UPDATE: In First Supe District Election, Do leads Correa 16,002 to 16,000 (Phan Finishes a Respectable Third)

Phan and Correa cropped

Chris Phan and Lou Correa agree: what Orange County needs now is a bald Supervisor!

Last week former State Senator Lou Correa had a fundraiser at the home of local Democratic official Florice Hoffman.  It was a topic of substantial discussion last night at the first Democratic Party meeting of the year.  Correa is running for First District Supervisor — the seat that Janet Nguyen just vacated — today against four opponents.  The leading two Nguyen’s former Chief of Staff Andrew Do and Garden Grove Council member Chris Phan.  (My interview with Phan, if you missed it, is here.)

I’m not exactly buddies with Correa and I do like Phan personally — although I do not like what the Voice of OC’s Thy Vo reported to be his eagerness to privatize of public services (about which I will press him hard if he is elected.)  Maybe that non-relationship with Correa is why several people sought me out unsolicited to pass along the same information: at the gathering, Correa had appeared quite pessimistic about his chances.  Vietnamese voters were coming out like gangbusters and Latino voters weren’t.  Coming from a professional politician, Correa’s downbeat appearance before a large crowd large enough to guarantee gossip was a surprise.  I would have expected Lou to be able to bluff his way through until 8 p.m. tonight.

The well-off coastal faction that dominates the local Democratic Party will presumably heave a sigh if Correa loses and blame it on Latinos for not voting.  This is a big reason why local Democrats so often lose.  If we tune the party so as to appeal to the well-educated (and largely retired) progressive issue activists of Irvine, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Woods — to whom economic desperation is an abstract concept foreign to their everyday existence — it should come as no shock when those outside of that category are not motivated to vote.  My party colleagues are bright and decent people have no animus towards their poorer relations in the Latino community, but — with the big exception of a faction associated with the OC Labor Federation centered in the 69th district — have little feel for them either.  Apparently, today is one of those days when we pay for that.

This, as I’ve argued now for years, is not really shocking because the Democratic Party (and Correa in particular) have not focused efforts on appealing to Latinos.  Correa is running most clearly on a platform of complete and unquestioning support for the police, no matter what they do.  Do I really need to explain that this is not the right Democratic platform to reach beleaguered poorer voters who — go and ask them! — are worried not just about victimization by gangs but by the prospect that their children will be swept up in a dragnet to be process by the prison-industrial complex (of which Correa is a prime proponent)?  This focus on controlling the minority community may work very well in donor circles — Correa has had the most money in this campaign — but it’s not going to excite average Latino voters who are struggling with both economic depredations and being treated as dangerous “pre-criminals.”  And, what do you know?  They’re not excited by Correa!  His endorsement by Tony Rackauckas means surprisingly little to them — surprisingly, at least, if you’re completely tone deaf.

I’m not opposing Lou; I’m opposing Andrew Do, who I think would simply continue the ethical disaster of Nguyen’s reign.  If Chris Phan were a Democrat I’d support him whole-heartedly — but he’s not, and as a Central Committee member that settles the issue for me.  (Happily, as I read the rules, it does not prevent me from telling the truth.)  Pretty much every party activist Democrat I know beside myself is supporting Lou, because conservatives like him and the party demands loyalty from its left flank (even while not returning that favor.  Lou, remember, joined Anaheim Councilmember Jordan Brandman in opposing Dr. Jose Moreno — a legitimate Latino community leader — in the recent Anaheim City Council election, while supporting the anti-crime warrior Gail Eastman and the despicable Pringle-bot Kris Murray in a mailer that went out to Democrats wondering who the hell to support.  Moreno, until mid-last-year a political independent, was hailed as a big “get” for the party last year; had he been treated better — Brandman in particular seems to have suffered no consequences for actively opposing the endorsed Democratic candidate — maybe he could have helped bring out the vote for Correa.  As it is, why should he?  Rewarding treachery just invites more of it.)

For all of the haranguing that progressive activists “have to come out and support Lou!”, the roar of unenthusiasm for actually putting in more than a little far time is deafening.  The loudest activists in support of Lou are not those that can throw their efforts into turnout on the streets. For the most party, they seem motivated by the biggest public supporter of Correa — the Orange County Employees Association — which has usually been there for progressive candidates.  (Not me personally — they endorsed Rackauckas against me for OCDA, which is its own punishment, but others.)  OCEA’s cute but weird campaign of Polaroids with reasons to support Lou — one of which being that he and I had the same semi-‘fro hairstyle in high school — has an aura of sadness about it, because Correa is not actually that great of a friend to Labor.  His selling point is supposed to be that he’s just up front about it — which, again, is not something to lead campaign volunteers to put in the long hours.  Phan, simply by being rational and non-antagonistic, would probably be as good for labor overall — except for that weird fixation on privatization.  (Seriously, Chris — do your research!  It usually turns out worse.)  And as a Republican on Council, he might have more influence on his colleagues than Correa.

If Correa loses, it will be because in all the time he’s been in office here, he and others have not really tried to mold the Latino community into a strong political force.  (The only people who I’ve seen have really do it effectively are Miguel Pulido (every election), a few school board candidates like John Palacio and Dr. Moreno, Loretta Sanchez — although not to the extent that one might expect — and, in this past election, the proponents of the critically important Measure L districting initiative in Anaheim.)  If Correa wins, it will be due to the split in Vietnamese votes in this election.  Limping through to a win is still a win, but, it portends no good for the party’s broader future in Central County.  This is what he and the Democratic Party get for largely neglecting local Latino voters actual needs and aspirations.  We were making progress through early last year — but then that progress stopped as we didn’t follow through with the initiatives begun in 2013.

The one big surprise for me last night was hearing that, based on early exit polling, Phan may well be outperforming Do in the Vietnamese community.  (Despite Do’s Republican Party endorsement, Phan will very likely beat Do outside of the Vietnamese areas, because he’s got the military rather than the sleazoid background and has simply campaigned there much more.)  Rejecting Dirty Do for Clean Phan would be a great step forward for the Vietnamese community — and the rumblings I hear from sources close to Correa is that it may be happening.  It may be that Correa rather than Phan will turn out to be the spoiler in the race — which, as a Democrat, would be humiliating.  (It would also be reminiscent of the special election in 2007 that narrowly brought Janet Nguyen into office when Tom Umberg didn’t even make the top two — which is probably the height of humiliation for Democrats over the past decade.)

If Do wins, it will be a testament to Janet’s political machine.  If Phan wins, it will be a testament to “shoe leather” — the ability to “sell a good product door-to-door.”  If Correa wins, it will because they split the vote and — in the sole tactical triumph of the DPOC — every possible progressive candidate was intimidated out of the race.  (Orange County hasn’t had a non-conservative Supervisor since Jerry Brown appointed Edison Miller in 1979, replacing Ralph Diedrich.)  The First District is the one most likely to elect one, but instead Democrats chose to go with the “sure thing” — which no longer looks so sure.

Thanks to a reform introduced last term by, if memory serves, former State Senator Lou Correa, ballots that are postmarked by today will still be counted, so we may not know the victor tonight.  Making turnout easier that way is a good thing — but in this case it seems as or more likely to benefit Correa’s opponents than himself.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr 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.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)