One ad for Bill Bloomfield, independent candidate for the redrawn 33rd Congressional District against Rep. Henry Waxman, makes the voter’s election choice very clearly: a bald Waxman stand-in digs the country deeper and deeper in debt (and presumably digging his own grave?) while Bloomfield strolls casually along the sun-drench shore looking for all the world like a star in one of those “Come to California” commercials. It looks like a So/Cal version of “live free or die.”
Unlike previous Waxman challengers, however, redistricting and his personal wealth make Bloomfield a real contender to unseat one of the most liberal and powerful Democrats in modern history. Real Clear Politics lists the seat as “safe” Democratic, but as one of 25 co-founders of the anti-partisan group No Labels, Bloomfield is betting that voters are tired of the hyper-partisanship in Congress, which he says is how Waxman votes.
LGBT voters, who have long supported Waxman because of his early and deep support of LGBT equality and people with HIV/AIDS, might well give Bloomfield a fresh look precisely because of the former Republican’s independence and association with No Labels, which younger people might construe as meaning no imposed labels of identification. In a long interview, Bloomfield underscored his independence from partisan strictures and his strong support for gay rights.
The following features major portions of the interviews so you can “meet” Bloomfield yourself because, while he is new on the electoral scene, I suspect that win or lose, Bill Bloomfield will remain active in Los Angeles and California politics, as well as working on proposed No Label initiatives.
An LA native who got his MBA from Harvard at age 22, Bloomfield turned the family-owned company selling commercial laundry equipment into an industry leader during his 33 year tenure. During the tech boom, he started an Internet hosting company called Web.com, serving as President from 1998 until 2005. He is also Chair and CEO of Baron Real Estate and is on the board of two other small companies. He also helped found the Ethiopian-based Healing Hands of Joy, which has the goal of eradicating obstetric fistula and helping improve women’s maternal health.
Bloomfield, who lives in Manhattan Beach with his family, also has served the local Westside and South Bay community as an active Rotarian, is a significant funder of education programs, and maintains the anti-smoking billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard in Westwood counts the number of smoking deaths each year – a billboard he and his father put up 25 years ago.
Bloomfield was a lifelong Republican – growing up during the Republican Party era of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. Social issues, Bloomfield said, were not really discussed since the focus was more on having a strong defense and free market principles. In 2008, he served as the National Director of Volunteers for John McCain’s presidential campaign.
Bloomfield on his political positions:
I’ve tried to stay very active in politics. I’ve been a Republican until March 2011. But I was one who was trying to expand the Party, expand the tent. Socially, I’m moderately-liberal, in favor of same sex marriage rights. I’ve always been Pro-Choice. In fact, I remember being happy when Gov. Reagan signed a law legalizing abortion in California back in the 60s. I was at Berkley at the time.
But I’ve been working largely on redistricting reform and open primaries. I think redistricting reform would be my main passion because the idea of politicians drawing district lines is just anathema to me and should be anathema to every American because it’s just denying the value of your vote. I point out to people currently represented by Congressman Waxman – Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Santa Monica, a little bit of the Miracle Mile area – that this is the first time really they have a reason to vote in November because up until this election, all of the districts were drawn by partisan politicians. And there was no point – it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to win. And now with the non-partisan commission, we have choice.
And secondly, open primaries – which I view as the ‘Independent Emancipation Act.’ It gives us a voice in the primaries. As you know, one of the problems we have in this country is the small number of voters who vote in gerrymandered districts – whether it’s Republican or Democrat – will tend to be the more polarizing elements of the two parties. They put the candidate up for nomination but since it’s a gerrymandered district, that means the person will win in November. So we get the polarization of Congress and the increased hyper-partisanship, which is what’s driving me.
I want to see redistricting reform and open primaries sweep the country. I think it’s the long term solution to what ails Congress. Short term, I want to go back there and do what I can because our problems won’t wait. ….
What I don’t understand is how this social stuff became involved with partisan politics. To me – it’s like, if you’re Pro-Life – I understand why you’re Pro-Life, I understand the arguments about ‘this is a life, a creature inside the woman.’ I happen to be Pro-Choice. I believe it’s a women’s right – I believe in that. But it’s like I talk to someone who’s Pro-Life and say, ‘Why don’t you proselytize to the whole country? Why don’t you get the country on your side?’ But what does that do with partisan politics? Why is this a Republican issue? Why is this a Democrat issue?’ I never understood that. I just don’t get it.
