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.