Whither Jordan, Part 3: How to Betray Your Party’s Voters and Still Stay Politically Viable




Whither Jordan pt 3

[Editor’s Note, Jan. 10, 2016:  This Part 3 of a projected 4-part series.  Part 1 covered two topics:

  • Jordan Brandman’s betrayal of his supporters (culminating in unanimous condemnation of his actions by the Democratic Party of Orange County) and
  • an assessment of where he could run for Anaheim City Council again under the “Recommended Plan” of the judges on the Advisory Committee on Electoral Districts.  (The answer was: he had no obvious good choice.)

Part 2 of this story set forth Brandman’s current objectives:

  • pass a map that might keep his object of hatred Dr. Moreno off of the Council for most of another decade, discussing in detail the maps that would keep Moreno off of the City Council (or at least away from Central Anaheim.)  and
  • force the Democratic Party that all but censured him to reclaim him and restore him to his former glory.

This post addresses his second objective.  It explores:

  • first, the power structure in the local Democratic establishment, and
  • second, the political opportunities that may allow him to force the party to support him once again.  If he believes that he can do the latter, it frees him to do his worst in the meantime without real consequence.]

5. Popping the Party’s Balloons

What Jordan Brandman is trying to do now is supposed to be impossible.  He wants to recover from his party’s unanimous condemnation of his actions that alienated the Latino community in Anaheim, which is a critical constituency.  The popular consensus seems to be that one simply doesn’t come back from the sort of defeat that he faced at the November Democratic Party of Orange County (“DPOC”) meeting — or more properly that he refused to face, either then or at the annual Truman Awards dinner — unless it is with hat in hand and begging for forgiveness.

On might think, then, that Brandman should be trying to smooth things over with the party after not a word was said in his defense.  But he hasn’t — in fact, he doubled down on his position, getting even more aggressively antagonistic towards the interests of Central Anaheim’s Latinos, and especially the one man of his generation who has emerged as their leader.  Why — how — could he afford to do that?

It’s pretty simple, and it has to do with the distinctive role of the DPOC within County Democratic politics.  In most ways, it simply doesn’t matter; to the extent that it matters, it’s because by law it is a conduit through which people who have already maxed out to a campaign can donate and earmark money for “member-to-member communication” to help their campaigns — without the central committee of the party, let alone its rank and file, having much if any say in it.  The party has allowed it to be entirely bypassed as a decision-making agent in elections unless it puts in an effort to do so.  The money, as described below, is controlled elsewhere.

Brandman believes, with good reason, that if the party is a mostly empty shell then his deep-pocketed Democratic backers in OC will protect him from suffering any consequences for his actions.  If that’s sounds arrogant, it may be seen as less so given that it’s pretty much been true.  The former DPOC Chair, wealthy but folksy trial lawyer Frank Barbaro, used to take almost every opportunity where Brandman was present at DPOC meetings and events to tell those assembled that in his opinion Brandman was “the future of the Democratic Party in Orange County.”  Brandman’s rapid ascent up the political ladder in recent years has been one of the party’s few uninterrupted “success stories.”

How is this possible?

For one thing, the power — certainly the money — of Orange County Democrats does not by and large reside within the DPOC’s structure itself.  Some of it resides with the Building Trade unions and Teamsters — progressive unions, in much of the country, but unlike the public and private employee unions less so in our “County on the Take.”  If someone’s going to make a mint off of soaking the public, they want to ensure that their members a reasonably sized “piece of the pie” rather than opposing boondoggles on principle.  So, the trade unions have in recent years supported the 405 Toll Lanes, the Poseidon ripoff, the continued operation of San Onofre, the Anaheim Convention Center expansion and hotel subsidies to wealthy developers, and more — anything that they and their “vampire squid” business allies could portray as “job creation.”

