Should AD-69 be a “Latino seat”?


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Now that Vern has reinserted the headlines from “Art Pedroza’s ‘New Santa Ana’” onto OJB’s front page, I am once again able to see what’s happening on what I’ll call “Pedrozapalooza.” I noticed that Art raised an interesting point today in his post  “Tom Daly is a threat to Latinos in the 69th Assembly District.

Tom Daly at left; at right, Santa Ana Latinos demonstrate against Arizona immigration law
Tom Daly and his people, the latter demonstrating in Santa Ana against Arizona’s draconian immigration law.

Art writes about how Daly has, he alleges, been bad to Latinos in his position in Anaheim, and I’ll presume that there’s a decent case to be made (although I’m sure that Daly would come up with a rebuttal.)  But the question that arises for me is: who is Art’s audience here?  Is he writing just to Latinos, or is he writing to Latinos and sympathizers, or what?

I’m a Latino sympathizer — though I believe that every demographic group has its better and worse apples among its politicians and that politics is not necessarily designed to ensure that the better apples get picked — but my reaction to Art’s writing today doesn’t really derive from that.  It derives from my being, unlike Art, a lifelong Democrat.

Let’s cut to the real meat of what I’m feeling, (and even what Art, who now ranks Julio Perez ahead of Daly among his AD-69 preferences, though still below Michelle Martinez) is feeling, and what I think what lots of people are feeling:

I think that it is unseemly for Tom Daly to run in this AD-69.

I think that it hurts the Democratic Party’s overall election efforts.

This is not because I have anything particular against Tom Daly.  He’s a relatively conservative Democrat, though my guess is that he’d call himself a moderate.  As I’ve said; I don’t know him, but I do know and like his Dad.  I would probably support him in many other races.  And I understand why, without malice, he would want to run in AD-69 — it’s a seat from which a Democrat should have the easiest time being elected.

Where else, after all, could he run?  I’m guessing that he lives either in SD-29 and doesn’t think that he could beat Sen. Bob Huff there (although for him it might be a winnable district) or SD-34, on which Jose Solorio has already called dibs among Establishment Democrats in 2014.  He’s not going to run against Loretta in CD-46, nor probably meddle in the CD-39 “Royce-Miller” smackdown (although with some bad blood spilling in the primary he might stand a chance there) or the as yet unopposed Dana Rohrabacher in CA-48 or Darrel Issa in CA-49 (both likely being suicide missions.)  So where’s he going to run?  No one thinks he should just stay around City Hall and do the job of Clerk-Recorder, right?

He’s going to run in the seat that he has the best chance of winning.  That’s the logical move from his personal perspective.  From a party perspective, though, it’s pretty rotten.

Why?

Because Latinos are a critical part of the Democratic Party coalition, because this is the most heavily Latino seat in the entire state, and because for a moderate-conservative Caucasian guy to step in there with a big campaign war chest and take it away tells them that they don’t matter.

That’s harsh, I know.  But the momentousness of Daly beating (most likely) one of two decently qualified Latino candidates in the most Latino district in California doesn’t seem to have really sunk in.  It’s time to discuss it.

It’s not wrong for Daly to run; Daly has every right to run.  It’s just insulting.  It’s dismissive.  This is not how one treats a key constituency that has been fighting so long for its share of power in Sacramento and that was at least somewhat screwed in Senate redistricting.  It smacks of the white establishment playing three-card monte with Orange County Latinos — “now ya see the Latino seat, now ya don’t!” As someone who goes out and meets with everyday Latino voters, as I did in the Brown for Governor campaign and in Esiquio Uballe’s Assembly campaign last year, it just flat out rubs me the wrong way.

The big task for Democrats this year — and most every year — is to register voters (and yes, especially Latino voters, because that’s where the biggest deficit is), ideally by vote-by-mail ballots, and to turn them out to vote.  Part of the success of that effort comes from showing them due respect.

I get a lot of “but we can’t insult X” comments thrown at me in my Democratic activism — “we can’t insult unions” (when it comes to wanting to shut down San Onofre), “we can’t insult developers” (because we need to raise money from them), “we can’t insult the religious community” (for obvious reasons), “we can’t insult Northern California or Southern California” (when it comes to balancing the ticket for state constitutional officers), etc.