Bloomfield wouldn’t comment on the Log Cabin Republican’s decision to endorse Gov. Mitt Romney as opposed to President Barack Obama. “People vote for whatever reason,” he said. But he was anxious to express his support for LGBT equality. Bloomfield:
I’m a firm believer in equal rights and the gay and lesbian community should be treated equal with the heterosexual community and I firmly believe that. I understand a little bit, I guess – I don’t know if empathize is the right word – with the members of the Log Cabin Republicans. I was a Republican my entire life and one decision one can make, as far as party affiliation, one can say, ‘OK, for me, that is the end-all-be-all issue and given this is the Party Platform of the Republican Party, I can’t be a Republican.’ That is a decision someone can make. Or, one can make the decision I made for years and years – and by the way, this is not the reason I re-registered – but my decision was to work to change the party as best I could within the party. So you’ve got a choice – there are a zillion issues out in the world – obviously the strength and security of the United States, we could go on and on.
The last straw for me was the hyper-partisanship and the fact that it was [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s comment in October of 2010. He said the most important job for Republicans in the Senate was to make sure President Obama only served one term. And I just said, ‘That’s it.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re actually telling me that you’re going to spend the next two years as the leader of the Republicans in the Senate to run a presidential election campaign when we have all of these problems in the world?’ And keeping in mind that I never agreed fully with the Republican Party, never agreed fully with the Democratic Party.
I explained to Bloomfield that the LGBT community has a tradition of loyalty to those who’ve been supportive, especially during times when it was not easy to do so. I asked the independent candidate if and how he’d been supportive of LGBT people before now, apart from believing in marriage rights for same sex couples. I was a bit taken aback by how open, candid and humble he was in response:
All I can tell you is what I believe. When you go back in the 80s – I was a young man trying to raise a couple of kids and working hard at my business. I was not involved with partisan politics. But as far as my heart goes, I haven’t changed. [He mentions Healing Hands and another non-profit in Guatemala that works on family planning, which is not a “typical Republican” venture.]
I don’t know what to say. I look at what difference I can make. Congressman Waxman has been in Congress since 1974. Obviously, he was in the right place at the right time in order to help with AIDS awareness and get hearings and get federal money, etc. And my God, hats off to him for doing that. I’d like to think I would have done the same thing. I believe I would have. But what can I say? I have no proof to offer you. I just know what I believe. When I debated Congressman Waxman last week, I met him for the first time – I met his wife, met his son and I paid my deepest respects to them for 44 years of service. I mean, he’s spent his whole life in service and that is a marvelous thing to do.
I am running because of the fact that there is a problem in Congress of the hyper-partisanship that’s locking up. If we don’t get our economy working, if we don’t get off this fiscal cliff, if we don’t get ourselves on a path of fiscal solvency, it’s going to be bad for everybody – and that includes the LGBT community.
I can tell you – absolutely – in every fiber in my body – I believe in equal rights. I would absolutely vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, absolutely voted against Proposition 8. The things that Congressman Waxman is known for, in terms of tobacco and steroids – the hearings on steroid use in baseball and the AIDS hearings – the orphan drugs – the Clean Air Act. All of those are good solid accomplishments.
BUT – there’s a reason that the Founding Fathers have the House serve two-year terms and have an election every two years – because the House is supposed to represent the needs of the public in the immediate term. And the immediate term is the thing I want to address. I’m not going to live to stay 38 years there. But all I can say is I support the causes. I think my record speaks for itself. You won’t find me supporting any of those causes you’re talking in terms of that were traditional Republican positions of the last however many years. I guess that’s all I can say.
Remember, I’m a private citizen trying to make a difference. I certainly don’t mean to tell anybody yeah, I’ve tried to tackle every single ill in our society. I haven’t.
I would argue that I’m in a better position to negotiate with both sides if these issues come up, as they come up. I think I’m in a better position to represent the LGBT community, perhaps, than Congressman Waxman – only because I’m not perceived to be as such a hyper-partisan person. I mean – you talk about somebody who’s voted with his party over 99% of he time over the last four years. That’s not going to get him a lot of traction with the other side, with the Republicans.
