From left to right: Robin Walter, Mike Stoker, Abel Maldonado, and Elizabeth Emken

Jack Crosbie

From left to right: Robin Walter, Mike Stoker, Abel Maldonado, and Elizabeth Emken

Republican Candidates Talk to Their Party and Their Public

Robin Walter, Mike Stoker, Abel Maldonado, Elizabeth Emken Attend Reagan Room Forum

Monday, September 24, 2012
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

The aptly chosen Reagan Room at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort was lively last Wednesday, as four Republicans running for office this November fielded questions from several GOP organizations and the public.

Robin Walter, Mike Stoker, Abel Maldonado, and Elizabeth Emken introduced themselves and their campaigns before sitting down with moderator Andy Caldwell for one-on-one interviews. Following the candidates’ individual sessions, the four politicians held an open question-and-answer session with the audience.

The bulk of the evening was devoted to the candidates’ conversations with Caldwell, host of The Andy Caldwell Show on AM 1290 and director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, during which they were questioned on their positions on key issues, plans for the future, and how the differ from their opponents.

Walter, who is challenging incumbent State Assemblymember Das Williams for the 35th District, got a loud round of applause for his campaign slogan of “No Mas Das” and focused his opening arguments on the contrast between the nation’s two major political parties. “All the space between the two parties has been created by the Democratic Party moving away from those God-given, time-tested values and principles [held by the Republican Party],” Walter said.

Walter also got a hand from the audience when he quickly answered Caldwell’s question, “Do you support eliminating the defined pension benefits plan for government employees?” with a simple “Yes.” Walters’s other well-received responses included his position that businesses should be America’s chief economic force, rather than government, and that regulation priorities should favor business over environmental concerns, like in the case of fracking.

Next up was Mike Stoker, a longtime Santa Barbara politician running against Hannah-Beth Jackson for the 19th State Senate District seat, which Jackson lost narrowly to incumbent Tony Strickland in 2008. Oil drilling was a key topic for Stoker, one he blasted Jackson’s positions on, speaking loudly and emphatically on his opponent’s allegedly hypocritical standpoint, citing her involvement in lobbying for the PXP Oil Company project alongside her usual opposition to the oil industry.

Stoker’s platform also focused on reshaping budget concerns and government priorities at the state level, shifting resources back toward local governments and away from state commissions and employees. Stoker said state commissions, specifically the Coastal Commission, were “out of control” in their power over local governments. He even got a whoop from an audience member when he suggested laying off 22 percent of state employees to match the cuts to county, city, and school employees, and then putting the saved money back into schools and local governments.

Congressional candidate Abel Maldonado was the evening’s most controversial speaker, drawing both applause and sounds of discontent from the audience at different points in his speech and interview. He dismissed concern over his legal trouble with the IRS, saying that his opponent’s, incumbent Representative Lois Capps, campaign ads were ad hominem attacks against his family rather than legitimate political criticisms.

However, Maldonado’s hardest battle will be fought over his controversial decision in 2009, when he cast the deciding vote in the California State Senate to raise taxes by $13 billion. This vote remains a thorn in Maldonado’s political side, something he recognized in 2009 and reiterated Wednesday night.

“I said that day on the House floor, this might be the end of my political career, but it was not going to be the end of the State of California,” Maldonado said, asking the audience whether they would rather have seen the consequences of California’s dire budget deficit affect universities and public employees like Highway Patrol officers.

When initially asked by Caldwell whether he “had a threshold” on raising taxes, Maldonado said simply, “I’m not going to Washington to raise taxes” and that the government would not solve all its problems with higher taxes. The room was silent after the question on taxes, with the exception of an isolated boo from one dissenter in the back, prompting a request by Caldwell that the audience remain respectful. Applause returned, however, as the discussion shifted to health care, during which Maldonado spoke out against high costs and government control over healthcare decisions.

Elizabeth Emken, the underdog challenger to two-decade U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, also spoke to the crowd. Emken, a mother of three with a severly autistic son, said health care was one of her top priorities. Emken consistently mentioned California’s decline over the past few years, saying Feinstein’s leadership had lost its luster. While she has little to no political experience, Emken said her double degree in economics and political science and experience in management and financial analysis at IBM, as well as her ability to relate to the general population, make her a viable alternative to the incumbent senator.

“[The Republican Party has] run a series of millionaires, billionaires, CEOs, and movie stars for 20 years. It hasn’t worked,” Emken said. “We have to run people who can connect with the people of California, who frankly understand what they’re going through. Dianne Feinstein doesn’t have a clue what you’re going through.” However, Emken’s campaign remains far behind Feinstein’s, both in spending and in the polls. She trails by over $2 million in campaign spending and around 18 points in recent polls.

Wednesday’s forum was put on by Santa Barbara Area Republicans, a joint organization of smaller clubs including Santa Barbara Republican Women, Federated; Research Issues and Take Action (RITA) Republican Women, Federated; Santa Barbara Republican Club; and Carpinteria Valley Republican Club.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Well, I suppose when the Repubs like these already have such high negatives and a totally unenthusiastic voting base, then need to make their pitch to their own kind first before even thinking of earning the votes of the other 55% of the electorate.

