Meslin: Rohrabacher Fails Minimum Standard For Engaging Voters in The 48th Congressional District

Tracie Welser

Chairs await the arrival of the candidates at September 19 forum conducted by the Orange County Interfaith Coalition at Mesa Verde United Methodist Church in Costa Mesa. The chair on the left remained empty throughout the evening.

On Wednesday, September 19th three hundred local residents jammed into Mesa Verde United Methodist Church in Costa Mesa to hear from the candidates for the 48th Congressional District.  The standing-room-only crowd only got to hear from challenger Harley Rouda as Dana Rohrabacher failed to attend.  The forum was advertised as an opportunity for voters to hear the candidates’ positions on areas of special concern to the faith community.

Costa Mesa Brief

Candidate Harley Rouda greets Rev. Sian Wiltshire from Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church, who moderated the forum.

While it is the right of the each candidate’s campaign to choose in which activities and events they participate, no choice was ever shared with the local Interfaith Coalition planning the event.  Invitations to the campaigns were sent in mid-August with follow up emails and phone calls until the day before the event.  Two weeks before the event, the questions to be presented at the forum were shared with both campaigns.  People with connections to the Rohrabacher campaign shared that the invitation had been received and was being considered.  However, at 7pm September 19th still no word from the Rohrabacher campaign.

Costa Mesa Brief

Candidate Harley Rouda responds to questions about immigration.


In life, ignoring someone’s repeated request for an indication of their plans is rude but may not be all that unique.  However as a 30-year representative, elected and paid by the community, engaging with the voters seems like a minimum standard to be expected.

Mr. Rohrabacher, we had a great forum but we were very disappointed that we never got an opportunity to hear your views on issues like public safety, homelessness, health care, climate change and immigration that deeply impact our district.  It makes it more difficult to engage voters when both candidates are not willing to engage.

Jan Meslin lives in Costa Mesa. She is a Unitarian Universalist and also a member of the local leadership team for the Poor People’s Campaign, a moral fusion revival of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. In addition, she works with Freedom for Immigrants.

 The Orange County Interfaith Coalition was formed early this year, with he goal of ensuring that issues strongly related to faith values are part of the political process.   The candidate forum is the first major undertaking by the group, which includes nine area congregations.

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