June 17, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

All 17 Candidates Campaigning For 33rd Congressional District Square Off

All 17 campaigning candidates for the 33rd Congressional District attended a forum held by Brentwood News on Sunday, April 27.
All 17 campaigning candidates for the 33rd Congressional District attended a forum held by Brentwood News on Sunday, April 27.

For the first time, all 17 candidates campaigning to succeed Congressman Henry Waxman (Dem-33rd District) appeared together Sunday at a two-hour forum organized by Brentwood News, a Mirror Media Group publication.

There will be an 18th candidate on the June 3 primary ballot – James Graf – but he dropped out of the race after it was too late to remove his name.

Held at University Synagogue in Brentwood and moderated by Brentwood News editor Jeff Hall, the forum gave each of the candidates – 12 men and five women – equal time to speak and answer questions in front of a crowd of about 400.

The forum was split into four segments. Each candidate was given three minutes for opening remarks. A “lightning round” followed with each candidate given 30 seconds to respond to a random question – a number of these questions were sourced from the audience. Another 30-second round allowed each candidate to speak on a topic of their choice. The forum concluded with each candidate given 90 seconds for a closing statement.

Here are highlights from each candidate’s opening remarks in the random order they were selected to speak at the forum.

Independent Tom Fox. Photo by Amy Mickens
Independent Tom Fox. Photo by Amy Mickens

Independent Tom Fox highlighted his time as a deputy public defender in L.A. County and his own private law practice of more than 25 years.

“People come to me in usually the worst part of their lives,” Fox said. “It’s my job to listen to them, try to untangle the mess that they are in, craft a solution, and send them out into the world hoping for a better day. I’ve had these skills now for the last 30 years and I believe these are the same kinds of skills I can use to represent the people of the 33rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Fox said he was tired of the way things were in Washington, D.C.

“I’m running as an independent by choice because I believe the two-party system that we’re involved in, the hall mark of our democracy, is broken right now,” Fox said. “An independent voice is probably the best equipped to go through and break through the challenges in Washington.”

Democrat Ted Lieu. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Ted Lieu. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat and current State Senator Ted Lieu, who is giving up his South Bay seat to run for Congress, told his story of coming to America as an immigrant.

He made the audience chuckle after sharing that his parents could have picked beautiful Southern California or Hawaii to start their new lives, but chose Cleveland, Ohio instead.

“We were poor, we did not speak English well, and it was cold,” Lieu said. “They would go to flea markets and sell gifts of jewelry to make ends meet. After several years, they saved some money, opened one gift jewelry store in the shopping mall. They eventually opened six stores, so in my mind, my parents achieved the American dream. They went from being poor to owning their home, giving my brother and me an amazing education. It’s one of the reasons I joined the U.S. Air Force. I believe I could never give back to America to repay this amazing country’s gift to me and my family.”

Lieu said he was in politics to make sure this dream remains open for people who want to work hard and succeed.

Lily Gilani. Photo by Amy Mickens
Republican Lily Gilani. Photo by Amy Mickens

Republican Lily Gilani, a lawyer of 23 years, shared her story of how her family arrived at LAX more than 30 years ago.

“We left a country where it was ruled by tyranny and we left everything behind and started all over here,” Gilani said. “Thanks to the limitless opportunities that this country provides, and to the bounties of freedom that this country stands for, I made it all the way to Harvard law school. It was tough, but our family was committed to pursuing these dreams. The reason I’m running and standing before you today, is because I want those same opportunities to be available to my children who are sitting here in the audience.”

Libertarian Mark Matthew Herd. Photo by Amy Mickens
Libertarian Mark Matthew Herd. Photo by Amy Mickens

Libertarian Mark Matthew Herd had the audience in laughter after mentioning a LA Times article on their congressional race printed Sunday morning, exclaiming “you probably know I don’t exist,” referring to the fact the article only mentioned the highest fundraisers in the race.

“I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m a libertarian,” Herd said. “I believe in the constitution, I don’t believe in NSA spying. I don’t like Bush and I don’t like Obama. I looked in the mirror the other day and I said ‘I need to make a change’ and I did. I switched. I could have gone as an independent, but I fell in love with Ron Paul. I started listening to what he ran on when he ran for president. We need less government. We need to reduce our defense spending by about 10 to 15 percent. We need to bring our troops home. And for crying out loud, we need to quit spying on ourselves.”

