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It was low-stakes drama last week at the OCGOP Central Committee meeting, when presumed frontrunner, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, failed to secure the county’s prized endorsement for Governor in a less-than-stunning upset. This week, the local Democrats, known as DPOC, have their Central Committee meeting, which promises to be just as intriguing. Monday evening DPOC will decide whether to strip Greg Diamond of his vice-chair leadership position. The crony corporatists within that party are upset with Diamond’s work in Anaheim, where he is engaged in a popular bi-partisan struggle to contain the obscene hand-outs of the bi-partisan crony capitalist Council Majority. While I anticipate Diamond’s survival, DPOC’s failure to appreciate the ground game in Anaheim critically undermines the prospects of prominent Democrat candidates in north Orange County. Meanwhile, the Republicans have rallied behind a competitive slate of candidates capable of reversing OC’s chronic drift to the left.
Diamond, who is also a candidate for District Attorney, is the target of a purge because of his opposition to numerous crony construction projects, such as the luxury hotels financed on the backs of taxpayers. In this, Diamond is standing behind Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. The Mayor happens to be a Republican in a partisan race against Democrat Lorri Galloway. Given Galloway’s entire campaign is premised on giving the government-sector unions anything and everything, Diamond’s support of Tait, even if only tacit, is a fact that displeases the DPOC establishment as much as any other.
Attacking Diamond for his support of Mayor Tait, if you can indeed call it that, is curious given the skeletons piled high in DPOC’s own closet. Will DPOC publicly censure Lou Correa for endorsing Republican Councilwoman Gail Eastman in 2010? Or Jordan Brandman who endorsed both his Republican fellow council members: Eastman and Kris Murray. Where was the outrage when Jose Solorio embraced Tea Party darling Senator Ted Cruz at a Republican fundraiser? Of course, the hypocrisy can be credited to how Diamond feels about the crony corporatists, not any Republican. DPOC’s unflinching support for Anaheim Council Member Jordan Brandman, the protege of Republican uber lobbyist Curt Pringle, reveals the patent insincerity of the assault on Diamond.
While I can’t speak for Diamond, I feel comfortable speculating that he opposes such corporate welfare projects because: 1) the sweet-heart deals are obviously the products of a Council Majority beholden to the city’s elite business interests; 2) the projects depend on public money not otherwise available to the politically unconnected, thus giving insiders an unfair competitive advantage; and 3) the financial burden being foisted upon present and future taxpayers is obscene in scale, for example, a tax subsidy given to developers worth $158 million.
Whatever Diamond’s reasoning, his positions failed to impress many within his party’s base (read: the labor unions). The Building Trades sent DPOC’s leader, Chairman Henry Vandermeir, a letter calling for Diamond’s “immediate” purge from the party’s leadership. The union explained that Diamond “acts openly to take jobs away from working class people” when he does not support union construction projects. Revealingly, the letter failed to address the projects’ affordability or fairness. With respect to the wider labor movement, a liberal blogger stated he was “assured this effort is the tip of the iceberg.” A prediction that turned out to be accurate when the head of OC Labor Federation, Julio Perez, unconvincingly joined arms with the builders in a show of what passes for solidarity in a labor movement in bed with the bosses.
The aggrieved union cronies are threatening to pull support from DPOC candidates. An empty threat given their support is spread about town. The Trade Unions have already thrown-in with Republican Kris Murray, for example. I suspect that Diamond is under siege specifically as a result of his role in CATER, a group currently fighting the city in a lawsuit that threatens to unveil the corruption behind corporate welfare projects. DPOC, Vandermeir in particular, has demonstrated an eagerness to protect Anaheim’s old guard. And in doing this, Democrats have been more than willing to trash the grassroots effort that has formed around Mayor Tait, and which stands opposed to corporate welfare and the crony Council Majority.
OCGOP has been quick to capitalize on DPOC’s willful failure to appreciate the situation in Anaheim. Late last year, I called on my fellow Republicans to condemn the crony capitalist in Anaheim, most of whom claim to be Republicans. While cronyism lingers in many quarters, the Republican Party in Orange County, led by Chairman Scott Baugh, has clearly come down on the side of Mayor Tait and grassroots activists in Anaheim. While shunning the cronies, the party unambiguously embraced Mayor Tait by giving him the local elected leader of year award. At the same time, OCGOP has positioned itself in a similar position in Irvine, where Council Member Jeffrey Lalloway is waging a celebrated crusade against the recently dethroned Larry Agran machine, an infamous group of cronies specializing in corporate welfare projects in Irvine’s Great Park.
As if things could not be worse for local Democrats, they are also on the wrong side of history. As this is Obama’s second-term, Republican’s are widely expected to make significant gains in the midterms. Orange County’s largest city with a significant Latino and working class demographic, DPOC’s botched job in Anaheim puts prominent Democrats in high profile races in serious danger. A mere drag in Democratic turn-out in the city of Anaheim could very well spell doom for Jose Solorio and Sharon Quirk-Silva, who are in tight races with Janet Nguyen and Young Kim for seats in the senate and assembly respectively. Moreover, if the Democratic Party turns its back on Anaheim, Anaheim voters will have the opportunity to embrace a competitive (read: diverse and moderate) Republican slate.
The Democrat’s could see an even more terrifying scenario if Anaheim’s Latinos unite in mass to punish the Democrats. The politics of race in Anaheim are, sadly, alive and well as many Latinos feel they are in a struggle with a “white” power structure. Prominent progressive and leader of the grassroots organization Los Amigos, Jose F. Moreno is a central figure in the movement challenging the crony Council Majority. He maintains that Diamond is guilty only of “joining Latinos and working class families in Anaheim by standing up, speaking out and using constitutionally protected legal rights to stop the fleecing of our City by Corporatists and their paid for Anaheim City Council Majority.” A thinly-veiled reminder of his leverage, the dissent of a pivotal Latino leader raises a specter that could haunt local Democrats this year and in many years to come as Latinos confront the “white” power structure behind the Democrats.
Already, a mobilization effort (which I suspect is being led by Moreno) is underway that will likely deliver many once safe Democratic votes to Republican Mayor Tait. His Democratic challenger, Galloway, has utterly failed to frustrate this stunning realignment. Republican rising star, Cecilia Iglesias, is well-positioned to build upon Mayor Tait’s success in her state assembly race against Tom Daly, a crony corporatist already held in very low esteem among rank-and-file Democrats, particularly with Latino and progressive activists. Indeed, if DPOC continues down the path of crony capitalism, the revolt from below could even threaten Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. If the Democrats can’t stop the bleeding, her Republican challenger, Carlos Vazquez, is ready to move-in and claim an upset victory ripe with profound and lasting repercussions.
[Endnote: In the interest of full disclosure, Greg Diamond is one of my favorite communists in OC. I asked him to comment on the controversy and he responded thus: "Given that I am facing a party vote tomorrow on removing me from my position as a party officer, I would have to be pretty stupid to answer YOUR question!" Fair enough comrade, good luck in your face-off with the Politburo.]