Democratic Party Central Committee Endorsements







[Note that I have a later version of this included as part of my “comprehensive endorsements.“]


For the past couple of decades, Orange County Democrats have had strong Chairs who grudgingly accepted internal dissent only to the extent that it doesn’t get in the way of fundraising, personal advancement, and ensuring their own preferred endorsements.  Few people — either in the general constituency or the Executive Committee — would stand up to (or even seriously question the leadership, which was capable of doling out favors and punishments as effectively as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

To a great extent, the party’s internal efforts were designed to squelch the voices of the Left.  The party’s (relative) right — which was fine with compromise with wealthy interests and had the ability to bring in money, both of which made life easier for party leaders — was generally tolerated out of supposed necessity, except sometimes when someone committed an act of bigotry, wantonness, or violence.  But the Left was suspected of trying to leave the party penniless and in an unwinnable position — largely by pushing positions for which the party mouthed support in its platform and public statements.  It was enough to drive lots of good people away, and that it did.  (Others, like me, demanded fair and proper enforcement of the party’s rules, and were duly expelled or similarly banished.)

The County Central Committee election is about choosing members who will lead the Democratic Party of Orange County for the next four years.  These people will accordingly play strong roles in the state and national parties.  This is why seeking candidates who will fight for fairness and adherence to states rules — in other words for not rigging elections and such — largely overlaps with finding candidates who will support Bernie Sanders in this presidential election, although many supporters of Warren, Yang, Steyer, and — in some respects –Gabbard also have reformist tendencies.  Supporters of Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar do not.

So this list is one highly informed by Sanders voters of the more catholic (i.e., not Warren-hating) variety, but even more so by people who will stand up to party leaders when it needs to happen.  Many of the people chosen here are in the former category, but probably not the latter.  They are being endorsed in the hopes that better leadership will bring out their better nature.

(An aside about Bloomberg: he appears to be the State Party’s big hope, one Biden fails.   as its Executive Director is on leave right now as his State Election Chair and one of his paid supports was just chosen to Co-Chair the Democratic National Convention’s Rules Committee, with — like the Credentials Committee — can wreak havoc with fair processes in the upcoming nomination choice as surely as Trump’s lawyers have done.  He’s depending on California, so you may see more ads and paid door knockers for him than you have ever seen before.  He’s aiming to prevail in a brokered convention — see discussion of DNC above — so it’s very important not to give him delegate here.  If you want to vote for Delaney, who has just pulled out of the race, at least that would be a less muddled statement.  It would show that you’re business-friendly, but didn’t get converted by the millions in ads.)

So with all of that in mind, here are my choices (which, once Vern chimes in, will become “our” choices) for DPOC.  Candidates endorsed by the “Party of the People” slate — which I’ll call PoP” — appear in boldface.  I generally (but don’t entirely) agree with PoP; the biggest problem I have with it is that it endorses fewer than seven candidates as opposed to ranking, as I do here,  As people will generally vote for the full amount, that allows the candidates with the most familiar names — who as you’ll see are often the worst — to sneak onto the ballots of even truly progressive voters.

On a vote of 7 to 4, looking down prevailed over looking straight ahead showing DPOC members in 2016. Seated, from left: Jesus Silva, Dr. Jose Moreno, Al Jabbar, Iyad Afalqa, Dean Inada, Greg Diamond, Art Hoffman, Monika Broome, Molly Muro, Gary Kephart; standing in back, newly endorsed Ed Lopez. Photo stolen from Oscar Rodriguez as part of my hazing of new Facebook friends.

District 55:

This district, which happens to be mine, is pretty easy.  The ballot has 8 people running for six seats:

  1. Cynthia Aguirre
  2. Natalie Estrada
  3. Lourdes Cruz
  4. Isabella Rubio
  5. Gail Cain
  6. Jeff LeTourneau
  7. Sean Thomas
  8. Molly Muro

This is the only one that I’ve ranked based upon eliminating the ones at the bottom.  I like Aguirre.  All I know about Estrada is that the PoP slate endorsed her, and I think that they should have also endorsed Cruz.  I don’t know much of anything about Rubio and Cain, except that they aren’t one of the bottom three.