I would expect no less of a sentiment for the proposition that “we can’t insult Latinos.”  As with all other interest groups, that doesn’t mean that we must accede to everything that anyone claiming to represent Latino interest wants, or that every Latino politician gets an automatic free pass — but it does mean that when something is very close to the core of Latino interests, we should have and show some respect.

We, as a party, cannot place Tom Daly’s desire to go to Sacramento over the notion that the OC Latino community deserves and should get its fair share of political power in the county.

I look at the people I know who were on the endorsement list for Tom Daly’s fundraiser on Wednesday and I don’t think that they’re bad guys.  I think that, as a group, they’re overwhelmingly white, pretty wealthy, generally moderate to conservative and quite clubby.  But that’s not the same as being bad — these people who could easily be Republicans by class and temperament but do not.  I accept that, however much I sometimes don’t like all of its implications, that they are themselves an important part of our party as well.

But, dammit, so are Latinos.  They work hard, they campaign hard, they cooperate well, they have real concerns, they have lots of potential votes, they can make the difference in the county, and we should show them the respect they are due as a part of our coalition.  And that means that when a district has in effect been drawn to be a Latino district, and where there’s no hint of corruption or incompetence among either of the main Latino candidates running, we as a party should be inclined to want AD-69 to be a Latino seat. It’s just common decency.

I don’t blame Tom Daly for running.  Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and politicians gotta run where it’s easiest to win.  I do have some problems with the many party regulars among the group that promoted his fundraising party – Bill Lockyer, Jose Solorio, Gail Eastman, Bruce Broadwater, John Hanna, Brian Conley, Leonard Lahtinen, Donna Miller, Jordan Brandman, Jan Domene, Anna Piercy, James Vanderbilt, Tom Umberg, Todd Ament, Frank Barbaro, Dan Callahan, Cynthia Contreras, Lucy Dunn, John Erskine, Alden Esping, Linda Esping, Juan Carlos Flores, Mark Gaughan, Frank Garcia, Gary Hunt, Dan Jacobson, Charles Kim, Paul Kott, Mike Levin, Reuben Martinez, Carrie Nocella, Tom Phelps, Michael Ray, Geoffrey Stack, Bryan Starr, Steve Sullivan, Bill Taormina, George Urch, William C. Waggoner, and John Withers.

I know and like a fair number of these people.  And I think that they’re acting in part out of moderate Establishment policy preferences, in part because they think Daly does a good job, and in part because they know Tom Daly and he is “one of the gang.”  I completely understand why they would want to support him.

But I’ll tell you something: I and other liberal/progressive/Left activists within the party have to swallow our bile all of the time, have to accept that the party will be more conservative and less activist than we’d like, have to convince people to support politicians that we know are far from their interests, have to “wait until things get better” before getting what we want.  When push comes to shove, we can insult environmentalists, we can insult peace activists, etc.  We can insult anyone, out of plausible necessity, who can’t contribute the money that the party desperately needs to compete in elections.  (Yes, I know that there’s another side to the argument.  I tend to make it.)  But I also know that in an imperfect world sometimes your coalition will require you to put up with things that you don’t like.

And as that goes for us on the left, so it goes for Tom Daly and that list of supporters above.  One gives way on some things because it’s necessary.  But one shouldn’t cut too close to the bone when it can possibly be avoided.

It would be theoretically possible for union members to descend on a meeting of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace and take over their membership and officers and turn the local chapters into ones that valued jobs over the environment when the two seemed to conflict.  It would be possible … and it would be horrible.  It would demoralize environmentalists, drive them elsewhere, poison future relations.

Well, that’s how moderate-at-best Caucasian Tom Daly coming into the district in California most designed to be represented by a Latino and taking the seat away feels to me.  Latinos, I think, will feel it even more acutely.

Our institutional interest as a party should be to say that that shouldn’t happen.  That statement didn’t seem to come out this week.  But there are other places where Daly will be able to run — like others, I wish that he’d run for the Board of Supervisors last year — and I hope that he will run elsewhere.  If he doesn’t do it on his own, I hope that Orange County Democrats will put the party’s interests, and yes, the interests of our critical coalition partners in the Latino community, ahead of Tom Daly’s.

Disclaimer: I support Julio Perez for AD-69, but don’t speak for his campaign, and I surely did not speak to him or anyone associated with his campaign about this.  (The same goes for Michelle Martinez.)  I don’t know how either will react to it — and it’s really not their business anyway; this is me speaking from my heart.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.