Louise Stewardson Shouldn’t Have Run – But She Did, So Now Dems MUST Turn Out for Her!

Louise Stewardson waving the flag for civil rights accomplishments at the Huntington Beach 4th of July parade.

Louise Stewardson waving the flag for civil rights accomplishments — the 1967 Supreme Court decision barring laws against interracial marriage and the 1968 Civil Rights Act — at the Huntington Beach 4th of July parade.

Louise Stewardson is running for State Senate in Tuesday’s election — as a write-in candidate.  Judging from the relative lack of chatter about her race among online Democratic circles, the perfunctory Democratic Party support for her will not lead to the rank-and-file going out to have her back.  I was going to say that that’s a shame, but it’s worse than that.  It’s a humiliation.  Louise is putting herself forward to rescue the party from humiliation after a boneheaded error — and for the party not to pull out the stops to support her is humiliating for all

In other words, Louise has tried to do Dems a big favor — and DEMOCRATS HAD BETTER COME OUT TOMORROW AND WRITE IN HER NAME!  Otherwise, we’ll look like ingrates or worse.  Louise says that she decided to run on her own accord when she realized that she’d otherwise have no Democrat to support in the race, but I tend to doubt that that’s how it happened.  I suspect that she was asked to run, after the deadline had passed — and that she was a good enough sport to comply.  And it does require her being a good sport: it wasn’t her error that created the situation — but only she will have her name next to the vote total.

If she would have asked me, as someone who has run three times against candidates who would have otherwise been unopposed, I would have told her not to do it.  Running a write-in campaign is hard enough without a campaign budget or a functioning GOTV apparatus behind you.

(Hey out there — are you a Democrat, and find yourself reading this and getting pissed at the “bearer of bad news” author?  Good!  If you want to spite me, get people out to vote for Louise.  I’d love to be shown up by her doing well!)

Louise is one of the more delightful people in the Democratic Party of Orange County — one of the few leaders who, without her being double-faced or gaming the system, people on all sides of the divides within the party generally like.  She has also been a good sport, someone who could be called upon to volunteer her time and do both thankless jobs and treacherous ones.  (She clearly didn’t want to serve as Western Regional Vice-Chair for another term in 2013 — but she answered the call to do so, even though she after that she didn’t attend many of the meetings.  She headed the politically contentious (in the “office politics” sense) annual dinner committee for a couple of years even though it put a target on her back.  She is informed on the issues, especially ones involving the environment and health care and she’s smart, generous, hard-working, and unfailingly polite.

She’d be a wonderful State Senator.  But she never should have run — at least not this way.

Let me clarify that: if Louise had filed on time to be on the ballot, then she should have run.  (Or, if one Republican were running unopposed, then running as a write-in is fine, just as a way of registering a at least a weak protest.)  Her presence on the ballot might have stopped the public safety unions — it’s not public employee unions generally, as is often loosely stated — from dumping tons of cash into Don Wagner’s campaign.  They hope that he would be a less principled opponent than his own principal opponent John Moorlach to excessive public safety hiring and high pensions — but they might have been hard-pressed to go against a popular Democrat.  (Or they might not have — they’re largely Republican, after all.)  If Louise had then picked up 15-25% of the vote — beyond that would be difficult — then she would thrown the race into disarray.  She might have made the runoff — although probably not — and in any event she would have pretty much guaranteed that there would be one.

But, she didn’t file in time to get onto the ballot.  The Democratic Party flat-out blew it.  Two people used to keep the DPOC informed for the past few years about these sorts of races  and their deadlines — me as Northern Regional Vice-Chair and Nick Anas as Executive Director — and now we’re both gone.  Not being in North County it wouldn’t have been “on my plate” — but had I been part of party leadership I’d have ensured that we had a candidate running, as I’d helped do many times before this decade.  (Among other things, this involves arranging a backup if someone backed out.  Frequent candidate Christina Avalos would probably have done it, but she’s considered too left-wing by some.  Can’t have that!)

Once she was not going to the ballot, she should have never gotten into the race.  Better that the Democrats be thought weak in SD-37 than to go out and prove it.  While the boneheaded Chumley has pointed to Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski as proof that one can win as a write-in, the differences between being an incumbent Senator with tons of money from a prominent political family in a small state — versus being an unknown non-politician from minority party without any money to spend, in a district that has about 25% more population than the State of Alaska — was apparently lost on him. (That, or his PR instincts told him to ignore it.  Seriously, this is the sort of thing I have to put up with as an OC Democrat.)

For the Democrats to put up a candidate would make sense if — as happened in the 2014 Assessor’s Race — it could push the race into a runoff between two non-Democrats.  But here, Democrats didn’t have to do that.  Shockingly, a a third Republican candidate, Naz Namazi, had entered the race on the last day and saved our bacon.  Namazi is conservative, a Rohrabacher staffer, whose only appeal to Democrats (aside from seeming like a strong woman of color) would be that she was neither one of the better-run front-runners.  But that’s good enough — forcing a runoff is the closest thing we’ll get here to a Democratic win.  Democrats could have essentially adopted her campaign and used it as a platform from which to bash the two leading Republicans — and then had fun with their staggering towards the finish line in the May runoff, probably furtively looking for Democratic votes.

I spoke to the DPOC about this at our January meeting, the Monday after the Friday filing deadline.  I told them that I planned on promoting an independent expenditure campaign supporting Namazi that could be used as a platform to attack the leading Republicans and to force a runoff where Democrats would clearly have the deciding votes.  That was as good as we could get.  It got a pretty good reception, as I recall — I was a little meaner than I’m being here — and I continued making plans to actually go out and do this useful PR stunt that could perhaps wangle concessions in the runoff.  I found some interest in the concept.  And then, suddenly, came the news that Louise was going to run her write-in campaign, to give Democrats someone to vote for.  A nice sentiment — but pointless as a write-in against two Republicans, and arguably counterproductive against three of them.

StewardsonGraphicHere’s what happened next: I dropped my plans to do a “Democrats for Namazi” independent campaign against the other two candidates while (by default) supporting Namazi.  I had no problem running such a campaign against Moorlach and Wagner — especially Wagner, given what has been the predictably awful tenor of his campaign — but I wasn’t going to try to raise money from people to run against Louise as well.  Instead, I decided to be a good Dem and created the public service announcement — not an ad, by the way — announcing Louise’s candidacy that you now see at right (and on the upper right slot on our home page if you read this before the election is over), I posted and shared the right Facebook stories, left the write snarky comments on political sites, told my friends and family in the district to write in Louise, and so on.  But, as a non-retiree who has plenty of work to do, I’m not going to put in call time or walk time for this — the only benefit of which would be my putting in face time for other committee members to see me working so hard.

I’ll tell you one thing, though.  I’ll bet that there would have been more votes against Wagner and Moorlach had Democrats fallen into line behind a doomed Republican in a “Democrats and Independents for Namazi” campaign you’ll see now.  Leaving her to her own devices hasn’t done so well — and there’s no reason to think that she’s made any inroads among Democrats and independents.  Meanwhile, I don’t hear anything suggesting that many Democrats even know that Louise is out there, ready to take their enthusiastic votes.  One reasonably effective campaign (and given some of the people who were interested in it, that seemed achievable) is going to do better that one that’s invisible in the mailbox and one that’s invisible in both the mailbox and the polling booth.

So the decision for Democrats on Tuesday is: do we stand up for someone who volunteered to take a hit on our behalf — or do we not?  It’s really simple: YES WE DO.

Are we doing so?  NO WE AREN’T!

Now are we going to fix that or not?

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.)