A Day at the Races, March 6: OC Candidates from Atkinson-Bukewihge to Zelnic

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President Edie

This is the first installment of this year’s “A Day at the Races” feature on who is running for what in OC elections, based on the nightly reports from the excellent people at the OC Registrar of Voters.  (Seriously — it’s the only part of our county government that outsiders envy.) Presidential year primary elections feature federal Executive and Legislative races, primaries for County Supervisor races, judicial races, and party races.  To the Votemobile!

[A] Los Federales

[1] Por Presidente

This post’s title says “from Atkinson-Bukewihge to Zelnic”: that’s literally true, but it’s not based on alphabetical order.  The very last name on the Registrar of Voters’ list of candidates right now is Abner Zelnic, candidate for the 4th District representative of the Peace and Freedom Party.  First on the list is OC’s sole (for now) candidate for the exalted office of President of the United States of America: Edie Atkinson-Bukewihge.  As befits her (aspired) high office, the graphic for this piece is from the home page of her website.

One of Edie’s (as we’ll call her) promises is that, if invited, she will come to your house with coffee and cake to discuss her candidacy.  This will be a hard task for her to fulfill even in Orange County, let alone in the entire state of California if her candidacy picks up steam — and God help her if her campaign really does go national.  OJB would be satisfied with her Grandma’s Chili Recipe, which is linked “4 U” on her site.  Because we don’t want to see Edie having to cart coffee and cake up to Yreka — let alone to Ypsilanti, Michigan — for her own good we’re limiting our coverage of her candidacy to this first installment, unless and until she rises in the polls.  (But we’ll always be the first to have covered her campaign!)

[2] U.S. Senator

Candidates for office only have to file in their home county, so don’t get all excited that you don’t see the only party-endorsed (with 78.12% of the vote) Democratic candidate, Kamala Harris, on the ballot.  She is not supposed to file here.  But OC does have one candidate who is favored to be her party’s front-runner, as she has been in the past: Gail Lightfoot of the Libertarian Party.  So at least we have something going for us in this race!

Hang on — we’ve been handed a special bulletin!  It turns out that six candidates from OC have taken out papers so far: Republican Karen Roseberry, NPPs Paul Merritt and Gar Myers, the mysteriously unaffiliated Steve Stokes, and another Democrat, Loretta Sanchez.

(This would be a good time for me to offer two full disclosures for the record.  First, I am the Kamala Harris for Senate Campaign’s Orange County Coordinator.  Second, I do not hate Loretta Sanchez.  I like her; I just don’t consider her to be in Harris’s league as a candidate and I don’t like her plan to win the seat with Republican votes in the runoff because she’s more conservative and less adept than Harris.  Much, much, more on this to come!)

There is actual news to break here: with five working days left to go before the deadline for her to file, Loretta has not yet turned in her papers.  This means that at this moment she could still drop out of the race and file for re-election to Congress.  Everyone seems to consider this unlikely; more likely is that she would end up as a surrogate for Hillary, in expectation of a Cabinet appointment of some kind in a Clinton Administration.  (Note that because Loretta is still eligible to run for re-election, the deadline for everyone but her to enter the race will be extended to Wednesday, April 16.)

[3]  U.S. House of Representatives

Finally, we get to some (relatively) local races!

CA-38: We don’t know if anyone is running against Linda Sanchez.  Didn’t look it up.

CA-39: Incumbent Ed Royce and his presumptive challenger, moderate (yet somehow reformist!) Democrat Brett Murdock, have both taken out papers.  Neither is as yet on the ballot.

CA-45: Four candidates have taken out papers: Democrats Max Gouron and Ron Varasteh, and Republicans Mimi Walters and Greg Raths.  Two years ago, Raths narrowly lost to Drew Levens for the final spot in a runoff against Walters, where he’d be expected to do well.  The race is presumably between Varasteh (who has run against Dana Rohrabacher, among others races) and Raths for the second slot against Walters in the general election.  Whether Gouron — an anesthesiologist! — files his papers and takes away enough votes from Varasteh may determine whether Raths is kept out of the general election, as happened in 2014.  If Raths does make the runoff, he’d be a serious threat to edge out Walters with independent and Democratic votes.  (He’s at least as conservative as her, but a lot more honest.)  (Disclaimer: Varasteh is a former client of mine.)

