Former President Bill Clinton endorsed State Senator Alan Lowenthal on Tuesday night for the new 47th Congressional District that straddles Orange County and Long Beach, stoking an already heated race.
Clinton, who appeared at UC Irvine during a rally to endorse five Democratic congressional candidates from across Southern California, urged the audience of nearly 5,000 to support Lowenthal in a bid to help Democrats take control of the House.
Clinton directly attacked Lowenthal’s Republican opponent, Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, on the environment while praising Lowenthal’s accomplishments.
"He is not just the chairman of the Senate Education Committee," Clinton said of Lowenthal. "He helped make the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles among the greenest and cleanest in the entire world and proved it's good economics."
Lowenthal played a significant role in a 65-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the ports, Clinton said.
The former president also knocked Lowenthal's Republican challenger for doubting the scientific evidence behind climate change.
"It's really a very big deal," Clinton said. "There is no other country in the world with a major political party that denies the reality of climate change."
"[Lowenthal] will wave the port of Long Beach and Los Angeles like a flag in Congress until they do something serious about climate change," Clinton said.
Lowenthal, who said Clinton is "probably one of the most respected and revered" people in America, called being endorsed by Clinton in person "exhilarating."
Clinton told the congressional candidate he also believes greening the ports and encouraging economic development are not incompatible goals, Lowenthal said.
"I think that's a wonderful message to bring to the rest of the nation," the state senator said.
The race has been heated in recent weeks. The 47th seat, like several others in California, has become a political ground war by both national parties, who want control of the U.S. House of Representatives. And both parties and their respective financial machines have announced some level of role and support in the race.
After Clinton's endorsement of Lowenthal Tuesday night, DeLong e-mailed a response to a request for comment, quipping, "As the last President to balance the budget, if Bill Clinton were fully aware of Alan Lowenthal's record of over-taxing and deficit spending, he would likely endorse me for Congress.”
Lowenthal has decried outside money injected into the race by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but DeLong has pointed to it as a sign of his strong candidacy.
Lowenthal and DeLong were the top vote-getters in a eight-candidate primary race June 5. Lowenthal garnered 34 percent of the vote to DeLong’s 29 percent.
The 47th Congressional District was created by the redistricting process and includes the cities of Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and other West Orange County cities.
Voter registration in the district skews Democratic by about 10 percent.
While the district has more Democratic than Republican registered voters, it also has a sizable share of Independent Party voters, at least 25 percent prior to a last-minute surge of registrations before Monday's Oct. 22 deadline. And from Orange County, there are a decent number of Tea Party members as well. DeLong has been endorsed by Ryan, a Tea Party favorite.
But the Orange County electorate is more dynamic than people think, said Lownethal.
In addressing the crowd, the state senator praised the changing demographics of Orange County.
"We are changing the face of Orange County," Lowenthal said. "Orange County is no longer just white people."
He urged voters to help the Democrats take over the House and re-elect Obama.