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This was a very interesting day in politics — not only nationally (with the Romneybot requiring serious repair after malfunctioning badly in South Carolina), but to a lesser extent locally. (Warning: yes, this is another story about local electoral politics. You probably already know if you’re not the sort of person who ought to read it.)
We had two stories coming out of AD-69: results of the pre-endorsement meeting (which are not quite as crisp as you may have read) and the continuing saga of Michele Martinez’s possibly having talked herself to (political) death in front of a reporter when bragging of working with an Indian tribe on Independent expenditures, which are arrangements a candidate is not supposed to make. (This needs a catchier title: in homage to Hitchcock, I’m tentatively going with “Arrangers on a Train.”) You’ve heard about Gingrich already (and, if not, thanks for checking here first!), so let’s limit ourselves to local events.
Before getting to the results in the Democratic Party endorsements, I have a question: has anyone asked Michele who it was she was talking to while on the train? If there’s a dispute about what she said, don’t we want to hear from her conversation partner? That person may or may not tell the truth, but if they’re inclined to lie, I think we should make them have to lie about it.
Our less polyglot competitors over at Liberal OC have been frolicking around with this story like puppies in clover, today noting Martinez’s angry attack on the reporter who eavesdropped on her conversation (which the reporter subsequently explained were happening in public — and loudly) and then, in an article that was almost painful to read, on how the Pala Band of Mission Indians was distancing itself from Martinez at lightning speed. This led to a quibble with The Register’s Andrew Galvin, who reasonably noted that candidates are not barred from noting that independent expenditures on their behalf are taking place, but only from arranging them. (“Arrangers on a Train,” get it? OK, whatever.)
The Lib OC guys responded that she said that she was “working with” an agent of the Pala Band, which does sound sort of “arrange-y” — but a scandal predicated on the degree of precision in Martinez’s boastful depiction of her exploits may have feet of clay. (Speaking of feet of clay and other morphological problems, I call upon Lib OC and all other blogs not to use the most unappealing photo of a candidate that they have. Vern and I will, of course, be exempted from this request.) Regardless, Martinez did not, at best, give comfort to her supporters that she was the sort of deft and professional candidate upon which one might want to spend dough.
But would it hurt her? Well, among the 20-to-22 members of the State Democratic Central Committee (better known as “convention delegates”) voting on an endorsement in AD-69, something certainly did.
Here I must take some issue with my Lib OC vicious competitors. They reported the results of the endorsement caucus in a way that did not make a lot of sense and left out the most significant information. So, I’m going to address that. (Those of you who don’t like understanding party rules, skip the next two paragraphs, which as a warning I’ll put in Democratic blue.)
The first thing you have to know is that if no one gets more than 50% of the vote at these pre-endorsement meetings — as you’ll see, I’ve highlighted that “more than” for a good reason — there will be no official party endorsement in the primary for that race. If one exceeds 70% of the votes, they will receive the endorsement outright. It is in that middle ground between 50.00001% and 69.99999% that things get most interesting.
DSCC members in the district caucus and vote. Incumbents need to receive only 50.01% of the vote to get the (tentative) endorsement; non-incumbents need 60%. If they don’t get at least 2/3 of the vote, a petition by 300 DSCC members can force a vote by the whole membership on the convention floor. If above 2/3 of the vote, the pre-primary endorsement review committee can still pull it and send it to the floor — where the same “50.01%/60% thresholds apply. Got it?
Now, in AD-69, 21 votes were counted. Lib OC gave the tally as 11 for Perez, 3 for Daly, and 1 for Martinez — all of which is correct, but incomplete, as their appending “(52%)” to Perez’s total — which 11/15 is not. Why the discrepancy? Well, 6 people also voted for “no endorsement,” which as reported here previously was the tactic favored by Sen. Lou Correa and Asmb. Jose Solorio — although in this “El Pollo” district it seems a bit like “la caca del pollo.” (It’s not like the Democrats don’t often endorse in competitive races.) So that gives Perez 11 votes out of 21, which is barely a majority.
Or is it?
It turns out that one of the delegate supporting Perez was accused of having questionable credentials. Take that one away and Perez has only 50% of the vote, missing an endorsement. But even if you take that away, another Perez-supporting delegate arrived late, claiming to have been misinformed as to the timing of the vote. Count that vote — as Sacramento bigwigs were being asked to do — and Perez goes back up to 11 for 21. Count them both and Perez has 12 for 22, which is a cushion with no effect. Knock out any other non-Perez delegate, and Perez wins anyway.
And what does he win? Again: not the endorsement itself, but the chance to pursue an endorsement next month at the convention in San Diego. Still, it’s awfully nice to be able to call oneself the party-endorsed candidate.
The larger story, of course (as, to be fair, Lib OC apparently presumed) is that in the first test of relative strength between the candidates, Perez got 11 votes to (in effect) somewhere between 3 and 9 for Daly. Martinez got somewhere between 1 and 7; my guess is that we’re closer to the “9” and “1” of the above, but maybe not all of the way there. (8 and 2? 7 and 3? All 6 “no endorsement” voters actually wanting to support Francisco Barragan, who was too late to be included on the ballot?) That’s an “uh-oh” for Daly and a “oh no!” for Martinez. If fundraising figures show Martinez well behind her competitors, it will be hard for her to stay competitive.
One other race had something interesting happen: in AD-72, Joe Dovinh was the only candidate on the ballot, but still did not reach the 70% level, ending up with only 66%. (I don’t know how many voted.) One possible reason was a lack of union support; another was that people still think that a Democrat should never endorse John McCain for President — even if you’re Vietnamese and running for office from Little Saigon, where he is venerated as a sort of secular saint. Dovinh can try again at the convention. In his case, the endorsement may be more important than in AD-69, because his only chance of making the runoff against at least three well-heeled Republicans (two of them also Vietnamese) is to turn out the Democratic vote — if there is one there to be had!