CA-46:  As noted above, filing for Loretta’s seat (so long as she doesn’t re-enter the race) will continue until April 16.  Three Democrats — Joe Dunn, Lou Correa, and Bao Nguyen — are contesting the district.  [Disclaimer: my daughter is Bao’s campaign treasurer, a compliance rather than a policy job.]  My sense is that Dunn and Correa are generally believed to be the front-runners.  (Bao, who takes more votes from Dunn, would not concede that.)  The major threat to two Democrats making the runoff is Republican Lynn Schott, from Irvine — an ally of Jeffrey Lalloway.  However, new Republican Rudy Gaona from Anaheim, who had run and lost several nonpartisan races as a Democrat, can probably take away enough votes from Schott  to keep her out of the runoff.  Republican Louie Contreras and NPP Nancy Trinidad Marin have also taken out papers.  So far, only Gaona has filed.

CA-47:  Incumbent Democrat Alan Lowenthal will have filed in Long Beach rather than in OC.  Three OC candidates have taken out papers: his 2014 opponent Andy Whallon (generally understood to be a libertarian, if not a Libertarian), Republican Sanford Kahn, and NPP Rob Rappaport are among the potential losers of this race in November.

CA-48:  Incumbent Republican Dana Rohrabacher faces a challenge from party-mate Colin Mellott and from two Democrats who ran for the seat in 2014: Suzanne Savary and Robert Banuelos.  Mellott is essentially playing the role that Wendy Leece played in 2014, when she narrowly lost to Savary, who then lost in the runoff.  Leece, like Raths in CA-45, was probably the stronger general election competitor, but institutional forces make it hard for Democrats to take a dive even when it’s in their best interest.

CA-49:  Incumbent Republican Darrell Issa has a potential opponent in Democrat Douglas Applegate.  OJB is not going to look up the San Diego files right now to see if any Democrats there want to take him on.  (Yes, three of OC’s seven members of Congress are from outside of Orange County.  It’s a gift, I tell ya!)

State Legislature

State Senate

SD-29:  Incumbent Bob Huff’s protege Ling-Ling Chang has been ordered to move up from her AD-55 seat as counter-programming against new arrival in Fullerton Sukhee Kang, a Democratic former Mayor if Irvine.  This convulsion is a real compliment for Kang; unfortunately, it’s also a very smart move that is devastating to his chances.  Democrat Josh Newman, who has been treated pretty harshly by his party, would be excellent counter-programming against Chang, but the Democratic hierarchy apparently thinks that the lesson of 2014 is that only Asians can win in North County, so it will be up to the voters to see which of them goes on to November.

SD-37:  As it stands, only incumbent Republican John Moorlach is on the ballot.  His opponent in the 2015 special election, termed-out Assemblyman Don Wagner, has also taken out papers, but let’s delicately say that he “lacks institutional support” this time around.  Democrat Ari Grayson (a nice guy!) has also taken out papers.  This raises the eternal question: why would Democrats want to see Moorlach and Wagner suck up money in a district guaranteed to cough up a Republican victor when that money could otherwise go to defeat Democrats elsewhere?  It wouldn’t be sporting!

State Assembly

AD-55:  Most of the action in my home district is taking place in Los Angeles County (and maybe San Bernardino too; another one I ain’t checking), home of both incumbent Ling-Ling Chang and her 2014 challenger Democrat Gregg Fritchle.  Two Republicans have taken out papers in OC: James Gerbus and Steve Tye (who is not even from OC, last I heard.)  The leader of the field appears to be Diamond Bar’s Philip Chen, whom Fritchle edged out for the second position in November last time around.  A bunch of other non-OC-lings are also supposedly running.

AD-65:  The cleanest, clearest simplest race on the ballot.  Just two candidates: Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim and Democratic former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva will face off again to see whether the difference between 2012 and 2014 was the last of a Presidential election turnout or the lack of Chris Norby.

