Liberal Dem Takes On OC's Campbell

OCT. 26, 2010


A surprising duel is taking place in the 48th Congressional District in California, which centers on Irvine and includes Tustin, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills and other cities. It’s between sitting Rep. John Campbell, a Republican, and Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom, a Democrat. As a member of the editorial board at The Orange County Register, I joined in interviewing both of them.

This is one of the most well-off districts in the country, even in the midst of the current recession. It’s the home of the University of Irvine (mascott: anteaters) and the clusters of high-paying, high-tech companies that have grown up around it, especially in medical devices and telecommunications switches. It’s a major global exporter.

The 48th long was represented by Chris Cox, who went on to become the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission during the 2008 economic meltdown. Rep. John Campbell has represented the 48th since winning a special replacement election in 2005.  Before going into politics, he ran several car dealerships in Orange County. From 2000 to 2005, he served in both the Assembly and the Senate in the California Legislature.

Campbell easily won re-election to the House in 2008, with 56 percent of the vote.

But in 2010 there’s some question about his re-election chances because of an ethics investigation in late August. Reported the September 2, 2010 Los Angeles Times, the Office of Congressional Ethics referred Campbell to the House Ethics Committee for investigation for allegedly holding “fundraisers in December [2009], around the time of crucial House votes on the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system since the Great Depression. President Obama signed it into law in July.”

Meet Beth Krom

Opponent Beth Krom has been an Irvine councilwoman since 2000 and served four of those years as the city’s mayor. According to her biography on the city’s Web site, “Krom has brought her experience as a teacher, a business owner, a community volunteer and a mother to her work on the Irvine City Council. It was the fight to defeat the El Toro Airport plan that motivated Beth Krom to run for City Council….

“During her term as Mayor, Beth Krom also led the effort to create a residential and commercial Green Building Ordinance — the first of its kind in Orange County.”

Krom was eager to debate Campbell. But he replied, “Our positions are well known and clear. There’s often more theatrics than substance.”

The gubernatorial debates between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman bear him out on that. On the other hand, the debates for U.S. Senate between Republican Carly Fiorina and incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, although testy, have been informative to voters. So, it depends. I suspect that a Campbell-Krom debate might have been one of the better ones, especially useful to local voters.

We’ll never know exactly how a Campbell-Krom debate would have gone. But some sense of what was lost can be gleaned by my matching their positions here.

Ethics cloud

Asked bout the ethics investigation, Campbell replied, “I can’t say too much more. There haven’t been any allegations of wrongdoing. There still aren’t. There was no wrongdoing.” He said the investigation won’t be wrapped up until after the election.

He added, “There are no allegations. No charges. There’s no difference between the people who were released [from being investigated] and those who moved on.”

A major charge from Krom was that Campbell has not been active enough in the local community. “Campbell never came to City Hall, or attended a city function,” she said.

“I’m home almost every weekend,” Campbell replied. “I hear the opposite everywhere we go.”

Obamacare pro and con

As throughout the nation, a big policy difference between the two was Obamacare. “All Americans should have access to basic health care,” insisted Krom, who backs the president’s health-care reform that was passed by Congress in February. It grants access to health care to almost all Americans. “Everybody has a connection to the healthcare system.”

Krom went so far as to support the single-payer system, under which the government runs a single insurance pool for everyone. “It’s an equitable way to fund health care,” she said. “Government’s role is to create a well-functioning society.”

“I want to repeal it,” Campell said of the Obamacare bill. “I like virtually none of it. I’m one of 13 co-sponsors of Paul Ryan’s Road Map,” which would restructure health care by expanding tax credits for coverage. “People will have control over that. Directionally, Obamacare is the opposite of where we want to go. We should be connecting people more with their own health care.”

He pointed out that in areas of health care not heavily controlled by the government, such as cosmetic surgery, “the price is going down.”