As for my third enthusiastic endorsement: the “PoP” slate rejected Cruz because she voted for “reforming” rather than “abolishing” of ICE.  Most Democrats, save for the small minority who do want truly open borders (at least with Mexico and maybe others in Latin America), favor deep redirecting, re-purposing, restructuring, and regulating of ICE. Abolishing ICE doesn’t do much if it is replaced with bad or worse Immigration (and Customs) law enforcement.  That’s what matters, not wanting whoever controls the borders to be corrupt, lying, and overzealous.  I’m sure she’s on board with that — and I have no patience with shunning someone who is on the right side but doesn’t endorse a particular piece of orthodoxy.

Of those bottom three, the worst is Muro: completely treacherous and awful, part of the small anti-Josh Newman faction of the party.  She needs a long time out.  So that leaves spots 6 and 7 — the dividing line between in and out.

I have some huge conflicts with my former ally and still brother-in-law Letourneau.  He was quite tolerant and supportive of fellow LGBT leader Eric Bauman — and he either did know or should have known better.  More pertinent to OC, he has wanted to do crazy things like expel Democratic Club members who don’t support the DPOC endorsed candidates (way to grow the party!) — the kind of arrogance that independents and Democrats uninterested in party infighting find grating.  He has cheated in party elections (for Bauman’s benefit); has long wavered over time about a complete rejection of Jordan Brandman; and he helped engineer and implement Florice Hoffman’s unethical and rule-breaking sandbagging of me in a hearing at the CDP convention.  But there’s so much on the good side as well: he’s still a mostly decent guy with a great state and local history-making track record of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, which I respect.  And while he’ll bend the internal party rules to get power and influence — I don’t think he’s one for corruption outside of the party — his motives are to build power for the LGBT movement (and, secondarily, for Labor) rather than for personal aggrandizement.  So: he belongs on DPOC, but his colleagues there need to know that he is tainted goods, a sharp dealer, not to be followed uncritically — especially when (and especially when accompanied by Florice Hoffman) explaining “how things are done.” Finishing last among the six elected, and hopefully kept off of the Executive Committee, would be admonition enough.

I was set to appoint Thomas as my alternate if he was not appointed to a then-open seat, which was the result.  Then he waxed rhapsodic about Jordan Brandman, and I backed away slowly.  He is like Letourneau without the track records and experience, and if he’s a Jordanite he would be a sure second vote for him. Letourneau can just appoint him as his alternate.

District 65:

This district has 13 candidates, a wealth of whom are good and only two who would be really bad:

  1. Marisol Ramirez
  2. Ed Lopez
  3. Jose Trinidad (“Trini”) Castaneda
  4. Andy Lewandowski
  5. Jose Paolo Magcalas
  6. Mirvette Judeh
  7. Ada Briceño
  8. Patricia Tutor
  9. Mike Rodriguez
  10. Eric Barlow
  11. John Vassiliades
  12. Bruce Johnson
  13. Arnel Dino

Starting from the top:  Ramirez, Lopez, and Castaneda are great — though Castaneda is being wooed by the corrupt incumbents and needs to be kept from their clutches.  (Perhaps the PoP slate crew, which snubbed him, felt the same way.)  Lewandowski, is a Bernie supporter who was once involved with Indivisible.  I don’t know that much about Magcalas, but he comes well recommended (and as a Filipino his election should make it easier dump the other, horrific, Filipino candidate.)

