Openly gay West Hollywood environment attorney Brad Torgan, a Republican, thinks he’s a “pretty good fit” for the new 50th Assembly District. Under the new open primary law, the top two vote-getters in the June 5 Primary face off in November. Torgan thinks he’s got a shot at being one of the two against Democratic rivals Assemblymember Betsy Butler, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and lesbian community organizer Torie Osborn.
“If you think everything is fine in Sacramento, then don’t vote for Brad Torgan—vote for Butler, Bloom or Osborn. They’re three peas in a pod. But if you worry about how the state is going to meet its commitments, if you think Californians deserve a better government than the one we have, then vote for Brad Torgan,” community organizer and public affairs consultant Scott Schmidt told Frontiers via email. Schmidt is also the former president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a position Torgan now holds.
To an outsider, his participation in the race for the 50th A.D. seat looks like a Republican stalwart refusing to concede the district to the Democrats. According to the website Around the Capitol, the 50th A.D. is 52.8 percent Democratic, 19 percent Republican and 23.4 percent ‘decline to state.’ Torgan notes that before redistricting, in the old 42nd A.D., the ‘decline to state’ voters often voted with Republicans, as did what used to be called Reagan Democrats.
Additionally, Torgan told Frontiers, when looking at the old 42nd A.D. over the last decade, “the Republican candidate for Assembly in the general election always got a higher percentage than the Republican registration in the district.”
A native Angeleno, Torgan grew up “with the Santa Monica Mountains at his backdoor,” and therefore learned early on about the necessity for protecting natural and recreational resources. After graduating from Duke University, where he majored in Public Policy Studies, he earned a Masters of Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina before becoming a lawyer. Now, in private practice, Torgan “specializes in assisting property owners to comply with California’s myriad and complex maze of environmental regulations,” according to his campaign website. From 2005-2008, he was general counsel for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, where he fought to preserve state parks as a “public trust” for all Californians.
Torgan said, “While I was at State Parks, I litigated on behalf of the department to keep San Diego Gas & Electric Co. from bisecting Anza Borrego Desert State Park and state wilderness with a 500 kV transmission line, forcing them to take a different route.”
“I think I’m a pretty good fit for this district,” Torgan said. “I’m fiscally and socially moderate and I have a wicked environmental streak, having grown up in the Santa Monica Mountains. That’s a pretty good fit for the 50th A.D.”
In a sign of remarkable progress, Torgan said the party approached him about running.
“When I started looking at the race early last summer before redistricting, when it was still the 42nd A.D., and some people in party leadership asked me to look at the race, all I saw were people who didn’t hold the political values I hold,” Torgan told Frontiers. “My core values are limited government, fiscal restraint and civil liberties—and I didn’t see any of that. I came to a conclusion, after a fashion, that if I wasn’t willing to put myself out there, then I was telling my opponents that I was surrendering and I didn’t think I could win in the marketplace of ideas. And I’m not willing to concede that. And at least as far as the primary goes—this whole Prop. 14 (the top two and the open primary) world just creates a whole new paradigm and a whole new dynamic, which, at least in the primaries, makes Republican values and Republican candidates relevant.”
But a Republican in progressive, Democratic stronghold at a time when the Republican Party seems under the sway of strident anti-gay, anti-women Tea Party extremists? How can women voters in particular believe in the “core principles” of limited government when the GOP seems bent on having government insert itself into women’s most private decisions?
“I think slowly the party is moving towards a position of social moderation or social silence,” Torgan said. “But frankly, I agree. I look at everything through the prism of limited government. Does a particular policy or position advance that cause? And if it doesn’t, is there some compelling reason to override it?
“I’ll focus on choice,” Torgan continued. “I come from a default position that all life has value. But when I look at the issue of reproductive rights through that prism of limited government, that decision a woman makes as to her health care—I’m a guy. I’m not even sure I know how to describe that most gut-wrenching decision a woman might ever have to make. And the government should not expand its powers to interfere in that decision.
“This past January, I found myself in the health care market looking for new insurance,” Torgan said. “And I was really frustrated by how limited my choices were. And most of those limitations were a result of government regulation and government interference. Well, if I was that upset over what in the scheme of things is far less important and wanted the government out of my decision-making process, I certainly don’t want to insert it into somebody else’s decision-making process.”