UPDATE! Process Still Sucks, But DPOC Endorses Ben Vasquez Over (Absent) Pulido for Santana Mayor, 23-1-4!


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Pulido and Alvarez - angled strokes

UPDATE: The revised headline pretty much speaks for itself.  At Monday night’s DPOC meeting, Ben Vasquez showed up and gave a nice speech, aided by other DPOC stalwarts such as Dr. Bill Honigman, Jeff LeTourneau, and Tish Leon.  Miguel Pulido did not show up despite his endorsement being recommended by the Endorsement Committee (the composition of which Florice Hoffman disputes in a comment below.)  The Central Committee decided to take the recommendation off of the consent calendar, and after the speeches — no one at the meeting spoke for Pulido, including his ally Claudia Alvarez, pictured with him above — 23 people voted for Vasquez, 4 voted for No Endorsement, and one person who was apparently out of the loop supported Pulido.  I did pull Alvarez’s name from the consent calendar, but when her race later came up I was unable to speak on why I did so — corruption at the Rancho Santiago Community College District and her close ties to Pulido — because Chair Vandermeir ruled that the body had to reject the recommendation before we could get to the merits.  That’s our county’s Democratic democracy for you!

(1) A Brief Introduction (at Least “Brief” Compared to What I’d Say If I Had Your Unlimited Attention)

It’s truly shocking — or at least it should be, for local Democrats — that Orange County’s Republican Party is so much more transparent about presenting, conducting, and processing its endorsements than the Democratic Party of Orange County.  (To see how the Republican Party does it, read these reports from the “semiofficialblogOC Political.”  I take no joy in saying this, but the transparency of the process is exemplary and the work that Chris Nguyen does documenting it is superb.    By comparison, I was stopped from videoing Miguel Pulido’s pitch to the body two years ago — I wanted to get his promises down into the record — in the middle of the speech, based on a new anti-transparency policy imposed by DPOC Henry Vendermeir.  And, as you’ll see below, it has gotten worse.)

As we discussed last month — yeah, do go ahead and re-read that piece, please — the DPOC’s process is both opaque and rigged, showing the kind of contempt for internal democracy that has helped land our candidate for President in a dead heat with a pathologically lying, emotionally stunted, fascistic psycho clown.  Why can’t WE change our process to something like what the local Republicans have?  Well, as the old joke about psychiatrists changing lightbulbs goes, “first the lightbulb has to want to change.”  And we, emphatically, don’t.

That’s what you get when your political claque gets so far from its grassroots that it fears their input.

DPOC Endorsements are conducted by a five-person Endorsements Committee led by Vandermeir and California Democratic Party Regional Director Florice Hoffman — and pretty much nobody else.  (Hoffman’s South County counterpart Phil Hanneman, is, I’m told, not a player; Treasurer Bruce Johnson would not cross Vandermeir on a bet and Secretary Arnel Dino is not one to make waves.  So, so far as I can tell — and that’s not far only because of the pitch-black lack of transparency (although some things do leak out) — the whole process depends on agreement between Vandermeir (who seems essentially to promote the agenda of former Chair Frank Barbaro and a few others) and Hoffman (whose own moral compass makes her an ardent feminist but whose business interests make her effectively a tool for the Teamsters Union and the Building Trades.)

So if you want to get recommended for an endorsement, now you know who to talk to!  And that, sadly, is the point of the whole enterprise.  Other than serving as a shunt through which well-heeled  interests can funnel unlimited donations (and even direct them when it comes to communications among Democrats) and directing what “activist resources” can be funneled to serve favored candidates (and away from endorsed candidates up against favored rivals), generating endorsements are pretty much the only reason that power-holders in the party need the DPOC to exist.)  Since January of 2014 — when Vandermeir hobbled the still-lame Resolutions Committee by jettisoning its chair Jeff LeTourneau and replacing him with, essentially, a vacuum — it certainly hasn’t been for the purposes of effective public outreach into community and promotion of their interests before their local City Councils.  (That still happens sometimes, but painfully, grudgingly, and not all that well.)

So, guess when most of us learned who was being recommended for the supplementary batch of endorsements at tonight’s 7:00 meeting?  If you said 4:20 on Friday afternoon (because you know a thing or two about Barbaro), you’re wrong!  My email, at least, arrived at 4:19!

Of course, more people might have filled out applications for endorsements than appear on the list of recommendations.  Guess when we found out who these alternatives were, who the committee could have chosen but didn’t, or in what races they didn’t endorse at all, or anything related to local ballot measures?

C’mon, GUESS!

That’s right — WE DIDN’T!  We STILL don’t know who else wanted to be endorsed — except in those cases where some candidate has taken the long route and written all of us (and in one case, for me, telephoned as well) to LET us know!  We have to ask, in every race, whether there were additional applications — and the Chair’s position is that he doesn’t even have to tell us (although last month he grudgingly did inform us, on an ad hoc basis, upon specific request.)

So OK, OK — let’s say that we DO find out who else applied for a given office.  When do we get to hear from the various candidates?  AS A RULE, WE DON’T!  Not unless we fail to affirm the Endorsement Committee recommendation.  And it doesn’t just require TWO people — a motion and a second — to pull someone’s name from the consent calendar.  It requires enough votes to deny the Endorsement Commitee a 60% majority.