Now, eliminating from bottom: Johnson has been a terrible DPOC member who was a complete failure as Treasurer years ago. Dino is, like Muro in AD-55, a complete lying treacherous snake who remains part of the anti-Josh Newman faction. Vassiliades  promotes the work of his construction engineers union but is not a profile in courage.  I don’t know Barlow; my understanding is that Rodriguez got the People’s Slate endorsement based on his work on renaming Fanning Elementary in Brea — and while I agree with that effort it’s just not within the top 50 things that DPOC should be dealing with this next year.  (Maybe it’s in the top 100.)  Tutor is someone whom I could certainly support, and the question is whether she’s better than Mirvette Judeh and Ada Briceno — which, largely for reasons of demographic diversity, she is not.  (Someone should certainly make her their alternate, though.)

So the question becomes: Mirvette or Ada? I tilt towards Mirvette because Ada will certainly get appointed anyway — she’s currently Ed Lopez’s alternate — and while we want lots more Latinos in party leadership we really need non-conservative Muslims.  This in turn raising another question that I’d like to evade but, after going through several drafts of this, realize that I can’t: why aren’t I ranking them a lot higher?  As it stands, one of them wouldn’t make it.  So let’s address that.

Ada — as I was warned when she first announced for Chair, but didn’t listen — is enormously ambitious.  (She’s running for DNC after spending only a year as Chair — that ambitious.)  That ambition can be admirable, but can also be corrupting.  I intend a mild intensity of “corrupt” here: just the sort that makes you do things that you should know you shouldn’t do because other people who do have corrupt motives want you to, and you can sort of justify it.

Ada is surrounded by some real bad actors in DNC leadership — Florice Hoffman, Deborah Skurnick (both CDP “Regional Directors”, of which there are fewer than 20), the lingering ghost of former Chair Fran Sdao — as well as some others in their camp like Jeff Letourneau.  She was installed in her seat by Sdao — as brazen a liar and cheat as I’ve seen in OC Democratic politics. And, she has the Building Trades to deal with, and Ada owes a duty to her union to keep them happy.  Reportedly, she leans on committee members to be uncritically pro-union — and while I strongly support worker’s rights and the union movement in general, in OC — since the departure of Tefere Gebre and the sacking of Julio Perez, it’s become a vehicle to push some of the worst economic policies and social policies around.  (More on that in time.)  Ada also has an overwhelming ambition of truly Buttigiegian proportions, which is driving her to try to ascend to the DNC after just a few years in Democratic politics.  (The worst aspect of that is that she’s probably the best of the three female candidates from OC.)

Mirvette is an example of how a decent person can be flattered and cajoled into standing with people who she shouldn’t.  One of the biggest dangers to the political souls of people in DPOC/CDP is that some awful people (Florice, Sdao, Skurnick) can be extremely charming on a one-on-one basis — because their political circle depends only on what a small number of people care about them, rather than the wider voting public, let alone the needy.  One needs to develop a strong hide to ward off flatterers and backstabbers.  Mirvette does not seem to have been very good at that, but maybe she will get better, so she edges out Ada for my sixth recommendation.

District 68:

This district has 18 people on the ballot.  What a mess!

  1. Bill Honigman*
  2. Nathaniel Fernandez Epstein*
  3. Mani Kang*
  4. Ted Perle*
  5. Betty Valencia*
  6. Laura Villa*
  7. Naz Hamid*
  8. Joe McLaughlin*
  9. Tammy Kim
  10. Melissa Fox**
  11. Eugene Fields**
  12. Bridget McConaughy
  13. Tina Arias Miller
  14. Monica Barranco-Leon
  15. Meredith Marquis
  16. David Sonneborn*
  17. Ken Wyant
  18. Florice Hoffman — already an ex officio member!

The quality of these candidates ranges from wonderful to horrible.  Lots of good people will have to make it as alternates.  I’ve designated those who should be chosen as alternates, if they aren’t elected, with an asterisk.  The double asterisks reflect that either Fox or Fields will be on the committee as an ex officio (as top Democratic vote-getter in this Assembly district, so realistically there’s one more spot open than may appear.  I don’t know 10-14; Sonneborn should be on DPOC, but as an alternate (thereby not eligible for CDP’s Executive Board.)

