Working well in Sacramento and sending money back to Orange County were among the ideas marking the 2014 election season's first Feet to the Fire forum Thursday night.
The roughly hourlong debate in the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center featured five candidates for the 74th Assembly District: Newport Beach Councilman Keith Curry, Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper, teacher Anila Ali, Assembly aide Emanuel Patrascu and small-business owner Karina Onofre.
Almost 100 people showed up to hear the positions of the candidates running in the June's primary. The top two candidates will face off in the November general election.
Moderating the event at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center was Daily Pilot and Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia. Panelists were Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis and City Editor Alicia Lopez, Register columnist Jack Wu and Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana Jr.
Off the bat, Venezia asked the candidates how much they've raised — independent of money they donated to their own campaigns. Curry solidly led the pack with about $250,000, followed by Patrascu with some $100,000, Harper with between $30,000 and $50,000, Ali with $20,000 to $25,000 and Onofre with about $11,000.
Harper, a Republican, said he objected to the question.
"I think it's about the issues," he said. "I prefer that we get to the issues."
Curry, a Republican, contended that his war chest demonstrated the breadth of community support.
Santana, after prefacing his question by declaring that Sacramento is controlled by Democrats, asked: "What's the point of sending another Republican to Sacramento?"
Curry replied that Republicans can represent the 74th better.
"Things do change," he said. "Republicans will be relevant again."
Patrascu, a Republican, commented that Orange County can't keep voting in "fake conservatives."
"We can't keep sending up people who keeping voting for every tax and fee," the Laguna Beach resident said.
Ali, a Democrat, said voters should consider her party affiliation a strong point, given the Democratic super-majority.
"So you, as voters, need to choose a candidate that's actually going to get things done for you," the Irvine resident said.
"I will have a seat at the table," she added. "I will have a voice."
Harper said, "Republicans should never surrender in the state of California," to which Wu, also a Republican, chimed in: "We can talk about surrendering, and we can talk about real life."
Onofre, of Irvine, called herself a "conservative Democrat," who can represent women and Latinos.
"I can cross the aisle and work with both parties," she said.
Wu was critical of Onofre's recent party switch, particularly the former Republican's request for a GOP group's endorsement a few days before her campaign filing.