Former Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry and current Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper are going head-to-head for the seat in California Assembly District 74. The two Republican candidates advanced to the general election after the June 3 nonpartisan, top-two open primary, in which all candidates and voters, regardless of party affiliation, participate on a single ballot and the two candidates with the most votes move on to the November election.
A GOP stronghold, Republicans in the central Orange Country district make up 41.34 percent of the voting population while Democrats make up 28.9 percent. This means just under 30 percent of voters are not affiliated with either major party, a demographic that will have a major impact on which candidate wins.In an interview for IVN, when addressing the fact that a little less than half of his constituents are Republicans, Curry called himself a mainstream, Ronald Reagan conservative. He said he is a political leader who believes that government should provide basic services and address public needs.
“No matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat, you expect clean water, excellent schools, transportation that works, and a strong university system,” he added.
Harper says he has the most experience as a local elected official. He served 4 years on the Huntington Beach City Council, helped push improvements to the Orange County freeway system in the Regional Transportation Authority, was chairman of the water board, served on the Huntington Beach Union High School District Board of Trustee, and was elected mayor of Huntington Beach in 2013.
Although Curry and Harper agree on general Republican principles, such as curbing spending, they find themselves at odds on more local issues. During their interviews for IVN, the two candidates did not hesitate to point out their opponent’s record on specific issues.
"Unlike my opponent, I have worked in Washington with Ronald Reagan, I have built a business, and have been responsible for 450 employees and for dealing with the impacts of government regulations and taxation," Curry commented.
"An important issue for consituents is to stay with our campaign promises," Harper remarked. "Curry was on the board of the Lincoln Club. He promised he would not take money from public employees. I never have. But then, he took union money, and the Lincoln Club took back their endorsement of Curry."
When asked whether or not he supports California’s top-two primary system, Curry replied:
“Frankly, this is a very difficult system for candidates because you do not have the party apparatus to support you in the . That fact notwithstanding, I do believe is important that candidates be required to appeal to all voters in the district and I am hopeful that over time, it will improve the quality of representation.”
Harper does not support the system, he believes that a party should be able to nominate their candidate. He believes in limiting the power of insiders, but says that 'Top-Two' is like the Soviet Union having two communists on the ballot, and asks if it is really a choice at all.
The mayor added that if a voter chooses not to affiliate with the party then that it is their choice, but they should still be able to participate in a primary election conducted by the Democrat or Republican Party.
However, the race in Assembly District 74 can no longer be decided through party filters -- it is about a candidate's actions and their ability to navigate issues that are important to all voters. While Republican voters may have determined the outcome of past elections, voters outside the GOP will end up deciding who will win the election in 2014.
Image: Matthew Harper on the left, Keith Curry on the right