Honigman (Florice Hoffman’s cousin, by the way!) is a nationally known figure for his work with Progressive Democrats of America.  Epstein is an impressive up-and-comer, though I hear stories his being too influenced from the flattering backstabbers, whom he’ll have to learn to stave off.  Kang is a good progressive vote and a strong voice for the Sikh community in local and state politics.  Perle is a long-standing member who plays a strong role in the Disability caucus.  Betty Valencia is a bright spot in the DPOC’s leadership team.  Her wife (unless I’m misremembering things) Villa will help strengthen her influence within the county party.  Naz Hamid would have made the cut in most districts.

I’d be happy to see Melissa Fox and Eugene Fields — who are facing off for the State Assembly seat against Steven Choi — involved, but I don’t feel like taking a position in their race yet.  What I will point out is that whichever gets more votes — which I expect will be Fox — will become an ex officio member of the DPOC, so they don’t really need this seat.  The other should pretty easily be able to find a place — appointed by a local politician, if nothing else — as an alternate.

At the bottom, Ken Wyant is an extension of Larry Agran — who seems intent on destroying the chances for a Veteran’s Cemetery (unless Emil Haddad just gives up fighting him.)  I have no patience with that.  Florice Hoffman already has a seat on DPOC by virtue of being Regional Director — so she doesn’t need two of them (other than to magnify her own power with two more appointments.  Such selfishness is the way of the party hack.)

District 69:

This district has 13 candidates.

  1. Manny Escamilla
  2. Dr. Jose Moreno
  3. Martin Lopez
  4. Juan Gabriel Alvarez
  5. Jessie Lopez
  6. Isuri Ramos
  7. Veronica Chavez
  8. Jannelle Welker
  9. Thai Viet Phan
  10. Ariana Arestegui
  11. Avelino Valencia, Tom Daly’s alternate, will split votes and lose Anaheim’s District 4 for us
  12. Giovanni Chavez – ok guy, but served bad leadership
  13. Luis Aleman – serves and is part of bad leadership

The top three are excellent.  Manny Escamilla showed heart and strength in his race next year, and Dr. Moreno is one of the brightest spots in county politics.  None of them at the bottom are as bad as the worst of the other districts.  I don’t recall whether I know #4-11, so I’m bowing to the judgment of the PoP slate there.  (Martin Lopez didn’t get their nod, perhaps due to his strong ties with Ada.  Be that as it may — and as an Ada ally he may no return this compliment — he’s a good guy.)  On the bottom, Aleman and Chavez are not bad people themselves, but they have been subservient to DPOC’s bad leadership — and DPOC needs less of that.

District 72:

  1. Jaci Ianello
  2. Victor Valladares
  3. Oscar Rodriguez
  4. Karen Hinks
  5. Shayna Lathus
  6. Mark Paredes*
  7. Louise Larsen*
  8. Sergio Escobar*
  9. Libby Frolichman
  10. Kathia Canlas
  11. Mary Tromp
  12. Misha Houser

This district has 12 on the ballot.  All of the first 8 deserve to be on, the first 6 with big cheers, and I strongly hope that those eight, if elected, will make sure that anyone who isn’t elected from that group gets named an alternate.  (I’m deferring to the PoP slate on which are the top 5; I’d cast my last vote for Paredes, but one could make a good case for Larsen or Escobar also.

I don’t remember whether I know #9, though I recall some sort of positive vibe there; I am pretty sure that I don’t know 10-11.  At the bottom, Houser is largely the female counterpart of Letourneau, but more slanted towards supporting tech corporations rather than unions.  (Last I recall, she works for Google in a non-tech job.)  If she really wants the position, someone will appoint her.

District 73:

  1. Emma Jenson
  2. Alan Fenning
  3. Lulu Hammad
  4. Sudi Farokhnia
  5. Jenna Beck
  6. Ann Cameron – like her, don’t like her likely alternate
  7. Danna Lewis
  8. Laura Horgan
  9. Denise Penn
  10. Anita Narayana
  11. Deborah Cunningham-Skurnick — another Regional Director who already has a seat!

