The debate between 47th District congressional candidates at Cal State Long Beach followed a polite and cordial path Friday night under the direction of the League of Women Voters. But the scuffle came afterward.
Before what organizers estimated was 275 to 300 people, Alan Lowenthal, a Democratic state senator, and Gary DeLong, a Republican Long Beach councilman, responded to questions from the audience and League members, then made closing statements.
They agree on quite a bit: support for gay marriage and women's reproduction rights; the need to reform immigration to secure national borders but humanely resolve residency for illegal immigrants. They would both fund better care for veterans and think the feds should get out of the medical marijuana policing. Both vowed increasing jobs and reducing the deficit would be top priority. They both think their track records speak for themselves.
They disagree on the Affordable Care Act, which Lowenthal embraces and DeLong concedes provides greater healthcare access but costs too much. And they disagree on the classic party-divide on the size and role of the government, including how to address the challenges of Medicare and Social Security.
But when not sitting side-by-side before a room full of people and at the same table as the Long Beach League of Women Voters hosts, the fur flies, usually in dueling e-mails that contend the other's campaign misdeeds or claims.
Lowenthal this week accused DeLong of letting national Republican leaders who want to repeal the congressionally approved national health care program "infiltrate" his candidacy. He charged this week that out-of-state interests such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce flooded his campaign with $316,000 just this week for TV attack ads, while DeLong blames Lowenthal for a laundry list of ills plaguing the state, from high taxes to poor education standings. On Friday before the forum, DeLong fired off an e-mail accusing Lowenthal of making up lies about him in campaign literature. And he has accused Lowenthal of hiring a campaign tracker he calls a "stalker" to follow him everywhere with a video camera.
It was she who apparently became involved with DeLong in a brief post-forum confrontation Friday, when she held up her magenta colored phone and videotaped the candidate greeting audience members, according to the Press Telegram. The woman is employed by the Democratic Party, not Lowenthal's campaign, but DeLong allegedly tried to grab her phone and implored Lowenthal to make her stop videotaping so aggressively. Lowenthal disassociated himself from the encounter, reportedly, but noted he had had a similar campaign tracker videotaping him at two public events just this week.
Read the PT's account here; we were already in the lobby interviewing students. The forum was organized by Cal State Long Beach including members of student government; the Long Beach Area Women's League of Voters, and UCLA, which has participated in several candidate forums in L.A. County, reps said.
Both political parties are involved in the much-followed race for the new congressional seat--and others in California--in an election where the Democrats and Republicans are fighting a political ground war for every seat that might shift the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.