The Day After in Anaheim: The Betrayal of Eastman, an Unnecessary Martyrdom, and Kring Wins for Losing

Anaheim Mayoral & Council Candidates - Results

Green checks for the winners, a red x for the loser, and gold lightning bolts for the people who lost but will still be wielding some significant power.

Anaheim will now go back to Team Pringle having a 3-2 majority on City Council over Team Tait.  But don’t let that headline mislead you: it’s a very different 3-2 majority than the one that ended its run two years ago.

Many illusions about who and what matters to the powerful interests in the City have been dispelled.  Their priorities have been laid bare.  And, when the dust settles, it’s the losing candidate for Mayor who, it turns out, will to be the one to call the shots.

Lots of interesting things happened in OC’s election yesterday, but it seems only fitting to start here.  I’ll be making lots of reference today to

1. The Betrayal of Gail Eastman

The most important number in the Anaheim election is this one: 893.  That’s the number of votes that Kris Murray received in this election that Gail Eastman did not.  And the second most important number is 1005.  That’s the number of absentee ballots mailed in soon enough to be counted in the first run by which Kris Murray exceeded Gail Eastman.

Gail Eastman beat Kris Murray on Election Day, in other words, by 112 votes.  But the final result had already been determined by Vote-by-Mail ballots.  Reelecting Kris Murray was the #1 priority of the Pringle Ring; they could lose every other race without regret — and they did.

  • Mayor Tom Tait — it’s so nice that we can still use his de facto first name — stormed to a massive victory with over 54.1% of the vote.  The showings of Lucille Kring and Lorri Galloway were humiliating, both under 20%.
  • Tait’s choice James Vanderbilt inserted himself neatly about 1/3 of the way up that 893-vote gap to oust Eastman.
  • Measure L — the Districting measure for which its supporter Dr. Jose F. Moreno sacrificed his seat on the School Board — won with over 68% of the vote.  Unexpectedly, it was Measure M — the increase in the size of the City Council from five to seven members including the Mayor — that struggled.

The nightmare scenario for the Pringle Ring was, ironically, one where Eastman beat out Murray for second place after Vanderbilt.  Eastman is not a Pringle confidante; she cannot convey what Pringle wants to the rest of the Council.  So they did what they had to do to ensure that that didn’t happen — they got Murray 1000 votes up front that didn’t have Eastman attached.  Sorry, Gail — it’s business.

It’s hard to overstate how secretive, effective, cold-blooded, and improbable this effort was.  Truly, my hat is off to the political ninjas.  I have not seen the polls — but I did hear about them.  Murray was not popular with the voters; Eastman was.  Finding 1000 votes for Murray that were not also votes for Eastman — and doing it secretly! — must have been a massive and expensive undertaking.

Just sending people some Murray mailers without Eastman attached would not be enough; that would leave too much to chance.  At some point, the message must have gone out to many people: “Eastman is expendable.  Don’t vote for Gail.  We need Kris to have more votes, just in case.”)  And it happened so quietly; Eastman must still be shocked by it today.

There’s a lesson here for Lucille Kring.  She, too, is not a Pringle confidante.  Jordan Brandman, though without Kris Murray’s policy wonking skills, is.  In 2016, the Pringle Ring will make retaining Brandman its top priority.  She would be the one who will mysteriously get 1000 fewer mail-in votes than Brandman — or, rather, she would if it were not for the approval of Measure L (which means she won’t run against Brandman) and especially Measure M, of which she was the prime opponent, increasing the size of the City Council enough to give her a decent shot at winning.

2. Kring Holds the Cards

Whatever it was that Kring intended to get when she switched sides after the 2012 election to become part of the Pringle Ring — it doesn’t look like she received it.  The support for her Mayoral campaign was anemic.  She was left to public ridicule for her positions.  She was not made an insider, even to the extent that Eastman was.  But she did ultimately receive a consolation prize: because it’s Murray rather than Eastman on the dais, she is now the SOLE swing vote on the Council — if she wants to be.  And, of course, she sits in that position knowing that the Pringle Ring would not hesitate to sacrifice her, as it did Eastman, if it saw an advantage.

So that means that Kring is the deciding voice on the Council — not a bad gig.  If she stays “in the bag” for Pringle, she doesn’t have much power; she’s just a third vote, like Eastman would have been.  But, if she decides to assert herself, she can play a decisive role in the city’s biggest decisions — including ones involving personnel matters.

If it seems obvious that Kring will stay put with the Pringle Ring, it shouldn’t be.  She’s not going to be Mayor.  If they promise it to her, she can’t trust their word.  The threat to her reelection, given her South Anaheim location, comes more from the Tait forces than from Pringle’s team.  The obvious thing that she’ll care about is the new district lines — but even then, lines that would seem to help her, giving her more conservative areas, would also make her more vulnerable to a challenge.  And then there’s the threat of a possible recall — in what would be Anaheim’s last Citywide Council Election — if she really looks like simply Pringle’s third vote.

