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Commentary: Forum shows voters have a tough choice to make

April 16, 2012|By Geoff West
  • Candidates for the 74th Assembly District, from left, Leslie Daigle, Allan Mansoor, and Bob Rush address questions during a Feet to the Fire forum in Costa Mesa Thursday, April 5.
Candidates for the 74th Assembly District, from left,… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Last week a group of local journalists hosted the latest edition of the Feet to the Fire forum at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center for the three candidates remaining in the state Assembly race for the 74th District seat.

More than 150 people showed up — apparently fewer than was anticipated, because about half the seats were empty. Still, the crowd was focused and enthusiastic.

Moderator Barbara Venezia, a former columnist for the Daily Pilot and current columnist for the Orange County Register, was joined by Pilot Editor John Canalis and opinion columnist Jack Wu, Newport Beach Independent Editor Roger Bloom, the Current General Manager Tom Johnson and Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana Jr.

They interrogated the candidates: Republican Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, Republican Costa Mesa Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and Newport Beach businessman, activist and freshly minted Democrat Robert Rush.

To say the discussions were spirited doesn't really do justice to the evening. Canalis kicked things off with a simple yes or no question about one of the most controversial issues — the recent deletion of the 19th Street Bridge from the Master Plan of Arterial Highways by the Orange County Transportation Authority.

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Mansoor and Rush supported the deletion, but Daigle waffled, and that's when the fun began. Mansoor, for example, suggested that Daigle should remain on the Newport Beach council until she figured out which side of the bridge she was on — and that was a high point of civility.

Local media has covered the nuts and bolts of this event, as did I on my blog, A Bubbling Cauldron, so I'm not going to give you chapter and verse here. The biggest surprise for me that evening was Daigle's poor performance. This was an excellent opportunity for her to make great inroads in her campaign to replace Mansoor in Sacramento and, in my view, she failed.

She hesitated on questions that required a simple yes or no and allowed herself to be backed into a corner on many more. I was very disappointed because I wanted her to make a good showing and to give Mansoor and his Orange County GOP handlers a run for their money.

The most pleasant surprise was the performance of Rush, a relative newcomer to politics but not to community affairs. He chose to convert from a "decline to state" voter status to becoming a registered Democrat just before he filed to run for the Assembly.

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