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McKeon, Rogers go head to head

The candidates meet for 2nd time

Posted: October 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and his Democratic challenger in the November election, Dr. Lee Rogers, traded barbs Wednesday in their second appearance during the campaign, a pay-to-view forum hosted by local business interests.

McKeon, a 20-year veteran of the House of Representatives, came out swinging, accusing Rogers of mudslinging during the campaign as he made brief introductory comments for the forum, hosted by the Valley Industry Association and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“He calls it mudslinging; I’m just putting his record out there,” Rogers countered, adding to the congressman, “You shouldn’t give me so much material.”

Asked by Signal columnist Gary Horton how he would mend the divided federal government, McKeon painted himself as a consensus builder who can “reach across the aisle.” Rogers responded that McKeon votes along Republican Party lines 95 percent of the time.

McKeon countered, “I think it would be good to have someone in Congress who understands how it works.”

The forum, which ran about 1 1/2 hours at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, cost $45 to attend and came with lunch. About 200 people turned out for the event, moderated by Damian Jones of the lobbying group Pacific Strategy Group.

The two previously appeared together Saturday at a meet the candidates event at the American Legion in Newhall.

Questions Wednesday were posed by Horton, Ventura County Star State Editor Timm Herdt and Antelope Valley Press Editor Dennis Anderson. No editors from local media were asked to participate.

Jones occasionally let candidates, mostly Rogers, run over their time limits as the exchanges became heated.

Asked about the proposed Cemex open-pit mine in Canyon Country, Rogers seized the issue as a demonstration of what he called McKeon’s ineffectiveness in office.

“I would make this my top priority,” Rogers said of the bid to block the mine.

“If you’re so powerful, how come you can’t work with your own party?” to come up with an alternative to the mine he asked the congressman.

“At least I have a record to run on,” McKeon responded, adding the agreement between the city of Santa Clarita and Cemex that has kept the mine out of Canyon Country for 10 years constitutes a kind of success. He pledged to continue working to oppose the mine.

On the proposed high-speed rail in California, Rogers criticized the high cost of the proposal, currently estimated at some $69 billion — but noted it was supported by Antelope Valley cities. He said he ultimately supports it.

McKeon criticized the high cost and said funds, if available, should be invested in roads and bridges. He called for an end to high governmental debt on such uncertain projects.

During questions put forward by Herdt, the issue of McKeon’s 1998 Countrywide loan emerged. McKeon was on a special VIP list of so-called “Friends of Angelo Mozilo” (former Countrywide CEO) of supposedly favored Countrywide customers. McKeon says he didn’t know he was on the list.

“Corruption is what he keeps accusing me of and it is only in his mind,” McKeon said, adding that Fred Arnold, a mortgage adviser for American Family Funding in the Santa Clarita Valley, determined he and his wife paid a quarter of a percent higher on their loan than the going rate.

Responding, Rogers likened his accusations to an episode of the old TV show “This Is Your Life.” “What I’ve tried to do is make an episode of ‘This Is Your Record,’” he told McKeon.

“Those who know my integrity and how I function are going to believe me,” McKeon said.


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