could do so better than Correa or Nguyen.

Lou:  Let’s be honest: lots of Dems don’t stand with us on this issue either.  I coauthored and supported measures on this topic.  Trump calls us criminals!  Children born in the US are being deported along with their families!  Nobody is putting this issue front and center!  Talk about what happened in the 1930s — it’s happening now!

The first point is a fair one, though it smells of false equivalence.  There’s no defending Trump (except on the ground that a proportion of any larger group will be criminals, although that’s not what he meant.  The opposition to the deportation of children with their families is interesting: does Correa favor deporting the families and raising the children in foster homes?  Or letting any undocumented family stay here so long as they had at least one child born here?  Or what?   (Clarify, Senator!)  As for his claim that “Nobody is putting this issue front and center” — does Correa not know about all of the groups in Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Garden Grove that are doing just that, or does he know about them and just wanted to tweak their noses?  If he was talking about Congress, does he really doubt that the Latino Caucus has been pushing these issues?  What does Loretta think about this charge?

Q11: How would you address the issue of homelessness?

Bao:  We’re facing this issue in Orange County.  We need to come together and address it.  We haven’t been able to identify and coordinate services.  We need criminal justice reform, wraparound services.  This is affecting veterans who are coming home.  Immediate housing is part of the solution.

Solid answer.  The “immediate housing” part could use elaboration.  (Sometimes being given one minute to address a huge and complex problem just isn’t enough!)

JB:  I’m proud of what we’ve done in Anaheim.  We’ve approved the County’s first 200-bed facility.  This should lead other areas of the county to do the same.  We need to give the homeless a chance.  We need multiple Multi-Service Centers.  We need to give HUD more money to provide for them.

As our readers know, (1) Brandman was the main reason that the far superior “Karcher site” was rejected after being purchased for serving the homeless; (2) it is doubtful, based on the last public meeting, that a 200-bed facility will be built at the Kraemer site; (3) the rest of the county shows no signs of approving anything like this and … fine, we’ll stop.  One thing that’s striking here is how, with the exception of “give money to HUD,” it’s addressing a local approach to OC issues rather than insights into federal housing policies.

Lou:  It starts with us.  We have too many negative comments about the homeless.  Lots of them are on drugs, or vets, or have mental health issues.  We need to say “these are our family members.”  We need to integrate them into our community and provide wraparound services.

This is woefully weak.  It’s not an issue of people being impolite to the homeless; it’s an issue of our trying to banish them, not provide them with toilets, arrest them and put them on sex offender registries when they urinate or defecate in public, drive them out of our parks, take and hold their property for no reason other than to discourage their hanging around here, and so on.  This is even vaguer blandishment than the average Brandman answer.

Joe:  In the State Senate, I chaired the Housing Committee.  Housing advocates there will say that I was the best Chair ever for the homeless.  We do need to embrace them as family — but ask who has really been fighting the fight?  Orange County, when it received a windfall, wanted to spend the money on expanding jails.  I worked to pass Measure H to use millions of those dollars for indigent health care.

Again, while Nguyen’s answer was good, just compare Dunn’s answer to those of Correa and Brandman and ask yourself who you really think is going to work harder on the homelessness issue.  Dunn is specific and he can point to a track record both within the government as an activist.  No competition there.

Q12: Will you support Rep. John Conyers’s HR 676 “Medicare for All” bill in Congress?

JB:  Huh?  Is there a doctor in the house who can tell me what that is?
Dr. Bill Honigman (from the back of the audience):  It would expand the Medicare program to cover everyone.
JB:  The answer is “yes.”

Uh… while it’s good that Brandman supports this, and while his using his lifeline to get help from the studio audience was inspired, it’s sad that — while no one can reasonably expect him to know “HR 676” by number — the phrase “Medicare for All” apparently means nothing to him.  It’s also a worrisome that, given his lack of awareness of the proposal, he immediately said that he would support it.  It suggests a certain lack of gravity when it comes to making pledges before the voters.  It would be nice to know if he knew, say, three major arguments for and three arguments against it before taking a position on it.

Lou:  I’m proud of what we did in California with implementing Obamacare.  We will make sure that everyone is covered by health care.

Readers, do you get the sense from his answer that Correa favors the “Medicare for All” proposal?  Because his answer doesn’t address “Medicare for all” at all — only the much less ambitious Obamacare proposal.  We can infer from his actions that he probably doesn’t favor “Medicare for All” because he was one of the main figures who blocked passage of the parallel “single-payer” program in California when he stood in the way of SB 810 in 2012 on the grounds that it did not address a problem in his community.  It would have been nice for Correa to own up to his real opinions so that he could have gotten partial credit on this question.

