Tag Archives: Bill Grisolia

CA-37: Two-Day-Late Debateblogging

I hope you guys appreciate me, because I managed to get through the entire 90-minute debate for the June 26 primary in the 37th Congressional District to replace the late Juanita Millender-McDonald held on Thursday night.  11 Democrats were on stage, and because they were all given 2 minute opening statements, the debate really didn’t cover much ground.  But actually, the fact that the moderator was a clueless local news anchor from LA’s ABC7 who had virtually no connection to the district was a good thing, as the persistent issues of race played out in the media in the campaign were fairly nonexistent in the debate.

Detailed two-day-late debateblogging on the flip…

Let’s take a look at each candidate’s opening statement:

Ed Wilson: former mayor of Signal Hill, a small city in the district.  He immediately went after the whole ethnicity issue, saying “this is not a black seat or a white seat or a Hispanic seat, it’s your seat.”

Peter Matthews: He’s the PDA-endorsed candidate who has run for office many times, including challenging Millender-McDonald in a primary in 2006 (and getting 10,000 votes).  Matthews is running on the progressive issues on getting us out of Iraq, closing the inequality divide, providing single-payer universal health care, and restoring tax fairness.

Jenny Oropeza: The state Senator was strong on the war, saying “we need to get out of Iraq now.”  She talked about the environment, health care, revising NCLB, and needing to “turn around trade agreements” that sacrifice American job (that was cheering).  She closed with “You know my record,” playing off her experience serving the area.

Laura Richardson: Assemblywoman Richardson is also running on her record.  She kind of messed up her move from talking about Iraq to domestic issues, saying “I want to talk about the war in America” and then claiming that Al Qaeda is running rampant (I think she meant in Waziristan, not Long Beach).  Didn’t seem like much of a public speaker.

Valerie McDonald: The late Congresswoman’s daughter talked about her ties to the area, the need to keep families together in the black community, and the importance of education.

Bill Grisolia: He’s a longtime employee of Long Beach Memorial Health Center, so universal health care was one of his themes.  But he was at his most powerful discussing the war in Iraq, and his desire to cut funding except to bring our troops home.  He also tried to blunt the experience argument by saying “What have the electeds done for you?”

Mr. Evans: I forget his first name and it doesn’t matter.  He’s a far-right immigrant-hating loon who somehow was let into the Democratic primary.  He proudly namechecked Lou Dobbs in the first sentence of his statement and called himself a closed-borders candidate.  There is a sense in the black community that immigrants are in competition with them for low-paying jobs, but this was the most extreme out-and-out black bigot I’ve seen.

Alicia Ford: Spent her entire statement talking about something she did a decade ago that ABC7 didn’t cover, which made her bad.  Also actually said “In Compton, they are without… a lot of things.”  Stirring.

Lee Davis: Her whole statement decried the front-runner assumptions of the media, and said that “if the top three had any self-respect they’d leave this stage right now” to allow for equal access, and then actually WAITED for them to leave the stage.  They, er, didn’t.

George Parmer: a truck driver from Long Beach, the first to actually call for impeachment and call out the Democratic leadership for their sell-out on capitulation in Iraq.

Jeffrey Price: Talked mainly about lobbying and ethics reform.

Albert Robles: a write-in candidate in a 17-candidate field.  Best of luck to you.  I mean, if you can’t get the papers in on time…

The first question was on Iraq, and pretty much the entire field is committed to getting out now, so on that big issue, there’s not a lot of daylight and everyone is on the right side.  Peter Matthews went so far as to suggest that there ought to be impeachment investigations into lying us into war, and announced his support for HR 333, the impeachment of Dick Cheney.  The moderator actually did the “raise your hands” thing on the impeachment question, and I think 8 or 9 candidates raised their hands, including Jenny Oropeza (it was a wide shot on a postage stamp video window, so I could be wrong).  Mr. Evans, of course, kept calling the President the “commander-in-chief” and yelled at everybody for undermining him in a time of war.  I think there’s a place for him in the Connecticut for Lieberman Party.

On Iran, Jenny Oropeza has sadly bought into the bullshit rhetoric that they are a threat to our national security and that all options have to be on the table regarding their nuclear program.  She also said that she thinks diplomacy has failed because this President is incapable of it.  Only Alicia Ford understood that Iran is not an imminent threat, but then she went on about how China is a threat to this country and how in Compton they don’t have “things.”

Transportation and port security was a major topic, with the Port of Long Beach in the district.  Most candidates supported efforts to green the ports, including State Sen. Alan Loewenthal’s $30 container fee for clean air proposal.  Peter Matthews pressed the need for public transit to aid a cleaner environment.  Valerie McDonald was good on this issue as well.  George Parmer, the trucker, maintained that many truckers own their equipment and can’t afford to modernize their trucks, and so some of the funds from the container fee should trickle down to them.  I didn’t see much difference here.

A big topic was the events at MLK/Harbor Medical Center’s ER, which has been in the news lately, as a woman fell dead in the waiting room while the hospital staff did nothing.  Most of the candidates believed MLK/Harbor should remain open and would support the $200 million in federal funding that goes into it annually, though Ed Wilson and Valerie McDonald stressed accountability.  Laura Richardson said a platitude like “this situation must be dealt with” but didn’t explain how.  Peter Matthews mentioned that he organized a picket at MLK/Harbor 2 years ago and the only result was that they cut beds in half.  Bill Grisolia stressed the need for cooperation in the community, perhaps nurses college training partnerships to get more staff in there.  Many stressed the need for universal healthcare so that poor people aren’t relying on the ER as their last resort.

On a question about Wal-Mart, Oropeza proudly claimed that she fought against a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, and now there’s an Albertson’s there!  (Does she not read the news about the looming grocery strike and how Albertson’s in particular is trying to screw their workers again?)  The major candidates were in agreement on this, though only Valerie McDonald mentioned that workers ought to have the right to organize.  I take it she’d support the Employee Free Choice Act.

In final thoughts, Oropeza said she wouldn’t support the current immigration bill but didn’t say why, George Parmer advocated a national paper ballot because “votes are being stolen,” and Ed Wilson wanted to stop Congress from raiding Social Security and Medicare funds.  Laura Richardson took a cheap shot when she mentioned some local shooting and claimed she was the only candidate there (what, if you run for Congress, you have to know where the shootings are?).

My impression is that the candidates, by and large, are fairly similar and fairly progressive, as befits the district.  Oropeza and Richardson are politicians who are playing some political games.  Oropeza doesn’t seem all that informed on a couple crucial issues, and Richardson is clearly running a “vote for me, I’m one of you” race.  I was impressed with Valerie McDonald and Bill Grisolia.  Peter Matthews certainly has all of his progressive chops down, and it will be interesting to see if he can leverage the grassroots energy in Southern California from PDA and translate it into votes.