South County Assembly: MAGA Toll Troll Laurie Davies vs. honest moderate Chris Duncan.

How much can you cram into one headline? What I’m wanting to say is that, in the South County Assembly District 74 race,

  • the Democratic candidate Chris Duncan is an honest moderate who is a good fit for the district,
  • while the Republican incumbent Laurie Davies is: 1) a corrupt tool of Tony and Jennifer Beall who tried to extend the 241 Toll Road into San Clemente,
  • 2) a MAGA extremist who appeared in Trump rallies with violent insurrectionists and mask burners,
  • and 3) a mediocre legislator who wants to take away women’s reproductive rights.

And it will make a lot of good sense when the South County says no to Laurie and yes to Chris, like 46% of you-all did back in June. Let’s zoom in…

Pushing the 241 Toll Road Extension.

From 2015 to 2020 (as you probably know) the Toll Roads Agency or “TCA” was hellbent on extending the 241 Toll Road straight into the heart of historic San Clemente (what the TCA called “Option 14.“) This would have brought great joy to a lot of bureaucrats, consultants, engineers, construction unions, and profiteers on the periphery, but it would have decimated San Clemente, and the people of that beautiful town as well as most of their politicians rose up to fight against the terrible plan.

And this was one of those great decisive moments that really showed the character of the various local politicians, of both Parties. Among those standing up for the people and the environment, and against the establishment, were:

  • Democratic Congressman Mike Levin;
  • Republican state senator Pat Bates;
  • most of the San Clemente City Council, from Republican Kathleen Ward to Democrat Chris Duncan;
  • and most staunchly, Republican Assemblyman Bill Brough.

While OTHER politicians opted to ignore the will of the People, instead joining in the implacable Toll Road push, notably:

  • elder-abusing financial crook / career Republican politician Diane Harkey,
  • inept Laguna Niguel mayor / sometime TCA member Laurie Davies;
  • Supervisor / TCA director Lisa Bartlett (whose close partner shopping center magnate Steve Craig stood to profit a lot from Option 14);
  • and the biggest Toll-Trolls of all, Tony & Jennifer Beall of the TCA and Rancho Santa Margarita.

I’m just getting our cast of characters together here.

Beginning in 2015, Mayor Laurie Davies (while presiding over an era of waste and unaccountability in Laguna Niguel) enjoyed a seat on the TCA, and that’s when she first voted in favor of Option 14, the Toll-Road extension into San Clemente, no doubt impressing the Bealls as “one of the good ones.”

Not so Bill Brough, the area’s Assemblyman since 2014 – by 2019 Bill had become so critical of the TCA and its destructive plans that he authored a bill to limit the agency’s powers, and attempted to have the agency audited. THIS wouldn’t do! Bill Brough had to go! And Laurie Davies would be the perfect replacement.

Fortunately for the Bealls and the TCA, Bill Brough had a history – a history from back in 2006 and 2011 – of Aggressively Flirting While Drunk with (at least two) Married Women. This was referred to regularly as “the OC GOP’s best-known secret” – these incidents were nearly a decade old. And the second woman from 2011 was, ironically or fittingly, the afore-mentioned Lisa Bartlett – now a Supervisor and Toll-Extension Zealot! In the newfangled #metoo climate of 2020, these old charges could surely be resurrected and publicized to great effect! And sure enough, Jennifer Beall put vicious, slimy blogger-for-hire Aaron Park on the job, made herself Laurie Davies’ campaign manager, and crushed Bill Brough like a bug.


(Listen, if you’ve the time, to Jennifer’s deluded and perpetually aggrieved husband Tony
characterize Brough’s loss as a popular vote of support for toll-road extension!
Oh brother. It just showed they know how to slime somebody.
2:27 “Voters spoke loudly and clearly on Tuesday…” LOL)

As you may know, the good guys won (for now) and Option 14 was defeated in 2020, thanks largely to the heroic work of the San Clemente Council including Chris Duncan. Meanwhile Laurie Davies does not appear to be some kind of Evil Genius, but more of a Tool who lets herself be used by Evil Geniuses. In any case three things are clear:

  • Bill Brough is no longer your Assemblyman – not because of his long-ago drunken womanizing – but because he stood up for the people against the TCA;
  • Laurie Davies IS your Assemblywoman precisely because she SUPPORTED THE TOLL ROAD EXTENSION – even though most of you are glad it didn’t happen;
  • and Tony and Jennifer Beall yanked you guys’ chain.

But wait, there’s more!

I’ve noticed that most of the folks we think of as far-right fringe – from the Tea Party to MAGA – tend to have this saving grace: they are distrustful of government and very sensitive to corruption. And after all, what could be more “deep state” in Orange County than kleptocratic, secretive bureaucracies like the TCA?

And on the other hand, the politicians who gravitate to those bureaucracies tend to avoid any “extreme” or divisive language or behavior – they don’t want to let any hard feelings get in the way of their constant upward transfer of wealth.

Rarely do you get the Worst of Both Worlds – the Crooked AND the Crazy – as you do with Laurie Davies. Check it out:

Yup, that’s Laurie Davies, three months before the January 6 Insurrection, appearing elbow-to-elbow at a Trump rally with guys who were plotting the Insurrection. And if you listen you can hear them speak of their preparations for political violence “if necessary.”

Yup, that’s Alan Hostetter, the Yogi Gone Bad, appearing as emcee. Currently under indictment for “conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding and unlawful entry on a restricted building or grounds,” we all heard him on Jan. 5 calling for the EXECUTION of any Senator who voted to approve the 2020 election results.

Yup, that’s Ladera’s chunky traitor Russ Taylor, now charged with all the same charges as Alan, with the addition of “unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds.” Russ is a real tough guy, in his fantasies. You want to hear some real self-parody of “patriot” talk, you will love his talk on the beach that day, starting at around 1:13:00. Yes, he calls Coronavirus a “plandemic,” and yes he fantasizes out loud about a coming civil war.

And yup, that’s Steve Knoblock, the embarrassment of the San Clemente City Council. Recently he has mortified his town by trying to pass an abortion ban and attempting to make it harder to vote. These measures were rejected by the rest of the Council, but they still had people across the county saying “What the hell is wrong with San Clemente?” (Good news is Steve is up for re-election now, and San Clementians may want to instead vote for Zhen Wu, Mark Enmiar and Dennis Kamp.)

And what better way to end an event on the beach than a big mask-burning – you know, to protest the Governor’s attempts to keep the death toll down (at a time when COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations were on the rise in California)?

This is Laurie Davies’ crowd. Well, along with folks like the Bealls…

A mediocre, anti-choice record in Assembly.

Of course Laurie has now been in the Assembly for two years, and can be judged by her record there. I know it’s hard for Republicans in Sacramento, with a Democrat Super-Majority, but we also know of Republicans like conservative John Moorlach and far-right Tim Donnelly who still managed to get good laws passed by focusing on issues of agreement like civil liberties and efficiency.

Laurie has accomplished nothing. All we know from her voting record is that she opposes a woman’s right to choose, and doesn’t consider climate change a serious problem. Not unusual positions for her Party, but also not majority public opinion in beautiful South Orange County (or northern San Diego County.)

Vote For Chris Duncan!

On the one hand, Sacramento will have a Democrat majority for a long time to come, so I don’t blindly just look for Democrats to support for Assembly. But on the OTHER hand, the more you know about THESE TWO… Laurie Davies does not deserve to be in the Assembly, and Chris Duncan DOES.

And he’ll have a much easier time getting things done for District 74 than she ever will. Vern out.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.