A Chapman History Professor is Running for Congress

Liam O’Mara has an entire page on his website dedicated to his beard. Photo courtesy of Liam O’Mara for Congress.

 

A self-described outsider and “unabashedly a progressive” Chapman adjunct professor is throwing his hat into the ring for California’s 42nd District congressional race.

The campaign platform of William “Liam” O’Mara IV, a 44-year old professor in the history department emphasizes an “economic populist message.” Medicare for all, paid family and maternity leave and raising the minimum wage to $15 are among his top issues.

“Democratic politicians tend to emphasize those issues in moral terms, and they focus on how it’s just a better thing to do for people,” said O’Mara. “I want to emphasize the economic good that comes from it, because I think that these policies could be broadly appealing to Americans of all political backgrounds.”

The 42nd District, part of Riverside County, includes Corona, Lake Elsinore, and Murrieta. It is considered an “R+9” district by the Cook Partisan Voting Index’s 2017 data, which means that the district leans more conservative compared to the rest of the nation. The seat is currently occupied by Republican Kenneth Calvert, who has been in office since 1993.

A spokesperson for Calvert in an email to Prowl said that the congressman has no comment regarding O’Mara’s campaign.

People “are hungering for a bit more realness and authenticity from politicians,” said O’Mara, who wants to bring more integrity to elections.

“Trump’s completely unscripted streams of gibberish kind of appeal to people because he seems like an ordinary, relatable person. He’s not just reading the script,” O’Mara said. “People weren’t turned off by that…so maybe people would take me seriously in politics, like why not try?”

O’Mara considered a run in 2018, but decided to hold off.

The only other Democrat running as of April 15, Julia Peacock, ran against Calvert in the midterms, winning 43.5% to Calvert’s 56.5% slab of voters.

She said she was motivated to run after Donald Trump was elected president, and while she declined to address O’Mara’s campaign, she argued that she is the better candidate.

“I realized I had not used my privilege to its full potential…My commitment to this community, win or lose, sets me apart from every contender, including the 26-year incumbent,” Peacock wrote in an email to Prowl.

O’Mara’s focus now is on beating Peacock, a public school teacher with a strong public-education platform, in the March 2020 primary. He said he recognizes that he has to “considerably leave [Peacock] behind in the primary to secure the level of funding needed” to face Calvert in the general election, by becoming one of the top two vote getters in the primary.

While he is not accepting money from super PACs, O’Mara does not have a problem with receiving money from regular PACs.

PACs, or political action committees, are groups that can donate a specific amount of money directly to a campaign from individual contributions. Super PACs cannot have ties to a candidate, but can spend unlimited amounts of money to run ads supporting a candidate’s platform.

O’Mara said that he has raised about $10,000 from people who already know him, which does not include money from any PACs, unions, or constituents.

Television ads and billboards are a “complete waste of money,” in O’Mara’s opinion. He plans to spend the money he raises on paying canvassers to knock on doors.

Raising money is O’Mara’s biggest challenge, but he also acknowledges he lacks visibility and needs to get to know more people in his district.

Peacock endorses women’s rights to reproductive choice, campaign finance and gun reform legislation, and full funding for public schools and tuition-free college. She has pledged to protect Dreamers and work for immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. How, exactly, does her platform differ from O’Mara’s?

O’Mara concedes his platform does not differ much from Peacock’s, but says his focus on “basic kitchen table issues”  such as health care, will help win over voters in the conservative district.

Peacock also supports Medicare for all.

Health care is considered a top issue for voters going into 2020 according to a recent CNN survey, but support for Medicare for All has decreased while support for Medicare buy-ins have increased in the past year states a Quinnipiac University poll.

“Every time you take these sort of half measures,” O’Mara said about buy-ins, “all you’re doing is you’re providing more of a handout to a kind of pointless middlemen and insurance companies.”

However, the notion of universal health care is still a tough sell.

“People do say, ‘Oh you’re crazy socialist,’ and I will run into lots of people out there that make those kind of arguments. I’m going to have to engage on the substance of what socialism means,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara believes his experience as an educator – including his Chapman experience – will be a boon to his campaign.

“Having to learn how to boil down complex concepts into just a few minutes and communicating them effectively to students can probably be an advantage in boiling down complex issues in legislation,” said O’Mara.

O’Mara has received positive reactions to his run from the Chapman community.

“Liam is better able to see the deeper reasons behind some of our enduring problems like income inequality, racial discord, and difficulties in gaining full access to health care,” Gregory Daddis, the director of the master’s program in war and society, wrote in an email to Prowl.

Alex Bay, a sophomore kinesiology major and former student of O’Mara, says that his former professor’s background may aid him in his candidacy.

“He’s very educated on the world and has traveler to a variety of different place,” Bay said. “I feel like maybe his experiences through his travels and engagement with different cultures could be applied to his field of work.”

O’Mara does not want to give up teaching entirely if he wins. Though he fears for the world his students will inherit, he is hopeful for the future.

“It’s tempting sometimes for a lot of people to look around and say the world is full of sexism and violence and racism and all this bigotry,” said O’Mara, “But it’s nothing like what it was when I was a kid – and that is down to each new generation of younger people saying ‘we will not take this crap anymore.’”

Alya Hijazi

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