This has brought them into conflict with the more liberal unions and environmental and economic justice interest groups.  DPOC’s membership is generally quite liberal on social issues — which the county power brokers don’t mind — but also on some issues (like the environmental, consumer, and economic fairness ones mentioned above) where the power brokers do mind.  While progressive  groups like Progressive Democrats of American (PDA) and Democracy for America (DFA) are well-represented within the DPOC, and are encouraged by the party to participate in statewide efforts that don’t take money out of the pockets of local business interests, something always seems to get in the way when it comes to pushing for local reform.  They don’t get trusted with much power, and the party is kept quite lean economically — which not taking the stances that might excite voters on the Left.

Largely, the power — and the money — resides with the county’s “Business Democrats,” who largely occupy a parallel power structure called the Democratic Foundation of Orange County (“DFOC”).  This is a relatively flush and high-powered networking group that operates to move the party to the right whenever possible.  They regularly have luncheons for (and mostly give money to) Democrats from the right of the party’s center.  (Please don’t challenge me on this, DFOC; I keep your emails.) And then there’s Barbaro himself — a significant donor at the state level given due regard by the Governor and legislative leaders, who has his own PAC, called the “Victory Fund,” that is one of the few vehicles that can make a difference in a local campaign.  (This, in case you didn’t just add 2+2, raised plentiful eyebrows during the decade or so when Barbaro was DPOC Chair.  One of Barbaro’s responsibilities as Chair was to raise money for the Party — which on its face seemed to conflict with his soliciting donations for his own PAC.  But those eyebrows generally raised above DPOC members’ silent lips.)

Barbaro eventually became exhausted with the increasingly restless and truculent party membership. In 2012, Henry Vandermier — then the Executive Director of the DFOC — started organizing a run against him, and Barbaro seemed reasonably happy to lay down his gavel.  Vandermier was elected DPOC Chair in January 2013 with — no hard feelings, obviously — Barbaro’s powerful assistance.

Barbaro and his associates — including Brandman’s Campaign Manager and strategist, Melahat Rafiei, who previously had worked as the DPOC’s Executive Director under Barbaro — still hold a great deal of sway over the County Party, in association with the more conservative unions, public safety interests, and developers.  Without such interests’ support, DPOC would likely lack the money to do anything capital intensive — and would have to focus more on volunteer political organizing in communities.  It was moves in such direction that led to purges — notably against Vandermier’s 2013 opponent for Chair, Jeff LeTourneau (who later became my brother in law), and myself (one of the Vice Chairs of the party), but others as well — including Vandermier’s attempted political assassination of OC Labor Federation head Julio Perez at the 2014 State convention (which went very very wrong) — that deflected the party from an aggressive focus on neighborhood issues to one focusing mostly on creating political clubs, setting up a “precinct captain” system to recruit people to become energetic and pliant party supporters, and (relatively haplessly) on fundraising.

Given this perspective on where the real Democratic power lies, the condemnation of Brandman was a fluke.  It came because he was so obviously trafficking with opponents of Latino interests; people had to come down on him.  But the county’s real Democratic power brokers hadn’t been condemning him; they were mostly absent from that meeting and any who were there stayed silent.  They would, surely, be able to assert themselves — using the force of money and connections to power — when needed.

So Brandman can still put together a very well-funded and staffed campaign.  But a campaign for what?  Having power brokers behind him isn’t enough.  He’d also need political opportunity.

6. What Opportunities Might Be Coming Along?

Here’s the big problem with Jordan widely disbelieved “commitment,” pledged in open session on December 8, that he would not be moving before the next election.  He lives very close to Gail Eastman, who has been promised the support of Anaheim’s monied kleptocracy this next year.  Both of the maps considered to be almost the sole top contenders to the Recommended/People’s Map — Consultant Map 2 and LULAC Map 2 (the one creatung three majority Latino districts) — do not separate the residences of Brandman and Eastman, despite their both splitting up the Historic Colony District into multiple pieces.  Brandman and Eastman can’t both run in the Central Anaheim district under those maps.

