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Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Democratic congressional candidates at Cal State Fullerton Thursday at a crowded invitation-only rally where he blamed the Republican tax bill for cuts to social programs.

Biden criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for being too cozy with big businesses and said the tax cuts were geared for the rich and corporations. Biden said it was a Republican strategy to slash healthcare and social security in order to make up for the deficit.

“These guys passed an outrageous tax cut that created a deficit of $1.9 trillion dollars,” Biden said. “So what are they doing? … this is all about their ability to go in and justify and do away with programs they could not take on directly.”

“This election is much bigger than politics. It sincerely is. Whether you’re a first-time voter as a student or you’ve been around a long long time,” Biden said.

The university sits in the 39th Congressional District, which Democratic candidate Gil Cisneros is trying to win, despite unfavorable poll numbers, according to political polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Andrew Godnich said roughly 400 people attended.

Former President Barack Obama first hit the Democratic campaign trail Sept. 8 to endorse all four of the O.C. Congressional Candidates at the Anaheim Convention center.

Since Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016 — the first time a Democrat has taken the county in a presidential election since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936  — national Democrats targeted four OC Congressional districts in their effort to win at least 23 U.S. House of Representatives seats nationwide that would give the party control of the House.

“He (Biden) wanted to come to the 39th,” Cisneros told Voice of OC.

Biden’s visit comes after former Democratic state Assembly candidate Melissa Fazli withdrew claims of sexual harassment against Cisneros. She chalked it up to a misunderstanding.

Cisneros wouldn’t specify what exactly in Fazli’s accusations were misunderstandings when asked by Voice of OC, and instead repeated past statements that he and Fazli had a sit down and came to the conclusion it was a mix-up.

“I’m just glad we can move past this,” Cisneros said.

Cisneros is a U.S. Navy veteran and a philanthropist after winning the lottery.

Biden, a former U.S. senator from Delaware and two-term vice president under Obama, referred indirectly to the controversy surrounding the pending appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S Supreme Court, saying, “in light of what’s going on in Washington today.”

“When I wrote the Violence Against Women Act … I did it after the way Anita Hill was treated,” Biden said.

But Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has come under fire for his handling of the committee’s questioning of Hill’s claims.

An Oct. 4 Los Angeles Times poll, conducted by UC Berkeley, put Cisneros ahead of former Assemblywoman Young Kim by one percentage point in the Nov. 6 election.

During the rally, Cisneros took a shot at Kim, who worked as an aid to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton). Royce announced his retirement in January.

“The truth is, she didn’t serve the district. She worked for one man (Royce), and (her) only job was to help him get elected,” Cisneros told supporters at the Biden rally. “Now she wants to go work for Trump in Washington.”

Republicans hold less than half a percentage point over Democrats in registered voters in the 39th District, according to latest data from the Secretary of State website. Clinton took the district by roughly 9 percentage points in 2016.

Each candidate spoke during the rally before Biden arrived, but didn’t expand too much on issues. Each candidate spoke for roughly five minutes.  

Many election experts, political forecasters and poll aggregators say Democratic candidate Mike Levin has the best shot at flipping a seat this November. Levin, a candidate in the 49th Congressional District, is an environmental attorney and is running against state Board of Equalization Chairwoman Diane Harkey, who comes from the finance industry.

A Sept. 23 New York Times poll, conducted by Siena College, shows Levin has an edge over Republican candidate Harkey by 10 percentage points, but that number could be offset by a 4.7 margin of error. A Oct. 4 Los Angeles Times poll, conducted by UC Berkeley, shows Levin ahead of Harkey by 14 points, with a margin of error of four to six percent.  

Republicans hold a four-point edge over Democrats in voter registration in the district, while the no party preference voters make up nearly 28 percent of registered voters.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) barely won re-election in 2016 and decided not to run this year.

In the June 2018 primary elections, voters in the 49th District went for the Democratic candidates over Republicans by a nearly three percent margin. Most of the district is in San Diego County with the rest in south Orange County.

In an interview with Voice of OC before the Oct. 4 campaign rally, Levin said he hopes to keep that margin.

“I won’t make any predictions other than we will outwork the other side,” Levin said. “The main thing is we have to keep the margin reasonable.”

OC Voters in the 49th district went for Republican candidates over Democrats by a margin of 16 percent. San Diego voters in the district went for Democratic candidates by a 10-point margin. San Diego holds 296,000 voters, a majority of the district’s 394,000 voters.

“It’s not like we need a majority there (in OC) — we just have to keep it a little bit closer,” Levin said.

Democratic candidate Katie Porter, running against Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in the inland  45th district, told supporters at the rally banks “routinely break the rules.”

Biden credited Porter, a consumer rights attorney and UCI professor, for getting billions of dollars back from banks.

“Katie (Porter), she’s protected California families from predatory lenders. She’s secured $18 billion in damages,” Biden said.

A Sept. 26 NY Times poll shows Porter ahead of Walters by five percentage points. The LA Times poll has Porter ahead by eight percent and FiveThirtyEight gives her a 66 percent chance to win the seat

‘It’s getting so much worse because of Donald Trump and Mimi Walters,” Porter said during the rally. “Unless things change in Washington, the banks and corporations will get taken care of, and we won’t.”

Republicans still hold a roughly seven-point edge in the district, according to the latest data from Orange County Registrar of Voters.

Harley Rouda, Democratic candidate in the 48th district, said Biden’s visit helps motivate Democrat voters and reminds people of “gracious” politicians

“He (Biden) has served our country so long in numerous, different capacities — in a gracious diplomatic way that every politician strives to be. He’s a great role model for all of us.”

Rouda is running against 30-year Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), who has come under fire for his pro-Russia views.  

Both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times polls show 48th Congressional District Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) tied with Democratic candidate Harley Rouda. FiveThirtyEight gave Rouda a 54 percent chance of beating Rohrabacher.

Like the rest of the O.C. Congressional candidates, Rouda’s never held office before. He’s a businessman who deals with mobile app companies.

“But he’s a businessman unlike his opponent. And he’s a fighter from California and not an apologist from the Kremlin,” Biden said.  

Republicans hold 39 percent of registered voters in the 49th District — a 10-point lead over Democrats. The no party preference voters make up about 27 percent. Clinton won the district by nearly two percentage points.

Rouda said he isn’t too worried about the registration gap because California’s open primary system allows people to vote across party lines, so there’s not a big motivation to change political parties.

“We’re confident we’re going to have a solid turnout in the general as well. And we’re going to carry the day in part because those no party preference voters will be voting for us as well as frustrated Republicans,” said Rouda in a phone interview after the rally.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Walters led Porter in an L.A. Times poll. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.orgor on Twitter @photherecord.

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