While Democratic candidates continue to test for the best recipe to appeal to the wage-stagnant and under-employed segment of the middle class, few have made job training a campaign centerpiece the way Laguna Beach’s Michael Kotick has.
“When it costs $25 an hour to afford rent, I don’t know why we’re talking about a $15-an-hour minimum wage,” said the 34-year-old, who stepped down in May from his post as a marketing director with Nestle to focus full time on his bid to unseat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa. He is one of seven Democrats in the race.
Kotick does support increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. But he also cites statistics from the county Workforce Indicators Report and Community Indicators study to argue that hiking the minimum wage is not the ultimate solution for Orange County. He points out that 22 percent of the county lives below the poverty line and the demand for workers with mid-level skills is outpacing supply.
A key part of the answer for both workers and employers is more accessible and affordable “self-guiding certification courses” and more on-the-job training, Kotick says.
How well that message resounds in Rohrabacher’s 48th Congressional District — which reaches from Laguna Beach to Seal Beach — remains to be seen.
Of adults 25 and older in the district, 44.3 percent have bachelor’s degrees, according to 2015 census estimates. While that leaves more than half the distric’s adults without a college degree, the only congressional district in the county that is better educated is Republican Mimi Walter’s, where 55 percent have degrees. Walter’s 45th Congressional District reaches from Mission Viejo to Anaheim Hills and includes Irvine, the most educated of the county’s largest cities.
The county’s other four congressional districts have fewer adults with degrees than the 48th, with the central county district of Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, ranking last at 17 percent. Rohrabacher’s district also has the county’s second highest median household income at $83,000.
Of Rohrabacher’s nine challengers — including a Republican and a Libertarian — the two to put in the strongest early showing in fundraising have been businessman Harley Rouda, with $319,000 raised through the June 30 filing period, and pioneering stem-cell biologist Hans Keirstead, who entered the race just two weeks before the filing deadline and reported raising $139,000 in that time. Both are…