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27th Congressional District

Race in an Area of Changing Party Affiliations Pits Republican James Rogan, Democrat Barry Gordon

November 01, 1998|BOB RECTOR | Bob Rector is op-ed page editor of the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County editions

Perhaps nowhere else in the state of California has the presidential sex scandal loomed over a political contest as it has in 27th Congressional District.

That's because the district, which encompasses Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, has as its incumbent Republican Rep. James Rogan, a highly visible member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will conduct the Clinton impeachment inquiry.

Although that may seem like a political plus to some, it's also made him the target for criticism from his opponent, Barry Gordon, an attorney and former Screen Actors Guild president. Gordon, a Democrat, has attacked Rogan for being preoccupied with Clinton's downfall, saying there is a "perception of unfairness" about the inquiry being led by House Republicans.

For his part, Rogan has maintained that the impeachment inquiry will be a fair and balanced process and that Clinton must be given a "presumption of innocence" unless and until evidence proves otherwise.

Historically a bedrock Republican district, the 27th has changed in recent years, with Democratic registration at 44% compared to 39% for Republicans.

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Question: You have been critical of your opponent's role in the Clinton impeachment inquiry. Why?

Answer: The bipartisan rhetoric that he's put forward on the Sunday morning news talk shows hasn't matched his votes in the House Judiciary Committee. There was a motion made to make the vote count public so that people could understand what it was and understand how partisan it was. Committee Chairman Henry Hyde agreed, and that vote passed by 28-7. [Rep. Jim] Rogan was one of the seven who tried to keep it secret. I feel that shows that he did not want people to know just how partisan those votes were and how slanted the process was. Another vote was taken when a redaction log was put together to show what the material was by page and line number, and there is a brief, generic description of each. It just says, "Privacy, privacy, privacy, sexual description, sexual description, sexual description," and so forth. There was an amendment to very specifically describe the manner of sexual contact. Only six Republicans voted for that. Rogan was one of the six. So when he goes out there on Sunday morning and says, "I'm part of this bipartisan group and I want to be bipartisan about this, and I want to be fair about this, it just seems to me that everything that he's doing in that committee is designed to, (a), hide the partisanship of the process and, (b), to try to move in a direction to embarrass the president even more than he's been embarrassed.


Q: Do you think, based on what you know, that President Clinton should be censured?

A: Absolutely. He needs to be shamed. He needs to be rebuked. I don't think we can allow the message to go out that the conduct he's participated in should simply be ignored. But on the other hand, my understanding is that the purpose of impeachment is really twofold. One is to punish an official's wrongdoing, but probably even more importantly it is to protect the public from abuses of office that are so serious that we would be endangered by allowing that person to stay in office. And certainly Watergate was an abuse of the Democratic processes of government.


Q: Do you think the president is a detriment to the Democratic party, specifically your attempts to be elected?

A: No. Take the budget agreement. He really stood up for some initiatives that we needed to have, even in the light of everything that was happening to him. I think he gets points for that. And I don't think it's a matter anymore of defending or not defending the president. I think we all understand what he did was not a good thing to do. It was a reprehensible thing to do, but does he damage the party? I'm not seeing that, and quite to the contrary, what I'm seeing is that people perceive a basic unfairness to this whole process.


Q: On to more local issues: What would you do to solve the stalemate involving the Burbank Airport?

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