With so many Democrats trying to send Rep. Dana Rohrabacher into retirement—Hans Keirstead, Michael Kotick, Laura Oatman, Rachel Payne, Boyd Roberts, Harley Rouda, Omar Siddiqui and Anthony Zarkades—about all an ABD (Anyone But Dana) voter can do is wait for one of the challengers to slip up.
Keirstead is regarded as one of the frontrunners, having enjoyed some wind at his back thanks to Hillary Clinton having beat Donald Trump in the 48th congressional district in November 2016, Rohrabacher's involvement in Robert Mueller's Russia election meddling investigation, and the respected Cook Report's assessment that Keirstead is the candidate to beat in the primary despite real estate businessman Rouda having slightly more campaign cash.
However, some of that may have been undone by something Keirstead said at a local Democratic Party meeting in November, when the prominent cancer researcher was asked which congressional committees he could sit on that would help the 48th district, which covers a large swath of the Orange County coastline.
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Keirstead answered that House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said he'd want to give the first-time congressman an “early appointment” on the influential Appropriations Committee, and that leaders wanted to make him the Science and Technology Committee chairman. There is some irony in that given that Rohrabacher (R-Deep Space Nine) chaired that committee's Space and Aeronautics subcommittee from 1997 though January 2005.
But here is the rub: Hoyer's office denied the Minority Whip made any such assertions, according to Roll Call. “No, neither of those statements is remotely true,” says Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant in a statement.“The idea that Mr. Hoyer would promise a candidate either a chairmanship or a seat on Appropriations is preposterous.” Indeed, a freshman congressman would have to stand in line behind many veteran lawmakers, including many already on that subcommittee.
A Keirstead spokesman clarified that the congressman was actually encouraged to pursue appointments to key committees that reflect his district's needs and unique skill sets, but the damage about the candidate's truthiness—let alone knowledge of how congressional appointments work—may have been done.
Surely it will be a topic for discussion among the other seven Democratic challengers who were all scheduled to square off with Keirstead Wednesday night in Newport Beach. Keirstead, Oatman, Rouda and Siddiqui are also said to be participating in a "frontrunners debate" Saturday, Jan. 13,
Jan. 20 in Huntington Beach.