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Elections 2022: Get to know Rep. Lou Correa, five more candidates in 46th District primary

There’s ultra-conservative former border patrol agent Felix Rocha Jr. and there’s biomedical engineer Mike Ortega, who’s a former member of the Socialist Party.

There’s Republican Mike Nguyen, an aerospace engineer-turned real estate developer, and there’s attorney Christopher Gonzales, who got the backing of the state GOP.

Then there’s project manager Ed Rushman, who’s the only independent running in a local House race.

Those five candidates are challenging three-term Rep. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, in the June 7 primary to represent the newly drawn 46th District in central Orange County. The two candidates who get the most votes in June advance to the decisive November election.

Correa, a Democrat, is heavily favored to ultimately win a fourth term representing some 760,000 residents in Anaheim and Santa Ana along with portions of Orange, Fullerton and Stanton. Registration data show Democrats have a 28-point advantage over Republicans in the majority Latino district.

Correa, 64, worked as a banker, an attorney and a real estate broker before winning a state Assembly seat in 1998. He also served as Orange County’s 1st District supervisor and California’s senator for the 34th District before winning a seat in Congress in 2016.

“For a kid like me, who grew up in the streets of Anaheim, now to be in Congress, is a testament to the greatness of our nation,” Correa said when asked about his proudest moment in the House to date.

Much of Correa’s legislative efforts have focused on immigration and veterans issues. He’s a moderate Democrat, serving on the Democrats’ Blue Dog Coalition, and rated himself a four on an ideological scale of 1-10, with one being far left.

Ortega, who was the first challenger to jump in the CA-46 race in early December, declined to rate himself on that scale. But the Anaheim resident has been targeting Correa in his campaign for not being in line with the progressive district or aggressive enough on issues such as universal healthcare and rent control.

Ortega, 36, first ran for public office in 2005, when he was just 19, as a Socialist Workers candidate, finishing last in the race for a New Jersey Assembly seat. He’s since led unionization campaigns and started a local chapter of the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers. He now works as a quality engineer for a heart valve manufacturer in Irvine.

Ortega’s campaign is focused around affordable housing, protecting the environment, Medicare for All, and immigrants rights. In terms of how he’d measure his success in office, Ortega said, “This office must be a transmission of our working-class communities to Washington. I plan to have regular meetings with leaders from the district to ensure that we are staying on track. The people will hold our feet to the fire, and in turn we will hold Washington’s feet to the fire.”

On the other end of the political and age spectrum is Rocha, who rated himself a nine on that ideological scale.

Rocha, 77, of Fountain Valley joined the U.S. Border Patrol in 1967. He was promoted to a criminal investigator and retired in 1996 as a senior special agent who worked on racketeering cases. He then started his own private investigation company, which he still runs.

Rocha has won local office before, serving as a trustee on the Orange County Board of Education from 1992 to 2008. Now he’s campaigning on plans to oppose abortion, offer grants for housing, support more domestic oil production and give more weapons to Ukraine.

As for measuring his success in office, Rocha said it would be how he performed on key goals “to work on Border Security issues by re-starting the construction of the wall; solve the Energy Crisis by re-starting the Keystone pipeline, and stopping the current Inflation by repealing the $1.9 trillion Stimulus Bill.”

Nguyen rated himself just to the left of Rocha, with an eight on that ideological scale of 1-10.

Nguyen, 69, of Santa Ana worked for 25 years as an engineer in the aerospace industry. He’s also spent 25 years in real estate, including building custom homes in Orange County. This is his first time running for office.

Nguyen’s campaign is focused on freedom of speech, religion and medical choices; reducing crime; education funding; and adding jobs in Orange County. As for judging his success in office, Nguyen said, “Are my constituents better off than two years ago? If they are, then I am a happy man.”

The only Republican with backing from the state and local GOP is Gonzales, who also rated himself an eight on that ideological scale.

Gonzales, 58, is a former first lieutenant in the Army who’s been an attorney for 20 years and is active in his local church. He lives outside CA-46, in Irvine. Though it’s legal to hold a House seat while living outside the district, it’s not considered politically favorable.

Gonzales previously has made unsuccessful bids for office in Irvine, running for mayor and the city council. He also ran for Congress in the 2020 primary against Rep. Katie Porter, finishing in sixth place with 2.4% of the vote. This cycle, he’s campaigning on plans to reduce living expenses, support school choice, fund police and military, and “support personal freedoms.”

Asked how he’d measure his success if elected, Gonzales referred to his time serving as investment commissioner for the city of Irvine. “Those of us on the commission successfully managed over $400 million in assets to employ city employees and maintain resources fully funded and operating.”

The only CA-46 candidate who rated himself a centrist on that ideological scale is Rushman, who also is the only candidate registered as No Party Preference.

Rushman, 65, of Anaheim, has worked with small and large companies for decades, leading projects in manufacturing, communications, distribution and healthcare systems.

He challenged Correa in the 2020 primary, finishing fourth out of five candidates with 3.2% of the vote. This cycle, he’s campaigning on healthcare and prison reform, reducing crime, opposing strict COVID-19 mandates and, in general, not pushing for new laws.

If elected, he’s promising to have “an effective staff in Santa Ana and D.C. who serve the people,” to provide “weekly status reports to the district,” and to :identify a good replacement” for himself.

When it comes to immigration, Correa, Ortega and Rushman support a pathway to citizenship for undocument immigrants, while Nguyen does not and Rocha and Gonzales did not respond to that question.

As for government policies to address climate change, Rocha, Nguyen, Gonzales and Rushman all support less aggressive action while Correa and Ortega both support much more aggressive policies.

Asked whether Joe Biden was the true winner of the 2020 election, Correa, Ortega, Gonzales, Rushman all said yes while Rocha and Nguyen said no.

Elections officials will begin mailing ballots to all registered voters May 9. Centers will open for in-person voting starting May 28. Visit to learn more.

Source: Orange County Register

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