Such a forum here also is a good way for Abelito Maldo to avoid answering hard questions about why he continues not paying his several years of unpaid federal income taxes.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
September 24, 2012 at 4:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah it seems more like a pep rally than an honest attempt to address issues or win voters, altho I would say of the bunch Emken seems the only sane one based on the article.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
September 24, 2012 at 5:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

“All the space between the two parties has been created by the Democratic Party moving away from those God-given, time-tested values and principles [held by the Republican Party]”
-- Robin Walter

If that's Rob Walter's opening gambit, then he's got a misinformed worldview.

At the national level, two respected watchers of Congress (one works at the conservative American Enterprise Institute) have said this about the two parties after 40 years of observation:

"While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post."

For concrete examples of consistently partisan gamesmanship by Congressional Republicans, read the link above.

In California, Abel Maldonado of all people know how exactly how rigid and partisan Republican politics have been since he got burned badly by their "no tax" pledge. That's why people like Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher bailed on the state Republican party earlier this year:

Sometimes ya gotta calls em like ya sees em. There's no use trying to be polite and blaming both sides equally when the facts don't back that up.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 24, 2012 at 6:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Emken?...last time I checked wasn't it Orly Taitz who was running against Feinstein?

Also, while the Capps/Maldonado Jackson/Stoker ads run ad naseum, I have not seen one ad for the Feinstein/Emken race.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
September 24, 2012 at 9:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This year we have that new rule where the two top primary finishers of any party go to the general election ... Feinstein and Emken finished 1 and 2. Orly Taitz finished 5th and subsequently sued for election fraud (her suit was denied).

Feinstein's campaign has raised 4-times more contributions than Emken's so the latter is probably being very careful where they spend their ad dollars.

The latest Field poll shows Feinstein ahead by a whopping 26 points:

Feinstein is participating in Votesmart's "Political Courage" test but Emken has not:



EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 24, 2012 at 9:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's almost as though Feinstein and Emken figure it's a forgone conclusion so why waste money on the ads. Still, not one ad for the senate race, yet KEYT runs ads against Fran Pavley...who is she, I googled her and she's running for state senate for the 23rd district. (Which according to the map I looked at, is somewhere down near L.A.)

Either way, I'll be glad when the political commercials are over and we can return to the crass, loud, car commercials.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
September 25, 2012 at 3:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dianne Feinstein won't report her massive wealth (estimated at nearly $100 million) or her tax returns. Yet she has the nerve to criticize Mitt for disclosing his. I expect her tax rate is even lower than his and that would be really hard to explain. Now she is nearly 80 and refuses to even debate the opposing candidates. The Democrats made a mistake not replacing her with a candidate who knows what is going on. Check out this funny interview with her.

concerned4ca (anonymous profile)
September 25, 2012 at 8:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Members of Congress are not required to release their income tax returns so the vast majority never do, plain and simple.

However, they are required to publish an annual financial disclosure. All of Feinstein's disclosures are publicly available for every year she's been in the Senate:

While the disclosures aren't as detailed as tax returns, we know a heck of a lot more info about Feinstein than we do about Mitt Romney.

Of the 500+ members of Congress, almost half are millionaires. The richest is Rep. Darrell Issa (R) with a net worth around $450 million. So singling out Feinstein for being wealthy is "meh".

Presidential candidates are also required to file financial disclosure forms but not tax records. But in the last 30 years it's been a tradition for Presidential candidates to release at least ***5 years *** of tax returns. That tradition was broken when John McCain released only 2 years followed by Mitt Romney who released 2 years as well:

Recent tax record disclosures:

Herbert Bush 14 yrs
Bob Dole 30 yrs
Bill Clinton 12 yrs
Al Gore 8 yrs
George Bush 9 yrs
Barack Obama 12 yrs
John McCain 2 yrs
Mitt Romney 2 yrs

Conservatives have been calling for Romney to disclose more than the paltry 2 years he's released. Even Mitt's father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns in his failed 1968 bid for the presidency.

Until Mitt comes clean, voters will continue to wonder if he's hiding a Swiss bank account or some asset hidden in an offshore tax haven.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 25, 2012 at 10:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Darrell Issa is in the house and I cannot vote for or against him. But I can vote for Feinstein, she is running for the Senate. Here is a list of wealthiest members of the Senate. The top 7 are democrats so I guess both parties have filthy rich people. Sen Feinstein is 7th.
I liked your list of presidential candidates and years of tax returns. I did notice you missed John Kerry who is currently listed as wealthier than Mitt. ($281 million). His wealthy wife filed separate returns and he tried to get everyone to accept his individual returns as adequate disclosure. In the end he relented and release hers too. They paid 13.1% taxes on $5.1 million in income in 2003. Did that bug you in that election?
I really do not care what Mitt does with his money. I really care what he does with mine. But back to Dianne Feinstein, she will be 80 this year and 86 when she finishes the term. I want better representation than an 80 something year old. The voters really deserve to see if she is still able to perform intellectually and she is denying everyone that chance. This is an election not a coronation.

concerned4ca (anonymous profile)
September 25, 2012 at 11:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, concerned4ca, John Kerry is richer than Romney when the Heinz fortune is included, but Kerry never campaigned on a platform to reduce taxes for rich people like Romney is doing.

