Democrat Harley Rouda is challenging incumbent Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) for his seat in the House of Representatives, in one of the most competitive House races for the 2018 cycle.
In the latest polling, Rouda has reflected a five point lead over Rohrbacher, but the margin of error for polling is about that much as well, which puts the opponents in a dead lock. According to The Hill, Rohrbacher has a significant double-digit lead over Rouda among white voters with a college degree, but Rouda has an equally great lead over Rohrabacher with minority voters.
Rohrabacher has recently come under fire for his role as “Putin’s favorite congressman”, as well as his remarks on Sacha Baron Cohen’s show Who Is America? that he believes arming children might be a productive solution for school violence.
Rouda is a father of four and first time politician, running for Congress in the 48th district of California. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Rohrabacher Drew Criticism for His Remarks on Toddlers Having Rights to Guns in Sacha Baron Cohen’s Show, ‘Who is America’
In the first look for the Showtime television show Who is America?, Rohrabacher was one of several lawmakers who signaled his approval at the idea of arming kindergarteners as a solution for preventing mass shootings.
“Maybe having many young people trained and understand how to defend themselves and their school might actually make us safer here,” he said to Sasha Baron Cohen in disguise.
Of Rohrabacher’s statements on Who is America?, Rouda tweeted, “[Rohrabacher’s] willingness to promote a non-existent ‘children’s gun program’ proves his commitment to the NRA over our Nation’s safety. His gullibility, lack of due diligence, and weakness is exactly why Vladimir Putin adopted him decades ago.”
2. Rouda Has a J.D. From Capital University Law School & an MBA From Ohio State University
Rouda has both a J.D. and an M.B.A., and practiced law originally before joining his family’s real estate business. According to his statement of why he’s running, Rouda said, “I firmly believe that we’re at a real watershed moment in our nation’s history. Plagued by partisan bickering, extremism and a politics first mentality, Washington is in desperate need of real, meaningful, and lasting change.”
As for his own role in this watershed moment, Rouda explained, “I’m running to bring much needed common sense, fiscal responsibility, and the social pragmatism our 48th District and our country deserves. Join me, let’s send a clear message that it’s time for a change for the better and that it is time for career politicians like Rohrabacher to get a real job.”
Rouda’s wife is award-winning author Kaira Sturdivant Rouda.
3. Rouda’s Four Children All Have Summer Birthdays, Which Leads to an Event Rouda Describes as “Roudapalooza”
According to a Facebook post by Rouda, his four children Dylan, Avery, Trace, and Shea all have summer birthdays, which has led to the creation of a festive event he described as “Roudapalooza”.
Rouda posted a throwback picture of his children, explaining, “All of our kids have summer birthdays so every summer during their childhood we would host ‘Roudapalooza’ and invite all of their friends and the neighborhood kids over for a party full of games and crafts.”
He further explained, “Instead of bringing presents for the kids, people brought donations for the Mid Ohio Foodbank. Over the years we gathered many pounds of food thanks to this one big birthday party #ThrowbackThursday”
4. In the Wake of Trump’s Helsinki Summit With Putin, Rouda Spoke Out Against Rohrabacher’s Extensive Russian Affiliations
Rep. Rorhabacher has been called “Putin’s favorite congressman” in the past, for his history of alleged involvement with Russian officials.
Rohrabacher was involved in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his history of meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who had tried to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin during Trump’s presidential campaign.
Though there was no evidence Rohrabacher had met with Torshin during that time period, Rohrabacher was outspoken about what he believed to be a “brouhaha about nothing” in relation to the Russian investigation.
What’s more, In a 2013 radio interview, Rohrabacher said of Putin, “You know he’s a tough guy and he’s supposed to be a tough guy, that’s what the Russian people want…but that’s no reason we shouldn’t try to work with him.”
Of Trump’s now-infamous meeting in Helsinki and United States-Russia relations, Rouda tweeted on July 16, “American Democracy died today at the hands of
@POTUS Waiting for Republicans to send out ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ because they won’t do anything else.”
5. Rouda Was Once a Republican, & Donated to Several Republican Campaigns & No Democratic Campaigns
In 2017, it emerged that Rouda had donated $1,000 to Republican John Kasich’s presidential campaign. Shortly after, the Federal Elections Commission revealed that Rouda had given at least $9,000 to Republican congressional candidates between 1993 and 2007, and had given nothing to Democratic candidates during that period.
In a Facebook post, Rouda explained that he had once been a Republican but now felt that the party no longer reflected his values.
“We gave [to Kasich’s campaign] because they are personal friends – not because he is someone who I share a political ideology with – and because I wanted to stop Donald Trump and his divisive campaign,” Rouda explained. “For president, I supported Hillary Clinton.”
As for his own political affiliation, Rouda clarified to The Orange County Register, “I am 100% Democratic and strongly for Democratic values.”