November 1, 2000
In California's 27th district, Republican incumbent and House Impeachment Manager Jim Rogan is in the middle of an uphill battle to win reelection. Kwame Holman reports from California.
KWAME HOLMAN: By this point in the election year, Republican Congressman James Rogan hoped to be back in his southern California district, campaigning full-time for a third term.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: We'll be here on... For votes Tuesday and Wednesday, so we're just going to have to redo the schedule.
|An uphill battle for reelection|
KWAME HOLMAN: Instead, Rogan and all the other members of Congress were stuck in Washington, trying to get agreement with the White House on spending bills for the new fiscal year that's already a month old.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at the end of the day, my constituents will appreciate the fact that I'm sacrificing campaign time to be back here doing the job that they sent me to do.
KWAME HOLMAN: Unlike the vast majority of his House colleagues, Rogan actually is in a tough fight for reelection. But it's a position he's used to. The Republican barely squeaked by in his last two races in a district that's become more and more Democratic. Its population includes growing numbers of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans who are moving into the cities of Pasadena, Burbank, and Glendale, north of Los Angeles.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: I've always won in a heavily minority-populated district because African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans in my district, Armenian-Americans, all know that I care about the issues that are affecting their community because I come from a community like that. I was a kid that grew up in a welfare and food stamp house raised by a single mom on welfare and food stamps in the mission district of San Francisco.
KWAME HOLMAN: Still, Democrats are targeting Rogan again, in a year when they need only a handful of new Democratic seats to recapture control of the House of Representatives.
SPOKESPERSON: Thank you very much.
KWAME HOLMAN: Rogan's opponent, Democrat Adam Schiff, has been campaigning full time. As a state senator, Schiff represents in the California legislature the same constituents Rogan does in Congress.
ADAM SCHIFF: I work in a bipartisan way in the state legislature. There is a great desire for that kind of leadership in Congress, and I think people in the community really want someone who is much more reflective of the priorities and the values of this district than what we've had in Congress so far.
CONSITUTENT: You've got our vote.
|Courting the Armenian vote|
KWAME HOLMAN: Though Schiff won't mention it unless asked, an undercurrent in this campaign is what Rogan was involved in for a good part of his second term in office.
MAN: Mr. Chief Justice...
KWAME HOLMAN: Rogan's role as one of 13 prosecutors in the impeachment trial of President Clinton made him a national figure. His campaign donor list grew from 3,000 to more than 50,000 people from 46 states. It is estimated Rogan will have raised and spent more than $6 million by election day. Nonetheless, the race for this congressional seat has been sharply contested for the last year and a half.
WOMAN: How are you?
WOMAN: Oh, I've been working for you.
KWAME HOLMAN: That's in part because Adam Schiff also is well financed. He has strong backing from the entertainment industry, and from people around the country who opposed President Clinton's impeachment. Together, it's estimated the Schiff and Rogan campaigns will surpass the $12 million, making it the most expensive House race in history. And with money to spend, the campaigns have saturated the expensive Los Angeles media market with television ads.
MAN: Adam Schiff voted to raise your car taxes by 850 million dollars.
MAN: Rogan voted against banning assault weapons and against banning Saturday night specials.
WOMAN: What we can do is put this around here.
KWAME HOLMAN: As a result, the two candidates are well known among residents of this congressional district. At the YWCA Street Fair in Pasadena a week and a half ago, voters we talked to said Rogan's impeachment role would be a factor in their choice. Alberta McBride is a retired schoolteacher.
ALBERT McBRIDE: I guess one of the things that turned me off of him was the impeachment, and his role. I felt he was a little unnecessarily vindictive.
KWAME HOLMAN: Roger Milton is a former police officer.
ROGER MILTON: I was very impressed with his talks about the impeachment hearings that I watched on TV quite a bit, and the thing that most impressed me was his take on the moral issues and the legal issues involved with politicians.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Democrat Schiff says Rogan has problems beyond his impeachment role.
ADAM SCHIFF: Even before the impeachment, Jim Rogan was in trouble in this district. He's never gotten more than 50% of the vote, and I think he has ignored the most important premise there is, that this job of representation is a job of bringing service to one's community, working in a bipartisan way to confront the national priorities, and he's lost sight of that.
KWAME HOLMAN: Chuck Sambar's family normally would be considered likely Rogan supporters. He's a lifelong Republican and Glendale school board member. But the family had a costly dispute with their HMO, and now its five members are unhappy about Rogan's opposition to a bipartisan HMO reform bill. Rogan supported a Republican version of the so-called Patients' Bill of Rights that limited a patient's right to sue an HMO.
