UC Irvine College Democrats hosted the Congressional Candidates Forum last Tuesday, Nov. 7, inviting four Democratic candidates who are running to represent California’s 45th District. Each candidate answered voters’ questions and spoke on their campaign plans.
Candidates included Brian Forde, a former Obama White House Senior Technology Advisor; Kia Hamadanchy, a former staff member for Senators Sherrod Brown and Tom Harkin; and two UCI law professors, Dave Min and Katie Porter.
Each candidate first explained their platforms and the need to engage college-aged voters.
“This is ground zero for flipping this seat,” said Forde. “We will not win without the support of UCI students and volunteers flipping this seat.”
Forde also mentioned that younger people are needed in office to address the needs of that demographic because the average age of Congress members is 72.
Hamadanchy, who decided to run after President Trump announced his “Muslim ban” in January, vowed to fight for debt-free college and single-payer health care.
To Min, the most important thing is to get out in the community and engage voters. He also stressed the importance of this particular election.
“If we don’t win this seat in 2018, we don’t win the House of Representatives. And if we don’t win the House of Representatives, the next headline on Nov. 7 of next year is going to read ‘Trump Retains Congressional Majority,’ and that will be a validation of everything he stands for and that is simply unacceptable,” Min said.
In the last presidential election, Hillary Clinton won Orange County by five percent, which gives many Democrats hope for beating incumbent GOP Representative Mimi Walters. Walters has been the representative for California’s 45th District since 2014.
Porter, who has worked with former Attorney General Kamala Harris and is endorsed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, called the Trump administration “history repeating itself” and stated that Walters always sides with special interest groups over the people.
“We need to send a leader to Congress who will fight for our interests,” said Porter, “and who will fight for families, who will have the guts to stand up to Donald Trump, to stand up to powerful special interests.”
Each candidate then addressed how to increase a Democratic majority in the House provided they win the election. All insisted that what the Trump administration is doing is not effective and that working together is key.
“This battle is in Orange County,” said Forde, “but if we can’t figure out now how to have rational bipartisan conversations with [Republicans] in ways that resonate, we’re not going to be able to have that success and expand that base throughout the country.”
“Donald Trump is a symptom, but he’s not the cause,” said Hamadanchy. “Even if we impeach Donald Trump tomorrow, we still have deep, deep problems in our political system.” Hamadanchy also noted that he wants to change the perception that the Democratic party does not fight for working people.
“Too many people in this country feel like they’ve lost opportunities,” said Min.
Porter declared that despite what Donald Trump says, “there is so much more that unites us in this country than divides us.”
On the issues of gun control, immigration reform and women’s rights, all four candidates were on the same page. All advocated for more comprehensive background checks for gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons.
“We should make sure that anyone who has been convicted of domestic abuse cannot buy a weapon in this country,” said Hamadanchy.
Min called out Walters for supporting the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which allows people to bring concealed weapons into the 45th district, and stated that Mimi Walters’ typical “thoughts and prayers” reaction to mass shootings is not enough.
Forde also said that immigrants make America more successful, a sentiment which his fellow candidates also echoed.
“This is the place where everyone thinks that anything is possible and we have to make sure it stays that way,” said Hamadanchy.
Min said that keeping immigrants out and hurting Dreamers by getting rid of DACA is “economically stupid, like everything else Donald Trump is doing.”
On women’s rights, Forde said, “One of the critical issues that men don’t realize is that when women make 77 cents on the dollar, that generally impacts [men’s] income too, their household income, because that could be their wife or that could be their daughter.”
“We need a cultural shift,” said Min, stressing that sexual harassment is endemic in American culture.
Porter issued a rallying cry to the audience.
“On this issue of choice, stand with me. Mimi Walters is going to be the last woman that we are ever sending from the great state of California to Congress who wants to take away a woman’s freedom to choose. With your help, we can have her sit down.”
The forum attracted many Orange County residents. However, despite hosting the event on a college campus, few attendees were actually students, which the candidates recognized as an issue.
“We have failed to be the party that champions opportunity for young people,” said Porter, further pointing out that most young people register with no party preference.
All agreed politicians should focus more on addressing issues that millennials care about, including increasing student debt and housing insecurity.
The candidates also pledged to fully support whoever wins the primary election.
“Every night when I’m at a house party or an event,” said Porter, “and I’m talking about who I am and who Mimi Walters isn’t for our community, I feel a little better driving home knowing that David and Kia and Brian were doing the exact same thing.”
“This is about beating Mimi Walters,” said Min, “about taking back the House and holding Donald Trump accountable because we’re not seeing that right now out of Congress and that has to start happening.”
Democratic congressional candidates not present included Greg Ramsay, Eric Rywalski and Ron Varasteh. The seven Democrats are campaigning for next year’s June 5 primary election, after which the winner will go on to face Walters in the Nov. 6 general election.