The fact is we have a 50-50 country – we’re going to have a 50-50 country after this election. And if we’re going to put things going forward, we’re going to have to do what we can to bridge the divide to come up with win-win solutions. Because, as I said, a weak economy is going to hurt everyone. And certainly, I wouldn’t let anything go through – if there’s anything I can do about it – that is anything like pushing backwards. I will try to do what I can to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ve got some work to do amongst the Republicans.
Bloomfield pointed out that he does not take any PAC money – “I don’t want to have to heed to anybody’s agenda, other than the United States of America. So no one has any influence on me … I know what I believe and I’m beholden to no one but me, the Constitution, the Oat of Office, the American public.”
But what if one of his individual contributors was known to be antigay, who publicly supported Prop 8, for instance.
“If I knew it, I would return [the contribution], absolutely. And I would tell him that I don’t want his endorsement,” Bloomfield said, though he noted he does not have the manpower to go through ever contribution to figure that out. However, “if it was somebody prominent – somebody who was going to cause people to think I believe a way I don’t – then I would reject it. I wouldn’t want any people who are prominently known for supporting Proposition 8 or for things like that. Heavens, no.”
Waxman’s campaign, however, has a whole website devoted to exposing Bloomfield as Republican-like and as someone who has “since 1995, donated more than $2,000,000 to Repbulican (sic) candidates and conservative causes.” The website specifically cites donations in 2011 to GOP leaders including Speaker John Boehner and Mitt Romney. Bloomfield:
I re-registered in March 2011. By then, I had given a check to Romney and I finished another check to Romney in April of 2011. And the reason I did that, was because I thought he was the most moderate Republican running. For that reason only. I remember Gov. Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts and how moderate he was on social issues, etc. Summer of 2011, I was no longer supporting him and I wrote a check to Gov. [Jon] Huntsman, who I thought then was the most moderate Republican running. When Go. Huntsman dropped out, I didn’t support anyone.
Now a year before, in 2010, I had supported Chris Kelly – who I thought was the best candidate – a Democrat – for Attorney General. Simultaneously, I was supporting Steve Cooley, who I thought was the best Republican candidate for Attorney General. So the fact that I support someone in a primary – about whether it has anything to do with the general election – they’re different things for me. But that is the fact and that is the record. And I’m not endorsing for the presidential level.
The reason I stopped supporting Romney was because of his social stances. I mean you watch how far right he got in the Republican primaries in 2011 and it was nauseating.
In February, before I re-registered, I had been invited to hear and meet with Speaker Boehner. Now Speaker Boehner is the third most powerful person in the country, third in line to the president. And I said, sure it would be nice to meet with Boehner. I particularly wanted to talk to him about what I had hoped would be his support for President Obama’s deficit reduction commission recommendations in January. So in February I agreed to go. The event was in March 2011, it was two weeks after I re-registered. You don’t just get a chance to meet and talk to the Speaker of the House if you live in California – you don’t get to do it for free. You have to write a check. I did not write a check to support the Republican Party, to support the Republicans in Congress. I wrote a check because that’s what you have to do in order to meet with and talk to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Also in February, coincidentally, Sen. McCain and Cindy McCain were coming out and I wanted to meet with them and my mother said she wanted to meet Cindy McCain, who she never met. I, of course, knew Sen. McCain because I was on the McCain campaign several years before. So I wrote a check to meet with the McCains and that event took place in March. The purpose was not to support the Republican Senatorial Committee – turns out I didn’t realize that Sen. McConnell was going to be there. I chewed him out at the meeting, for what it’s worth.
But that’s what that was. And if that makes me guilty of something – I guess I’m guilty but as I said in the debate, it’s in the area of ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ I have never changed my ideology.
Bloomfield responded to Waxman’s charge that he has spent $2 million dollars for conservative causes:
Well no. The vast majority of the money they’re talking about was to support open primaries and redistricting reform – and you know what? That’s not liberal; that’s not conservative. That’s just good government….But you’ll never find in my record that I supported a social conservative cause. Yes, there were candidates that had social positions that I violently disagreed with. And when someone says, ‘Well that should have been the most important issue than the fiscal side and the other reasons.’ Well, OK. I’m not saying I’m right or wrong. I am what I am. …I started with the Republican Party when the social side wasn’t there. You recall – Barry Goldwater at the end of his life – he never understood any of that. [He asked:] ‘What in the world is going on?’
Goldwater and now Bloomfield are not the only ones asking “What’s going on?” We’ll probably still be asking after the elections.