By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
He was a proud Republican when the party's platform included the popular "Contract With America." But in recent years he's played down party to maintain the guise of a moderate. Recent Rogan campaign literature makes no mention of party, save for a reference to his "working with the Democratic leadership." Gone are the photos he used in previous races, himself alongside President Reagan. In mail sent just last week, he even neglected to mention his Judiciary seat and his appointment as one of Gingrich's whips.
He has accomplished what many have tried and failed at. He's perceived as a moderate, a man who seems willing to grant the opposing party some fair points. But he's done it while voting the party line. Rogan's record earned him a rating of zero from the ACLU and 100 from the Christian Coalition.
Time and again, Rogan's powerful rhetoric claims a standard far different from what he actually does. He wins friends with common-sense talk, confessing disgust for partisan bickering, regretfully condemning tactics of his own party as well as the other side. So enraptured, fans politely avert their eyes when he nonetheless flings the dreaded "liberal" label and aligns himself with an intolerant religious right.
Like many who campaign on character, ethics and biblical principles, when Rogan was criticized for taking his Assembly campaign into the gutter - he falsely implied his opponent was the subject of a federal corruption probe - his response was "[My opponent] started it. He got a taste of his own medicine."
Perhaps because of his rapid success, Rogan has a thin skin. During the Assembly race, he advocated teaching creationism in public schools. When his challenger opposed that, Rogan howled that his church was under “attack.” Criticized for taking a raise given Assembly members in 1994, Rogan whined that he’d been wronged by his opponent’s “lies,” claiming distinctions that sounded much like Bill Clinton asking what we mean by the word is.
Gordon has also made hay with Rogan’s local record of sudden, shallow interest in issues specific to his district, token efforts that vanish in non-election years. The latest involves battles over proposed expansion of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport. Virtually silent on the issue throughout years of litigation and fighting, in August he responded to growing criticism for his lack of leadership. Protesting that he wasn’t told the date of an upcoming, widely publicized summit on the issue until days before the session, he claimed a previous commitment that morning.
As an up-and-coming pol he railed against colleagues abusing franking privileges with campaign literature in the guise of constituent updates. But in September, Rogan's congressional office sent a flurry of personalized constituent mail, much of it leaning on his former job as a "gang-murder prosecutor." He touted work on anti-crime bills, failing to mention that the laws promoted as vital were dusty old efforts, including one stagnant bill last seen before Congress in May 1997.
Contradictions notwithstanding, Rogan remains popular in the 27th. His supporters are zealous, and his committee seats guarantee a steady stream of campaign cash. Despite avid support from insurance lobbyists, the NRA and tobacco companies, many locals continue to see Jim Rogan as every humble role ever played by Jimmy Stewart rolled into one.
Political journals and paid consultants throughout the country continue to peg the race as a tie, a seat targeted by Democrats because they're sure they have a chance. Gordon has done his homework, and he's a credible challenger. But one can't help but wonder if the pundits have all forgotten whom they're looking at. It's Jim Rogan, the man who only falls up.