Now, as everyone but Eastman seems to understand, Eastman (like Lucille Kring) is wholly expendable when it comes to the kleptocracy’s cunning plans.  (One would think that her good friend and political playmate Kris Murray getting a thousand more votes than her in the vote-by-mail ballots in the 2014 Council election — which if Eastman had shared would have kept her on the Council — should have been a head’s up for her, but apparently not.)  And maybe she will simply be forced to stand down in Brandman’s favor.  But the likelihood is that Brandman is pretty much of being on Council.  (We know that because when he quit the Council race he implied the contrary.)  So the question is: where else could he go to revive his political career and once again become the Democratic Dreamboat?

The answer is pretty simple: he’s have to go somewhere unexpected.  So let’s think outside the box.

Here’s what I presume that Brandman’s advisers are thinking: the way to get Brandman back into the good graces of Democrats is to become the Democratic “nominee” — as in, top Democratic vote-getter who lands in the top-two of a race — in some district against a despised Republican.  We’ll want to focus on races that don’t require Brandman to move — “he swore an oath!” — but we’ll use as an example one that would.

Who do Democrats not like?  One person we whom do not like is Supervisor Andrew Do, because he presides over a Democratic majority district and that’s sort of embarrassing for us.  (He’s also a pretty miserable Supervisor, but in OC politics injury runs a distant second place to insult as a motivator.)

So: let’s say that Jordan moved to Garden Grove.  There, if he were the only Democrat running, he could become that party’s standard bearer against Do, avenging the (fleeting) political death of Lou Correa.  The Democratic party establishment — as they did in 2014 with another of their favorites, Jose Solorio, in his faceplant of a State Senate race against Janet Nguyen — would call for everyone to rally around him.  “How can you not support a Democrat against Dohhhhh?”, they would shriek — and in all honesty it would be difficult for some of us.  (Doable, though.)  Thus having gotten a bunch of Democrats — with some significant exceptions among Latinos, but disappointing Latinos has never been a big worry for Business Democrats — to carry him on their shoulders to victory (or even to defeat, as the outcome matters less than the support), Brandman would be rehabilitated and his slate would be wiped clean.

(Do you see now why he may feel that there’s no real downside to doing Curt Pringle’s bidding and screwing over Anaheim’s Latinos?  Because, under that scenario, there wouldn’t have been!)

Now there is a problem with the above “run for Supervisor” narrative: surely the Democrats will already have someone running for 1st District Supervisor by the time that Brandman would have to run for office!  I asked around a bit about who might be expected to run in this Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster, and Fountain Valley district — and the name that I heard was Vince Sarmiento.

This sent off warning alarms inside my head.  It’s not that I don’t like Sarmiento — for the most part, I do — although I certainly hope that the stories of him not living in his Santa Ana district are either untrue or are “fixed” before he runs for Supervisor, because this is a seat where he would not be able to get away with it.  It’s because while Jordan Brandman is apparently the favorite candidate of insider Democratic campaign manager and fundraiser Melahat Rafiei, Barbaro’s former Executive Director when he was Chair, my sense has been that Sarmiento is her second-favorite candidate.  And if Sarmiento were the candidate for this office, and then he managed not to turn in his paperwork for some reason by March 11 while Brandman did, then Brandman would indeed be in this position as the party nominee.  And what that means is that Brandman’s opponents will have to have someone in mind who has taken out papers and is ready to file for that office if Brandman files.

What’s the real problem with this plan?  Brandman would have to move to the 1st Supervisorial District by I think something like February 9.  That would mean leaving the City Council way early.  And because 50%+1 wins the election in June, he couldn’t sneak in with a write-in campaign the way that he could with a state legislative office.

Anyway, that’s the kind of thing that we’d be looking out for.  So, for what other offices, aside from Anaheim City Council, could Brandman become the beloved Democratic standard-bearer?

