Letters From the 50th Congressional District

Last night I had the privilege of attending a panel of 7 of the people running to replace Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District. Here’s my quick take on the 7 candidates. If anyone lives in the 50th and wants more info, I took very detailed notes, so please feel free to ask in the comments. A wise older friend who has been to many such rodeos advised my husband that it is very early, and a lot can change in 410 days, which is a point I felt was well-taken. But if the election were held today, I absolutely know who I would vote for. So without further ado…

There were two candidates to seemed (to me) to be competing with each other for title of Biggest Hot Mess. I’m not even going to bother talking about them. And there were two candidates who, while they may prove to be contenders later, to me were such middle of the road, snooze-fest Clinton-esque Democrats, they don’t really warrant much of my consideration right now. That leaves three real contenders.

Ammar Campa-Najjar is young, and a passionate, effective speaker. I suspect he picked up quite a few votes last night with his emotional appeals to a variety of generic, feel-good values. But to be honest, I liked him least of the three I felt were the frontrunners. He spoke a lot of words and said virtually nothing. He doesn’t seem to have any ideas at all about tangible things he can do for the district. He referred back to how he worked in the Obama White House in every single answer. If there had been alcohol there, we all could have gotten really wasted by taking a shot every time he dropped a name. He’s very glittery, but at least as of now completely without substance. And my husband thinks one of his campaign workers was feeding him lines because we saw him checking his phone a few times. Either that, or he had some super important Clash of Clans battles to check on.

Hannah Gbeh seems smart, well-educated, and well-spoken. She’s an organic farmer who minored in Global Climate Change, so it seems like climate change is going to be a big issue for her. She also came armed with stats about the importance of single payer healthcare to San Diego County. I am not a fan of picking a candidate based on whether that person can win, but Gbeh has some demographic attributes that might give her a leg up in a very conservative district. She’s a Christian and isn’t shy about pointing that out. She was raised in Georgia and has a subtle twang to her speech that I think will play well with voters on a subconscious level.

Gbeh needs to work on her one-on-one game though. She worked the room, and was one of only two candidates that introduced themselves to me, but she didn’t really know what to do after hello. She didn’t know how to initiate a dialogue. I think this is probably just a rookie candidate mistake that she will work out as the campaign progresses. My other reservation about Gbeh is while she had specific, informative responses for a couple of the issues raised, several of her answers were non-substantive platitudes. I felt her responses on protecting LGBT rights, protecting the Muslim community, and tackling the rising cost of college education were all pretty empty. Again though, she’s a brand new candidate still building her campaign. It seems like she has a lot of potential, but just isn’t quite there yet.

If I was casting my vote today, I would certainly vote for Patrick Malloy. Malloy was the only one on the panel who had run for the seat before, in 2016. Quite simply, dude came to play. First of all, this is not the first time I’ve met Malloy. It’s not the second time. He’s EVERYWHERE. Every local Democratic party event I’ve gone to, he’s already there when I get there and still there when I leave. When Gavin Newsom spoke here a couple months ago, Malloy was there working the room, even though there were a lot of out-of-district voters. So he asked them for money. He is never afraid to make the ask, as awkward as it is, because it’s necessary. Last night the room looked like a Patrick Malloy rally. He was the only candidate to get there early and paper the room, with signs on the walls and a variety of paraphernalia on every table, including bumper stickers. And when he comes up to start talking to you, he opens with ‘Tell me what issue matters most to you.’ To me this shows he wants to listen, and is confident enough in his knowledge to let someone else lead the conversation. I can see him bringing this work ethic, openness, and thoroughness to the job, which I think is great.

Far more importantly, I like where Malloy stands on the issues, and how he stands there. Every time I have met Malloy, he has opened by saying he stands for single payer healthcare. It’s clearly a pet issue for him. Malloy more than any other candidate has specific, tangible plans to tackle problems in the community. For example, when asked about how they would handle the travel ban and protecting the Muslim community, most of the candidates said some variation of racism and religious discrimination are bad, but didn’t actually answer what they would do about it. Malloy advocates reforming how applications are submitted overseas at our consulates by having help available for people. He wants to employ a multi-lingual paralegal in his office to help his constituents with the paperwork here. To help veterans, he wants to hire a vet advocate who has a wheelchair accessible van and can actually physically help them through the process of getting benefits. He wants to have 6 town hall meetings a year and include ‘old business’ on the agenda so we can follow up on the progress of issues he discussed at the last meeting. He advocates for changing the law so that student loans can be refinanced to a market rate, and he identified specific infrastructure projects in the district he would push. Can he really do all of this? I don’t know. Probably not. But I know that if you don’t have any concrete ideas, you definitely won’t do anything, and he had by far the most concrete ideas.

Malloy’s biggest problem is he needs to work on his delivery. He should have gotten way more applause than he did, because he doesn’t quite punch the right words at the right time. He was essentially the opposite of Campa-Najjar. Malloy is all substance, no glitter. In ideal world, that wouldn’t matter. But if we learned nothing else from November 8, 2016, it’s that glitter matters. I suppose he could lean into it, and try to pull off what Bernie did by aggressively refusing to play the game. But I worry that only Bernie can be Bernie. I’m also worried about Malloy’s funding. I’m worried about Gbeh’s funding too, but that’s just because she hasn’t declared yet, so who knows what that will end up looking like. Malloy said right now he is self-funding, which while not necessarily a problem, makes me nervous.

