"The Don" Wagner Sopranos Crack Leads to Rumble on the Assembly Floor
On Aug. 31, 1990, state Assemblymen Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) and Steve Peace (D-Rancho San Diego) famously got into a shouting match that got physical in a Capitol corridor in Sacramento, where some witnesses claim not-so-peaceful Peace slapped the retired Marine.
Must be something about the 70th Assembly District, because the current occupier of the late Ferguson's old seat, Don Wagner, found himself in the middle of a heated verbal spat on the Assembly floor Wednesday that resulted in the Irvine Republican getting shoved.
Watch the entire 7-plus minutes video above to see how it all began with a reference to The Sopranos by "The Don" Wagner, a longshot just before the 5:20 mark of Wagner squaring off with Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) and the camera cutting away and fixing on Madame Chairwoman and the mics being cut from 6:10-6:49 in an Assembly that has obviously learned something since the Mike Duvall scandal.
In a nutshell, Wagner, obviously upset with a state budget provision failing to reform or eliminate local redevelopment agencies (RDAs), likens two bills before the lower house to a $1.7 billion "bait-and-switch" that essentially has cities ponying up that amount if they want to keep the shadowy bodies that are supposed to clean up blighted areas.
"I think I saw this in an episode of The Sopranos," says Wagner before adding sarcastically, "Nice little RDA you got there. I'd hate to see anything happen to it."
Isn't it funny that when it's the government doing it to supposedly help poor people, Republicans throw out terms like "bait-and-switch," yet when corporations get caught red-handed doing it that's the good ol' American way of doing business that better not be regulated lest the GOP tar your party as socialist.
Anyway, grumbling is heard around the time of Wagner refers to the former HBO series about a mob family in Jersey. After he relinquishes the floor, Long Branch, New Jersey-born Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) quickly rises to whine that "as a proud Italian American, I resent that and I would respectfully ask the commenter to make an apology to Italian Americans in California."
To be fair to Wagner, that was really pre-school, which is ironic because this is an Assembly that routinely cuts assistance to pre-schoolers. I agree with our local assemblyman that he was not taking a shot at Italians. But, to be fair to Portantino, Wagner's apology only made matters worse.
"I will apologize to any Italian Americans who are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams," he said to even louder grumbling--and perhaps even a harumph-harumph!
Obviously sensing he was losing the room, Wagner later rises during a colleague's anti-RDA remarks to say, "My apology, if one is needed, is sincere. My reference is certainly not one that no one in this room gets. I think my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, especially one who seems to be extraordinarily outraged over this for reasons I don't understand--my reference is not lost on anyone here. This is not an attack on anyone. This bill is a bait and switch."
It's shortly after that when Furutani can be seen getting in Wagner's face, proving yet again that La Famiglia recognizes when to hang back and call in the Japanese muscle.
Now, Wagner will be tasked with proving to the chamber that he is no pussy to be pushed around like that. Perhaps a name change to Donnie Walnuts.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts