Bob Rush, right, addresses a question during a Feet to the Fire forum in Costa Mesa in April. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / April 5, 2012)

Amid the bluster and noise of election season, and with Nov. 6 approaching like a bullet train, Newport Beach businessman Bob Rush managed to find some quiet.

"In a nutshell, everybody's quiet," he said earlier this month. "I think everybody's been burned out from the primary."

Rush is a Democratic candidate for the 74th Assembly District, running against current 68th District Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, a Costa Mesa Republican who was redistricted into the 74th. The GOP-heavy territory serves Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods and Huntington Beach.

Rush surprised political observers by knocking out Newport Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, a Republican, in the new "top-two" primary system. Rush took 32.8% of the vote to Daigle's 23.8%. Mansoor, benefiting from the name recognition that comes with incumbency, grabbed 43.5%.

After the primary, Rush spent a few months largely under the political radar. He said he took a break for most of June and July. In mid-August, the sudden death of his fiancee's brother kept Rush off the campaign for a few more weeks, just as his "whole media blitz" was supposed to start.

"[The campaign] has been moving along," he said, although, "it was not quite the explosion that we wanted."

Daigle has questioned the sincerity of Rush's campaign since the beginning, calling it a sham aimed at handing the highly conservative Mansoor a victory.

"Bob Rush is the unhappiest person in Newport Beach, and a gadfly whose candidacy was never serious, never constructive and a mockery of the election process," she wrote in an email.

Rush, a commercial real estate broker, has never held public office. He made something of a name for himself in the political arena as a Newport council critic, with a particular focus on the city's handling of recovery homes. He's also been active in the West Newport Assn. Recently, Rush has opposed Newport Beach's Measure EE, which would make a series of amendment's to Newport's city charter.

A fiscal conservative and social progressive, he's been criticized for changing his voter registration from "decline to state" to Democratic shortly before the campaign and admitted in a candidates forum to voting for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the last presidential election.


Centrist who can compromise

Rush's campaign was largely financed by a personal loan of about $100,000. His campaign manager, former Laguna Beach Mayor Paul Freeman, said the local Democratic establishment has "missed an opportunity" by not investing much in the race.

"I think in the primary, people could discount [Rush's] chances, because he was brand new and it's a significantly Republican district," Freeman said. But, he said, after Rush's strong primary showing, "why the party leadership has not rushed to embrace this guy is beyond me."

Rush says his status as a centrist focusing on fiscal responsibility would allow him to compromise with Democrats in a way a Republican occupying the seat wouldn't.

While the Orange County Democratic Party's website lists Rush for the group's official 74th District endorsement, Chairman Frank Barbaro said he's been more focused on other local races.

Although he wasn't in town for the 74th District endorsement discussions, he said, "I can't think of a tougher race in Orange County for a Democrat."

"We're hopeful we'll do well against Mansoor," Barbaro said. "I think Mansoor has been his own worst enemy over the years, but he has the registration."

He said Mansoor may have hurt himself with his involvement in Costa Mesa's divisive Measure V, which would establish a city charter.

Mansoor, for his part, seems to have reserved his sharpest barbs for Daigle, a more moderate Republican, rather than Rush. The top story on his campaign website is one from June debunking "Leslie Daigle's Bogus Claims."