And good luck with the ageist pitch for why to vote against Dianne Feinstein. You apparently cannot think of any other reason. BTW, she is rich but also does not advocate for reducing taxes for other rich people as Romney does.

See the point now?

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
September 26, 2012 at 11:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well said, John_Adams.

Emken's campaign strategists do appear to be grasping at straws.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 26, 2012 at 3:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am not really against her wealth but it seems an appropriate response to Eastbeach's comment re: Issa. Her wealth does not matter, neither does Romney's. (I bet you would vote for Romney if you could just see his precious tax returns, really?) But my issue is not with anyone’s wealth, it’s really with Feinstein as a candidate for US Senate. I have been a vocal supporter of her in the past. Even as a Democrat she has been a moderate on some issues, and rarely has she taken an extreme left position. But now she is nearly 80 years old. That is okay too, she has had a long and successful career but she won’t be able to do it forever. If she were my relative, I wouldn't even let her drive the car and certainly not drive my kids to school. Even most public company’s ask their directors to step down when they are 72. Just think about it. But now you are eagerly electing her to fulfill one of the toughest jobs in the US for one of the most important states. I am only looking for the best possible senator for California. The Dem's should have run someone against her, or asked her to retire after a great career. Dem’s winning in this state is a slam dunk.
I will admit it is frustrating. Dem's run this entire state; cities, counties and Sacramento, and they have done a wonderful job; its last or close to last in nearly every measure. Their only answer seems to be the same as last time around: 1) raise the taxes, which are already the highest of any state, as though that will fix the economy, 2) Protect the unions not matter what, and 3) cut education. I think we all deserve better. It’s pretty hard to take if you are just a taxpayer watching the leadership do the same thing over, over and over again. Things keep getting worse each time, bigger deficit, poorer roads, lower scores in education, fewer services, and higher fees. Then the Dems wonder why not every voter isn't singing their praises. While the republicans may never win an election in this state, but you need to recognize that while some 43% of the voters are Democrats, which leaves 57% who are not. Granted only 30% are registered as Republicans. But it does tell you that not everyone thinks the Dem's are doing such a wonderful job that you should just blindly elect every Democrat that runs. You should at least look at Feinstein next to Emken, in a debate. If Feinstein still has her mojo, what is she afraid of? What are you afraid of?

concerned4ca (anonymous profile)
September 26, 2012 at 11:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just saw Rob Walter on community TV. I can't believe he thinks a kid with a lemonade stand is more qualified than Obama to be President because the kid has "more business experience".

That is the kind of rhetoric and warped logic we can all do without.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 2, 2012 at 7:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One way that Elizabeth Emken could logically further distinguish herself from Feinstein is to endorse Prop 37.
Feinstein is in the pocket of the big agribusiness combines that make money off our farmers and raise the price of food.

Emken has an autistic child. There is mounting scientific evidence about the connections between autism and the proteins in genetically modified food. Autism has increased by a factor of over 150 since genetically modified food was placed in our food supply.

Emken, unlike Feinstein who has never had a real job in her life outside of politics, has the job experience at IBM, that of raising her child and and is least a third of a century younger than Feinstein.

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 2:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Because someone isn't Feinstein is not a good reason to vote for them, especially when they don't at least try to introduce themselves to the voters.
Emken could differentiate herself in the way Mary Louise describes, but how come she doesn't? We shouldn't assume she supports 37 unless she says, and vice versa with Feinstein.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 2:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Age should not be an issue.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 3:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Age should be a plus!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 29, 2012 at 12:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In ancient Rome the Senators were esteemed for their age, which they felt led to wisdom, and longer experience may make some thoughtful older folks a bit smarter. It's no guarantee, though. For MaryLouise to slam Feinstein for her age is ridiculous. And I don't care how wealthy Feinstein is, either, and don't hold Mitt's own $ against him.
Feinstein by a landslide.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 29, 2012 at 5:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Some people seemed to have confused Stoker's antiquated thinking with another candidate's physical age (in a different race!) I know people in their 60s who's thinking is more advanced than a lot of people in their 20s or even Emken's age. It's unfortunate Emken didn't run a campaign, instead of relying on people's prejudices and innuendo.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 30, 2012 at 12:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 30, 2012 at 2 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ok so Reagan was a case of of both physical age and intellectual antiquity.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 30, 2012 at 2:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

John Huston despised Ronald Reagan, that's enough for me.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 30, 2012 at 2:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: