Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R)
California 46th District
In the 1950s, when the Beach Boys were at Hawthorne High School, surfers would drive far down the coast to the vast expanse of Huntington Beach in Orange County to catch a wave. This was empty country then, vegetable fields and orange groves mainly, with nary a freeway or shopping center in sight. Today, the 42-mile shoreline of Orange County is pretty much filled in with pricey coastal resorts and other development. Huntington Beach, a city of 193,000, is a mixture of family subdivisions and garden apartments and home of the International Surfing Museum. Its eight miles of beach and self-depiction as Surf City make it a tourist draw in the summer. To the north is Westminster, the center of the nation’s most prominent Vietnamese-American community, with miles of shops with Vietnamese names and its own Vietnamese-language daily newspaper. Southeast along San Diego Freeway is Fountain Valley, the central focus of many Asian-owned high-technology businesses. Near the coast is Costa Mesa, site of South Coast Plaza’s luxury stores and a grand performing arts center.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 46th Congressional District of California includes all of this beachfront plus the Long Beach Harbor area and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It also includes inland territory: the eastern end of Long Beach and next-door Seal Beach, areas settled by many retirees; most of Westminster; all of Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa; the southwest corner of Santa Ana; and a tiny slice of Los Angeles. The eastern part of the district is connected to the Palos Verdes Peninsula by a thin strip of beach or the port area. Politically, the two ends of the district are solidly Republican, from high-income Palos Verdes to Westminster. This is no longer the monoracial Orange County of the 1960s: The district’s population is 19% Hispanic and 18% Asian (nearly half of whom are Vietnamese). Unlike other coastal California districts, this one has remained Republican. In 2008, GOP presidential candidate John McCain won it, albeit narrowly, 50%-48%.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R)
Elected: 1988, 11th term.
Born: June 21, 1947, Coronado .
Home: Huntington Beach.
Education: Long Beach St. Col. B.A. 1969, U. of S. CA, M.A. 1975.
Family: Married (Rhonda); 3 children.
Professional Career: Radio & print journalist, 1970–80; Sr. speechwriter, special asst. to Pres. Reagan, 1981–88.
The congressman from the 46th District is Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican first elected in 1988. He calls himself a surfer Republican and sports an American-flag surfboard on his lapel. He grew up in Southern California, went to college and experimented with drugs, and once had a folk band called the Goldwaters. By the mid-70s, he was on a straighter path as a press aide in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns. He wrote editorials for the Orange County Register and later was a speechwriter in the Reagan White House. He returned to Southern California in 1988, when Long Beach-based GOP Rep. Dan Lungren was appointed acting state treasurer. With fundraising help from Oliver North, the Reagan White House aide–cum–Iran-Contra-scandal protagonist, Rohrabacher won the primary with 35% of the vote and went on to win the general election easily, with 64% of the vote. In 2004, Rohrabacher, then 56, and his wife, Rhonda, became the parents of triplets.
|Dana Rohrabacher (R)||149,818||(53%)||($741,821)|
|Debbie Cook (D)||122,891||(43%)||($481,660)|
|Thomas Lash (Green)||8,257||(3%)|
|Dana Rohrabacher (R)||43,693||(87%)|
|Ronald St. John (R)||6,751||(13%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (62%), 2002 (62%), 2000 (62%), 1998 (59%), 1996 (61%), 1994 (69%), 1992 (55%), 1990 (59%), 1988 (64%)
A self-styled free spirit, Rohrabacher likes to make waves in the House. His website once featured the motto: “Fighting for freedom and having fun.” His voting record can be unpredictable, especially on cultural issues. He supported the use of medical marijuana and federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.
That helps to explain why this maverick has found himself on second-level committees. But he has made the most of his opportunities. As chairman of the Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, he worked for the single-stage-to-orbit vehicle. In 2004, President George W. Bush signed his bill to promote the development of the commercial human spaceflight industry. He has supported an obscure NASA program to search for and knock off course asteroids and comets that could slam into Earth. As much as he seems to love science, Rohrabacher has toed the party line on the issue of climate change, which he calls “nonsense” that jeopardizes the nation’s freedom and prosperity. In 2007, he lost to the more senior Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, for the ranking minority position on the full Science and Technology Committee.
Rohrabacher’s other main focus has been the Foreign Affairs Committee. Soon after the September 11 attacks, he visited the exiled king of Afghanistan in Rome, encouraged him to return to Kabul and promised that the United States would oust the Taliban and help rebuild Afghanistan. Rohrabacher has been a longtime critic of China’s rulers and strongly opposed normal trade relations with China and Vietnam. Despite the Bush administration’s criticism that it would violate the peace treaty, he won House passage of his amendment to allow World War II prisoners of war to sue Japanese companies for enslaving them.
In 2003, he delayed his support for the Republicans’ Medicare prescription-drug bill until Republican leaders, in exchange for his vote, gave him a vote on his bill to require hospitals to report potential illegal immigrants to the Homeland Security Department. He also has led voter initiatives to remove illegal aliens from California’s welfare and school rolls, and he successfully urged Bush to grant pardons to two former Border Patrol agents who shot a Mexican drug dealer.
Rohrabacher was routinely re-elected by wide margins. But in 2008, he faced his most competitive challenger: Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook, a Democratic lawyer and environmental activist who claimed he had done little during his time in Congress. With no help from the national party, she raised $482,000. Rohrabacher criticized Cook’s opposition to more oil drilling and her support for the bailout of the financial markets, which he said rewarded “those who acted irresponsibly.” Rohrabacher won 53%-43%, leading comfortably in each of the two counties in the district.