By : Victoria Kertz

A packed candidate forum in Newport Beach shed light on the field of eight Democratic hopefuls looking to oust the 48th Congressional District incumbent, Dana Rohrabacher, who silenced speculation about his future intentions this week.

“I am unequivocally running for re-election,” Rohrabacher said in a statement posted Wednesday on his campaign website. “I’ve never run away from a fight over things I believe and I’m not about to start now.”

Earlier in the week, two other prominent Republican congressmen, Darrell Issa of Vista and Ed Royce of Fullerton, announced their plans to retire and not seek re-election in 2018.

Their districts are two of the four Orange County congressional districts held by Republicans. With their departure, the Cook Political Report wrote that voters will likely “lean Democratic” in the November election.

The forum, hosted by the Aliso Niguel Democratic Club at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, shed light on the field of hopefuls looking to represent the 48th District.

“Two down, two to go!” said ANDC President Annie Wright to the cheers of more than 700 people who filled the tent. “We are going to flip Orange County!”

The fourth Orange County congressional district in play is represented by Mimi Walters, a Republican from Laguna Beach.

The forum proved that the candidates vying to represent the Democratic party on the November ballot agree on most issues, including a goal of unseating Rohrabacher, whose district spans the coastline from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel. They also pledged to support the June primary victor.

Affordable healthcare was championed by the candidates, many of whom proposed a single-payer, universal coverage system.

“It is preposterous to think that we can afford to go to war and spend billions of dollars, but cannot provide healthcare for our own citizens,” said Omar Siddiqui of Costa Mesa.

He outlined support for preventative care, regulation of drug prices, and rewarding patients for healthy lifestyles.

Laguna Beach candidate Michael Kotick stressed the urgency of healthcare, noting the congressional debate suggesting that as many as 32 million people could lose coverage. They tossed around those numbers like it was nothing, he added.

“That’s like filling up Angel Stadium 700 times, that’s how urgent this is,” Kotick said. “We need to stop playing politics with people’s health. We need to get more healthcare to more people.”

Pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable, as contributors to the opioid addiction crisis, he suggested.

“This is a national emergency, and we need to act now,” he said.