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Democrat challenges Rohrabacher's incumbency

Ron Varasteh is trying to take Occupy Orange County's core beliefs to Congress.

October 03, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Ron Varasteh, who is running against Dana Rohrabacher for Congress in November, talks to Judy Fenton outside the Mesa Verde Branch Library on Monday.
Ron Varasteh, who is running against Dana Rohrabacher… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Ron Varasteh will pull an all-nighter to uphold his political beliefs, even with a tent over his head.

The Democratic candidate for the 48th Congressional District, who will face longtime incumbent Dana Rohrabacher in November, has already played a visible role in Orange County politics over the last year. To a passerby, though, it might have been hard to pinpoint his face among the crowd camping out in front of the Irvine Civic Center.

Varasteh, 47, helped organize the Occupy Orange County movement that started in Irvine and then moved on to Fullerton and Huntington Beach. Although the group has retired its tents, Varasteh has made its core belief — that regular citizens get lost in the shuffle when corporations back government — the central theme of his campaign.

To the Irvine resident, that message goes beyond any party affiliation. The official record will show that he is a Democrat and Rohrabacher a Republican, but Varasteh is likely to give a more nuanced answer when labeling himself to voters.

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"I'm a moderate independent, and because we live in a duopoly and our elections are rigged for a two-party system, you have to be a Democrat or Republican," he said Monday outside the Mesa Verde Branch Library in Costa Mesa, where he set up a display by the front door and handed literature to visitors.

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Up against history

Varasteh's platforms, articulated in a campaign flier with the slogan "Stop our race to the bottom," run the gamut from liberal (bringing the troops home from Afghanistan) to conservative (punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants). He opposes the Patriot Act and doesn't fully support the Obama administration's health-care reform, although, in the latter case, it's because the reform stopped short of providing universal health care.

Will he have what it takes to unseat Rohrabacher, the longtime Huntington Beach conservative who now lives in Costa Mesa?

History indicates it's an uphill battle; the incumbent has served since 1989 and handily beat Democratic challenger Debbie Cook in his last election. Still, the redistricting that California went through last year may have created a different playing field.

Rohrabacher's previous district, the 46th, stretched along the shoreline from Huntington Beach to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and included Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and other Orange County cities as well as Catalina Island. The new 48th District begins in Seal Beach and extends south along the coast to Laguna Niguel.

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