Democrats demand equal time from Palmdale Chamber
Cong. McKeon invited to speak, but not challenger Roger
A group of local Democrats is demanding that Democratic congressional candidate Lee Rogers be given equal time to address the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce membership at a specially scheduled luncheon where Republican Congressman Howard P. Buck McKeon is the invited speaker, said a press release sent out Monday.
The release said that the chamber’s regularly scheduled luncheon is always the third Wednesday of the month, “but this legislative update is being held a week prior in order to accommodate the congressman’s schedule, one that has kept him from addressing the business community until a few weeks prior to the Nov. 6th election.”
“This luncheon smacks of a political infomercial for Congressman McKeon,” said Johnathon Ervin, president of the Democratic Club of the High Desert, according to the release. “If both candidates are not invited to speak on sequestration or other bills that impact the local economy, it appears that the Palmdale Chamber is making a de facto endorsement of the congressman, and that’s not fair.”
“And I have to wonder what extent the chamber’s new CEO Jeff McElfresh played, as he was McKeon’s former field rep until a few months ago,” Ervin continued.
In response, McElfresh referred a reporter to an Oct. 9 memo, presumably sent to those questioning why Rogers was not invited, stating that McKeon would deliver a legislative update to the chamber.
The chamber “has decided to not offer the opportunity for Dr. Lee Rogers to speak at this luncheon because, Dr. Rogers cannot provide a current legislative update as it pertains to representing Palmdale or as it pertains to the House Armed Service Committee since he is not currently the elected official that represents Palmdale and its economic interests,” the memo stated. “Dr. Rogers is an accomplished podiatrist and author and has helped a countless number of people in his field. As the schedule permits, the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce is and has always been, open to allowing Dr. Rogers the opportunity to educate members in his field of expertise, which at this moment, is medicine. If the time comes that Dr. Rogers is the current elected representative for Palmdale and the surrounding area, the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce will be glad to host an update from him.”
The memo also said, “As part of the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce mission, these luncheons are intended to promote and serve business, industry and community.”
However, the press release pointed out that past chamber president and first mayor of Palmdale Larry Chimbole had expressed disappointment that the Palmdale Chamber had decided to enter the political arena by inviting one candidate and not the other. Chimbole reportedly recalled that the chamber had “a rich history and tradition of offering its membership a choice and presenting both sides.”
The release also said another past chamber president, Sandy Corrales-Eneix, who had spoken with Chamber President Frank Garcia and McElfresh to explain how inappropriate this invitation was seen in the eyes of its members and community leaders, some of whom have registered their complaints with the chamber and through Corrales-Eneix. “I tried to explain that this political interference would not serve the chamber well in the long run, and that members were questioning the chamber’s integrity and fairness,” Corrales-Eneix said.
“I even offered a delicate solution—have the congressman speak at this special Oct. 11 luncheon, and then have Dr. Lee Rogers speak at its regular Oct. 17 luncheon,” Corrales-Eneix explained. “I haven’t heard back from the chamber, but I hope they take this solution under consideration and pursue it.”