This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
In a classic two-party contest for an open, newly drawn congressional district seat, Republican Gary DeLong and Democrat Alan Lowenthal squared off at a well-attended candidates forum Friday evening.
Lowenthal, who is finishing his last term in the state Senate, and DeLong, who is serving his second term on the Long Beach City Council, clashed over such areas as the role of the federal government in education and what should be done about Social Security and Medicare.
But they agreed on a surprising number of issues, including the need for campaign finance reform that limits the influence of special interests and immigration reform that includes securing borders but providing a way for otherwise law-abiding and productive illegal immigrants to stay in the country.
They both listed improving job growth and reducing the federal deficit as among their top priorities. Lowenthal, however, was quick to pin the nation's economic woes on the policies of the George W. Bush administration and congressional Republicans, citing costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and tax breaks for the wealthy.
DeLong told the audience of nearly 400 at Cal State Long Beach that he disagreed with his party on some issues -- he is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, for example. "But I am very fiscally conservative," DeLong said, citing his record of balancing budgets and reigning in costs in his six years on the City Council.
In one of the rare contentious moments of the evening, DeLong blamed Lowenthal and the rest of the Legislature for the state's fiscal problems. Lowenthal blamed Republicans for refusing to keep expiring taxes in place longer, leading to deep cuts for the state's public universities and community colleges.
Lowenthal, who served on the Long Beach City Council before being elected to the Assembly, then the state Senate, said his long record on environmental issues, campaign finance reform and "fighting for the community" should give voters a good idea of what they could expect from him as a congressman. "What you see is what you're going to be getting," Lowenthal said.
DeLong said, based on Lowenthal's tenure in Sacramento, that would be higher taxes and continuing budget problems.
Sponsors of the forum included the university and the Long Beach Area League of Women Voters. The 47th Congressional District also includes part of Orange County.
[For the record,1:10 p.m. Oct. 6, 2012: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized Gary DeLong as blaming Alan Lowenthal and other Democrats in the Legislature for the state's fiscal problems. DeLong blamed Lowenthal and the rest of the Legislature.}
-- Jean Merl
Photos: Alan Lowenthal, left; Gary DeLong. Credits: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press; Gary DeLong for Congress