[Update at end] ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 8, 2:30 P.M.: On Friday night, Republican congressional candidate Gary DeLong grabbed a cell phone from the hand of a purported Democratic tracker only moments after a two-hour debate at California State University Long Beach with Senator Alan Lowenthal.
A female bystander started to record DeLong's every move after the debate drew to a close, prompting the Long Beach City Councilmember to come after her to snag her cell phone. After she retrieved it, the woman claimed she did not work for Sen. Lowenthal and said since the meeting is public, she can continue to record.
The debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, had a policy of no recording without prior permission in an effort to curb campaigners from snagging footage that could be used for mud-slinging during the race.
In any case, the incident offered more fireworks than the low-key debate itself--if you want to call it a debate at all. Although DeLong went into attack mode on Lowenthal's record of high government spending, there seemed to be little to no differences between the two candidates. Neither one is a firebrand and both describe themselves as "socially liberal."
During the debate, which drew a crowd of about 400, Lowenthal and DeLong agreed on campaign finance reform, immigration, gay marriage, abortion rights, getting the troops out of Afghanistan and--perhaps not surprisingly--decriminalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
At one point during the two-hour snoozefest, a moderator even commented, "You two are agreeing a lot tonight." If anything, the differences are merely philosophical and can be summed up by whether or not either candidate believes the federal government has the right to trudge into our lives when it comes to fixing the economy.
So why is it that even before this incident the race has been called the most heated and watched campaign in Orange County?
The 47th district has been newly-drawn for this election season, encompassing not just Long Beach, but also parts of Westminster, Garden Grove, Buena Park and Stanton. The candidates are neck-to-neck with fundraising efforts, as DeLong has raised over $800,000, with Lowenthal trailing at $500,000.
The race started to heat up after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce funded a $320,000 attack ad against Lowenthal to rail him for his supposed "business-unfriendly" policies.
Lowenthal has his strongest supporters at home in Long Beach, from groups such as the United Nurses Associations of California, American Federation of Teachers and the Arab American Democrats of California--although he does not list that last group in his campaign booklet.
DeLong's supporters read like a laundry list of kooky and well-known OC Republicans and conservatives: Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar, Orange County Board of Supervisors Janet Nguyen and John Moorlach and the Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.
So can DeLong--a small businessowner, family man, seemingly libertarian with the cojones to launch the first attack ad and get physical with a suspected tracker--win against a doting all-around liberal legislator?
It's hard to tell but with only two choices for the seat, one thing is for sure: a vote for either one is a vote for the same Good Ol' Boy, two-party establishment that we loathe and despise -- and just can't seem to get rid of.
UPDATE OCT. 8, 9:38 P.M.: Video has been posted by the California Democratic Party where it is confirmed the woman is indeed a tracker from their party, with audio of the snatching and video of the aftermath.