“Democratic Unity,” and the DPOC’s Weird Allegiance to Correa and Daly.

I remember – it was only a few years ago – when now-DPOC [Democratic Party of OC] chair Ada Briceño was considered a “progressive firebrand®.” She was the head of a feisty union, and you felt you knew where she stood – she had helped lead the fight in Anaheim for district elections, for a living wage for resort workers, and against (most) luxury hotel subsidies, and she spewed forth soaring populist oratory!

I remember back then, Ada did NOT get along with conservative Congressman Lou Correa, (OR with conservative Assemblyman Tom Daly, who had called law enforcement on union members who’d visited his office just to ask him to vote yes on a minimum wage hike.) When first running for Congress in 2016, Correa had falsely taken credit for bringing district elections to Anaheim, even though everything he had done over the years to subvert that reform hugely outbalanced the one little improvised speech he made in favor at the last moment. Ada’s words for Correa at the time were harsh:

“The people of Anaheim lobbied, marched, protested and litigated to claim their rightful place and to realize their dreams in the city of Angels. Correa played no role in helping the disenfranchised in Anaheim and he was nowhere in the vicinity with them during their just struggle. And when he did show up to celebrate the people’s victory, of course his staff was conveniently available on hand to take pictures of his grotesque opportunism.

“This deception is patently Correa-like, claiming the hard work and the success of others as his own. I am appalled by his audacity… And, I know many people of myriad persuasions are also sick of Correa’s deceptive politics. If anything, Correa should apologize to the people of Anaheim for not only being MIA but also for being deceptive in claiming what is not his.”

And I remember, two years later (2018) when Ada was running to be DPOC chair, Congressman Correa lobbied hard against her, telling all his Democratic politician friends, “If Ada’s in charge the progressives will be up your ass all the time making you do what they want, but Beth Krom will have your back.” Ada won anyway, and it looked like a step forward for “progressive” values in the County Party.

And sure enough I remember that for a few years there, DPOC leadership included folks like Jeff LeTourneau, Victor Valladares, Betty Valencia (even Greg Diamond a little further back) – hotheads sometimes for sure, but you always knew they were populist progressives, looking out for the little guy and not afraid of regularly taking on the Big Money.

And I remember that during that time, DPOC resolutions were passed to support Medicare For All, to support Palestinian rights in the Occupied Territories, to support the legalization of marijuana, police accountability, prison reform … all issues that Congressman Correa and Assemblyman Daly regularly wipe their asses with when low on Charmin.

And, you know what, I actually remember the DPOC censuring those two politicians when their years-long list of endorsing and helping bad Republicans was crowned in 2018 with the endorsement of anti-immigrant and authoritarian Sheriff candidate Don Barnes, over a perfectly decent Democratic candidate.

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So, What Happened?

Did Correa and Daly change? (NO, not at all.) Or did the DPOC and their leader Ada Briceño change drastically? All I know is that, this year when we finally have good progressive Democrat challengers in these two very blue districts (Mike Ortega and Boomer Vicente) the Party’s leadership moved heaven and earth to make sure the Party endorsed the two conservative incumbents.

Yeah, early this month neither Mike nor Boomer (nor I) knew that there was a procedure for challenging the AUTOMATIC Party endorsement of an incumbent (and thanks to Jorge Gavino for letting us know, a few days before the deadline.) First we had to spend $350 to get a list of the eligible DPOC delegates for each of those districts, and then call and lobby them to back a challenge. Boomer wasn’t able to get the required number at such late notice, but Mike got more than enough (and Lou Correa was one of only three incumbents in the state to have his automatic endorsement challenged!)

We came to realize that Lou’s side had been lobbying delegates hard against this challenge, with Ada being among Lou’s busiest, most tireless lobbyists. Many delegates wouldn’t even answer our calls or reply to our e-mails. Some of the ones we got a hold of said they didn’t want to go against “Democratic Unity.” [See below.*] One guy explained to me that “I hope to pursue a political career in the future,” meaning he didn’t dare to go against the establishment and the incumbent. Several delegates I’d personally heard bitching about Correa in the past, still declined to challenge him. We came to realize that the 15 delegates who DID end up challenging Lou’s endorsement were actually somewhat brave, and some of them were harassed afterwards.

The next step was a competitive vote for the endorsement between Mike and Lou; they would each get to speak for two minutes. If we managed to keep Lou below 50% there would have been no official DPOC endorsement, which would have been fine. But if we kept him below 70% the endorsement vote would have gone on to the State Convention, and the two men would have been able to make their case before a much larger and more progressive group, which would have been great.

We lobbied and counted our votes, and worked pretty hard at it, but Lou, his loyal aide Claudio, and DPOC chief Ada were working and counting even harder. I’m told that Lou and his partisans bugged the delegates relentlessly, and that Lou even offered to drive to delegates’ homes to pick up their ballots! Obviously, he REALLY didn’t want the hassle, or embarrassment, of having to take his case to the State Convention.

In his 2-minute speech Lou claimed that Mike was “lying like Trump” about his record, but didn’t offer any details; reminded the Party that he’d lived in the area his whole life while Mike hadn’t; and boasted that IMMIGRATION is his “number one, number two, and number THREE issue!” I would have liked to respond in two ways to that last claim: It’s fine that immigration is your number ONE issue, but there ARE OTHER ISSUES THAT ARE IMPORTANT, and you are SORELY LACKING on those; AND ALSO: IF immigration really is your “number one issue,” why did you endorse an ICE-loving sheriff who has already deported more Mexicans than any other California Sheriff? (And NO, most of them were NOT dangerous criminals.)

Long story short, Lou got the 70% he needed, along with the DPOC endorsement; meanwhile a lot of folks who told us they’d either vote for Mike or vote “No endorsement” ended up not voting; several of them ran into technical problems which is fishy at best.

*Here’s the Thing about “Democratic Unity.”

I can’t figure out a good reason WHY the DPOC leadership has pushed so hard to protect two Democratic incumbents with such bad, un-Democratic records. I mean, these two guys already have insurmountable advantages in fundraising and name recognition, they don’t need to be given the Democratic endorsement on TOP of all that. One thing we heard a lot was the “need” for “Democratic Unity.”

There sure are times these days, now that the GOP has become such an anti-democratic, fascist organization, that Democratic Unity is essential – basically in a Presidential election (post-primary) and when there’s any danger of losing a seat in Congress or the Senate.

But here’s the thing – no Republican is ever gonna win the 46th CD or the 68th AD, not in our lifetime. Santa Ana’s next Congressman will be Correa or Ortega, and Santa Ana’s next Assemblyman will be Daly or Vicente. In a case like this, especially BEFORE THE PRIMARY, the call for “Democratic Unity” is just anti-democratic suppression of new ideas and voices, forced conformity. I deplore that shit in a Party.

And people tell me “Of course Ada and the Party are going to go to bat for an incumbent” – but WHY??? Is it just that it’s that much less work to introduce an incumbent to the public, or THAT much hassle and stress to allow a fair debate between two candidates?.

Or… maybe the current DPOC really approves of Lou’s and Tom’s Republican-lite politics, their coddling of big business and law enforcement, and their amoral, scratch-each-other’s-back endorsements. THAT is depressing to think.

In closing…

It’s not the end of the world that Boomer and Mike didn’t get the DPOC endorsement or manage to keep it from Tom and Lou. They’ll have robust grass-roots campaigns anyway, get their messages out, and MAYBE even win! (We were just hoping for a slightly more level playing field from the Party is all.)

And also, it’s apparent that progressive Democrats in Orange County are now an insurgency for the foreseeable future, like the Ukrainian resistance.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.