Well, when do we we get to debate whether we should  pull a given race?  AS A RULE, WE DON’T!  We only get to debate whether we should pull a race for debate after we vote on the Endorsement Committee’s recommendation.  In other words, we have to vote on whether we will vote a given race without discussing anything about merits of the candidates!  Only after we decide that we do not trust the Endorsement Committee’s recommendation — a slap in the face that aspiring politicos tend to refrain from doing, especially when voting on signed ballots! — can we ever get to debate the merits of the candidates in a given race!

In August, we only overturned a committee recommendation twice — when the Committee couldn’t muster a plausible argument against endorsing Donna Acevedo-Nelson in Anaheim City Council District 5 (literally. the explanation was something like “we didn’t know her very well”) and in Anaheim Council District 3, when we decided that we really did prefer the Latino community and civil rights leader Dr. Jose Moreno whose joining the party was considered our greatest coup in 2014, over Frank Barbaro’s fair-haired boy Jordan Brandman, the guy whose actions we had condemned after he tried to derail the Anaheim Districting proposal and then proposed changing the district lines specifically to pluck Dr. Moreno out of his Latino district east of Euclid and into a conservative majority white district where he could not run against Brandman!

And we only barely got to be able to hear the candidates and debate that race at all!

(2) The Endorsement Committee’s 14 Recommendations

So, with that brief introduction out of the way, here are the 14 recommendations for DPOC Endorsements that are presently on tonight’s consent calendar:

City Council Races:
1. Aliso Viejo City Council: Mary RawlingsRios
2. Dana Point City Council: Debra Lewis
3. La Habra City Council: Ida MacMurray
4. La Habra City Council: Jess Badillo
5. Santa Ana City Council, Ward 5: Roman Reyna
6. Santa Ana Mayor: Miguel Pulido
School Board Races:
1. Centralia School Board, Area 3: Elizabeth Gonzalez
2. Huntington Beach Union High School Board, Area 3: Trung Ta
3. Newport Mesa Unified School District, Area 6: Leslie Bubb
4. Oceanview School Board: Amalia Lam
5. Rancho Santiago Community College Board, Area 3: Nelida Mendoza
6. Rancho Santiago Community College, Area 5: Claudia Alvarez
7. Savanna Elementary School District: Chris Brown
8. Tustin School Board: Matthew Singer

(3) Discussing All of the Recommendations Except for Pulido, Alvarez, and Gonzalez

Mary Rawlings-Rios:  She’s a definite yes.  I don’t know anything about her, but she is a de facto running mate for already endorsed Democrat Ross Chun.  Without her, Bill Phillips and Mike Munzing have a better chance of winning, due to voters’ tendency to vote for as many people as there are positions.  (I discussed this previously with regard to Jamison Power in Westminster, who does not have a “running mate.”)

Debra Lewis:  Lewis was the first-ever Mayor of Rancho Santa Margarita and is running on a platform of reining in developers.  The other candidates are Michelle Brough (whom I think is Asmb. Bill Brough’s wife), Nadia KhalilPaul Wyatt, and Penny Maynard.  Seems like a good endorsement to me.

Ida MacMurray and Jess Badillo:  Yes to both.  The La Habra City Council could use a nice takeover.   A three-Latino majority could transform the City for the better.   Incumbent Rose Espinoza is also running and already endorsed by the DPOC.

Roman Reyna:  Incumbent Reyna has been a disappointment on the OC Water Board, and that is pretty damned distressing.  But he’s stayed firm in opposition to Pulido, and that’s good.  His opponent is OC Sheriff Officer Juan Villeregas, whose candidate statement leaves some doubt as to his worthiness.

Trung Ta: Ta, an Engineer and Project Manager, is running against incumbents Michael Simons and Susan Henry and fellow challengers Saul Lankster and Colin Melott to fill one of two seats.  None of the other four are endorsed by the OCGOP, so I’d like to hear from someone why the incumbents should or should not be replaced.  I wouldn’t plan to pull this one, but if Teachers Union expert Karen Ridley did, I’d second it.

Leslie Bubb: Bubb is an educator running against incumbent Dana Black.  No strong feelings either way.

Amalia Lam: Lam is a social worker running against four other contestants for two spots, including the excellent Gina Clayton-Tarvin.  (I don’t know Gina’s party affiliation and I don’t really care.   She’s doing a great job for her community.)  I’d like to know whether Lam is running in support of or against Gina.  The answer would determine whether I pull this.  The other candidates are Norm WestwellPatricia Singer, and Kathryn Gonzales.

