OJB’s 2018 Primary Picks, Pt 5: State Legislative Offices






In most of these races, the California Democratic Party has already picked, so I can’t do much more than grumble.  While you should have your ballots in hand today, YOU SHOULD NOT BE VOTING YET because you should want to wait for at least one more big poll to come in to help you decide about the Governor’s race and probably U.S. Senate as well.  You can wait to vote until this weekend.  But if you’re an Eager Balloter, we’ll give you the rundown here — with the understanding that some of them may change.

Today is all about the State Senate and State Assembly races, NOT including the Newman recall (where the correct answer is “NO” and the correct answer for who replaces him, if you must vote, is “sure as hell not Ling-Ling Chang“) which will require it’s own detailed post.  You can find a decent discussion for the meanwhile in comments to our new writer Donovan’s post, where he and I face off against Ryan and Zenger.

The California Democratic Party (“CDP”) has not endorsed in the SD-32 and SD-34 races, so I can speak freely.  It has endorsed in the SD-36 race, and it made the right call.  So I’m all candor there!  In the Assembly, CDP has endorsed in all seven local races, and while I’ll offer a “no endorsement” in at least one it’s no big deal.  But I’ll try to provide you with enough background info to make this worth reading.



The belly of Buena Park — neither the north or south of the city, which is frankly stupid — is the only OC part of this district.  Disgraced Former State Senator Tony Mendoza wants his seat back.  OJB not only doesn’t endorse him, but we won’t endorse him in November if he wins, because we take #metoo complaints, when they appear solid, a lot more seriously than he seems to.  So how do we defeat him?

Probably with a Democrat, given this highly blue district.  The other Democrats running are:

  • Ali Taj
  • Vivian Romero
  • Rudy Bermudez
  • Vanessa Delgado
  • Bob Archuleta
  • Vicky Santana
  • David Castellanos

Two Republicans are running

  • Ion Sarega (whom I imagine may be related to CA-39 candidate Andrew Sarega, though I don’t know)
  • Rita Topalian

If either Republican takes the lion’s share of the vote, they’re probably in.  That’s right, three Latinas whose names start with “V” are running, which to me suggests dirty tricks on someone’s part.  Let’s start with them.

  • Vivian Romero is a Montebello City  Councilperson and former Mayor.  She has the LGBT endorsements and the Southeast LA Dems.  She is clearly a legitimate candidate.
  • Vicky Santana is a community college board member, but her website looks like it took 20 minutes to put up.  Could have been legitimate, but it looks like she’s there to suck away votes on some competitors behalf.
  • Vanessa Delgado is the current Mayor of Montebello.  Legitimate candidate.  But either she or Romero seem likely to have entered the race to take votes away from the other.  But she has a lot more endorsements, including from sitting State Senators and the rest of her City Council.  I think that this is the real contender that someone’s trying to slag!
  • Ali Taj is a Councilmember/Mayor of Artesia, with lots of endorsers, including Sharon Quirk-Silva, Melissa FoxArt Brown, and by inference from a photo Jay Chen.  Legitimate contender and I doubt that he’s the one on whose behalf dirty tricks are being played.
  • Rudy Bermudez is a retired police officers and a former Assemblyman who lists no endorsementsRED FLAG WARNING!  RUN AWAY!  RUN AWAY!  Turns out that he was working with Mendoza (bad) to oppose the Calderon family (good) and was fined heavily by the FPPC (bad).  I’m not biting at this bait.
  • Bob Archuleta.  Also appears legit, but his endorsements (mostly from Pico Rivera (of which he was Mayor in 2007), City of Commerce, and former Montebello regime) don’t overwhelm me.
  • Rita Topalian almost won an Assembly race in 2014, so is probably a real person and all.
  • Ion Sarega lives in Santa Fe Springs, so is also probably real.

I’m torn between Taj and Delgado, who seem equally good.  On the one hand, this is a heavily Latino district, so on the one hand I’m inclined to want to see a Latino represent it.  On the other hand, the best of them seems to be Delgado — and it looks like her political opponents have successfully boxed her out.  So, I’m going with Taj, another very good seeming candidate who also represents an underserved minority group and would seemingly do a good job.  I task Sharon Q-S with helping him beat Mendoza.

GREG’S pick, ALI TAJ —  though if you really want to support a Latino/a here then vote for Vanessa Delgado.

2016 DNC convention delegate Jestin Samson with Bernie Sanders


Incumbent ambulatory ethical violation Janet Nguyen is being opposed by three Democrats:

