I had attended the Waxman-Bloomfield debate in 2012, but the crowd in the room last night was much bigger.
People were sitting along the wall this time, too.
At first, I had expected to hear the assembly candidates only. Then I learned that the state senate candidates and the Congressional candidates would be debating as well.
The Congressional candidates Elan Carr and Ted Lieu would be debating as well. Honestly, it would be the first time that I had seen both candidates sitting side-by-side and pressing why the voters should elect one or the other for higher office.
66th Assembly District
The state assembly debate was the most exciting, the most divisive. Incumbent Al Muratsuchi seemed nervous, and it appeared that he did not know the crowd very well. A few personal slights against his opponent, Manhattan Beach businessman David Hadley, elicited scorn more than agreement, although some audience members applauded when he declared his firm opposition to fracking in the state of California.
Both candidates support drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Both candidates affirmed support for Prop 13, but the candidates went out of their way to characterize their record for defending jobs, or an outsider status to promote South Bay values.
The 66th Assembly race is going to be the tightest race in the state, one in which the Democratic Party planned to spend $2 million. Hadley reminded voters a number of times that most of Muratsuchi's money comes from outside the district, particularly from unions and PACs, while the vast majority of Hadley's money comes from individual contributions. The assemblymember then claimed that most of Hadley's money came from wealthy benefactors.
26th State Senate District
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District candidate Ben Allen showed up early, and I had the chance to speak with him. I did not see Sandra Fluke until the debate began. Allen attempted to address the Hesse Community Room by standing up, and immediately the moderator made him sit down. Laughter ensued and Allen was a good sport about the whole thing (so was Ms. Fluke, who then admitted that she would have stood up to deliver her opening remarks).
Allen has locked up endorsements up and down the district, including Republican and Democratic County Supervisors, as well as mayors and councilmembers. Fluke boasted about the Democratic clubs which have endorsed her, along with the progressive caucuses in the district.
33rd Congressional District
This debate was unique in that both candidates discussed their foreign policy views, since they are running for a federal office.
The candidates did not spar directly with each other, but the distinctly disagreed on key issues, like the minimum wage, tax reform (especially for corporations), and the role of the American Armed Forces for maintaining peace in the Middle East.
In his closing remarks, Carr pressed for bipartisanship and problem-solving in Washington, while reminded voters that he would caucus with the Democrats and support Nancy Pelosi, while Carr would caucus with the Republicans and support John Boehner. Lieu argued that he would defend federal funding for abortions, which are critical for California residents.
I found that the Democratic candidates spent less time talking about the future of the state of California, particularly the opportunities and quality of life that the current generation will leave to future generations. Republicans focused extensively on fiscal issues, while the Democratic candidates wanted to present a record of government-based accomplishment.
The endorsement process in these races has become more suspect than ever. Many times, local officials will throw their support behind the candidate whom they feel is most likely to win, rather than the candidate whom they would prefer to see in office. Muratsuchi and Allen had collected a number of endorsements from elected officials, Democrats and Republicans, and they went out of their way to present them to the Hesse crowd.
General disappointment registered with me following the state senate debate. Both candidates are abysmal options precisely because they are Democrats, and the California State Senate has been tarnished with four Democratic state senators who have been arrested, indicted, or convicted of felonies. What plans does either state senate candidate have to end the corruption in Sacramento?
Over all, the debate did sharpen my opinion of the two candidates running for each office, and over all the League of Women Voters did facilitate my decision-making.