Both of my reservations about Malloy as of today are ‘can he be elected’ issues, and as I said, I don’t believe in throwing my support behind somebody based on electability. I decide who I support based on what they stand for, regardless of whether they will be elected. I know, I know, the best ideas are useless if the person never wins the seat. But that door swings both ways. Winning the seat is useless if the person sitting in it doesn’t share my vision. That’s not winning. I don’t win anything just because the person representing me calls themselves a Democrat. I win when more people have better, lower cost healthcare. I win when education becomes more affordable. I win when everyone in my community is safer, more financially secure, and has better life chances. While I will always remain open to changing my mind when new information becomes available, as of today I think my best chance of winning is by electing Patrick Malloy for the 50th Congressional District Representative.

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2 Responses to Letters From the 50th Congressional District

  1. Brad says:

    I enjoyed your blog and want to also share my thoughts. The theme of my observations is that he had 1) a respect for the audience and the position and 2) he also had the most follow through. First as a general observation He had responses for all the questions and they were responses that are actually within the scope of what a congress person can do and what he would be able to do if elected. This shows me he has respected the position and has followed through on ideas and done research. As you mentioned he was the only one that had his signs up, but if you think this through it takes a lot to get signs up at an event like this. He had to get there to the event before the organizers did, plan out where everyone could see the signs and also take the time to set up. Respect and follow through. He had actual solutions and responses to all the questions. It felt like some of the candidates were just happy to be there and hadn’t even engaged in the intellectual exercise of what if I do get elected. The idea of having people that actually speak the language of constituents in the office is so good that it’s really crazy that it isn’t a present practice in D. Dwaine Hunter’s office. It high lights the neglect and disrespect that our current elected official has for his constituents. Another Example of Patrick’s follow through is that I saw him reading the audiences responses. He was the only candidate hopeful to see what the audience was reacting to, the only one I saw looking out as others spoke. Patrick got there early and was going around asking people what they thought. He had two main things I heard him say to people as I listened in on multiple conversations. He had a plan for education, school infrastructures, and also Student loan refinance. These ideas are brilliant and actually doable. Lastly my wife and I were taking notes and Patrick was the only one who actually asked for us to vote for him. This might seem pedantic but it shows again his follow through and respect that he went to the details of practicing his speech and having an “ask” at the end.
    Gbeh being the only exception to this had some ideas but I’m not sure they are viable, it’s like yeah we would love that stuff about farmers rights and the environment but we are in a red district and I think the people she claims are her support are all pretty much in bed with Hunter the lesser, anti-science, or to apathetic to actually get out to vote. I also think that the people who would vote for Duncan might also categorically not vote for a woman. I think that is repugnant and disgusting but I sadly think it is true in light of the results of our presidential race and how much Duncan Hunter has snuggled up to the Trump ideology. I hope she proves me wrong it is still early. ..
    The last thing I have to say is there was a candidate who was the opposite of Patrick, displaying limited follow through and respect. Sadly it is the guy who has the most emotional appeal, Ammar Campa-Najjar. I was watching the audience when he was talking and also sizing him up. Here is the pattern of all of his responses: Listen to question, look at phone, repeat question, Quote an elected official with name recognition, tangential statement with emotional connection, anti-trump statement, emotional close, look at phone, end. Every question, who is he going to quote this time? Biden, Clinton, Bernie, The Constitution? No mention of actual policies. It was very puzzling to me what could have been more important to him than running for congress on his phone? Then one time he out of context mentioned his mom raising him so I started looking at the table where his family/ supporters were. Pretty sure the guy in the salmon shirt with bald head and glasses was feeding him answers and feedback. That to me is a lack of follow through and a lack of respect. For us there and the position. He also had an air of hand waving and obfuscating the issues which are major concerns to me. What were his policies that he actually wanted to get us behind? He mentioned Bernie once or twice but I haven’t seen him at any DSA meetings and he totally hasn’t been involved in any of the local government stuff we have been trying to do. If he went to DC I worry he would not be loyal to the constituents and the Republicans would eat him alive.
    Patrick on the other hand already has plans and would represent us to the fullest of his ability. I also respect him for saying town halls would be run like a business with accountability and progress on concerns. That is the Transparency we need.

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  2. Rick B says:

    I agree with the previous comments. Patrick Malloy’s experience shone through. For example, when each of the candidates was asked about public education, government support for college education, and government spending for private schools they all said basically the same thing along the line that you would expect most Democrats to respond. Aammar Campa-Najjar gave an inspiration line of something like “the future shines in the eye of our children”. Hannah Gbeh mention how the government shouldn’t be making a profile from student debt. I assume this is in reference to the Elizabeth Warren theme that the government loans money to the big banks at 1% but student loans are at 6-8% and as much as people in government would like to lower the rate they can’t because the government doesn’t know how to make up the money in taxes. But she didn’t say this well enough that it came across clearly. As others said as she gets more experience she will get better. Patrick Malloy is the only one that went a step future and also talked about the need to change secondary education to allow vocational education (carpentry, plumbing, etc) so people can get a good job after high school.

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