Joe:  It’s no surprise that we’ll all say “yes.”  I’ve always been an advocate for universal health care.  I was one of the few Democrats at the time who did that.  We owe it to families to give them health care, because it will make them better at whatever they do.  A basic level of health care should be a universal human right.

Social psychologists discovered long ago that people who will be speaking in a series of speakers tend to remember least about the content of the speaker immediately preceding them, because they’re then most busy rehearsing their own answer.  So Dunn can be forgiven for saying that “it’s no surprise that we’ll all say ‘yes'” immediately after Correa skirts the issue and refuses to say “yes.”  Nevertheless, he not only cited his own good record, but he gave a very good argument for why universal health care is in the broader social interest.

Bao:  We have made a great strides toward universal health care in passing Obamacare, but yes I will support Conyers’s HR 676 bill.

Bao may have said more than this.  Your correspondent — having written quite a bit on SB 810 in 2012 — was still trying to come to grips emotionally with Correa’s disingenuous answer.

Q13: Many Americans feel that their civil rights have been undermined due to the PATRIOT Act.  What is your position on this?

Lou:  We need to protect ourselves while trying to fight for more liberty.  The Court system can decide what is and isn’t OK.

Very bad answer.  Most of these cases won’t even come to court due to, for example, so “State Secrets Privilege.”  Does Correa not know this, does he know and not care, or does he know but want to pretend that a thorny problem is very simple?  Major loss of points on this one.

Joe:  In 2003, I was involved in an investigation into the National Guard’s spying by the Bush Administration.  My name actually got into Rolling Stone over that one.  UCI Law will be launching a robust center on cybersecurity staffed by both fierce advocates of privacy and fierce advocates of security.  I’ve lived with this issue for a long time and I believe that there is a solution.

Good answer, although it would have been better if we had learned more about the Bush Administration spying problem that he investigated.  The rest is a little light on details, but it seems like one would hope to hear from someone preparing to enter Congress.

Bao:  My father was arrested for working the the Americans and he was placed under surveillance.  I won’t support illegal methods.  We need government transparency.  Spying on us is not OK.  But it’s not just government; security breaches with credit cards also need to be stopped.

Powerful and passionate answer.  Nice extension of it into the domain of how it’s not just government we need to worry about.

JB:  This is a bedrock principle.  I’ve been a consistent advocate on this.  The government policies in 9/11 must be reformed.  We need to ensure privacy while maintaining national security.

Brandman gives a decent — if vague — first 2/3 of a response.  But at the end it’s the same old thing: given a trade-off between two worthy antagonistic principles, he just says that we should find the optimal balance between them without giving the slightest hint of what that might be

Q14 (Audience Q1): Would you end the private prison system.

Joe:  Yes — and this isn’t just campaign rhetoric.  I’ve spoken loudly against them.  Some things should not be designed to produce a private profit: prison, education, fire services, and police are examples.  We know from experience that when the choice comes between profit and prisoners’ rights, profit will always win.  We need the government to provide all of these basic services.

Clear, clean, and conscientious: This was one of the best answers of the night.  You know just where he stands and why, with an accessible analysis.

Bao:  Private prisons are driven by profit.  This includes immigration [detention facilities.]  We need to invest in education, give teachers what they need.  Private prisons have been shown to be bad; everyone knows a victim of it.

Nguyen gets points for noting that immigration detention is one of the worst offenders for the private prison industry.  The segue to education isn’t so great.  The last two statements are, respectively, quite vague and highly doubtful. 

JB:  We need to end the private prison paradigm.  It’s infesting — keeping us from solving the problems.  How long will we keep non-violent people in prison?  We should end the pipeline in an adequate, thoughtful way.

Started strong, then fizzled out.  It’s not actually clear from the answer that Brandman knows what private prisons are, other than that they’re “infesting.”

Lou:  Same answer from me.  There’s no room for private prisons.  When we see kids with behavioral problems….  There’s a big problem with affording college.  We need to eliminate the demand for prisons.