Nelida Mendoza: Mendoza (appearing here without her “-Yanez”) is an incumbent.  She’s running against virulent Republican budget hawk Thomas Anthony Gordon (a member of the OCGOP’s five-person Endorsement Committee!) and Tony Tapia, whose name sounds familiar but whom I can’t place.  (For all I know, he’s just there to split the Latino vote.)  The Rancho Santiago Board has been rife with controversy and petty chiseling scandal this past year, as we’ll discuss below when it comes to another of its seats — and I’d bet that my Republican friends would argue that Gordon would be a great antidote.  Could be — but I don’t think that Nelida is a significant part of the problem.  I’ve had various run-ins with Gordon online and find him truculent and doctrinaire.  (I know — I’m a fine one to talk!)  Even if he would be an effective  — and I’m not saying that he would — I won’t intervene on his behalf.  He has enough going with him through the OCGOP.

Chris Brown:  The entertainingly named Brown, an incumbent running against fellow incumbent Tina Karanick and challenger Tony Cousimano, is the wife of conservative Democrat and former Buena Park Mayor Art Brown, who has been a bit of a euphemism for male genitalia at me in the past.  Would I pull her name over it in retaliation?  Of course not.  Relax, Mrs. Brown.

Matthew Singer:  Singer, an attorney, is a one of three challengers to incumbents Tammie BullardFrancine Scinto, and James Laird.  The other two challengers are Karen Twaddell and Elias Tefere, who if I recall correctly ran for something in June.  I don’t know whether the challengers are running as a slate, but this is an instance where I will defer to Florice, who knows the area well and is probably not grinding an axe for the Teamsters.

(4) Pulido, Alvarez, and Gonzales — Pull, Pull, Pull-ido!

Miguel Pulido:  No, no, NO!  Frank Barbaro’s longtime crony — famed for pay-to-play as a consultant on projects being considered by the city of which he is Mayor — is not someone the DPOC should endorse in the best of circumstances.    (If you don’t know why not to endorse Pulido — and turnover leading to lack of institutional memory is doubtless what the Endorsement Committee is counting on — check out these most recent stories and search our archives for more.  But in this case, he’s also running against the excellent gentleman Benjamin Vasquez — a teacher and housemate of progressive labor leader Julio Perez — and that makes this endorsement a slap in the face to progressive Democrats everywhere.  (Perennial fringe candidate Steve Rocco is also running.)  Pulido will probably win on his own, even if Vasquez can get the endorsement (with much the same coalition that Jose Moreno used last month.  We can deal with that, as we have before.  But the idea that the Endorsements Committee sprung this on us at the last minute like this is insulting and infuriating.  Seriously, shame on them.

Claudia Alvarez:  Alvarez had been the top Council ally of Pulido and, as night must follow day, is not a reformer.  Rancho Santiago has been having a heaping helping of scandals during her tenure as Board Chair — not all her fault, of course, but … “not a reformer.”  Getting rid of Jose Solorio was a start on the way to reform.  Steve Nguyen is a Republican, but as memory serves Ceci Aguinaga is a Democrat and is both honest and earnest.  (I don’t know whether she sought an endorsement, though I soon will.)  Alvarez probably wins reelection here either way, but like other ethically skeevy incumbents she does not deserve an endorsement — especially when she has snuck into the second, lower-attendance endorsement meeting.  Read the Voice of OC and OC Weekly archives for lots more on Alvarez.

Elizabeth Gonzalez:  I’m going to pull this one.  She is running against Irv Trinkle, a longstanding board member who has some criticisms about some of his fellow Board Members.  I mistakenly thought that he had withdrawn from the Centralia School Board race two years ago to make way for one-time (and maybe current, I have no idea anymore) Brandman protege Connor Traut, and made the mistake of publishing that recollection.  Trinkle wrote into this blog tearing me a new orifice in a pretty delightfully entertaining fashion:

Mr. Diamond, Regarding Centralia School District Area 3 race with 2 candidates for 1 seat. “Trinkle” did not bow out to let Traut have a seat in 2014. “Trinkle” and Sequeria were defeated by Traut fair and square as he spent a huge sum to get his name out. Two others got elected and neither were incumbents. “Trinkle” spent 13 years busting his butt along with some other special folks to make Centralia a great district. Only now with Traut, Montez, and Charoen doing their political stuff do we see over spending and a lack of concern for anyone other than themselves and their political aspirations. Liz Gonzales was recruited heavily by Traut and Montez to run and attempt to defeat “Trinkle” so they can have another puppet working with them. “Trinkle” is running for the right reasons with no political agenda or aspirations other than doing what is right for the kids and employees of Centralia and the community. I know all this to be fact and am willing to discuss it if you so desire. My website:www.irvtrinkle4education.org

To which I responded:

Mr. Trinkle,

We’re not the New York Times, prepending everyone’s name with “Mr.”, “Ms.”, “Dr.” et al. No offense is intended by reference to you by your last name, which henceforth will be hard for me to think of without “scare quotes.”

I’d have to go back and read my articles from 2014; my recollection was that someone — I’d thought it was you — was edged out of the race to suit Connor’s seemingly limitless ambition. Did you edge out of the race tentatively for a time and then edge back in? I apologize if my memory was faulty — or perhaps it is not faulty but the people informing me about you were wrong (perhaps intentionally.)

Tell us more about the foibles of Centralia!

I don’t know whether Irv Trinkle is a Democrat, Republican, or neither.  But his reply to me is enough to make me want to hear from the candidate — and, if he is a Democrat and happens to be there, from him.


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.)