AD-68:  Seven (!) contenders so far have taken out papers to take over Don Wagner’s seat.  Two of them are Democrats: Sean Jay Panati and … wait, the other one withdrew her candidacy.  (Let’s start over.  Six (!) contenders so far, etc.)  Five of them are Republican.  Three of those might be described as “heavy hitters”: Deborah Pauly, Harry Sidhu, and Steven Choi.  Two, not so much: Alexia Deligianni-Brydges and Konstantinos Roditis.  Because Wagner is termed out, the filing deadline is firm: it ends Friday when the Registrar’s doors close (but you’ll still get to finish registering if you’re in line.)

AD-69:  Nobody’s running against incumbent Business Democrat Tom Daly.  Green, Libertarian, and Peace & Freedom Parties, this may be your second-best chance to be on November’s ballot!

AD-72:  Incumbent Travis Allen is the prohibitive favorite to retain his seat — raising the interesting question of whether he’ll run for State Senate District 34 if Janet Nguyen takes on Alan Lowenthal or whoever wins in CA-46 this year for Congress.  His challengers are Vietnamese Democratic Party Central Committee Member Nam Pham and embattled (more about that later) attorney Lenore Albert-Sheridan.  (Writing my story about her will take some time, but Vern has already provided and introduction.)

AD-73:  Nobody (so far) is running against Incumbent Republican Bill (“Bro”) Brough.  Green, Libertarian, and Peace & Freedom Parties, this may be your absolute-best chance to be on November’s ballot!

AD:74:  Improbable Incumbent Matthew Harper will be running against the Democrat who made his incumbency possible, Karina Onofre.  (Her last-minute bid against DPOC insider favorite Anila Ali is the only reason that Harper made the runoff at all.)  He’s also being challenged by two Republicans: Brandon Salisbury and Irvine’s Katherine Daigle.

County Judicial

Some very good OC Superior Court Judges are up for re-election this year, but I won’t name them for fear of drawing challengers to them.  (Any judge who isn’t challenged by Friday is reelected without being on the ballot, saving voters lots of time.)  So I’ll just address the contested races.

Three will almost certainly be settled by June.

In Office #23, Judge Derek Hunt is being challenged by Emily Wehbe-Sturgeon.  Neither is as yet on the ballot.  I’ve had business before Judge Hunt and so will not be commenting on this race.  (Don’t read anything good or bad into that; I just don’t like commenting here on judges before whom I’ve had cases, so absent truly extraordinary circumstances I grant them limited immunity.)

Office #48 is the one with the greatest potential for lurid attacks.  The incumbent is Judge Scott Steiner, who has been accused of involvement in a sex scandal with others in his office.  He’s being opposed by Karen Lee Schatzle, who seems to be the Rackauckus Party candidate.  So, pick your poison.  I’ve never met Judge Steiner, but I should not comment on this race for other reasons (none of which involve a tie to anyone personally involved.)  Neither are as yet on the ballot.

In Office #49, an open seat made possible by the departure of Judge Elaine Streger, the contestants are Mike Murray and Thomas Martin.  Martin’s already on the ballot.

Two others are open seats, made possible respectively by the departures of Judges Gail Andler and Steven Perk.

In Office #3, aspiring judges include Frederick Fascenelli, Megan Wagner, Andrew Stein, Wayne Phillips, and Jennifer McGrath.  (McGrath is the former City Attorney for Huntington Beach, so we know who Vern’s supporting!)  None of them have as yet made it onto the ballot.  One other person took out papers but has withdrawn.

In Office #40, Larry Yellin, Shawn Nelson, and Thuy Dinh Pham will face off.  (Fascenelli was originally to be in this race, but the loud thump of Supervisor Nelson’s arrival may have chased him off.)  None of them are as yet on the ballot.

County Offices

Board of Education

The OCBOE Districts are, if I recall correctly, close to but not identical to the boundaries of the Supervisorial Districts.  Each of the three races up this year has three contestants for now, but none of the nine are currently on the ballot.

Area 1:  Incumbent Robert Hammond faces challenges from Vong Xavier Nguyen and Beckie Gomez.  Hammond, despite being from the most liberal district, is part of the highly conservative and pro-charter Board majority.

