From 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Palos Verdes League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women sponsored a unique debate between independent candidate Bill Bloomfield, who is running his first political campaign; and long-term incumbent Henry Waxman, who is running in a new constituency outside of the well-known and established Westside base. Taking place in Hesse Park’s Community Room in Ranch Palos Verdes, the two candidates sparred over diverse issues.
Putting aside political affiliations, I walked up to the Congressman who has struck fear in the hearts of presidents, politicians and public entities. For the first time—ever—I was meeting Congressman Henry Waxman, the “Eliot Ness” of the House of Representatives in person. All broad smiles and handshakes, Waxman made the rounds. After months of following his exploits before the camera and in the press, I finally met the man. He really is quite short, with one woman telling me that she felt tall for the first time ever. Yet Mr. Waxman offered a commanding presence in that evening’s debate. Waxman assured voters that in spite of thirty-eight years in office, he was not taking any chances about his reelection, taking Mr. Bloomfield’s candidacy seriously. While Bloomfield was speaking to a community which he has known for most of his life, Mr. Waxman introduced himself to an entirely new array of voters, nothing like his constituencies North of Dockweiler Beach.
A number of supporters, including reporters from the Beverly Hills Courier, showed up to show their support for the Manhattan Beach businessman and civic activist, an unprecedented challenger who shook off the general election jitters to indict Mr. Waxman’s partisanship and lack of oversight for the care of our Southland Veterans. From assisting non-profits to funding political candidates on both sides of the aisle, to outlining his hope to go to Washington and end the hyper-partisanship fracturing and frustrating Congress, Bloomfield fielded attacks on his record with his former party while outlining in his views, some of which favor the left, others for the right.
Two unique encounters took place in that evening’s debate. Mr. Waxman prepared a list of donors and donations which Mr. Bloomfield had supplied to Republican candidates before and after switching parties.
“Not that anything’s wrong with that,” the Congressman then jokingly quipped, channeling the off-beat humor of “Seinfeld.”
Although Waxman kept attempting to peg Mr. Bloomfield as a Republican, a strong Democratic supporter sitting next to me was impressed with Mr. Bloomfield’s commitment to environmental issues.
“He sounds more like a Democrat,” she shared with me during the debate. Afterwards, she evinced an interest in researching Bloomfield.
Mr. Waxman then reminded voters of his efforts to assist AIDS patients while promoting legislation to protect our air and our water. He also handed a letter which listed the actions that he had taken to deal with the ongoing issues at the Brentwood VA. He vocally resented the impression that he has not cared for veterans, blaming the byzantine Washington bureaucracy.
On a number of issues the two candidates agreed. Both candidates shared a commitment to protecting Israel against a nuclear Iran. Both supported reinstating Glass-Steagal, a law repealed by President Clinton, which prevented commercial banks from using deposits as provender in investment schemes. Both spoke positively about Cap and Trade (a subject which viscerally displeases this writer). Both opposed Off-Shore drilling. The two candidates shared a commitment to protect the US Air Force base in El Segundo from closure while also fostering the Aerospace industry so crucial to the South Bay economy.
The debate took an interesting turn when one question solicited the two candidates’ opinion on Prop. 30 and 38. Bloomfield admitted that he still was not sure about Prop. 30; Waxman vouched for Gov. Brown’s proposal for a sales tax hike plus income tax increases on high income earners. Both candidates rejected Prop. 38. Criticizing that initiative, Waxman faulted the drafters for crafting proposed legislation without any regard to the complex nature of law-making.
I could not resist confronting the Congressman after the debate on this matter. After briefly commending him for exposing the Bush Administration’s waste during the Iraqi War, I reminded him that he admitted in open committee that he did not even know what was in his own Cap and Trade bill. What business did have faulting anyone about legislation?
This unprecedented debate, between an experienced politician and experienced citizen, brought to the forefront the benefits of electoral reform in California politics in the Post-Prop. 11 and Prop. 14 world. Since only two candidates will compete in the general election for all statewide offices, both candidates must seek out votes from every party, and thus promote a more moderate consensus in their platform and policy proposals. In these candidates’ drive to seek out differing constituencies, the voters in the 33rd Congressional District (hopefully) can expect the winner Nov. 6 to accomplish a proactive agenda getting Congress back to work for the greater good of the country.