OC Board of Ed: “Conservative” to take Santa Ana seat? (Updated!)

Chalkboard portrait of Robert Hammond

"Today's lesson is: 'Long Pham, we need a place to put Robert Hammond so we don't split the vote for Daly in AD-69, so you're off of the County School Board!'"

In the critical race for the District 1 seat for the Orange County Board of Education, we have now learned that … what?  You don’t even know what the Orange County Board of Education is?  Let’s start there, then.

The OC Department of Education

(skip this section if you want to get right to the politics)

Well, it runs the Orange County Department of Education.  (You don’t know what that is either?  We’ll get to that.)  It has five Districts, as reflected on this map.  You’ll see that the 1st District is represented by Long Pham, Ph.D., who  defied the prediction I made here almost a month ago that he would drop out of the 72nd A.D. race and instead dropped out of this one.

What does it do specifically, you may ask?  Here’s what they have to say (combining different pages):

​​The Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) serves as the center for educational leadership and coordination, providing the broadest possible services for over 500,000 children and young adults in the schools of Orange County. The Department is responsible for interpretation and enforcement of state laws as directed by the Legislature, the State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education. In addition, OCDE partners with families, businesses, and the community to promote student success and well-being in Orange County.

With more than 1,700 full- and part-time employees, OCDE provides cost-effective, centralized services, including Alternative and Correctional Education, Outdoor Science, Career Technical Education Partnership, Special Education, Child Care Services, and Student Programs. OCDE serves more than 160,000 students and is Dedicated to World Class Education…Where Every Student Succeeds.

We partner with Orange County school districts to provide over 500,000 students with a world class education that emphasizes standard-based skills in safe learning environments.

We serve as a connecting agency among Orange County school districts, community college districts, local, state and federal governmental agencies, and community organizations.  We respond to district and community requests for staff development, administrative, business, educational and support services.

I think of OCDE as in some ways being the equivalent of the County Sheriff’s office compared to your city’s police department (if you have one) in that it directly manages some educational services that falls outside of local control.  But it also, as shown above, deals with a lot of specific programs (technical ed, special ed, alternative ed, correctional ed) that are very important to a lot of people.  And don’t overlook that it coordinates between school districts (at all levels, including community colleges) and within the county it interprets and enforces laws and regulations coming from higher levels.  It’s a mixed portfolio — but a significant one, especially when it comes to local implementation of education policy.

And that brings us to Robert Hammond.

Bringing down the Hammond

Chris Nguyen at GOP House Outlet OC Poli-tickle posted a breathless and triumphant statement yesterday stating that “the Democrats’ worst case scenario” had arrived.  This scenario is: Robert Reid, a newly minted Democrat, is running in AD-74, apparently being rooted on by Republicans who want the Allan Mansoor-Leslie Daigle financial bloodbath to end in June rather than November, and will get enough of the vote to make the runoff.  (Republicans still don’t know about the write-in candidate.)  Meanwhile, only Democrats will be on the ballot in the AD-69 primary, guaranteeing that November will see a debilitating Democrat-on-Democrat runoff fight.  (Of course, Tony Bushala has already informed us in a comment that “Pretty Fly White Guy” Tom Daly had the support of the Republican party anyway, so this is not exactly news.  It will be Daly vs. a Latino — barring, um, scandal.)

Nguyen continues:

Orange County Board of Education Member Long Pham is partly to thank for this event.  Pham’s bid for the 72nd Assembly District left his seat on the County Board vacant.  Republican Robert Hammond had been running for AD-69, heavily on education issues, including overturning SB 48 and enhancing career technical education programs.  Indeed, Hammond has been a teacher since he completed his service in the Marine Corps and earned his college degrees.  With the solidly conservative Pham vacating the OCBE’s Central Orange County seat, that left conservatives searching for a candidate to succeed Pham.

Conservatives quickly turned to one of the most passionate conservative education advocates in Central Orange County – Robert Hammond.  With Hammond’s deep knowledge of and passion for education issues, he is well-suited to be the conservative standard bearer for the Central OC seat on the OCBE.

Yeah … maybe.  Or it may be more like “Long, we need to get Hammond out of this race so we can elect Daly as our crypto-Republican in the Assembly.  You’re off of the School Board.”  Same difference, same effect.  As for Hammond “running … heavily on education issues” — well, read on.

Despite the above claim, the Issues Page on Hammond’s Assembly campaign website does (or did — or does, given that it’s still up) not focus much on education issues directly.  Still, it gives one a good sense of what he’s about politically (and why he was never a particularly strong threat to win the AD-69 race):

My priorities in Sacramento are to introduce and attempt to pass the following:

  • Tax Incentives: provide tax breaks for businesses and people by cutting payroll taxes and capital gains tax, cutting in half the sales tax and vehicle registration taxes; and,
  • Elected Salary Reduction: Reduce the salary of every elected state official in the Legislative and Executive branches by twenty-five percent (25%), move the Legislature to part-time, and use this money to help start the process to balance the state budget; and I will lead by example by donating 25% of my salary to charities in our community until the salary cuts are instituted; and,
  • Property Tax Breaks: Roll back Property Taxes for home owners to be the same as those who enjoy the benefits and protection of Prop 13; and,
  • Free Enterprise Education Bill: make it mandatory for our Middle and High Schools to teach our children about Free Enterprise, the tax breaks associated with business ownership, and how to start a small business while looking for mentorship; and,
  • Education: Increase vocational training in high schools to give our students more options in career paths.