CHUCK SAMBAR: His lack of support for that bill was a key in my change in position. I felt he could have lent his support to that bipartisan bill, and he did not.
KWAME HOLMAN: But former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian, a longtime friend of Rogan's, says the Congressman has addressed other issues important to his constituents.
MAYOR LARRY ZARIAN: Education is of utmost importance to him. When we talk about the lockbox for Social Security, he is a champion of that, and philosophically conservative, making sure that we don't overspend our bounds. And he believes truly that the citizens ought to have the right to make a lot of the decisions locally, rather than Washington deciding for the people in this area or across the country.
KWAME HOLMAN: Zarian says Rogan is a victim of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign funded by Schiff and the National Democratic Party.
MAYOR LARRY ZARIAN: I must tell you, for all of the people that are pouring money to defeat Jim Rogan, they don't want this district. They don't want the 27th Congressional District. They are interested in Jim Rogan. They want him out of Congress because he has a bright future, he is a fighter, a person that can speak, a person that stands for what is right in this country, and a person that is there to protect the constitution. That's why I'm supporting him.
|A blizzard of independent expenditures|
KWAME HOLMAN: But Rogan is getting outside help as well. The Republican Party has paid for Rogan ads. So have issue advocacy groups such as Citizens for Better Medicare.
AD SPOKESMAN: Congressman Jim Rogan is working to strengthen Medicare and provide a prescription drug benefit so all seniors can get the medicines they need.
MAN: There has been a...just a blizzard of independent expenditures in the last few weeks. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, has embarked on what looks like a multimillion-dollar campaign on Mr. Rogan's behalf because he voted against prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare. And people are being hit with this, and I do think it's having a negative effect, in that people are kind of bewildered. Where is all this money coming from? Who are these people masquerading as citizens for better Medicare?
KWAME HOLMAN: Chuck Sambar agrees.
CHUCK SAMBAR: I think that the electorate here are being whipsawed by every extremist group coming in here telling us how to vote. I am not interested in that, and that should not happen in a congressional election.
KWAME HOLMAN: Both campaigns say internal polls show a very tight race. And so it surprised no one that Rogan, stuck in Washington, exercised his legislative prerogative and tried to strike a blow for a large bloc of his constituency. The City of Glendale is home to the largest Armenian-American population in the country. They make up nearly 15 percent of the electorate in Glendale.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: Mr. Speaker, good morning. How are you?
KWAME HOLMAN: From his office on Capitol Hill 12 days ago, Rogan pushed for a non-binding resolution that would have recognized as genocide the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians that took place under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. But under heavy protest from the Turkish government, President Clinton intervened to derail the resolution. Turkey, a NATO ally, allows the United States to use its bases to fly patrols over Iraq. Ultimately succumbing to President Clinton's plea, House Speaker Dennis Hastert backed off his original support for the genocide resolution and pulled it from consideration.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: You and my mom would get along.
WOMAN: Oh, I'm sure. (Laughs)
KWAME HOLMAN: Two days later, when Rogan finally got back home to campaign briefly, he still was unhappy about the upending of his resolution.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: I don't appreciate-- and many colleagues on both sides don't appreciate that fact that the current government of Turkey was using blackmail and threats against their friend and ally to keep this from coming to the floor. And the most unfortunate thing of all is that the President of the United States was a willing pawn in that blackmail.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Adam Schiff insists Rogan's support for the Armenian resolution was purely political.
ADAM SCHIFF: I think that everyone has acknowledged, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, that but for Mr. Rogan being behind in the polls, he would not be pushing this, and I think that's caused a lot of chagrin in the Armenian community in this district. Rogan's been there four years. Why didn't he bring up the resolution the first year or the second year or the third year? Why only now, a few weeks before the election?
KWAME HOLMAN: As Rogan comes into the final days of his campaign cut short by events in Washington, he understands his impeachment role will work against him with some of his constituents. But he's hoping most voters will judge him on his entire record in Congress.
REP. JAMES ROGAN: I'm an old DA; I'm an old trial lawyer. I learned after you argue your case to the jury, you've got to hand it to the jury, and it doesn't belong to you any more. It belongs to them. At 8:00 on November 7, I'm handing this case to the jury, and they own it then.
KWAME HOLMAN: This is one of a handful of too-close-to-call races in California that could end up determining which party controls the next House of Representatives. The races are so close, the winners might not be known until the early morning hours after election day.