About 300 students and community members got a lean-forward-in-your seat night of lively discussion that at times got contentious and offered a lesson in the country’s political divide and the passions politics can generate during the 2012 Election Forum hosted by City of Carson Councilmember Mike Gipson at California State University, Dominguez Hills on Oct. 25.
Appearing on the University Theatre stage separately, candidates for the 44th congressional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, current Congresswoman Laura Richardson (D-37) and Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-36) made their plea to be elected for a district that has been redrawn to cover San Pedro, Carson, Compton, Lynwood, and South Gate, which will effectively leave one of them out of office. Using disparate tactics, Richardson focused on her ties to the university, while Hahn focused on how she would continue to fight in Washington for her constituents.
But the fireworks came with the opening statements and the question and answer debate between Congressman Isadore Hall (D-52) who was representing President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, and CEO of Herizon Plus Real Estate Development and columnist for The Washington Times Communities online news Shirley Husar, who was representing Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign bid for the presidency.
Offering the first of several zingers, Hall said after reciting a laundry list of the republican candidate’s flip-flops, “Governor Romney has changed his mind so much that I honestly believe he’s going to go into the polls on November 6th and vote for President Barack Obama.”
Admonishing Obama supporters and targeting university students, Husar said that more than half the students in the audience won’t be able to find a job when they graduate and more than half will be competing with older workers for the same jobs because the current administration has failed to turn around the American economy.
“With a Barack Obama, you’re a loser. You’re a failure,” Husar scolded, drawing gasps and murmurs from the crowd.
Moderator Brad Pomerance, host of the Time Warner Cable Local Edition, controlled the roiled audience and the impassioned speakers. Taking questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and note cards from the audience throughout the evening, he was able to direct the speakers to answer the questions, rather than let them expound on their own agendas.
Some of the questions that were asked came from students from American Institutions (POL-101) and two sections of Public Administration (PUB-300), taught by CSU Dominguez Hills adjunct lecturer of public administration Brenda Riddick.
Riddick asked her students to attend because, “It’s important for students to understand the relevance of our democratic electoral process and their civic responsibilities to engage and be informed on matters impacting their current and future environments. To hear the exchanges presented, both pros and cons, helped to validate what they are learning in the classroom.”
Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internships, and Civic Engagement who cosponsored the event, along with David Gamboa, the director of Government and Community Relations at CSU Dominguez Hills, said, “[Students from] Brenda Riddick’s class asked amazingly intelligent questions and reminded me of why I am so proud to be a part of this university. [The] 2012 Election Forum showed the best of what the university does for the community.”
In addition to hearing the congressional and presidential candidate platforms, the evening included discussion of a number of the state propositions.
David Bradfield, professor of music and digital media arts and chapter president of CSU Dominguez Hills California Faculty Association, outlined the details of Proposition 30 as an initiative that would temporarily increase taxes on earnings more than $250,000 and sales taxes by .25 cents, compared to Proposition 38 which would tax Californians starting at earnings of $7,000 or more annually. The CFA supports Prop. 30 and opposes Prop. 38.
“Both of them are tax initiatives based at funding education,” Bradfield said. “[However,] Prop. 38 cuts out higher ed altogether.”
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Mario Trujillo, advocated for Proposition 36, which aims to revise law, commonly known as the “three strikes law,” to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent.
In a pro/con presentation, actor Chris Mitchum, a proponent of Proposition 32, and John Mumma, the director of Los Angeles Police Protective League and an opponent of the measure, detailed their positions on the initiative that if passed will prohibit unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.
More provocative discussions surrounded Proposition 34, with proponent Greg Akili, the national field director of the Campaign to Strengthen Social Security & Social Security Works, and opponent Phyllis Loya, executive officer and victims advocate at Trial Advocates Police Survivors, Inc., arguing the measure that would repel the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Proposition 35 advocate Lesford Duncan, the Los Angeles County coordinator at the non-profit organization California Against Slavery, and opponent Maxine Doogan, president of Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project, Inc., possibly created more questions than answers regarding the measure, which increases fines for human trafficking convictions.
“This is a bait and switch ballot measure. It says it’s about stopping human trafficking, when in fact it’s really an anti-prostitution ballot measure,” Doogan contended.
Duncan pointed out that the measure doesn’t make prostitution illegal because “Prostitution is illegal.” He asserted that the measure would protect kidnap victims who are forced into prostitution.
Pomerance read an emailed comment from the audience, “I am glad I came tonight to hear the arguments on Prop. 35. It has convinced me to do more research.”
Another email read, “Best political event I’ve ever attended.”
“That was intense,” one student said as he exited the theatre.
A broadcast of the Election Forum has been archived and can be viewed on the university’s You Tube Channel at www.youtube.com.
For voter information, visit the university’s voter information page at www.csudh.edu/univadv/gcr/voterinformation.