It was show time Wednesday at the KOCE studios as Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and her main challenger Republican state Assemblyman Van Tran engaged in the one and only televised debate in the 47th District race.
The debate was much anticipated given that the prospects of a November GOP takeover of the House has put the Sanchez-Tran contest on the national radar screen.
Tran has become a national Republican darling of late, attracting national Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the Orange County stump in recent weeks.
Not to be outdone, the Democrats are sending former President Bill Clinton to Santa Ana on Friday for a Sanchez rally.
The race has been made even more interesting by the clash of two ethnic communities — Latinos and Vietnamese — that are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
Yet even with all these dynamics, the debate lacked fireworks and went pretty much according to the partisan script.
Sanchez stood by her vote on health care, saying it was an important step in the right direction to fix a broken system. Tran called it a bureaucrat’s dream, chock-full of regulations such as tax agents and regulations.
Sanchez looked straight at the camera and told voters that she would keep fighting for working class issues and jobs. She pointed numerous times to large projects — such as the 91 Freeway widening — that show federal dollars coming home.
“We’re doing our part,” she said.
Tran talked about runaway federal spending and noted the need to get bureaucrats off the backs of small business. He also told voters he was worried about the massive debt generated in recent years, saying both his children are already $30,000 in debt as future taxpayers.
Tran also supports lowering taxes and criticized the federal stimulus bill for failing to kick-start the economy.
“Where are the jobs,” he asked.
Both stayed pretty much true to form during the traditional question-and-avoid-an-answer period with reporters afterwards:
- Tran kept hitting Sanchez for using a teleprompter for her opening and closing speeches. Tran’s intent was obvious: to paint Sanchez as an empty suit who after decades in office can’t even summarize why voters should support her off the top of her head.
- Sanchez was more specific with her shots against Tran, taking issue with his voting record supporting off-shore drilling, against consumer protections and working class issues such as raising the minimum wage.
- One memorable exchange came when Liberal OC blogger Chris Prevatt asked Tran why he kept a home in Sacramento and didn’t travel back to his district. Tran essentially told Prevatt that he’s a family man and that instead of cavorting with women and lobbyists in Sacramento after hours, he went home to his wife and two children.
- Sanchez has every reporter in town looking for the man named Richard she kept using to illustrate her working class appeal. She said he drives a truck and a Harley and wrote to her telling her to keep up the good fight. At one point, she seemed to say that Richard was out working on the 91 Freeway extension; at another said he was retired.
While the debate was short on surprises, at least it happened. Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido was a no-show Tuesday at his scheduled debate with challenger Alfredo Amezcua.
And last night revealed that Republican Congressman John Campbell has again refused to debate his challenger, Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom.
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.