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Gary Horton: Demand more from candidates

Posted: February 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.

I met up with Lee Rogers for lunch last week at the Tournament Players Club restaurant in Valencia. The Democratic candidate running to replace Howard “Buck” McKeon in this year’s election, Lee, many believe, is likely to be the new representative for our district.

Lee is inspiring, energetic and knowledgeable and made a great lunch companion to the TPC’s “awesometown” Curry Chicken Wrap. Really, the Curry Chicken Wrap is awesome.

Many SCVers first met Lee during his first run at McKeon 18 months ago, which ended up with the closest election McKeon has seen since he won grade school class president.

Lee surged so quickly in the polls that the otherwise comfortable and cozy McKeon necessarily acquiesced to a public debate, albeit with McKeon’s self-servingly restrictive debate venue and format.

Buck selected three moderators at that debate, and I’ll thank him here again for allowing me the privilege of that honor.

Modern American political debates have pretty much debauched into little more than redundant 30-second talking points (recall Sarah Palin’s “Mavericks” theme) than open give-and-take exposing the candidates’ actual views, strengths and weaknesses.

And while the McKeon–Rogers debate wasn’t freewheeling political cage fighting, it was the closest thing to honest back-and-forth in a controlled environment that most have seen in memory.

Again, it was wonderfully fun and rewarding to participate in that process.
The rub of the thing was, per McKeon’s directive, the debate was purposefully closed to the general public, and most SCVers never saw the lively back-and-forth between the two candidates.

They surely weren’t exposed to Lee Rogers effectively demonstrating he was arguably equal or better than McKeon as a candidate.

But Buck set the venue limitations, and Lee Rogers’ strong performance was effectively hidden away from the Joe and Jane Voters who would have been interested to see it.

So last election was a somewhat lost opportunity for 25th Congressional District voters. In place of revealing and beneficial discourse, our congressional election instead devolved into the low-brow American electioneering norm, with obnoxious fliers and “gotchas” forever firing off from both sides.

You and I so very depressingly know the modern American election routine, and regardless of sides, we wish we could experience something more constructive and informative — something more operationally democratic.

Congress runs for election perpetually, facing re-election and extinction every swift two years. They’ve got one year to do nothing in Washington before they’re soon forced to run in a bid to do nothing yet again.

Presidents don’t fare much better, with seemingly two years of usable time to attempt running the country before the world’s craziest election system drags them away from the duties of High Office with primaries one year followed by a general election the next.

Our candidate selection process has become as cerebral as “Dancing with the Stars” or “America’s Got Talent” — only too often, not so much talent may be involved.

Across these extended months and seemingly never-ending campaigning years, we’re lambasted with dumb and dumber 30- and 60-second “paid for by ...” clips, Super PAC attacks, web bombs and never-ending calls for donations, direly warning that the polar circle will absolutely melt and surely dogs and cats will marry should we not donate big bucks this very second!

Thank Divinity for spam filters, but even these only shelter our tender minds from the most obvious of ploys.

At the peak of campaign repugnance, we Americans become united, regardless of politics, in the desire to drown the family TV in the family tub and drive over our own mailboxes.

“No more nonsense!” we recoil as our once well-functioning minds are reduced to mush in our warped process of electing America’s “best and brightest.”

We could be doomed.

But shy of drowning TVs in tubs, there’s a way out of our electoral nightmare, a way past the attack ads, and a way past the mauling mailers.

Insist on the real. Insist on valid, open conversation. Get to personally know, as closely as possible, those who would seek to speak for you and me.

The Signal hosted a “meet the candidates” event for 13 Santa Clarita City Council hopefuls. That’s a start.

Maria Gutzeit just hosted her own “Get to know Maria” event this past week, as others will also do so.
Get involved. Visit websites. Attend meetings. Cross aisles and hear the pros and cons from both sides, in their own words. Ask hard questions.

Demand more than mailers and attack ads from those who would represent you. McKeon literally no longer controls the debate. Push local news outlets and candidates themselves for frequent, open, and very public debates.

I know Lee Rogers is eager to take on anyone, anyplace, anytime — and as electable as Lee is, he’s a formidable challenge Republican newcomers are going to have to address or face getting squashed.

We have a great chance for openness this time around with the likely situation of candidates actually wanting to openly debate.

We can “move beyond the stupid” in our election process — locally, at least. Do, and demand more “real,” and tune out the rest.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident.



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