Martinez council campaign is heating up

I interviewed Michele Martinez, who is running for the Santa Ana City Council in Ward 2, last night at the Liberally Drinking event at the Memphis in downtown Santa Ana. She was just endorsed this week by the OC Democratic Party and by the OC Young Democrats. Her picture, on her website, does not do her justice. She is attractive, vivacious, and a tough contender for the City Council.

Martinez has been accused of being connected to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido. In truth he is backing the confused Tino Rivera, who sought the endorsement of the OC Democrats this week, only to see Martinez walk away with it. Martinez is also friends with Pulido ally Al Amezcua, but she told me last night that he is just one of many mentors in her life.

We talked at length about many of the problems in the city, and I was impressed by her knowledge of the issues. She has done her homework. She readily admits that Santa Ana is viewed as a second rate city, and that she wants to do what she can to make it a better place to live. She also confided that in her precinct walking she has been amazed at how much anger there is, citywide, towards Puilido and the current city administration.

Martinez is focusing her campaign on several issues: keeping neighborhoods safe; building more schools; creating more jobs; maintaining safe parks and recreation areas; improving city services; and creating more after-school and job training programs for the city’s youth. I don’t know that Martinez will be able to do much about building schools, as a council member, but certainly the city council should be working more closely with the Santa Ana Unified School District.

Martinez works as an employee relations specialist for a morgage company that caters to Latino clients. She says she learned to speak Spanish late in life, at the age of 18, and now finds herself resorting to Spanish every day. Martinez grew up in Santa Ana, and was on her own by 17. While she is very amicable, at times you can glimpse the tough times she went through.

Martinez graduated from Santa Ana High School. She later attended Santa Ana Community College. She has been a longtime volunteer at the Santa Ana Boys & Girls Club. She has also gained local accolades for her work on the Project Pride Program, a nationally recognized after-school gang prevention program.

As Martinez was trying to leave the Memphis, I was amazed at how many people kept stopping Martinez to find out more about her campaign. Total strangers kept approaching her with questions about schools, city issues, etc. She handled all the questions with ease.

Martinez is finding a lot of support, including labor backing, and she has a political consultant. But she says she is designing her own mailers and making most of the day-to-day decisions. She thinks she can defeat her opponent, but she wonders if the sole Republican candidate, Evangeline Gawronski, is the one that Pulido is really pulling for?

When City Councilman Carlos Bustamante ran a few years ago, Pulido opposed him publicly, but afterwards the two became fast friends. Martinez now wonders if Pulido convinced Rivera to run so that the Latino vote would be split, allowing Gawronski to win. Who knows? Many posters to this blog have reminded us this week that Gawronski has rarely disagreed with Pulido. If Gawronski ends up publicly supporting Pulido’s opponent, Thomas Gordon, then we will be able to at least partially discount this theory.

Martinez is holding a fundraiser on Thursday, September 21, from 5:30 pm- 7:30 pm, at the Home of Ralph & Joyce Allen, at 1002 River Lane, Santa Ana, You can attend for $50, or $75 for a couple. RSVP to (714) 704-9254 or (714) 835-5623.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.