Ortiz-Legg discusses DUI, struggles during debate
September 23, 2016
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Assembly candidate Dawn Ortiz-Legg didn’t charm North County voters Wednesday when she said she was happy to have experienced a DUI arrest or when she lashed out at her opponent Jordan Cunningham.
The candidates debated on conservative radio station KPRL and a couple of the questions came from pro-Cunningham callers. Ortiz-Legg struggled through much of the debate while Cunningham called her out for flip-flopping on an issue and for spouting misinformation about legal professionals.
Ortiz-Legg, a Democrat, and Cunningham, a Republican, are running for the 35th District Assembly seat. Ortiz-Legg is a solar energy consultant. Cunningham is a lawyer who previously worked as a San Luis Obispo County prosecutor and now runs his own law practice.
During the debate, a caller asked the candidates if either of them had ever been charged or convicted of a crime. Cunningham said he had not. Ortiz-Legg said she did not think she had been charged or convicted, but then went on to say she had a drunk driving offense and that she was really happy to have had the experience.
“I don’t think I have been charged or convicted of a crime,” Ortiz-Legg said. “Um, I did have a drunk driving offense back in 2001 that I am really happy that I had that experience because, you know, it was a type of a thing where you learn, like wow, a couple glasses of wine, a good thing I know now. Don’t let that happen again, so, that’s it.”
Another caller asked Ortiz-Legg if she would renounce her relationship and activities with the anti-war organization Code Pink.
“It’s for me again. Isn’t that a surprise?” Ortiz said and then started laughing after hearing the question from the caller.
Ortiz-Legg, who co-founded the local chapter of Code Pink, said she renounces the activities of the organization that are against veterans. The Democratic candidate also said she is married to a veteran, she has never participated in any activities against veterans and she was being portrayed as guilty by association.
Cunningham said the Code Pink issue is not guilt by association.
“Google search right now if you are near a computer. I would encourage all listeners. Google search Code Pink. Google search Dawn Ortiz Legg Code Pink,” Cunningham said. “She founded the local chapter of it. She drove to Bakersfield in 2005 and protested in front of a ceremony honoring high schoolers who had been admitted to military institutions.”
Cunningham also told listeners to read a CalCoastNews opinion piece Ortiz-Legg wrote in 2010 titled “Every war is a war against a child.”
“She wrote that we are guilty of war crimes in talking about criticizing the fact that we still had a military presence in Afghanistan fighting terrorists,” Cunningham said.
Ortiz-Legg said she has not been associated with Code Pink for more than 10 years, and the group is not anti-military.
Then, Ortiz-Legg went on the attack.
“I think it’s very important for the voters to know who they are electing. That’s right Jordan. It’s not what you say. It’s what you do,” Ortiz-Legg said. “And what you do everyday includes criminal, those charged with criminal offenses and those who have actually been charged and been released and done again. That’s all. All we’ve asked is to have your criminal records released, and that’s it.”
Cunningham responded by saying he does not have a criminal record.
Ortiz-Legg fired back demanding Cunningham release his clients’ criminal records.
Cunningham told Ortiz-Legg she was uniformed about what attorneys do and the rules they operate under.
“I do all sorts of legal work. All types of legal work,” Cunningham said. “And there is nothing again, Dawn, there is nothing inconsistent between defending people’s constitutional rights who are accused of a crime, like you apparently were, which you just told us — okay — defending people’s constitutional rights and being backed by law enforcement.”
According to the California State Bar, it is an attorney’s duty to not only defend their client, but to also protect their client’s confidentiality. State Bar rules prohibit Cunningham from complying with Ortiz-Legg’s demands.
Though much of the debate focused on the candidates’ characters, Ortiz-Legg and Cunningham did state their stances on several issues.
When asked about immigration, both candidates said they oppose sanctuary cities. But, immigrant labor is important for the agriculture industry, Ortiz-Legg said.
Cunningham asked Ortiz-Legg if she would support giving benefits, other than emergency medical care, to illegal immigrants. Ortiz-Legg said that is an ideological approach, and a legislator should determine rather what is the best return on investment for the taxpayers.
The candidates were also asked about their stances on the Bill of Rights, particularly the first and second amendments.
Cunningham said he supports all 10 of the constitutional amendments in the Bill of Rights, and he would defend Ortiz-Legg’s right to free speech even if he disagrees with what she says. The Republican candidate also said the focus of gun control should be about disarming felons, not regulating law-abiding gun owners.
Ortiz-Legg said she supports the Second Amendment.
“I think it says clearly on my website, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, period,” Ortiz-Legg said. “That’s all that needs to be said. I will fight for the Second Amendment. I understand it very well.”
On local issues, Ortiz-Legg said she supports Measure J, SLO County’s half-cent sales tax initiative that is supposed to raise funds for transportation projects.
Ortiz-Legg said she opposes Phillips 66’s proposed rail spur in Nipomo, even though she previously wrote a letter to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission supporting the project. Ortiz-Legg said the Phillips 66 refinery is a safe facility that produces some of the cleanest fuel in the world, but there is not currently safe infrastructure on which to transport the crude.
Cunningham said he believes oil is needed as a source of energy, but he thinks the Phillips 66 project should be decided at the local, not state, level. He also said he thinks oil is optimally transported by pipeline.
As Del Campo wrapped up the broadcast, Ortiz-Legg asked, “Aren’t we fun?”
“You guys are fun,” Del Campo said.
In the primary election, Ortiz-Legg placed first with 44.9 percent of the vote. Cunningham received 37.3 percent. However, Ortiz-Legg was the only Democrat in the primary race, and Cunningham was one of two Republicans. The 35th District includes all of San Luis Obispo County and much of northern Santa Barbara County.