Democratic candidate Harley Rouda, running to represent California’s 48th congressional district, discussed issues of immigration, healthcare, rising costs of housing and education in a region that has historically voted Republican at Golden West College Wednesday.
Rouda answered questions from a crowd of approximately 200 people during the town hall meeting at the college, his latest public forum leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
Rouda, a real estate executive and former registered Republican, is running against GOP incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who has held the seat that represents Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach for 30 years. Rohrabacher took office in 1988 after serving as senior speechwriter and special assistant for President Ronald Reagan.
“I don’t believe our current representative is doing the job that you deserve,” Rouda said.
A Sept. 9 poll from the New York Times found Rohrabacher and Rouda were tied with 45 percent of voter support each, with 10 percent undecided. Based on sampling data from the Times, Rouda is expected to win voters ages 18 to 44, while Rohrabacher is likely to have a higher turnout from voters ages 45 and older.
A campaign finance report filed in June showed Rouda had raised nearly $2.7 million while Rohrabacher had collected about $1.7 million.
Rouda, who has never held public office, said he is running for the “greater good” and to build a better future for Orange County.
He said he believes Rohrabacher’s political views are dangerous.
For instance, Rohrabacher has called California’s “sanctuary state” policy “lunatic” and has refused to speak out against the Trump administration’s child separation policy.
Rouda, meanwhile, said that he favors fair immigration policies, including the 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill supported by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio. (The bill never made it to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.)
“I would like to see that legislation start up again,” Rouda said.
Rouda has also spoken out against the separation of families at the border and said he believes in reform to include pathways to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program and the “Dreamers.”
“It’s provided the opportunity for those who come here and study in school and start a business that they don’t have to leave and go back to their home country when they are creating jobs here in the United States,” he said.
For decades, the district has been solidly voted Republican. However, Rouda said Rohrabacher’s experiences and political stances no longer reflect Orange County voters. He portrayed Rohrabacher as a part of Congress’ impasse, pointing out that he has only passed three bills in his 30 years in office.
“Times have changed, demographics have changed, people’s values have not shifted to the right the way his have and that’s why our message is resonating with so many folks,” Rouda told the Coast Report in an interview.
Rouda touched on his campaign’s appeal to traditional Republican voters whom he encourages to carefully evaluate each candidate’s values.
“I would hope everyone who is voting would forget about whether there’s a D or R next to the individual’s name and make a decision based on the character of the candidate,” Rouda said.
The deadline to register to vote is 15 days prior to the election. Registration and voting information can be found on the California Secretary of State’s official website.