McCoy vs Irwin- AD44 candidates battle it out in debate

Attack mailers, fracking, bullet trains, gender-bender bathrooms - oh my!

By George Miller

Democrat Jacqui Irwin and Republican Rob McCoy have only debated once before- in a three way primary election bout with another Republican candidate on May 10.  While McCoy has been fairly open about his positions on the issues, Irwin has been much less forthcoming on these, preferring to focus on her greatest strengths of 10 years on the Thousand Oaks City Council, large numbers of endorsements, claimed “bipartisanship,” environmentalism and health care. So it was a good opportunity not only for a one-to-one comparison on issues, but to see how they presented and handled themselves in such a situation.

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About 300 showed up for the second Irwin-McCoy debate on 10-11-14 at CLU. (Photo:

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The Saturday weekend Oct. 11 event was sponsored by California Lutheran University (CLU) and The Thousand Oaks Acorn. Editor Kyle Jorrey moderated the event held in the CLU gym. The turnout of about 300 people was the largest we have seen at a county political debate this year, especially remarkable for an “off-year” election. About 38 questions were asked in a wide range of topics, the most we have seen a debate.

Standout moments:

McCoy was challenged on having preached creationism from the pulpit of his church. He said there is no scientific proof of either theory, then quoted from the Declaration of Independence preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are CREATED equal…”   At that point Jorrey asked him to answer the question, to which he replied “I already did.” Jorrey quickly moved on to the next question. 

“We can stop talking about this Texas myth,” Irwin said. “It’s just false.” This was in response to McCoy’s statements that Texas was generating far more jobs than California and that it cost far more to rent a U-Haul van from CA to TX than the reverse.

“I believe in climate change. I believe Sacramento needs one,” McCoy said. “I am struggling with the idea of hyper-environmentalism that is destroying jobs.”

In response to a question about her claims that McCoy is an “extremist,” Irwin responded:“the statements that we use are verbatim statements.” McCoy proceeded to dispute her interpretations and omissions and said “you say you’re bipartisan but use partisan attacks.”


In this debate and the previous one, stark differences came to light. Except for more practice and polish than last time, the main significant changes evident are that Irwin is no longer pushing a “split roll” property tax approach, which would forever alter Proposition 13 and McCoy softened his stand on illegal immigration still further. Anti-McCoy “attack mailers” from Irwin’s side (some were campaign mailers, some from 3rd party PAC’s) were also an acrimonious topic. McCoy sternly dressed down Irwin for such negative techniques, with Irwin claiming that they only quoted him and that she stood by the mailers.

On drought/water supplies

Both candidates acknowledged a serious water shortage and importance of growing infrastructure. McCoy chided the state for not putting proper infrastructure in place. He stated that little had been done while  population doubled and budget infrastructure spending dropped from 30% to 3-7% for infrastructure. McCoy added that “policing each other” over the use of sprinklers would not solve the problem- infrastructure is needed. Both support the water bond ballot proposition, which would allocate most of its $7.5 billion funding for things other than expanding water supply. Irwin called for a groundwater commission. Democrats have sought to get control of groundwater and force it under state rules. Nothing was said about current practices of releasing enormous quantities of water to meet court rulings and blowing up dams.

On “bipartisanship”

Both Irwin and McCoy have reached out to multiple constituencies. McCoy has made great inroads in county churches, even in heavily Democrat-dominated Oxnard, where several pastors have endorsed him, even Pastor Huggins of St. Paul’s predominantly black church. Huggins has had the infamous Rev. Jeremiah Wright speak at his church three times, including a night a few weeks ago, when McCoy was present, seated at the head table and even spoke.  McCoy was quoted in the Star as saying that he had some differences with Wright but agreed with some of the points made in the notorious “G*d Damn America” sermon played over and over again during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Irwin has made the bipartisanship theme a centerpiece of her campaign, touting her working relationship and cross-endorsements with Republicans and said she would take that to the State Assembly. “You say you’re a bipartisan, but yet you use partisan attacks,” quipped McCoy to Irwin.  Bipartisan agreement in California mostly entails some Republicans supporting Democrat policies or decisions that are more nonpolitical and simply make sense to a vast majority.

On “Attack” campaign mailers

The moderator asked candidates to comment on the so-called “attack” mailers, which both the Jacqui Irwin and Julia Brownley campaigns have relied very heavily upon against respective opponents Rob McCoy and Jeff Gorell. The latter candidates have largely refrained from such tactics and emphasized their accomplishments, skills and positions.