Oh, and one other thing:  she is not a fan of Golden Boy Jordan Brandman, for whose lightweight views and demeanor she has shown contempt on Council.  She’ll be sitting next to nice, decent, James Vanderbilt next year while Murray and Brandman chatter and giggle and plot on the other end of the dais.  Personal relationships matter in politics — and she may well prefer the Boy Scouts to the other Mean Girls.

Kring is, maybe for the first time in her political life, in a position to call the shots.  My guess is that she will take that power very much to heart.

3. Dr. Moreno’s Sacrifice

I did not for most of the year, think that Dr. Jose Moreno would run for City Council, because I didn’t think that he would want to give up his seat on the Anaheim City School Board.  But he did it — and he did it because, in his view, he would win either way.  Either he would win a Council seat or, by losing, he would show that a Latino candidate could not win Citywide.  And if Measure L did not pass, and the matter had to go back to court — possibly under the auspices of CATER, I suppose — then his election would become Exhibit A in showing why judicial intervention was possible.

After a vicious campaign against him, which included the betrayal by Brandman, he lost.  But Measure L won — and by a margin probably beyond its proponents’ wildest dreams.  So his noble sacrifice — and I use the word “nobel” neither lightly nor ironically — turned out not to be necessary.

What next for Dr. Moreno?  Well, funny thing: you can’t be on both the City Council and a School Board.  So James Vanderbilt’s ascension to City Council creates an opening for appointment to the Board.  I have a feeling that, presuming that Dr. Moreno wants it, I know who’s going to get that position — putting himself into a good position for a Council run two years from now, in his own district.  Sometimes a good sacrifice pays off.

4. Other Players

A. Galloway

I still, even now, do not understand what Lorri Galloway’s game was this year.  She apparently did believe that she was being called to fulfill her destiny to be Anaheim’s first female Mayor — and I simply don’t know what to do with that.  She could have run as Tait’s second endorsed candidate for City Council, putting her in a prime position to become Mayor in 2018, and she blew that off.

I have the hardest time reconciling her belief in herself with her apparent unwillingness to campaign more effectively than a small city candidate for City Council.  She had nice signs and she looks good in the red dress, but mostly there was … nothing.  I suppose that her strategy was for Kring and Tait to beat one another up and then she’d benefit from the mutual destruction; in that case, she overestimated Kring, which in turn meant overestimating Kring’s backers in the Pringle Ring.

The most effective speech that I saw Galloway give this year was the one where she came after my hide when I spoke against her endorsement by the Democratic Party of Orange County on the grounds that she would take votes away from Tait and possibly elect Kring.  As I told them, she was going to finish third, and there was enough of a difference between Tait and Kring even from a Democratic perspective that we should just stay out of the race.  Well, she got up there and worked the crowd like a master, saying that she would not even DIGNIFY the argument that she was NOT a VIABLE candidate, and went on from there, slashing and burning and winning a resounding endorsement.

And, last night, she finished third.  (I knew what I was talking about, fellow Dems.)  It was closer than I thought it would be, though; I too overestimated Kring, and underestimated how much the Pringle Ring solely cared about Murray.  But I think that Lorri hurt herself this past year, totally unnecessarily, and fruitlessly as well given that she too would never be a Pringle Insider.  And I’m sorry to see it happen; I did what I could to prevent it.

B. School Board Members

Al Jabbar solidified his position last night as the second star player on Dr. Moreno’s reform team, with Ryan Ruelas also placing himself in a position for future advancement.  Annamarie Randle-Trejo won reelection against a spirited race by the rejuvenated Hoagy Hoaglund, with Roberto Baeza a distant third and Eleazar Elizondo once again neither campaigning nor placing.

Two other candidates associated with the Pringle Ring began their ascent of Anaheim’s political ladder.  Connor Traut finished first in the race for the Centralia School District, based on the same coalition that propels Jordan Brandman — Democrats happy to vote for one of their own and Republicans who know that he will vote with them on the big issues.  D. R. Heywood is a generation older than Traut, and now with the loss of Joe Shaw becomes the sole out LGBT elected official in OC.  He’s also close to Murray and Brandman.  He’s supposedly open to reason, though — and I wonder how that will work out, because that’s not a trait well-known (or much desired) among the Pringle ring.

C. Fitzgerald

Finally, a shout-out to Dennis Fitzgerald, who played a critical role in a county race.  If it were not for Fitz, Claude Parrish would not have beaten Fitz’s longtime nemesis Webster Guillory.  (Long story, we’ll save it for another time.)  But the cranky foul-mouthed old guy has a lot to celebrate today.  Now — like the rest of us — he has to dedicate himself to figuring out how to be nice to Lucille Kring.

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.)