Almost Debatable

by Amy Zidell

If you have an opportunity to see a political debate live, I highly recommend it. The incumbent - fresh blood - and possible third party spoiler theme of November's 2010 Midterm Elections played out in a debate last week at a local home owners association meeting in a local private high school's cafeteria.

The three candidates for California's 28th Congressional district debated by answering written questions submitted from the audience. By luck of the draw, seated left to right was Democrat Howard Berman, Republican Merlin Froyd, and Libertarian Carlos Rodriguez.

For all his years as a politician, Congressman Berman appeared surprisingly uneasy, halting, and frankly feeble. Congressman Berman practically gave a concession speech in his closing remarks. Despite condescending moderators, Merlin Froyd showed himself to be thoughtful, knowledgeable, respectful, and energetic. He graciously offered Congressman Berman his microphone when Berman's was not working well. Libertarian Carlos Rodriguez was spirited, and while his responses were sporadically popular with the audience, his answers could be characterized as being either too brief bullet points or meandering. If anyone was keeping score, the winner, to the most objective observer, was Republican Merlin Froyd.

The audience of around 200 was as lively as the political exchange. Despite what the moderator declared and as apparently the Daily News believed, the audience was not, "stacked," for any specific candidate. Cheers and jeers erupted throughout the event signifying boisterous views across the political spectrum.

"Drill here, drill now," was heard from the crowd. Okay, I'll admit that was me shouting, when Congressman Berman used the rote Democrat repeated phrase, "dependence on foreign oil."

An interesting juxtaposition exists between Berman and Froyd. Howard Berman (D) has been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since January 1983. Before that, Berman served in the California State Assembly starting in 1973. Merlin Froyd (R) was born in 1983.

Merlin Froyd describes himself as an Eisenhower Republican to illustrate his belief in government's limited role. In response to this, Congressman Berman detailed a number of Eisenhower era policies and measures. Something along the lines of, "President Eisenhower was responsible for the Interstate Highway System. President Eisenhower actually expanded social benefits programs. President Eisenhower..." Let me say that, at this point, I showed considerable restraint resisting my urge to finish the next statement out loud on behalf of Congressman Berman ala 1988 Vice Presidential Candidate Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew President Eisenhower."

Answering a question about the Health Care bill, Congressman Berman said he would vote for it again. In what garnered among the most enthusiastic positive responses from the audience, Merlin Froyd said, "I actually read the bill." If elected to represent California's 28th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, Froyd would vote to, "repeal and repair," Health Care legislation. He points to protections for those with preexisting conditions, as a positive element in the legislation. One aspect of, "repair," according to Froyd, would be allowing interstate competition for insurance policy purchasing.

In describing a changing of the guard scenario, Congressman Berman spoke about how he replaced a longtime incumbent when he was first elected to Congress. It sounded a lot like he was suggesting Froyd would be replacing a longtime incumbent this time around.

U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic incumbent Howard Berman, Republican Merlin Froyd, Libertarian Carlos Rodriguez,
28th Congressional District, California, debate, Eisenhower

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