Congressional District 26 primary candidate debate held- with one chair empty.

By George Miller

Four impressive candidates are running for the Congressional seat currently held by Democrat Julia Brownley, a former CA State Senator from Santa Monica who moved here to run for Congress in 2012, beating Tony Strickland and shattering a decades long Republican dynasty in Ventura County after Elton Gallegly retired.

The debate was sponsored and run by the Acorn newspaper and CLU (California Lutheran University). They also prepared questions and Acorn editor Kyle Jorrey moderated the event.

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Candidates prepare to do battle: Rafael Dagnesses, Jeff Gorell, Douglas Kmiec

The candidates:

Incumbent Liberal Democrat Julia Brownley, former State Senator (Santa Monica), now of Westlake. Brownley chose not to participate in the debate.

– Businessman Rafael Dagnesses, Republican, former Marine Gunnery Sergeant and decorated LAPD undercover narcotics and gang crimes officer,  CEO of $175 million Q-Realtors, originally immigrated from Cuba, now lives in Santa Rosa Valley.

– State Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, a moderate Republican, veteran Naval Reserve officer, former prosecutor, instructor at CLU, lives in Camarillo.

– Former U.S. Ambassador Douglas Kmiec, Independent candidate, constitutional attorney to three Presidents  and Pepperdine Professor, of Malibu

The proceedings:

Event Video (26-CD debate starts at about 1:12:00)

Video streaming by Ustream

The moderator started them off with self-introductions, then questions that each answered, with brief  rebuttal opportunities, followed by a few candidate-specific questions capped off with a one minute  summary wrap-up by each candidate.

Some highlights:

Ambassador Kmiec noted that he had served three Presidents as a constitutional attorney, emphasized the first three words of that document (“We The People”). He would focus on three major problems: 1)- fragile economy, 2)- tax system which deprives the middle class, the average working man, of much of his wealth, 3)-Supreme Court making serious jurisprudence errors (campaign finance, etc.). He believes that the government should provide health care and that the problem is with the “bureaucracy of the insurance industry, which makes unconscionable profits. He mocked ACA repeal attempts. Kmiec is opposed to Wall Street financial manipulation and statues which benefit it. Doesn’t believe in “trickle down” economics. He said there are still two million people unemployed (it is much higher). Top 1% (400 people) own 50% of wealth, which he feels has to be “moved to the center”), has enormously profited and not paid their fair share. Need a way for farmers to get (immigrant) labor and workers to have security.  Thinks Senate immigration bill is fine and is appalled that the House hasn’t passed it. Said the President deserves enormous credit for taking on enormous problems.  Supports minimum wage legislation for a mandated “family wage.” Feels that other countries do respect us for what we stand for- peace, freedom, principle. But we lose all that by helping other countries doing terrible things. Believes in diplomatic rather than military approach. An independent voice is needed that is not beholden to either party.

Rafael Dagnesses said he had served his country and region, via a Marine Corps stint and distinguished service in undercover police work, as well as building a very successful real estate business with $175 million in sales. He grew up in a bad section (L.A. Ramparts), witnessing the effect of gangs, drugs and violence of people. He was motivated to run by the severe problems the country is in and lack of satisfactory actions,. He believes executive orders are much abused, employers determine what wages will be, not all employees have equal abilities, women should receive what they are worth in the marketplace without regard to gender (he has “six figure” women employees),  doesn’t want government interference in private sector. ACA should be renamed as UCA (unaffordable), will fight to repeal it. We don’t need “some ” tort reform, we need absolute tort reform. Sees current scheme as collusion between government and industry. He cited ACA horror stories. It was a criminal act to “pass a 2700 page bill that no one read.” He laments playing people against each other (1%, etc) and culture of envy based on segmentation by gender, race, sexual orientation, income. Opposed to minimum wage legislation- minimum wage jobs are interim jobs, low skill jobs- people need to acquire skills, move out of that range.  There is no economy, no environment, no jobs without a strong military. Downsizing is wrong. Believes his lack of Washington/Government experience is an asset, not a liability as moderator implied. The State is a mess. Do we really want Sacramento politicians in Washington?

Assemblyman Gorell is proud to be in a Progressive organization such as the US Navy, where he is a reserve officer who served in Afghanistan. He lamented the negative impact of ACA (Obamacare), doesn’t know if repeal is an option, committed to reform it, bring down costs, tort reform, provide plans across state lines. Some providers won’t even accept new ACA policies. Pre-existing conditions must be covered. New signups may not even be paying or heavily subsidized. Saving Naval Base Ventura County a top priority and to help Agriculture, deal with drought, reform abuse of endangered species designation. Government policies are killing manufacturing, which offers good middle class jobs. He is all in for amnesty, not “overnight, flash amnesty”. Need border security, employer sanctions …. legal status classification to get in line for citizenship. Not opposed to raising minimum wage (but warned it could eliminate some opportunities), but opposes automatic increases. He is disappointed at the corruption he has encountered with Washington types.  The incumbent has 118 endorsements from politicians and special interest groups–this disturbs him. American military has done the world good. Its rollback and lack of veterans support is not acceptable. Allies no longer trust us, enemies no longer fear us, we are now vulnerable. He said he is a pro-choice Catholic, will not attempt to stop Roe v Wade. Marriage is one man one woman but DOMA (defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional. Lack of attendance of the incumbent at this debate is symbolic of what is wrong with Washington–arrogance.

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George Miller is Publisher of and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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