Irwin claimed  the mailers quoted McCoy verbatim, yet they did so selectively out of context and were accompanied by inflammatory rhetoric. She said she stands by them, presumably including the third party PAC mailers. So now she “owns” them.

 On immigration

Irwin indicated that it is a federal matter, not one for state State Assembly. Yet, many state policies impact or are impacted by it. She said it is a “complicated issue,” and that she supports “comprehensive immigration reform,” which is amnesty and a path to citizenship. Irwin dos not have much of an issues or positions section in her web site of Facebook page, an interesting omission. McCoy said sovereign nations defend their borders, but is OK with those illegals already here and has his church help them. He added that it’s a federal issue and that he strongly supports Gorell’s position on immigration, which is amnesty and get in line for citizenship. Nothing was said about employers screening illegal aliens, deportation, sanctuary cities, drives’ licensees, etc.

On “extremism”

Both the moderator and Irwin attempted to portray McCoy as a political and religious extremist. It seems like a fair question to ask whether a candidate will attempt to impose religious beliefs upon constituents who may not share their  beliefs. It is questionable to assert that he would be do so simply because he is a Christian minister.

McCoy, who comes from a military family and is now Pastor of the Calvary Godspeak Chapel in Newbury Park, has also been a sales executive and worked for years to help the poor in Fresno, before feeling a calling to to the ministry.  Members of the media and Democrat Party have expressed opinions that it is inappropriate for clergy to be in government, citing “separation of church and state” doctrine (about half the signers of the Declaration of Independence were clergy).  

The moderator brought up campaign mailers affiliated with Irwin  which have claimed he said he wants to abolish Social Security, a remark he made at a Tea Party gathering years ago. To this he responded that he does not advocate taking away anything from Social Security recipients or those who are depending upon it and in any case a State Assemblyman has no say on the matter. He also said that the system is unsustainable, broke and that the so-called Social Security Trust fund is backed by no actual assets, just more debt-  IOU’s from the government.

On “gay” marriage, McCoy said God defines marriage, not the state. He said his sister had a “gay” wedding, which he attended, but would not officiate, since it violates his beliefs. He said he loves his sister, gets along fine with her and congregants who are so inclined. He said govts. will decide their policies on it and that he is worried about infringement on religious liberty.

McCoy was also challenged on having preached creationism from the pulpit of his church. He said there is no scientific proof of either theory, then quoted from the Declaration of Independence preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are CREATED equal…”   At that point Jorrey asked him to answer the question, to which he replied “I already did.” Jorrey quickly moved on to the next question.

Interestingly, nothing was asked and little said about the extremism of supporting unconstitutional positions.

On campaign finance

The question was asked of the candidates about the role of big money and special interests in this now multi-million dollar campaign, large for an Assembly race.

District 44 is one of the top competitive races in California. Although the Republican Party and major organizations did not initially support McCoy and actually supported two candidates over him, they pivoted after the primary, greatly ratcheting up support now that he’s the only game in town and he has shown surprising strength. 

While McCoy lamented the role and influence of big money, he says he initially didn’t have it, but now big outside money has come in on both sides. Irwin merely remarked that it is how the game is played (which it is indeed). 

Irwin has been strongly backed by special interest and party money since day one, backed by a wide array of noted politicians, unions, other special interest groups and Democrat organizations. She is ahead in fundraising.


Irwin is very uncomfortable with it, says she is very skeptical about using fracking, citing water usage and pollution, wants to study it more, regulate it and seems to favor outright banning it, but didn’t say that unequivocally. At the May debate, she was more like let’s study it and see what we come up with. She supports State Senator Fran Pavley’s tough fracking legislation.  McCoy sees a fracking ban as disastrous for the California economy/jobs, energy costs and foreign energy dependence. He has said that there is no proof that fracking is harmful if done right. and says it takes less water to frack a well than irrigate a golf course.  He is all for the environment but not destroying jobs. Studies have supported his position.

Common Core education standards (K-12)

Irwin supports them, says they are very well thought-out, the implementation not as well-managed as it could be and that it takes much training. She said education is the #1 priority and that we need a well-educated work force. McCoy is opposed to Common Core, especially the “data mining” which violates privacy, standards that are actually less than what we have now and the way that the Common Core regimen would pigeonhole/label students for life. It was not mentioned that this massive change was never voted on by the state or federal legislative bodies and that it was subsidized by billions in federal stimulus money without any vote of Congress.

