Column: A look at President Biden’s visit to Rancho Santa Fe
As usual, the invitation did not specify the location of Monday night’s private Democratic National Committee fundraiser for President Joe Biden. It remained a closely guarded secret until the event itself.
As many as 40 guests, including several from Los Angeles County and the Bay Area, came to the Santa Fe ranch home of biotechnology CEO Allan Kamaisa and his wife Megan, a philanthropist and executive producer of the film.
The President joined the audience and spoke as they relaxed casually on the sofas and chairs in the living room.
Kamaisa Company, Calidi Biotherapys researches innovative treatments for advanced, incurable cancers. Many of the participants were involved in medical research, biotechnology and health care.
Greg Banner, who runs a financial planning company, said his presence and the presence of several other guests were not political, but rather because they are friends of Kamaiza and appreciate the administration’s commitment to fighting cancer. “This is important for all of us,” he said.
“We were there impartially,” said Banner, a Republican. “I knew about half the people, and they weren’t necessarily Biden supporters.”
Not surprisingly, the president’s speech touched on medical research, including the Cancer Moonshot program. In early 2022, Biden re-launched the 2016 program to accelerate cancer research. He announced a goal of cutting cancer deaths by half within 25 years.
Banner described the president’s stamina as incredible, noting that Biden spoke for “a full hour” without using any notes after a busy day that included a banking crisis and negotiating with the Australian and British prime ministers an agreement to provide Australia with nuclear submarines.
“I couldn’t be more impressed,” Banner said. When he shook hands with the president, he admitted to Biden that he was a member of the men’s prayer group, which meets weekly and without fail includes prayers for the president and the country.
“You know, Greg, I’m a believer,” the president replied, pulling from his pocket what he called his Irish rosary, a cross ring.
The meeting was attended by State Senator Tony Atkins and San Diego Congressman Scott Peters and his wife, Lynn Gorguse.
Peters confirmed a CNN report in which President Biden mentioned during his speech that former President Jimmy Carter, who is in a home hospice, asked him to give the eulogy. Biden then sheepishly added, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be saying that.”
Banner described the President as warm, congenial and relaxed as he interacted with the crowd. From time to time, he diluted his speech with jokes, including a joke about his own operations.
The reception was expensive, with tickets costing between $50,000 and $100,000—more than most local political fundraisers. “Photos have to be good,” Peters chuckled.
Upon arrival, patrons gathered in the Kamaiso family’s backyard, where they were served Filipino-style snacks and required COVID-19 tests before entering the home.
Unfortunately, Megan Kamaisa tested positive and was unable to greet the guests at the reception that she so carefully planned and organized.
She is very successful as the executive director, founder and publisher of the religious family publication Risen Magazine. She focuses much of her charitable work on the education of children and the fight against poverty in the Philippines.
Those present thanked her in absentia. But there was a hint that something much more positive was in the air than her diagnosis. Biden, after saying he felt terrible about her COVID test results, vowed, “We’re going to fix this.”
After the event, Banner said he was pleasantly surprised. “I have a different opinion of the president, to be honest, in a good way.”
Meanwhile, Peters abruptly changed the meeting place after signing the presidential agreement and receiving on Monday. The next evening found him in a much less formal setting. He joined his staff at Lips, a transgender cabaret show bar in North Park.
The stop was Tuesday during a staff retreat partly dedicated to visiting new parts of his area, which was redrawn after the 2020 census. In early January, his District 52 was upgraded to District 50, adding new entities in Hillcrest, North Park, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, and part of Escondido, while he lost much of downtown San Diego.
Earlier in the day, they visited the newly added sites of San Marcos and Escondido. In the afternoon, they introduced themselves to new voters who stopped by the LGBT Community Center and various shops and small businesses, including a beer garden, in North Park.
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