Democratic Realpolitik

Even the rich can be just. Last Saturday, at a posh fund-raiser for the Crystal Cove Alliance, Irvine Ranch scion Joan Irvine Smith introduced a multitude of wealthy people and arts patrons to "my good friend, Marilyn Brewer."

Brewer is a former state Assembly member, now running in the Oct. 4 election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Chris Cox. She is, as Smith went on to explain from the podium, a friend of the environment and historical preservation. Smith didn't explain that Brewer is also a pro-choice moderate.

That puts Brewer at odds with state Senator John Campbell, her leading opponent on a ballot that looks more like a phone book. Campbell was at the gathering too, though no one could say why—unless it was to fish for votes in unlikely waters. Campbell is more at home in the rabid right wing of his party. He's opposed to gay marriage and stem-cell research, for more war and guns, for less health care, and regards environmental protection as needless regulation. It's safe to say that if it's for death, Campbell is for it.

For that reason, Democrats need to vote for Brewer. If Democrats vote impulsively for a Democrat to fill that seat—and there are good ones—they'll find themselves Oct. 5 with their thumbs in their bottoms and a hardcore conservative in the U.S. Congress.

It's all about mathematics. Under no reasonable circumstances can a Democrat win this district, which includes the Republican strongholds of Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, El Toro, Tustin, Newport Beach and Irvine. In the 48th, Republicans outnumber Democrats by about two to one; the district has more registered Republicans than any other California congressional district and the lowest percentage of registered Democrats in any state congressional district.

So the choice for Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans is easy: knowing that a Republican is going to win, would you rather have Marilyn Brewer—an unpretentious, pro-choice, small-business owner—or John Campbell, an ostentatious, pro-life, wealthy car salesman?

I've known Brewer for more than a decade. We have differences of opinion on many policy issues, but I know a few things that make it easy for me to vote for her—as I did three times when she was a member of the state Assembly. Marilyn is not a conservative; she's not beholden to corporate or political interest groups; she knows how to listen; and unlike so many local conservative politicos, she'll let good evidence triumph over raw ideology.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Former Orange County Congressman Jerry Patterson, a leading Democrat, has endorsed Brewer too. Better yet, go to the websites for Campbell ( and Brewer ( to compare where they stand on the issues. If you're a Democrat or a progressive, you'll see that you have far more in common with Brewer than Campbell.

Democrats in the 48th might want a Democrat representing them in Congress, but in the real world of politics, we need Marilyn Brewer to be the highest Republican vote getter. Act accordingly.


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