I’ll go with the PoP choices here, along with Alan Fenning, as my top 4.  Then we’ll start eliminating from the bottom.

Skurnick — who (and this astonishes me) is also running for DNC — is already on the DPOC due to her being a Regional Director. So, like Florice, she doesn’t deserve a second seat.  Narayana was a miserable DPOC Secretary, arranging favors, appointments, and inside information for her allies on the more conservative part of the party.  [Update: she also used the DPOC trademark on her literature without permission, which is brazen gall.] Denise Penn was almost as bad as Narayana as Secretary — she’s sort of like Letourneau, as another LGBT leader, except without an apparent conscience about it.  This trio have been longtime power-wielders in the party and are three of the worst.

So: four people left for two offices.  Whatever I might once have known about Lewis and Horgan I have forgotten; by default they’re better than the trailing three.  Beck is a real Sanders person who has caused some discord among Berniecrats, but I think she could do a good job on DPOC.  Cameron is a close friend and ally of Penn, whom I presume she’d appoint as her alternate, but she’s generally been a solid vote on her own (despite being for the 405 toll lanes), so that outweighs the downside.

District 74:

This one has 17 candidates — truly an inconvenient amount of riches.

  1. Dean Inada*
  2. Samila Amanyraoufpour*
  3. Iyad Afalqa*
  4. Marleen Gillespie*
  5. Mary Carter*
  6. Anne Mohr*
  7. Jonathan Adler*
  8. Janice Burstin
  9. Aarti Kaushal
  10. Jill Nelke
  11. Boris Gresley
  12. Lauren Johnson-Norris ®
  13. Bethany Webb ®
  14. Kalvin Alvarez ®
  15. Jane Stoever ®
  16. Andrew Gallagher ®
  17. Becky Visconti ®

The PoP slate’s top 4 choices for are all good.  Inada is an extremely valuable resource to the party; Samila and Iyad are strong voices for the progressive Muslim community.  Gillespie is a longtime ally of Dr. Bill; it would be hard to imagine DPOC without her.  I don’t know why they didn’t support Mary Carter, but — despite my differences with her over the CDP Chair position — she certainly belongs, and Mohr has been a strong progressive in statewide politics.  All of #1-7 deserve to be on DPOC — and I expect that someone will appoint Adler even if he doesn’t make it on his own.  (He’s the Parliamentarian, so being an alternate doesn’t undercut him much.)

Here’s the problem: Michael Bloomberg supporter Rep. Harley Rouda has endorsed his own slate of Roudettes, marked with circles “R”s.  I like Johnson-Norris, and I do want Rouda re-elected, but he has got to keep his cotton-picking hands off of the state party.  I can accept moderates in places like this district that would support no one to their left, but I cannot accept anti-leftists who want a suppliant party that won’t pressure them to do what’s right.  That just makes me want to push back harder.  So, I have to reject the whole Rouda slate altogether — especially given the strength of the people whole he’s trying to dump.  He can appoint one of them to the seat he’s allotted.

Outside of OC:

As time permits, I’ll also post some choices for some (mostly) neighboring districts.

Here’s one for Whittier:

AD-57 (LA)

  • Zenaida Huerta
  • Henry Huerta
  • Stephanie Marie Terrazos
  • Roberto Alfredo Alvarez
  • Cynthia Patino Talmich

Here’s one for Long Beach:

AD-70 (LA)

  • Christopher Robson
  • Christopher Duvali
  • Carrie Scoville
  • Pat Stanyo
  • Anne Sullivan
  • Andrew Swetland
  • Naida Tushnet


People (including candidates) who disagree with my recommendations are welcome to post on our comments page for both Democratic and Republican races.  You can also challenge my negative characterizations of some candidates there — although bear in mind that in almost all cases I have pulled my punches and would provide supporting details if the need arose.  Blustering rejoinders to this post will likely show up in the places you would expect to find them.  Happy voting, but remember — don’t vote too soon this year!



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.)