Republicans talk about reaching out to the different communities in Orange County. I have already started to reach out to some of the communities within the 69th Assembly District. I will reach out to families to show them how to take advantage of tax breaks through business ownership.

With my devotion to protecting our country, diligence in teaching our youth, and understanding of our need for limited government for our state, I will serve the people of the 69th Assembly District in Sacramento with integrity, values, and knowledge so as to reduce our state government and offer a helping hand up, not a handout, to all those who want more for themselves and their posterity.

Hammond’s press release, which Tickle reproduces in full, is reproduced here as well, but with annotations in blue:

Robert Hammond Enters Orange County Board of Education Race

SANTA ANA, CA – At the urging of conservative activists and leaders across the county [“Get out of the race, you distraction; you are messing up our chance to elect Tom Daly!], Robert Morris Hammond has entered the race for Orange County Board of Education, Trustee Area 1.  The seat is being vacated by the incumbent, fellow conservative Republican Long Pham, who is now running for the 72nd Assembly District.

“Education has always been one of my great passions.  After completing my service in the United States Marine Corps and earning my college degrees, I became a teacher,” Hammond said.  “I’ve taught in special education, English Immersion classes, teacher training programs, and adult literacy courses.”  [“Hence the entire sentence one aspect of education policy merited on my pretty long issues page!”]

Hammond has long campaigned on education issues, emphasizing faith, family, and freedom.  [I’m not sure what “family” and “freedom” are intended to mean here, other than probably an attack on organized labor because that’s what vague buzzwords usually mean, but “faith” in this context often seems to mean things like trying to push science education out of the curriculum “because God wants a warmer planet, as befits its young age.”  I look forward to Hammond setting that record straight.] He has also worked on efforts to overturn SB 48.  [This is the bill Brown recently signed that mandates that the history of the gay rights movement be included in high school curriculum, as apparently it matters.] As an Orange County Board of Education member, Hammond will be able to fight the implementation of SB 48 in the schools overseen by the OCBE.  [By the way, when people yell at me about the Occupy movement engaging in civil disobedience, I always think of examples like this.  “Some civil disobedience is more equal than other civil disobedience,” I guess.] SB 48 and increasing career technical education had been two major issues that drove Hammond to run for office.

“It is with great reluctance that I withdraw from the 69th Assembly District race, but after Dr. Pham filed for the 72nd Assembly District on Thursday, numerous conservatives urged me to enter the race for Dr. Pham’s seat,” Hammond added.  “We were all concerned that Dr. Pham’s seat could fall into liberal hands [YES!  And ones that won’t bust unions, suppress teaching of evolution, and relegate gays to the closet, too!], and with Trustee Area 1 covering much the same territory as AD-69, many concerned conservative citizens and leaders asked me to consider entering the race for the Orange County Board of Education, which I have now done.  I look forward to a vigorous campaign and victory in June.”

Orange County Board of Education, Trustee Area 1 covers Santa Ana, Tustin, Garden Grove (east of Beach Boulevard), and Fountain Valley (east of the 405 freeway).

The Battle is Joined

So, residents of Santa Ana, Tustin, and relevant portions of Garden Grove and Fountain Valley — is this what you want?  Beyond that, is NO CHOICE IN JUNE what you want?  If not, then one good Democrat (or non-partisan, or even Jack Bedell-like moderate Republican) needs to get over to the Registrar of Voters and prepare to run for this office.  I’m sure that AD-69 candidates Perez, Martinez, and Barragan will endorse you — and one would think that a Democrat like Tom Daly would do so too.  (Wouldn’t one?)

It should be one and only one opponent, to keep from splitting this “California ain’t Alabama” vote, so feel free to discuss whose hat should be tossed into the ring in comments.

And thanks again to the Tickle for calling this vacancy to my attention!

UPDATE, 3/13

As noted below, we now have four apparent candidates for the office, presuming that Anita Mathur (who took out but had not turned in her papers previously) isn’t pursuing the office:

– Ken Nguyen (whom one commenter here says is a Democrat and another says is a member of the Van Tran Clan)
– Robert Hammond (establishment Republican lured out of AD-69 race)
– Arturo “Art” Pedroza (insurgent libertarian Latino LibertariaRepubliCrat with colorful history)
– Eleazar Guardiola Elizondo (an apparent Latino Democrat, described in a comment below)

And that, dear readers, is why I included a question mark in the title!

So if you’re handicapping based on race/ethnicity + party, as seems now to be the OC custom, you have Hammond picking up the Anglo Republicans (mostly Tustin); Nguyen picking up almost everyone in the (largely Viet) portions of Garden Grove and Fountain Valley; Elizondo picking up non-Viet Democrats; and Pedroza picking up libertarians of all stripes and locations as well as readers of New Santa Ana and OCPolitics (some of them, anyway.)  I’ll say that there’s no clear frontrunner yet, because saying otherwise would require a map, reference material, and a calculator.


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. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)