Congresswoman Debbie Cook. That has a nice ring to it.
I've had a mad crush on Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook for nearly 20 years now (I know, we both don't look at old, right?). Something about hot, smart, independent, unafraid-to-back-down women I find appealing.
She's currently running against ten-term incumbent Dana "I Believe in Term Limits" Rohrabacher for the 46th District congressional seat. Usually Rohrabacher sleepwalks through the election because Democrats concede the district and put up a sacrificial lamb.
Not that Rohrabacher isn't vulnerable. He's not worshiped in his own district like some members of Congress. The rap on Rohrabacher has long been that he doesn't pay much attention to the folks at home, choosing instead to concentrate on national and international issues.
He also brings a lot of political baggage to an election. To name a few. He's close friends with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, going on free trips with him, being used as a personal reference for him, and calling the felon a "selfless patriot" to a federal judge. He also initially endorsed the Taliban as a stabilizing political force in Afghanistan, according to a 1996 edition of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. And in 2005, he miraculously sold a 30-year-old screenplay to now-indicted "televison producer" Joseph Medawar; Rohrabacher said the sale of the script was not in exchange for the introduction to congressional and federal officials the he provided Medawar (Rohrabacher has since returned the money).
All this to say that despite serving a solidly Republican district, Rohrabacher isn't unbeatable -- especially in a year when voters are unhappy with the incumbent Republican president (disclosure: I'm a registered Republican and middle-of-the-road politically).
And Cook is the perfect candidate to pull off an upset. She has a long record of quality public service, a first-rate environmental record, rich experience as a small business owner, huge popularity within Huntington Beach, a resume of winning long-shot political campaigns against well-funded foes, and a home life that could be on a poster for "family values."
For the past two reporting cycles, she has raised more campaign funds than Rohrabacher -- gaining the attention of national political watchers and likely giving the congressman a few sleepless nights.
When Cook was forced to vote against putting "In God We Trust" on the city seal recently, the trumped-up issue had more than a whiff of a desperate, McCarthy-esque political tactic engineered by the hardcore right. Put that on a hit piece in October ("Debbie Cook wants to keep God out of Huntington Beach!"), and I don't think it flies with anyone but the fringe of the Religious Right -- which wouldn't have voted for her anyway.
You're going to see an epic political battle unfold in the coming months. It would be great for the citizens of the 46th to be able to view -- in person, on television and on the Internet -- a series of debates between Cook and Rohrabacher.
But I'm guessing that won't happen. The last thing Rohrabacher wants is for voters to watch the two candidates side by side, matching wits, policies, records, and likability. If that happened, Cook would win the debates in a landslide.
And, just maybe, bring a needed new voice to Congress.
Posted by William Lobdell on 8/05/2008