This should be double-checked (ideally by another candidate) but if memory serves the prison guards’ association has been one of Correa’s major backers for years.  One wonders what they think about his calling for “eliminating the demand for prisons.  Or maybe they don’t care, because they know that, with his close ties to police unions, he can’t possibly mean it.  [UPDATE: See the comment from Paul Lucas below, suggesting that it’s the prison guards’ union itself that opposes private prisons, making this one an easy call for Correa.]

Q15 (Audience Q2):  What is your position on bringing justice and freedom to Palestine?

Bao:  Israel is our ally.  I favor a two-state solution.

All of the answers to this one tended to be terse.

JB:  I favor a two-state solution.  We haven’t gotten close to it since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  Hillary Clinton is committed to it.

A better answer.  Remember Rabin is a plus.  Wrapping himself in Hillary’s banner is odd, but serves a political purpose.

Lou:  All life is precious.  It’s heartbreaking to see lives lost.  We must create incentives for people to come to the table.  I favor the President’s rule: we can push them, but they must want peace.  We should stand with our allies.

Lots of aphorisms here:  Precious, heartbreaking, incentives, come to table, must want peace, stand with allies.  No sense of what he even thinks are the problems impeding peace-making.  Anyone have any idea where Correa stands?

Joe:  The question haunts us.  I support a 2-state solution.  We need to ensure that we have a significant role in bringing about peace.  [Something about] whether Israeli or Palestinian children.  It will be a slow process and we need patience.

This seems like an innocuous answer.  Apparently some Muslim activists are very upset about something he said here; if it was in this answer to this question, it eluded me.  Anyone who knows what it is, let me know!

Q16 (Audience Q3): What can we do to reduce gun violence?

JB:  To diminish gun violence, re-enact expired laws such as the assault weapon ban.  How many more do we need before we embrace reform?  How many more mentally ill people will get guns?  How many more Sandy Hooks will there be?  Congress is almost there.  We as a government won’t stand by and let this go on.

The first sentence is good — though it would be nice to know what laws he’s talking about here — but then it just disintegrates into a bunch of rhetorical questions.  Other than reinstating the assault weapons ban, do readers have any sense of exactly what Brandman would support to reduce gun violence?  He clearly supports milking the issue, but how about solving it?

Lou:  I got a text that a Santa Ana High School student was shot dead.  This discussion is not abstract to me, it’s real.  I support reasonable gun safety laws.  When Sandy Hook happened, did the killer ask whether people were “D” or “R”?

If you as a reader have ANY IDEA of what Correa would do in office regarding gun control based on this statement, please write in and leave your comment describing it.  What is — and what isn’t — in his opinion a “reasonable” gun safety law?  Any examples?  He certainly had time to give one.

Joe:  This issue has driven me crazy for a long time.  I was raised as a hunter; I don’t hate guns.  But this isn’t about guns — it’s about an industry protecting its profits.  It’s a false debate — like the one we had in the tobacco industry, who I fought in court.  It’s not about a constitutional right, it’s about a corporation’s right to profit.

The notion that it’s not about a constitutional right at all is questionable; since the Harris decision last decade, it has been about that as well.  But Dunn makes a good point that it’s about at least one thing beyond that.  But it’s not clear how much Dunn’s assertions answer the question — which is worth answering.

Bao:  I understand the Second Amendment, but it was passed during a revolution.  We cannot be desensitized to what’s happening.  It demands reform.  We should close the gun show loophole, ban assault rifles, [something] from a young age.

Nguyen’s seeming dismissal of the Second Amendment (at least in part) because it was passed during a revolution is not compelling.  First of all, it wasn’t passed during a revolution.  It was introduced in 1789 and ratified in 1791.  And even if it had been, that doesn’t matter in terms of the respect that it was due.  On the positive side, Nguyen is the most detailed about what he would do in response to the question — offering two proposals that he’d support and, if the notes were a little clearer, maybe even a third.

Final note:  This was, once again, based on notes being taken in real time.  Most of it is paraphrased; much of what was said there is likely to be missing.  (I expect, though, that I captured more than half of what was said and much less than half of what was important.)  If any candidate thinks that they have been misrepresented here, they are welcome to state their case.  I know that at least one campaign has a complete video of the proceedings — and it seems like many more people than that were recording it.  My hope is that in time this will become a full — and even verbatim, if possible! — record of what was said on Saturday.  While my biases are evident from my commentary, I tried to treat each candidate equally when it came to taking accurate notes and presenting my best sense — from writings and recollections — of what they said during the debate.  I think that this will be a valuable record; I look forward to help — from friend and foe alike — to improving it.  — GAD


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. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)