Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hadley v. Muratsuchi @ HB Kiwanis Club

While the debates at Hesse Park on October 8th between candidates for the 66th Assembly and the 26th State Senate were informative, the  Kiwanis four candidate forum was an outright break out.

Glenn Walker from KTLA moderated the event, but instead of candidate debating their opponents, each of the four candidates attending answered questions from the audience.

What was intended to be a peaceful display, and a clash of ideas, turned into a raucous affair, with boos and hisses, along with loud applause for candidates. One member of the audience stood up and demanded that people in the audience stop booing. Another member told him to sit down. I had to deal with rude comments from a member of the audience, too, and as I looked around the room, a number of people shared with me their dismay with some of the answers from the candidates.

David Hadley
Despite (or rather because of) the unrest, the forum was a lot of fun.

Most of the focus rested on Hadley and Muratsuchi, as the 66th Assembly District is the most swing of swing-districts in the state of California, if not the country. The state senate district will end up with ultra-liberals Sandra Fluke or Ben Allen, who both gave bold presentations for their views. Just like their last debate, they spent no time speaking to each other, or even comparing and contrasting their views on issues, since they reflect the same distorted prism of secular progressivism.

Manhattan Beach businessman David Hadley is taking on former Department of Justice prosecutor and Torrance School Board member Al Muratsuchi, and the contest only got shriller between the two at the Kiwanis club.  Opening remarks among the four candidates were the same ol', same ol'. I anticipated as much. Hadley talked up his family life and professional career

Because of the forum's location, the contentious issue of oil drilling took center stage. Al Muratsuchi was firmly opposed to oil drilling in Hermosa Beach, the popular position, of course. Hadley has refused to take a position on drilling, but repeated his support for respecting the decisions of the voters in March next year. Following the extended fight over whether E and B can drill in Hermosa Beach or not, the anti-drilling crowd has been as shrill as ever. Opponents emblazon their badges, and they love to yell in town halls.

Hadley's position is walking a not-so-fine-line while pivoting to core issues and Hadley acknowledged the unpopularity of the position. Audience members expressed derision or dismay. One called out "What's your opinion?!" Hadley was about to answer, but the moderator put down the question, reminding the audience that they would not take questions directly from the audience. He defended his stance (or non-stance) by referring to the diversity of assembly districts in the state of California, from the deeply urban to the widely rural. Local control is a must in the state of California, enough that residents in Northern California have agitated for secession already, plus the bold ballot initiative to partition the state into six pieces.

Al Muratsuchi
On the issue of oil money in campaigns, Muratsuchi slipped when he could have stood his ground.

The Hadley campaign reported that Muratsuchi is getting major funding from the oil industry, $500,000 strong. Startled surprise erupted briefly in the room. Icky-sticky. "The oil companies are serving as a lifeline for Muratsuchi's campaign," Hadley declared.

So, Muratsuchi is spilling out of both sides of his mouth? Is anyone surprised at this candidate's slick duplicity?

On the numerous, prolix propositions on the ballot this year, the candidates had the same position. Yes on Prop 1, no Prop 46, blah, blah, blah.

While listening to the four candidates explain their all-too-similar positions on these initiatives, I noticed that the forum seemed stacked, unfair. One Republican, three Democrats, and two of the Democrats were from the West Los Angeles, Santa Monica region, which meant that they had no intention of moderating their positions on anything.

Hadley and Muratsuchi also clashed on Prop 13, the tax reform which forces the state legislature to achieve a two-thirds majority and then ballot initiative to raise taxes, and also keeps property tax increases to a bare minimum. Muratsuchi argued that he had protected Prop 13, voted against raising taxes. That is not true. Voting for a minimum wage hike is a tax against small businesses, or at least a measure which forces businesses to make hard choices.

On the issue of education and schools, Hadley expressed reserved support for school choice, including his mission to grant the cities of Lomita and Gardena to have their own school districts. Novel idea, and if he pays attention to how West Hawthorne's Wiseburn School District pulled away from Centinela to unify, he may find sympathetic Democratic legislators in Sacramento to support the measure.

One fact which no one in that room could ignore: the local control funding formula has not improved funding for South Bay Schools, especially Hermosa Beach, which now receives the least funding in the state.

How is this fair? It isn't, and it's good that Hadley brought up this inequality. Why should high-performing schools be punished with less funding, when the amount of money does not make the difference between a high and low performing district?

One question provoked some much needed reflection from Hadley, the one candidate who had not served in public office before. "Give an example of a time when you had to compromise".

Hadley detailed a long list of conflicted Republicans in the district, including the two Republican primary candidates in 2012, Craig Huey and Nathan Mintz, and the two GOP Torrance mayoral candidates, Tom Brewer and Bill Sutherland -- and how all of them have endorsed his candidacy for Assembly. He forgot to mention that Screen Actors Guild President Ned Vaughn dropped out quietly rather than create another bitter primary.

I am still waiting for Hadley to release a mailer of Democrats supporting his campaign. Perhaps state Democratic party leaders have pushed hard on South Bay politicians to endorse Muratsuchi, or at least keep their mouths shut. Still, Republicans in the South Bay need something to counter Muratsuchi's Democratic narrative of "widely endorsed, frequently bipartisan".

The biggest surprise of the evening for me, and for a number of people in the audience, was learning that Muratsuchi is taking oil money.

The best moment of the debate occurred when Hadley called Muratuschi's claims of local support "laughable", since the vast majority of his campaign funding comes from outside of the district. The audience roared with support and applause after Hadley's statement. Muratsuchi grimly smiled, nodded his head, said nothing.

The Hadley v. Muratuschi  did not disappoint. Loud applause, boos, and uproars from the audience intermittently interrupted concise as well as complex answers from the two Assembly candidates.

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