If he doesn’t move out of Anaheim:

(1) 4th District Supervisor — this position is not open, but if Shawn Nelson (who wants to be a judge) ran for and won a judicial position in June, it would become open.  I’m not sure whether that would happen in time for the election to take place in November.  Brandman would probably do better in a low-turnout special election.  I would probably feel the need to run against him if he tried this, as would several Republicans, none of whom would be more entertaining in attacking him than I would.

(2) 69th Assembly District — This is of course held by Tom Daly, and Daly doesn’t have to move on.  But Daly is not earning a pension in the Assembly, and if Nelson moves on he’d have to be a favorite for the pension-earning Supervisor position he has previously coveted.  If that happened, Daly could decide not to run for re-election and Brandman could slip into the Assembly race as the alternative to some Republican like Cecilia Iglesias.  Because Daly is eligible for re-election, this would reopen the filing period for an extra five days — but by then, Jordan (who presumably still has the money he raised during his Congressional run) would have a possibly insurmountable head start for the election for which early voting would begin about seven weeks later.

(3) 46th Congressional District — as he has already dropped out of this race, this is unlikely unless something happened to Lou Correa.

(4) 4th District County Board of Education — if Brandman were to move to the 1st District and take on Robert Hammond, even I might have to support him because of his position on charter schools.  But, alas, he lives in the district where much beloved sane Republican Jack Bedell lives, and not even Brandman’s friends in Fullerton would vote for him over Bedell.  (Besides, this may be too puny of a race for Brandman, although I’m told that the graft potential can be huge for someone so inclined.)

(5) Another School Board — this would probably be a step down for him.  I think that he’d just roll over Eastman instead.

(6) Water Board — don’t laugh.  This might be exactly the sort of thing that would appeal to him, for the same reason that it appealed to Despicable Dave Ellis.  But I don’t think that Anaheim has one open.

(7) Congress Elsewhere — Brandman could run for Congress anywhere in the state.

Well, that’s just about it, if he doesn’t move out of Anaheim and give up his City Council seat. He has no other options except — hey, wait a minute!  He could move to Anaheim Hills and remain on the City Council for now!  Oh, wow.  That opens some other interesting possibilities!

(8) 37th State Senate District — this is apparently going to be a rematch between two Republican titans, incumbent Senator John Moorlach and Assemblyman Don Wagner.  If Brandman ran, he’d likely face off against one of them in November.  The Pringle wing of the party would like him better than Moorlach, at least, although supporting him might lead to a permanent breach with the OCGOP.  But could he win here?  I don’t think we’ll find out, because his running would doom the candidacy of Pringle’s ally Wagner.

(9) 68th Assembly District — this district looks to be a race between three Republicans: Steve Choi, Harry Sidhu, and — DUI or not — Deb Pauly.  No Democrat yet.  No one of any stature likely to run.  He could easily make the Top Two.  And then … and then … oh, I don’t even want to think about it.  Yes, he could win here with Republican support added to Democratic support in the general election — certainly against Pauly, likely against Sidhu (who would suddenly have trouble in Anaheim Hills, as I think Pringle would prefer Brandman to him), and possibly even against Choi.

That, I predict, is the one!  He said he wouldn’t move — so he will surely move.  In a face-off against Pauly or Choi especially, the Old Guard Democrats could certainly twist arms for all but his biggest detractors to support him.  And if he won, he’d be representing his old home in Orange.

At any rate, what should be clear is that — whether through skullduggery (a last-minute switcheroo with someone like Sarmiento or Daly) or a well-planned sneak attack on Republican territory given his Republican juice — Brandman has reason to believe that his political career, even in 2016 and even if he does yield to Eastman, is not dead no matter what he does.

And if it’s not dead, then this week and beyond he can tell Latinos and Lefties to just go to hell.  And, if he does see a way out from under the eight-ball that he has rolled on top of himself, he may well do exactly that.

So … why not get revenge?

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.)