Area 2:  Incumbent Ken Williams faces challenges from Michael Parham and Mike Dalati.  Williams, who won when his opponent died and could not be replaced under “top two” rules, is part of the highly conservative and pro-charter Board majority.

Area 4:  Incumbent Jack Bedell faces challenges from Zonya Marcenero- Townsend and Chris Norby.  Bedell is a Republican and an educator, but with David Boyd is in the current Board majority.  Marcenera-Townsend is a traditional conservative; former Assemblyman/Supervisor Norby is a libertarian conservative.

County Supervisor

1st District:  This race has gotten weird.  The only person currently on the ballot is Mother of All Perennial Candidates Steve Rocco.  Incumbent Andrew Do has taken out papers.  But so have two other Vietnamese-surnamed candidates: Garden Grove Councilmember Phat Bui and Robert Bao Nguyen, who is not Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen but will probably benefit from various voters thinking otherwise.  (Welcome to Dr. Jose Moreno’s world, Bao!)  Finally — and looking pretty good as a standout both on gender and ethnicity — is Santa Ana Councilmember Michelle Martinez.  Take out Martinez and Lou Correa really could win this race.  (Hint, hint!)

3rd District:  No one is currently running against incumbent Todd Spitzer.  As I’ve said, I like Spitzer better than your average OC Republican politician –as well as better than your average OC Republican politician probably does — but if both parties let the Mercurial One stroll into office without even a challenge, then yer all a buncha marshmallows!  I would think that the Rackauckas Gang would want him to have a challenge just to deplete his campaign funds — but apparently not so.  (Maybe no one wants to piss him off because they ARE convinced that he’ll be the next DA!)

County Party Central Committees

This, I think that it’s fair to say, is probably the weirdest thing on the ballot.  The former two-year terms for members of the Democratic and Republican and … Peace and Freedom? (yes it is!) Central Committees are elected in June of Presidential years, and if you haven’t applied by Friday at 5 p.m. then you’re out of luck until Ted Cruz runs for re-election (if we’re still having elections at that point.)  Both major parties are electing 42 members — six in each of the County’s seven full or partial Assembly Districts — and Peace and Freedom elects six for at least Districts 3 and 4, where one person apiece has applied for six open seats.  (Seriously, folks — this is embarrassing.  Have you considered selling the franchise to the Working Families Party?)

DEMOCRATIC PARTY [6 open seats per district]

Maybe people are just signing up late this year, but so far there is not a bumper crop.

55th AD — Two people are running: Incumbents Molly Muro and La Habra School District member Cynthia Aguirre.

65th AD — Five people are running: Incumbents Marti Schrank, Monika Broome, Jesus Silva, John Vassiliades, and DPOC Secretary Arnel Dino.

68th AD — Seven people and one large aquatic mammal running: Incumbents Mani KangDavid SonnebornMelissa FoxTed Perle, and challengers Florice HoffmanPaul LucasKen Wyant, and Dan Chmielewski.  (Hmmmm.  We may have to endorse in this one.)

69th AD — Has Labor given up on the Democratic Party of Orange County?  We’ll know soon.  The incumbents for this seat were all either part of or closely allied to the Labor movement.  None of them are currently running.  Instead, there are Ken and Lindy BurkeSharon Toranto, and Art Hoffmann.

72nd AD — Only four people have taken out papers in this district as well — but they are all incumbents: Jim Moreno, Sutida Bergquist, Shelly Haggerty, and Nam Pham.

73rd AD — Five people have taken out papers so far: Incumbents Bill Honigman, Fran Sdao, Anita Narayana, Denise Penn, and activist Deborah Cunningham-Skurnik.

74th AD — Nine people are running here.  Four are on the ballot: Incumbents Janice Burstin and Marleen Gillespie and challengers Andrew Gallagher and Farrah Khan.   Incumbents Dean Inada and Jonathan Adler have taken out papers, as have longtime Committee member Craig Jago Beauchamp and relative newcomers (I think) to the scene Jill Cseresznyak and Leah Esoylu.

REPUBLICAN PARTY [6 open seats per district]

The harvest of potential Republican Committee members is rather more bountiful.  I’ll just mark the incumbents with an asterisk.

