Ten of the 15 qualified candidates for running to replace Congressman Adam Schiff (D) for the Congressional District 30 seat gathered on the stage at the historic Ebell Theatre to debate the issues they might be facing if elected. Alex Michaelson, anchor for FoxLA news and host of CA’s statewide political show “The Issue Is:” did a masterful job managing to engage 10 candidates, nine Democrats and one Republican, giving equal time and covering a wide range of issues.
The following candidates participated:
Francisco Arreaga, (D) former policy advisor to U.S. Representative Dan Goldman
Alex Balekian (R) physician
Stephen Dunwoody (D) government affairs executive and former special assistant to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy
Mike Feuer, (D )former Los Angeles City Attorney
Laura Friedman, (D) State Assemblywoman
Maebe A. Girl, (D) Silver Lake neighborhood council board member and runner-up for this district in 2022
Nick Melvoin, (D) member of the Los Angeles School Board
Anthony Portantino, (D) State Senator
Jirair Ratevosian, (D) former senior advisor at the U.S. Department of State and former legislative director for U.S. Representative Barbara Lee
Sepi Shyne, (D) Mayor of West Hollywood
Questions, developed by Michaelson, ranged from homelessness and housing, immigration and foreign policy, to asking each candidate who influenced them most, how they would describe themselves in one word and what is their favorite local restaurant. Nick Melvoin’s declaration of the Larchmont Wine and Cheese drew the most applause.
There weren’t too many surprises in the answers. Still, it was interesting to see how candidates tried to differentiate themselves and their approach to governing in a large field of candidates within the one-minute time limit for each answer.
Among the Democrats, there was a lot of consensus about the importance of the federal government’s role in creating more affordable housing, immigration reform, and support for federal assistance for the preservation of historic buildings, a question posed by Ebell leaders who are working to comply with the city of Los Angeles’s mandate to retrofit non-ductible concrete buildings.
Michaelson’s management of the debate got high marks from the audience for listening to each response and following up when a candidate failed to answer with enough details.
“It was interesting to see such a wide field of candidates, which we don’t often see in these kinds of forums,” said Gary Gilbert who attended with his wife Judy. “I am curious to see how some of these candidates develop,” added Judy.
“I thought some of the lesser-known candidates were good, especially the ones with experience as staffers to legislators who understood how the process works,” said Keith Nakata, a Mid-city resident active in local issues. “We tend to get caught up in local stuff but forget how important these national spots are on the big issues.”
However, Larchmont Village resident Sam Uretsky said having so many candidates detracted from the well-resourced candidates who are better known.
The forum was hosted by the Ebell Of Los Angeles, a non-profit women’s organization founded before women earned the right to vote in their historic, elegant theatre.
“We see this as part of our historic mission of education and community service,” said Ebell Executive Director Stacy Brightman.
Saturday’s forum was the only forum featuring all the candidates this primary season. To make the debate more accessible, The Ebell arranged for the debate to be recorded. Click here to view a recording of the 90-minute session. Following the debate, Ebell President Laurie Schechter joined this writer in presenting Valentine’s Day cookiegrams from Larchmont’s Levain Bakery (women-founded) to all the candidates and the moderator as thanks for their participation.