|Companies to Include in Boycott of Israel|
But they clashed repeatedly when it came to the topic of the night: Israel and the Palestinian people.
Seated left and right of fellow party candidates Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen at the Democrats for Israel-sponsored confab Wednesday at the Hermosa Beach Community Center, Winograd and Adler weren't shy about speaking their minds about continuing strife in Israel, a staunch U.S. ally.
Winograd, one of 16 candidates running to succeed former Rep. Jane Harman in the South Bay's 36th Congressional District, characterized the plight of Palestinians in Israel as an occupation akin to apartheid, the system of segregation and discrimination perpetuated against native Africans by the government of South Africa from 1948 to 1993.
Adler, a producer and former vice president at Walt Disney Imagineering, said he travels often to Israel for personal, business and charitable trips. He disagreed with Winograd's assessment.
"And before Ms. Winograd jumps in and begins to explain the difference, let me point out that Israel has 1.5 million Arab citizens," Adler said.
He highlighted the right of those citizens to vote and run for office. "That is not an apartheid state," he said.
"I support boycott, divestment and sanctions in regards to companies that profit off the Israeli occupation," Winograd responded, "and Dan, I take issue with you, it is an occupation."
It's unlikely that views on Israel will decide the outcome of the race for the Democratic-leaning Venice-to-San Pedro district, which includes the beach cities and Torrance.
It did, however, make for an energetic debate - with Adler positioning himself slightly hawkish on Israel, and Winograd, a high school teacher who took 41 percent of the vote in last June's primary against Harman, standing at her trademark far left. Both candidates are Jewish.
Hahn, a Los Angeles city councilwoman, and Bowen, the California secretary of state, straddled the political middle of seasoned politicians during the debate moderated by NBC4 reporter Conan Nolan.
"I am a friend of Israel," Hahn said. "But I'm also a friend of peace, and I thoroughly reject the notion that those two goals are mutually exclusive."
Like Hahn, Bowen was supportive of Israel's policies in general, but not as a rule.
"Support of Israel does not mean that we forgo our right to criticize where criticism is due," Bowen said.
On the subject of Israeli settlements in occupied territory, Bowen said, "Settlements are not conducive to the peace process, but neither are rockets raining down."
The comment drew some of the strongest applause of the night.
During the tightly-run, 90-minute debate, candidates answered questions specifically targeted to sound out their positions on Israel-U.S. relations, including queries on their source of information for news in the region, the threat Iran poses to Israel and even when the last time was they traveled to Israel.
Answers: Winograd, 30 years ago. Hahn, three years ago. Bowen, 18 years ago. Adler, last summer.
Hahn argued for a two-state solution in Israel, but said for that to happen, there must be a "secure Israel and prosperous Palestine."
"And no peaceful solution that will last can be imposed on the Israelis or the Palestinians against their wills," Hahn added.
Each candidate disagreed with President Barack Obama ordering military action in Libya without the consent of Congress, but all except Winograd supported the intent of the mission.
That proved to be an ongoing theme of the night, with Adler offering strong backing for the Israeli cause, Hahn and Bowen measuring their support for Israel and Winograd speaking for Palestinians she viewed as dispossessed.
Winograd did express gratitude to Hahn and Bowen for their willingness to not support Israel unequivocally.
"I'm glad to hear that both Janice and Debra tonight were speaking a little more critically and not staying exactly with the pledge they signed earlier, which condemned all, quote, anti-Israeli rhetoric," she said.
"We have to have open debate and open dialogue."
Winograd was referring to a document Hahn advanced in the early stages of the race that called on Bowen to support Israel and condemn statements Winograd made about that country.
Political insiders suspected the pledge was designed by Hahn to draw Winograd into the race to cut into Bowen's progressive voting base, and Winograd cited the letter as influencing her decision to run.
A special election is scheduled for May 17 to replace Harman, who resigned in February to lead a Washington think tank.
If no candidate wins a majority needed to take the seat outright, the top two contenders, regardless of party, will advance to a July 12 runoff.