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Start the Presses: Some debatable concerns

October 23, 2010

On Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to be on Larry Zarian's television show. The primary topic of conversation was the 43rd District Assembly race, a contest, like so many others, that has become increasingly focused on nonsense rather than issues.

The Republican candidate, Sunder Ramani, had been on the show a week prior, and Zarian, a former Glendale mayor, had invited the Democratic candidate and incumbent, Mike Gatto, to be on the show. In fact, Thursday's show was originally conceived as a debate, moderated by myself, between the two men.

Gatto, through his aides, told me that he did not feel comfortable going on Zarian's show, as its host is a supporter of Ramani. Zarian, a Republican, has publicly said he and Ramani are friends, and campaign finance records show Zarian contributed $99 to Ramani's campaign.


Gatto's chief aide, Stacey Brenner, mentioned to me an incident where Zarian appeared to have intentionally embarrassed Gatto. Zarian, during a Memorial Day speech in Glendale, attempted to announce Gatto despite knowing, Brenner said, the candidate was not in attendance.

(Though I cannot speak to what Zarian knew, I certainly can say that Gatto was not at the Glendale Memorial Day event. This is because he attended the Burbank one. I saw him myself.)

Brenner also mentioned that during an earlier debate on Zarian's show, Gatto was not permitted to give an opening statement while Ramani was able to give his. For all these reasons, and due to the fact Gatto was already booked that night, he would not be interested in taking part in a debate, Brenner said.

This last point troubles me. Perhaps Gatto and his aides believe the Leader is somehow biased against him because of Zarian's show. The fact that Gatto was not able to give his statement was an error, truly, but it was not intentional. To my mind, there is something else at work, and these are simply conflated concerns.

Lest you think I'm picking on Gatto, this goes to the other side as well. Ramani and his supporters have repeatedly questioned our work, particularly a series of stories investigating whether he lives in Burbank — as he claims — or La Cañada Flintridge, which is outside the 43rd District. Stories of this type seem to be rampant this year, from Richard Alarcon in Los Angeles to Phu Nguyen in Orange County. Ramani, I want to point out, was more than willing to take part in the debate.

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