Green party candidate Michael Ian Sachs. Photo by Amy Mickens
Green party candidate Michael Ian Sachs. Photo by Amy Mickens

Green party candidate Michael Ian Sachs, who said he was born in Chicago in 1963 and moved to L.A. in 1987, said his campaign slogan was “it’s time for something different.”

“The theme of my campaign is the two-party system is broken,” Sachs said. “You’ve heard that before and you’re going to keep hearing it. We know the system doesn’t work. They are not able to agree on the issues. They are not able to vote for amendments. The process has broken down. Sending a Democrat to a Republican controlled Congress right now is not going to get anything done. They have no power.”

Democrat Vince Flaherty. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Vince Flaherty. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Vince Flaherty said he had identified 434 key areas that are in need of reform, but spoke mainly on political campaign contribution reform.

“I’m requesting your vote so I can become a citizen legislator,” Flaherty said. “I want you to know I was offered PAC money, but I turned it down. Of course they didn’t offer me that much. But even if they had, I would have refused because we need to get special interest money out of elections. We have a right to complete disclosure of who is behind campaign contributions.”

Democrat Zein Obagi, Jr. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Zein Obagi, Jr. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Zein Obagi, Jr. spoke about the fact that he was the only candidate in the field who ran for Waxman’s seat two years ago. He did not make it past the primary election.

“The reason I ran for this office two years ago, is because at the age of 28, I felt as though our government and our representatives in Congress were not doing enough to represent the young Americans who are either under employed, unemployed, and losing touch and grasp of the American dream,” Obagi, Jr. said. “My dad immigrated to this country from Syria. He immigrated and joined the U.S. Navy, he worked hard, and went on to achieve the American dream.”

Obagi, Jr. said he had seen young Americans lose the possibility of obtaining the American dream.

“I said I need to do something about that,” Obagi, Jr. said. “I didn’t think I could unseat Representative Waxman and I didn’t even come close, but I got to have a voice in that conversation and I got to hear what mattered to you.”

Independent Brent Roske. Photo by Amy Mickens
Independent Brent Roske. Photo by Amy Mickens

Independent Brent Roske touted his idea of Congressional District Councill if elected.

“The Congressional District Council would be made of myself and these wonderful patriots,” he said looking at the 16 other candidates. “I haven’t asked any of them whether or not they would do it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. The Congressional District Council is about working together. Basically I would create a mini House of Representatives here in California. We would talk about upcoming legislature, we would talk about upcoming votes, and we’d come up with a plan of action, and I would take that vote back to D.C.”

Roske said the adversarial nature of modern politics had to end and that’s why he was running as an independent.

“I’m running a virtually no money campaign,” Roske said. “On the stage is a group of patriots, but they’ve raised nearly $4 million to run in this primary. I’ve spent about $1200 bucks. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to win, I do want to win. But if you, like me, think we need to get money out of politics it has to start somewhere – and that starts with campaigning.”

Republican Kevin Mottus. Photo by Amy Mickens
Republican Kevin Mottus. Photo by Amy Mickens

Republican Kevin Mottus said his number one priority was to address “our terrible transportation system.”

“You cannot have economic growth without the infrastructure to support it,” Mottus said. “Ask any business person this and they know it’s the truth. And all the excuses elected officials have made are just that, excuses, and they need to end. We need more double level freeways, we need more subways, we need more light retail, we need more buses, we need more everything because the lack of transportation is choking our businesses and cutting off our communities and it’s unacceptable.”

Mottus said his other issues he was campaigning on were environmental, but spoke mostly about radio frequency radiation emitted by wireless devices as the most threatening issue.

Democrat David Kanuth. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat David Kanuth. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat David Kanuth spoke about his time as a public defender in the L.A. District Attorney’s Office for almost seven years where he said he “got things done there.”

“As a public defender, I was always in the minority party,” Kanuth said. “I was always the second least popular person in the court room. but what I found was over time is, that if you demonstrate your passion, if you demonstrate your desire to work hard, to show up early and stay late, you find that ultimately over time what happens is, you’re in credibility and you’re in respect. Where things couldn’t be done for, they start getting done.”

Democrat Wendy Greuel. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Wendy Greuel. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Wendy Greuel, former L.A. City Controller (2009-13) and L.A. Councilwoman (2002-09), used her time to speak about her work helping homeless veterans, creating quality education, preserving open space, and business tax reform.

“When I go to Washington, I’m going to use my experience while working for the Clinton administration where I was not only the deputy director Interagency Council of Homeless, but after the 1994 earthquake, helped bring a billion dollars to this region and made sure we rebuilt the many things that needed to be built,” Greuel said.