  • Tom Umberg, a trial lawyer whose OC political career started out strong with a win over Assemblyman Curt Pringle in 1990 and then tanked with some runs for state office, although after narrowly beating Claudia Alvarez in 1994 he did return to the Assembly for a second term.  Since then, his electoral record has been poort: he’s the one who lost the election to replace Lou Correa on the Board of Supervisors to TWO Vietnamese candidates named Nguyen at the same time — so of course he’s the logical choice to defeat one of them, Janet Nguyen, now.  (I had originally wrote that he was scraped off of near the bottom of the barrel by the Democratic Party establishment to run here, but I feel bad for him.)  At any rate, he will produce very little enthusiasm outside of party regulars, which given the presence of another candidate raises the question of why the OC Democratic establishment is even bothering touting him?  Easy — it’s because OC’s other Democratic candidate is …
  • Jestin Samson, a blind Filipino (his name is a Tagalog variant of “Justin”) who is an excellent speaker, has lots of fans statewide, and is … wait for it! — a Berniecrat.  And THAT last is why Umberg was scraped off of the side of a barrel pressed into service when former DPOC Executive Director Gerrie Schipske had to leave the race due to a medical condition.  (She escapes my criticism due to the latter.  Heal well, GS.)  OC’s Dems simply CANNOT and WILL NOT abide a Berniecrat candidate when they can run anyone else for a given position.  It is by now a pathology.  Anyway, Jestin’s a great guy, smart and honest, and would be a great legislator.  More on him to come!
  • Akash Hawkins is from the Long Beach side of the district.  Based on his NationBuilder site, he seems like a congenial young man who — unlike Jestin, doesn’t have a statewide following.

GREG’S Choice: JESTIN SAMSON — and it ain’t even close.

Jestin Samson did not have a huge following when he ran to be a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the 2016 DNC convention — but he won the spot with his incredible energetic and crowd-pleasing speaking.  I’ll show y’all some videos later.  Fear not, Hillary supporters, he’s not your enemy either.  He’ll inspire you too.  Democrats should want him on the stump this fall — and he will give Janet what-for in ways that Tom Umberg simply could never do.  Jestin in June = more activist volunteers and more voters in November.


We have a great candidate from San Diego running against sleazy Republican incumbent Pat Bates.  Her name is Marggie Castellano.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, in local Democratic politics who has met her seems thrilled with her — and that doesn’t usually happen.  This is, believe it or not, an actual pickoff opportunity.



Gregg Fritchle is the CDP-endorsed candidate agsinst Melissa Fazli, whose sexual harassment claims against Gil Cisneros have recently run on these pages (and not gotten a good reception, including from those of us perfectly willing to provide one.)  I can’t endorse against Gregg and I wish that he would run for a damned local office so he could eventually run for this seat as an officeholder of some kind — along with the funding infrastructure that that generates.  But he’s running again and so I’ll endorse him again.  Either would have a tough time — that’s a euphemism — against incumbent Phillip Chen.  (Less so against also-Republican Scott Ledba.)


CDP-endorsed Sharon Quirk-Silva is facing a challenge from (I think) charter schools advocate Alexandra Coronado, who has a Ph.D.  I have a Ph.D. too, but I don’t use the term “Dr.”, even in campaigns.  Coronado does.  That’s way down on the list of reasons I continue to support Sharon, who is about as good a representative as her district would allow.


I know what you’re wondering: after criticizing Michelle Duman for driving NPP Karen Schatzle out of a race where she could have beaten Stephen Choi and voted with Democrats half of the time (as opposed to losing to him badly, as any Democrat would do here) and knocking her into CA-39, where she will help tilt the race towards an R-on-R runoff, am I going to join the CDP in endorsing her anyway?  Sure, what the hell.  Have an endorsement!  Next time, be more considerate of party interests.


Am I going to join CDP in endorsing Tom Daly for reelection despite his dismal voting record by Democratic standards?  No, I am not; I still think that his representing this intensely Latino district as if it were AD-55 is horrific.  Am I going to endorse a write-in campaign against him?  Well, someone is going to be the second person on the ballot with him in November, and I’d rather that it be a decent Democrat or someone else respectable rather than a Nazi.  But that’s all I’ll say, because party rules explicitly prohibit me from saying anything actually intelligent here.


Look, we have a good and viable Democrat here!  Name of Josh Lowenthal!  Yes, son of Alan!  He’s CDP and OJB endorsed — vote for him!  He’s running against four Republicans: basically decent and honest Long Pham, neither decent nor honest Tyler Diep, and business owners Richard Laird and Greg Haskin.  I am prevented from telling people to vote for anyone but Josh, so Vern can decide whether to recommend votes for Pham over the presumptive favorite as Republican challenger Dirty Diep.


And look, another good candidate here, also CDP-endorsed!  His name is Scott Rhinehart, and he’s running against Republicans Asmb. Bill Brough and challenger Ed Sachs, the Mayor of Mission Viejo.  Get out there and get votes for Scott so that he makes the runoff!  Do it for Marggie Castellano!


Two Republicans and three Democrats competing here.  Cottie Petrie-Norris is the CDP-endorsed Democrat here, and pretty much everyone seems to like her.  Perennial candidate who gets abused a lot (and a lot more than I think she deserves, but everytime I say that she gets abused more) Karina Onofre is also running on the Dem side, as is Ryan Ta.  That might be enough to create an R-on-R runoff between incumbent Matt Harper and occasional OJB contributor  Katherine Daigle.  I continue to want to see an office created for which both and only Karina and Katherine can run and both get to win.  They might need to set their sights lower than this, though.

So my endorsements for Legislature are:


Alas, I don’t have time to continue this morning, so all I’ll say is that if you must vote today in CA-39 — the only normal lege race — left just pick your favorite hundred-millionaire.  I’ll have more on that, as well as the state legislative races, tonight or tomorrow morning — I hope!


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.)