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The Democratic Party of Orange County had its reorganizational meeting last night, with lots of intrigue but relatively little open conflict. Fran Sdao (whose last name rhymes with “the mayo”) was unanimously elected as the new Chair after former fearsome Westminster City Council member Diana Carey — whom big special interests spent gobs of money to defeat for re-election last year — withdrew from the race and switched to run unopposed for West Vice Chair.
Only two races went before the new DPOC Central Committee members for a vote. For North County Vice Chair (a post held by your author in 2013), Jeff Letourneau fended off a challenge from Arnel Dino, who last year managed the campaigns of Sukhee Kang for State Senate against Josh Newman and Arturo Ferreras for Anaheim City Council against Lucille Kring by a margin of 30-23 with four abstentions. In the race for Secretary, former incumbent Anita Narayana beat longtime Democrats of North Orange County Secretary Molly Muro, who is closely aligned with outgoing North Vice Chair Monika Broome and thus with outgoing Chair Henry Vandermeir, by a margin of (if your correspondent heard correctly) 30-22. Despite the similar vote totals, the winning candidates likely had very different coalitions of supporters.
In three other races, candidates were unopposed. Florice Hoffman becomes the new DPOC Treasurer. Former Irvine City Council candidate Farrah Khan becomes the new South Vice Chair. And in Central County, Jeanette Burns became the only person to seek, as well as win, re-election after having been appointed to that position in mid-2016. Longtime DPOC member Benny Diaz was given and accepted a nomination for the position as well, but then withdrew his name after nominations closed, implausibly stating that he had thought that this was a race for the DPOC Executive Board rather than for Vice-Chair. (Various DPOC sources believe that Diaz had accepted the nomination with the intent of preventing Anaheim school board member Al Jabbar from the post, apparently not realizing that Jabbar had pledged long before that he would not run against Burns, with whom he is on good terms. “Intrigue.”)
One result of the election is that not only does DPOC have its first female Chair in many year, but that its leadership is now, with the exception of Letourneau, entirely female. While those leaders share a gender, however, they are highly diverse in age, ethnicity, ideological leanings (within the bounds of the Democratic Party), and experience within the party. Letourneau, Hoffman, and Narayana have been involved in party governance for quite a while; Sdao, Burns, Khan, and Carey are all relative newcomers. Khan and Carey bring in some welcome experience with running for local office, however, and Sdao (in South County) and Burns (who willed the Anaheim Democratic Club into existence prior to the latest elections) bring with them substantial energy and organizational skill.
The contrast between the DPOC and its Republican counterpart the OCGOP is quite stark. In the Democratic group, Congressional and State Legislative electeds (and Democratic “highest vote-getters”) receive automatic ex officio spots on the Central Committee — to which they usually send alternates rather than attending personally. (Failed State Senate Jose Solorio was the only former officeholder within that category who personally attended last night’s meeting.) In the OCGOP, everyone — politicians included — has to run for office to get a position, leading to a “star-studded” membership with which only Carey, among the new Democratic Board, could have recently competed.
What the DPOC has, though, is people with a lot of time and shrewdness. Sdao, Burns, and Carey are all retired — and have plenty of time to devote to party issues. Letourneau, Hoffman, and Narayana may not have a lot of free time, but the do somehow make it for party involvement. And while Khan’s main activist work has been out of the party — for example with the “Interfaith Coalition” — her extensive contacts make her well-placed to extend the county’s organizational reach within the South.
OJB will have more coverage of the events of last night — including more intrigue — as time allows. But, at this point, the general consensus within DPOC seems to be that its new leadership team can deliver a pretty good two years.