How would President Obama react to attacks on his health-care program? “If Republicans take a majority in one house or another, the most likely scenario is that none of the appropriations of Obamacare will be funded,” Campbell said. “Then there’s a budget standoff. If that happens, we can have that confrontation. I’m hopeful we can win the debate on health care again.”

Bringing home the bacon

Another charge against Campbell is that he doesn’t “bring home the bacon” to his home district. The 48th District is a major “donor county,” paying into the federal treasury a lot more than it gets back.

Krom charged, “Campbell is ‘anti-earmark,’ but didn’t bring anything back to the district. There have been too many years of not living in the district. There are major infrastructure needs. Government can and should be an instrument of civic improvement.”

“I don’t believe the people of this district elected me to be an ATM, to give them 50 cents on the dollar back,” Campbell said. “They elected me to create and reform the policies of the federal government that are good for the country. The main issues are the debt, the deficit, jobs and the economy.  I’m not going to bring back $500,000 to fund a swimming pool.”

Extending the Bush tax cuts

A sharp disagreement also existed on extending President Bush’s tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2010, in just two months. Republicans have insisted that all the tax cuts be extended. President Obama and Democrats have said they want to exclude wealthy people from any extension. That major disagreement has prevented a federal budget from being passed so far, even though the 2010-11 fiscal year began on October 1.

“I did not support reducing taxes at the top of the economic ladder,” Krom said.

Campbell backed extending the tax cuts to everybody and went further, saying, “They should be permanent. Right now there is a lot of uncertainty. Government is adding to the uncertainty.”

War and peace

Curiously, Krom and Campbell have similar positions on the Afghan War. Although Campbell earlier voted for the war, this year he was one of seven Republicans in the House who voted to end the Afghan War.

Krom said, “Afghanistan was the most irresponsible action.” Of both the Afghan and Iraq wars, she said, “Those wars are the albatross around the necks of the American people. It’s very easy to get into them, very hard to get out of them.”

When I asked her whether America should follow the stipulation in the Constitution that wars should be launched only after Congress declares war, she replied, “Yes.”

John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 20 years, is a reporter and analyst for His email: [email protected].


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  1. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 26 October, 2010, 13:24

    Hey, John, I thought I’d pass along some good news:

    President Obama may not be the most popular man on the campaign trail at the moment, but the president is still faring better in the polls than Ronald Reagan was during this stage of his first term, the National Journal reports.

    According to a new study by the Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll (which was conducted with the Pew Research Center), 47 percent of Americans would like to see Mr. Obama run for re-election in 2012.

    The figure, though short of a majority, is significantly higher than Mr. Reagan’s 36 percent rating on the same question in August 1982 – just months before his own party lost 26 House seats (but gained a Senate seat) in the midterm elections.

    Of course, remember that Reagan was reelected in a landslide two years later. So I wouldn’t start measuring for new drapes in the White House just yet.

    Reply this comment
  2. John Seiler
    John Seiler 26 October, 2010, 18:14

    Steve, thanks for passing that along. I’m not a Republican, so I’m not eager to have Romney “measuring the drapes” for the White House. His father was bad enough as governor of Michigan when I was growing up. Wrecked the state.

    As to Reagan, August 1982 was just 5 months before his tax cuts took effect in Jan. 1983, propelling 7% growth in 1983. As he later admitted, he was wrong to delay the 1981 tax cuts until 1983. But when the tax cuts kicked in, the economy roared until President Bush I (another Reagan mistake was picking Bush for VP) increased taxes in 1991. That was after Bush I had solemnly pledged at the 1988 convention, “Read my lips!!!! No new taxes!!!!” What a liar, like his son.

    So, I’m not eager to replace Obama with a Republican.

    Can we please just go back to the Articles of Confederation?

    Reply this comment
  3. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 27 October, 2010, 10:48

    Actually, John, there is a fascinating and little known history of the period between the Revolution and the swearing in of George Washington as our “first” President. Check out this book: President Who? Forgotten Founders
    by Stanley L. Klos

    Reply this comment

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