Best Politician - 2008
Rambunctious real-estate developers and their stooges in the local Orange County media love to celebrate massive, publicly subsidized but privately owned developments and to attack critics as unreasonable leftists. But the poster face for reasonable, responsible development—especially ones that don't rob the public of parks and other valuable open space—belongs to Debbie Cook, the popular mayor of Huntington Beach. A rare breed in OC politics, Cook is articulate, feisty on her cherished issues and yet still principled. In 1990, as a concerned citizen, she helped enact a city charter amendment that required politicians and their real-estate-developer contributors to seek voter approval before they could commercialize any public park. She has also been instrumental in preserving a portion of the Bolsa Chica Mesa from overdevelopment. This year, Cook, a Democrat, is willing to gamble her political capital to challenge the gorilla of the OC Republican Party: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the 10-time incumbent who is described by some (okay, by us) as an angry, rambling hodgepodge of steaming partisan flatulence and dubious associations. A Cook victory would give the 46th Congressional District (Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Seal Beach and portions of coastal Long Beach) a fresh voice on ethics, energy and the environment. Oh, and unlike Rohrabacher, she'd probably never lobby for the Taliban.