November 13, 2017

MELBOURNE—In a rare opportunity for Americans living overseas to hear directly from a congressional candidate challenging an incumbent, the Victorian chapter of Democrats Abroad Australia (DAA) earlier tonight hosted Brian Forde, a Democratic candidate running for the U.S. House of Representatives in California’s 45th Congressional District for an hour-long discussion on several hot-topic issues. Less than an hour’s drive southeast of Los Angeles, the 45th District includes the Irvine, Tustin, and Mission Viejo urban centers along with several other notable Orange County communities.

Forde, a former senior White House official specializing in telecommunications and technology issues, is one of a handful of Democrats running in 2018 to oust the Republican incumbent, Rep. Mimi Walters. Mr. Forde joined DAA-Victoria during his visit to Australia.

The DAA-Victoria Chair, Thomas Lopez, welcomed Forde to Melbourne and offered gratitude for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with local Democrats. Other members also expressed appreciation for Forde’s willingness to learn more about the concerns of Americans living abroad.

With a robust discussion on how lawmakers could be doing more to include, monitor, test, and utilize information technology (IT), Forde spoke at length on his vision for the next Congress to consider more the role of IT in crafting U.S. policy. According to Mr. Forde, “People think autonomous vehicles are science fiction. In reality, the IT wave is already here, it’s happening now. Practically every aspect of modern life includes technology whether it’s the exponential increase of drone usage or analyzing algorithms of systems determining if a parolee is likely to fall into biased recidivism monitoring.”

Forde was asked by DAA members how his candidacy differs compared to the other Democrats running for the CA-45 seat. “I think I bring diversity in several ways. For instance, the average age of a member of Congress is 72. I bring youth, enthusiasm, expertise in the IT sector, the living abroad experience, and I’m the only candidate who has significant business experience that can relate to the everyday American worker -- something incredibly important in my district as there are many small business owners and operators.” Forde continued, “If I have the privilege of being elected, I’d love to serve on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, or the Education and the Workforce Committee to become more involved in promoting S.T.E.M. [science, technology, education and mathematics] education.”

Not all conversation was IT-infused. DAA member Josh Bendat, a local university student, stated, “I’m really glad Brian spoke about gun violence in America. This is a conversation that needs to keep happening until Congress does something about it. Brian said he’d receive an 'F' from the NRA [National Rifle Association]. And it was interesting to hear about California’s firearms database compared to other states.”

After the meeting, Chair Lopez offered his thoughts. “Brian is a formidable congressional candidate. He certainly brings a unique perspective to the race from his time in the White House and living in different countries, not to mention his business-related experience. We were fortunate to have Brian willing to speak to us especially since congressional candidates don’t often take time away from their busy campaigns to speak to their overseas constituents. I’m confident that our members in Victoria who vote in California’s 45th District will consider Brian’s and other candidates’ credentials and vote accordingly,” Lopez stated.

According to the Election Assistance Commission, the state of California led the nation in voting by mail in 2016, with absentee ballots representing more than 50 percent of the total ballots cast there.

CA-45’s incumbent, Rep. Walters, most recently won re-election but district voters favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Rep. Walters has also battled ethics inquiries in the past during her time in the state legislature, and since her time in Congress has received petitions calling for her to hold in-person town halls with constituents. Her voting record has been closely watched and has received even more scrutiny after her unpopular May vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Many political experts and observers view this seat as completely “flippable” in Democrats taking back the House of Representatives if voter outreach and resources are readily made available. Indeed, Democrats have targeted Walters’ seat and intend on hammering the congresswoman for her pro-Trump agenda voting record.

As California’s election primary is still several months away, as a standard policy, Democrats Abroad does not endorse any candidate when there is more than one Democrat running in the same race for any U.S.-based elected office as per its by-laws, thereby giving every Democratic candidate an equal opportunity to campaign on a level playing field.

FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY: To learn more about Brian Forde and his campaign, see here.

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Democrats Abroad is the official arm of the U.S. Democratic Party for Americans residing outside of U.S. states and territories. The Victoria chapter of Democrats Abroad Australia is an active and dedicated group of members whose primary focus is exercising their right to vote from abroad and electing Democratic candidates, in addition to raising awareness of and advocating for issues that concern Americans living abroad.

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