Republican Elan Carr. Photo by Amy Mickens
Republican Elan Carr. Photo by Amy Mickens

Republican Elan Carr, a criminal gang prosecutor at the L.A. District Attorney’s office, spoke about how he viewed the United States as “dangerously polarized.”

“That polarization and that fragmentation is on tragic display in our nation’s capital,” Carr said. “Congress has fallen into a state of dysfunction that is frankly disgraceful and we deserve better. I’m running for Congress to reach across the aisle, to put issues ahead of partisanship and labels, and to craft real solutions with my colleagues to real problems that are afflicting Americans every day across the 33rd District, across California, and across our country.”

Democrat Matt Miller. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Matt Miller. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Matt Miller used his time to speak about why difference matters for the change that the country needs out of Washington, D.C.

“Many people know me from KCRW’s ‘Left, Right and Center’ and I’m proud to be on that in Santa Monica for 20 years,” Miller said. “But what some folks may not know is that I’m the only candidate in this race who worked in a senior economic policy position in the Clinton White House. I was a senior advisor in the White House Office of Management and Budget where I helped President Clinton put the country on a balanced budget.”

Miller said he was the only candidate in the race that had advised Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs, adding that he understands business.

Democrat Michael Shapiro. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Michael Shapiro. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Michael Shapiro told the forum he ran for the district 42 years ago.

While he wasn’t elected, he said he went on to work for Bobby Kennedy, Alan Cranston, and Ted Kennedy.

“We have a democracy, but it doesn’t really run like a democracy,” Shapiro said. “It doesn’t run like a democracy because of the Koch brothers. It doesn’t run like a democracy because people in Congress who don’t get the courage to stand up and speak out to make sense of a simple situation.”

Democrat Barbara Mulvaney . Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Barbara Mulvaney. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Barbara Mulvaney shared highlights of her public service career.

Mulvaney said she began her career about 30 years ago working for the L.A. District Attorney’s office in Malibu, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Sylmar. She said she then went to Miami in the 1980s where she worked with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and helped her start the first domestic violence taskforce in the country.

“It was an amazing experience. We worked diligently on women’s issues. It was a cutting edge unit,” Mulvaney said. “From there, I went to work for Tom Udall, and I was an assistant attorney general in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There again, I worked on women’s issues. I was the director of the prosecutions and special investigations unit that primarily focused on public corruption.”

Mulvaney said she then served as a senior prosecutor for the United Nations on the Rwanda genocide.

“I prosecuted the military masterminds,” Mulvaney said. “It took six years, but I convicted them of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and rape.”

More recently, Mulvaney said she was in Baghdad for two years starting in 2007 to fight for women’s issues.

Democrat Kristie Holmes. Photo by Amy Mickens
Democrat Kristie Holmes. Photo by Amy Mickens

Democrat Kristie Holmes, a social worker who teaches at USC who is also a NGO Delegate to the United Nations Commission Status on Women, spoke on the need for more women in leadership.

“We’re 51 percent of the population, but just 17 percent of Congress,” Holmes said. “At this rate, we’ll reach parity at about 100 to 500 years. This is not a women’s issue. It’s an economic issue as well as global leadership issue. Look, we all have a lot of education and ability up here, you’ve already heard it.”

Holmes also spoke about “getting the money out” of politics.

“We all say we want to get the money out of politics because it corrupts and this whole process while promoting with the media who has raised the most money,” Holmes said. “We are here to represent the people, not obnoxiously educated people who flush millions of dollars down the toilet to print post cards – no one wants it anyway.”

Independent Marianne Williamson. Photo by Amy Mickens
Independent Marianne Williamson. Photo by Amy Mickens

Independent Marianne Williamson said she believed the country was going through nothing short of the “de-democratization of the United States of America.”

“Over the last two decades, we have siphoned off so many of the material resources of our country into the hands of the very few through banking policies, through trade policies, and through tax policies,” Williamson said. “At this point, money forces wielded influence on the functioning of our government that is so disproportionate to the influence that is wielded by the average citizen as to represent nothing short of the de-democratization and the dismantling of democracy itself.”

Williamson said the country needs a “people’s interruption.”

“I agree with the other independent candidates and independent voices here today who have pointed out that looking to the political status quo to fix this problem is ridiculous,” Williamson said. “The political status quo is the problem. What we need in the United States is order to deeply address that 1 percent controls up to 40 percent of the wealth and that 60 percent lives on 2.3 percent of the wealth.”

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