 AB1266 unisex “bathroom bill”

Irwin says School Superintendents have no issues with it, has not seen any problems with it, all students should be made comfortable.  McCoy is opposed to it, says there have been issues with it, objects to sexual identity chosen by student, as opposed to a professional evaluation, questions legislative forcing of the issue, brings up the issue of which sports team will people play on. Says this is not the best way to handle it.  He mentioned that there are transgenders in his church and that there are no problems. He didn’t share the bathroom arrangements with the audience, though.

California business climate  

Irwin did not address the question directly, instead pointing to Thousand Oaks’ own success in establishing a good business climate, which she seemed to take implied credit for. McCoy thinks the California business climate is terrible, hurting business health, competitiveness and driving business away. He asserted that laws/regulations need overhaul and exclaimed that small businesses are like the California Condor- endangered in this state.” He pointed to massive Amgen job losses in Thousand Oaks.  Irwin said jobs going to Texas is just not true and we have created the same number if jobs as Texas since the recession, last month we created twice as many and they pay $10,000/yr. more.  The audience moaned and groaned over that one.

Retention of Naval Base Ventura County

The base, which houses a navy base, naval port, SeaBee headquarters, naval air station, Air National Guard, Pacific Missile Test Range and numerous other development and  test programs, has repeatedly been threatened with closure. Both candidates pledged strong efforts to retain this not only strategically important base, but one that reputedly accounts for about 40,000 jobs. McCoy added that an effort should also be underway to plan for private sector business/job development, so that the county is not so dependent upon the base.

Minimum wage

Irwin: favors it, but said watch out for negative economic impact. McCoy: let market drive it, reduce taxes, encourage more business, more jobs, higher wages.

Housing shortage, Low income housing building and subsidies – state-mandated 

Both support affordable housing. McCoy is concerned about state’s ability to pay.  Irwin said unless residents are willing to let additional housing in, it will be a problem. She noted the massive development project rejected by Camarillo. She instead advocates infill, citing the Thousand Oaks Boulevard-specific plan and that developing farmland is not the solution.

Public pension finances

Irwin thinks that there is nothing inherently wrong with pensions, cited abuses such as “spiking,” and that adjustments can be made without cutting any pension benefits. She said Brown brought pension reform. McCoy says a $500 billion unfunded liability pension system is unsustainable, abused, a complete overhaul is needed, most private sector retirement systems aren’t company-funded programs and that wee are saddled with all of this in a bankrupt state.

“Gay marriage”

Irwin supports it, says it is a civil right. McCoy says it’s against his beliefs, but tolerates it and believes states will decide on policy, points to his acceptance of a  “gay” married relative, congregants.

High speed rail project

Irwin said we need it but what is being done is not what was voted on. McCoy is opposed to it, says get rid of the “bullet train,” spend some of the money on water infrastructure and save the rest.


It appears that Jacqui Irwin is not as “bipartisan ” as claimed, actually embracing most of the Progressive agenda, based on what she has said in two debates. Also Rob McCoy is not quite as “Conservative” as touted, embracing at least some Liberal social issue positions on immigration, marriage and more.  Jacqui’s emphasis is on environmentalism. Rob’s on business climate and the economy. Both are strong candidates, one heavily immersed in the regional political scene, the other in the church world, along with social work and the business world before that.

Oxnard activist/student Francine Castanon doesn't hide who she's supporting. The crowd was lopsided for support of McCoy, but there were strong Irwin fans, too.

Oxnard activist/student Francine Castanon doesn’t hide who she’s supporting. The crowd was lopsided for support of McCoy, but there were strong Irwin fans, too.

 However, McCoy fans predominated in the crowd. Of course, the only thing that really matters is who the majority of the voters select.

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Debate attendees file out of CLU gym afterward. MCoy fans clearly outnumbered Irwin ones. (Photo:



Event sponsors Dr. Herb Gooch of CLU and Kyle Jorrey (Moderator) of T.O. Acorn (Image from CLU video)


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


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Timothy Bond

Rob McCoy won this debate. Irwin revealed that her biggest accomplishments were successful controls over the lives of private citizens. She has no problem expressing her Big Government views and she’s not shy of being fully partisan, practically in the same breath she claims to be “bipartisan”.