Lively Savary-Rohrabacher Debate in Newport Beach
By Saboohi Currim
The Back Bay Bistro at the Newport Dunes was the ideal setting for a controversial debate between long time Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and his challenger Dr Suzanne Savary.
As airplanes taking off from John Wayne Airport thundered overhead the views of the Back Bay reminded guests of the main issues that confront the City today: the airport and the condition of the harbor. And the dialogue between the two contenders was as confrontational as the issues they discussed.
The Rotarians of the Newport Beach Sunrise Club had organized the event on Monday October 3, 2016 and thereby provided the residents of Newport Beach a rare opportunity to see up close candidates for the 48 th Congressional District.
Congressman Rohrabacher was first elected in 1988 after serving as a speech writer for President Ronald Reagan. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Long Beach State in History in 1969 and then got a Master’s Degree from USC in American Studies. He has served in Congress for 28 years.
Dr Suzanne Savary is a retired Associate Professor of Business Communication from the Marshall School of Business. She also ran a successful marketing consulting firm and headed corporate marketing for Dr Carl Sagan and his Cosmos enterprise.
The debate moderator was Steve Bender the President of the Sunrise Rotary Club and the candidates were asked several questions submitted by other Rotarians. As was expected, many of the questions asked were centered around local issues. The big question on the minds of many residents was the extent of the noise from John Wayne Airport and what could be done to mitigate the impact.
Congressman Rohrabacher was clearly on the defensive, when DrSavary brought up the issue of a petition signed by some two thousand residents requesting monitoring of the airport noise. According to DrSavary, the residents had reached out to Congressman Rohrabacher but he had refused to meet with them. This statement was denied by the Congressman, who insisted that he had met with the residents many times.
A similar theme was brought up in connection with the issue of repairing Newport’s sea walls. DrSavary described in detail how the rebar within the seawalls was already corroding and that patching the cement as was being done by the City of Newport Beach was not sufficient to prevent large sections of the wall from failing. Mr Rohrabacher’s position on the seawalls was that the City could not pass on the cost of the repairs needed to the Federal Government. He brought up the issue of the monies expended on constructing the new City Hall and indicated that the repair of the seawall should have been considered before the City Hall was built.
In response to this argument DrSavary cited research that her team had done on the tax revenues contributed by California to the Federal Government that indicated for every dollar that California send to Washington, the State only receives 78 cents back. In comparison, the state of Mississippi receives $2 for every dollar they contribute in federal income taxes. DrSavary questioned the Congressman about why he had been so ineffective in Congress in bringing back the monies paid by Californians.
Another question that was asked of the two candidates was about student debt. While DrSavary supported mechanisms to refinance or reduce the burden of student debt, Mr Rohrabacher took a very negative stance on providing students any relief. His position was that universities should be required to bring down their fees as he felt Professors were being over-compensated and thereby leading to higher educational costs.
The last question put to the candidates was regarding who each candidate was voting for President and why. DrSavary indicated that her choice was Hillary Clinton and she outlined several reasons why she was supporting her. DrSavary cited that Mrs Clinton’s education and long experience in government in many positions was her reason for supporting her.
Mr Rohrabacher indicated that he was voting for Donald Trump “because he is not Hillary Clinton”. He further went on to say that Mrs Clinton’s husband was a serial rapist and that she was an enabler of his conduct. This statement was met by boos from the audience and that led him to chastise the listeners for being discourteous and said they should be ashamed of themselves for interrupting his diatribe.
The debate clearly demonstrated where each one of the candidates stood on the important issues facing the residents of the 48 th District and more specifically the people of Newport Beach.