DPOC Endorsement Meeting #1 Results & Review

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The DPOC’s Endorsements are being spread out over two weeks this year.  Meeting #1, covering most Mayoral and Council seats, took place last night.  Here are my recollections from my (fragile) mental notes.

This was the consent calendar as the evening began.  Santa Ana’s District 2 was pushed back to next week, while a few additional races, most significantly the 4th District Supervisor’s race, where Doug Chaffee was seeking endorsement against Tim Shaw, were added.

If a name is not pulled from on the consent calendar, it becomes part of the group approved en masse.  Everything else is submitted to an individual vote.  Notable absences from the above list include former Anaheim Councilwoman and Mayoral Candidate Lorri Galloway, with whom I had a tart interchange four years ago, and Anaheim District 3 candidate Mitch Caldwell, as well as Agranista Irvine Mayoral candidate Ed Pope.  That’s what you get when your Endorsement committee takes its job seriously!

Ron Varasteh, President of the Democrats of Greater Irvine, pulled the names of both Farrah Khan and Lauren Johnson-Norris.  DGI had voted in a straw poll for Kev Abazajian, followed by Khan, and Varasteh decided that pulling the names of both endorsees was more fair.  DGI has long been a hotbed of Agranistas, and opposition to Johnson-Norris was less about her than a slap at Melissa Fox, who has acted independently (and sometimes against the wishes) of Agran.

I next pulled the recommendation for Jordan Brandman in Anaheim’s District 2, receiving a second for what is usually called “purposes of discussion” (where someone wants to give me the chance to say what I wanted to say.)

Dan Chmielewski immediately retaliated by pulling the name of Dr. Jose Moreno in Anaheim’s District 3.  No one seconded his motion.  I considered, but decided not to, pull the name of Grant Henninger in Anaheim’s District 6; Henninger had a conversation with me where he admitted that his opposition of the 30-year moratorium on a Gate Tax for Disney on a mistake (since it wouldn’t pass anyway), and I decided not to try to fight another almost surely losing battle.

Gina Clayton-Tarvin tried to pull the name of a candidate for a position in Huntington Beach, but did not receive a second.  I didn’t know that she was the one pulling it — she was about ten rows in front of me — or I would have given her one.

I then pulled the Supervisor’s race.  Chaffee was almost certain to be endorsed, but given his positions and after the vicious and lying campaign by Sheriff’s Deputies against Joe Kerr, I felt that he ought to answer some questions publicly.  This is our only chance to get  candidates to make public statements and pledges on the record, and I think that it is foolish to waste it.

DPOC members disagree with that view; I did not receive a second.  So the only “floor fights” were going to be over Irvine’s two seats and Jordan Brandman, who not that long ago had been censured by DPOC for standing in the way of adopting “by-election” districts in Anaheim.

I spoke for two minutes about Brandman, focusing on his support for the odious Kris Murray.  The chances of getting Democrats not to put up a candidate against moderate Republican James Vanderbilt were slim at best, so I made a modest demand: if Brandman would pledge publicly not to support his buddy Murray in her upcoming race for Supervisor — either sooner (if Todd Spitzer beats Tony Rackauckas in the District Attorney’s race) or later (if Spitzer serves out the last two years of his final term), I wouldn’t try to block his endorsement; if he wouldn’t pledge, then he didn’t deserve the benefits of party loyalty.

A fellow DPOC had told me before the meeting that there was no way that Brandman would sell out Murray.  But he strode up to the podium and did it in a heartbeat: with the proviso that he only pledged not endorse her if a Democrat runs for the seat.  (Spoiler alert: one will.)

DPOC Vice-Chair Jeff LeTourneau announced to the meeting (and confirmed to me personally) that Brandman made an additional pledge to him prior to the meeting, including the first two points below:

He pledged to support the living wage ordinance, agreed he would support the City’s position that the new Disney location constitutes a new project and thus [would receive] no subsidies unless a new dead is approved (which must include a Community Benefits agreement based upon the “LA best practices” model and acceptable to DPOC and labor), and pledge to support cannabis dispensaries and flying the rainbow flag, amongst other things.

Those in touch with Brandman may want to show him this and confirm that he publicly acknowledges all of it.  (Not to say that some people don’t trust his word, but … well, let’s just say that people could use convincing.)

For my part, I think it was well worth the political price of pulling his name. If he honors his pledge, it will undercut Murray, someone who could use a good undercutting. If he violates his pledge, it may be the one thing that will rouse DPOC delegates to oppose him.  Given that Democrats believe that a council majority — Ashleigh Aitken as Mayor, Brandman in District 2, Moreno in District 3, and Henninger in District 6 — is possible this year, not endorsing against any Republican, even ones that have been allied with reformist Mayor Tom Tait, is unlikely.  (But Brandman having refused to make that pledge might have done the trick.)  At any rate, he was endorsed — without, I recall, even asking for “nay” votes.  (Fine with me, this time!)

The Irvine race was weird, due to some new procedures we’re trying out this year.  First, bear in mind that DPOC was overwhelmingly for Khan and Johnson-Norris — not due to any antipathy towards Abazajian, who seems like a nice and intelligent guy, but just out of a sense that he would not add to a ticket that needs to balance Agran-friendly and Fox-friendly candidates.  (Khan is studiously neutral between the camps, which is as close to Agran-friendly as an endorsable candidate is likely to get these days.)

So Khan and Johnson-Norris were essentially “on a ticket” — if not in their own eyes, then at least in the eyes of most delegates.  But the DPOC procedure forced people to choose between them on the first ballot, with the lowest candidate of the three dropping out of that race.  (That candidate could then come back in the separate race for the second seat.)  This made delegates very uncomfortable, as it required one of them to be at least temporarily defeated on the first ballot if Abazajian had at least one-third of the vote.  (Most people didn’t seem to get the explanation offered, either, and several people apparently tried to vote twice for both of the women, leading to adoption of a roll call vote to prevent that.)

By far most of the time, Lauren Johnson-Norris’s eyes WERE wide open during her speech to DPOC. I just got lucky enough to make her look like she was singing us a soulful song.

It turned out that Abazajian had substantially less than one-third of the vote, based on the roll call, so the outcome was clera.  DPOC decided just to endorse Khan and Johnson-Norris as a package, which passed resoundingly. There is substantial sentiment that Abazajian should withdraw from the race and look to his future career, as he’d likely be nominated in 2020 if he doesn’t split the vote and blow it this time.

My preference: he should conduct a write-in race for Irvine Mayor.  It’s not like we’ve endorsed anyone for the position, after all!

Delegates had an unexpected treat at the end of the day, as former-and-future State Senator Josh Newman showed up to thank his fans.  DPOC Chair Fran Sdao introduced him as “down-but-not-out”; he laughingly corrected her that he was actually “out-but-not-down.”  (If that comeback was spontaneous, it’s amazing.)  Newman is already planning his political comeback, including big ads on Scott Lay’s “Around the Capitol,” and seemed in excellent spirits.  Good to see.

I can’t decide — do you like Josh Newman better in gold … or in peach?

Next Monday’s meeting will be mostly school board races, plus a few Council stragglers and whatever other boards may be up.  Until then!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) 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. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. 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. One of his daughters 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.)