55th AD — Thirteen people running; three already on the ballot.

On the ballot: Craig Young, Gene Hernandez*, Tim Shaw*
Not yet: Peggy Huang*, Brett Barbre*, James Gerbus, Tara Campbell, Rick Rios, Desare Ferraro, Karla Downing*, Ed Gunderson, Irene Yezbak, and Michael Patrick Withrow

65th AD — Seventeen people are running; four have already qualified.

On the ballot: David John Shawver*, Steve Sarkis, Sou Moua, Chris Gaarder
Not yet: Charles Kim, Zonya Marcenaro Townsend, Baron Night*, Alexandria Coronado*, Jerry Jackson*, Chris Norby, Peter Kim, Sean Paden, Beverly Gunter, Shawn Nelson*, Jack Bedell, Tim Milosch, Leroy Mills

68th AD — Nineteen people are running; four have already qualified.

On the ballot: Deborah Pauly*Ray Grangoff, Todd Spitzer*, David Sarega
Not yet: Denis Bilodeau, Nick Wilson, Karen Lee Schatzle, Scott Voigts*, Patricia Welch, Ken L Williams, Trevor O’Neil, Michael Parham, Steven Choi, Zach Collins, Mark Bucher*, Fred Whitaker*, Dominica Kristedja, Jeffrey Lalloway*, Jon Fleischman

69th AD — A mere nine people are running.  Two are on the ballot.

On the ballot:  Robert Hammond*, Alberta Christy
Not yet:  Steven Nguyen, Thomas Anthony Gordon*, Maribel Marroquin*, Brett Frankin*, Cecilia Iglesias, Tim Whitacre*, Angie Cano

72nd AD — A mere nine people are running.  Two are on the ballot.

On the ballot: John W. Briscoe, Michael Gates*
Not yet:  Andrew Do*, Kermit Marsh*, Tyler Diep, Dean Grose, Charlotte Christiana*, John Briscoe, Phat Bui

73rd AD — Thirteen people are running.  Two are on the ballot.

On the ballot: Mary Young*, Mike Munzing*
Not yet:  Greg RathsLisa BartlettEric StolaskiTaylor Spring James Lacy, Ed SachsLaurie Davies, Roberta Turbow, Jennifer Beall*, Tony Beall*, Greg  Woodard*

74th AD — Eighteen people are running.  One is on the ballot.

On the ballot:  Rhonda Rohrabacher*
Not yet:  Katherine Daigle, Peter Van Voorhis, Tom Pollitt, T. J. Fuentes*, David Boyd, Scott Peotter, Michael McClellan, Erik Weigand, Carol Woodworth, Cari Swan, Anthony Kuo, John Warner*, Elizabeth Parker, Jeff Mathews*, Jon Aiken, David Whitley, Scott Baugh*

Peace and Freedom Party Central Committee

Adan Plascencia (3rd Superv. District); Abner Zelnic (4th Superv. District)

In Conclusion:

This is going to be the “base page” for our coverage.  We’ll TRY to update this page nightly, adding new candidates in a color-coded fashion to show what day they show up.  (We’re thinking of March 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and, if needed, 14, 15, 16.  Color is cheery!)

But before we go, here’s one observation to take home.  Look at the names of the people running for the Republican Central Committee.  Then look at the names of the people running for the Democratic Central Committee.  Notice any difference?

That’s right: the Republican Central Committee has names that I know about from reading the newspapers and political blogs, writing stories on who’s running for office, and keeping track of who does what in office.  The Democratic Central Committee has names that I know from being on the Democratic Central Committee.

That may be a cause, or a symptom, or both.  But I’ll suggest that until the DPOC has the quality of names of real decision makers wanting to be a part of its Central Committee, the sort of names that you see scrambling to be on the OCGOP Central Committee, then the Democratic Party in Orange County is going to be little more than a facade.  There are Democratic power brokers in the county, but they assemble elsewhere, in arenas where membership is not subject to a vote of the public.

That’s something to think about for this next four years.  Or, depending on who you are, something to hope that other people don’t think about at all.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)