Santa Ana Councilwoman Michele Martinez, told NBC News this week that she “will not mind if she isn’t reelected in November.” She was interviewed after this week’s City Council meeting had to be canceled after a punk in a “F*ck the police” hat wouldn’t leave.
“As I sat here and listened to all the comments, it’s really disheartening. People want to come here and threaten us,” said Martinez. “At the end of the day let me tell you I can go to sleep at night, so I don’t care if you feel that I have not done a job that you’ve asked me to do.”
The sad reality for Martinez is that she has been pandering to the FTP crowd for some time – but as she saw on Tuesday night they are insatiable. They are anarchists and nothing she or any other politician does is going to mollify them.
For Martinez to be talking like this less than a month away from the General Election is simply astounding. But when you look back at her electoral record one thing is clear. She has been very lucky in the past – and her luck could be at an end.
Martinez got into politics when she worked for developer Mike Harrah back in 2005. Harrah wanted to build the tallest office tower in Orange County, right in Downtown Santa Ana. But to do this he would have to convince the voters of Santa Ana, to vote for a referendum, Measure A. Harrah raised nearly $370,000 to support Measure A, and Martinez helped him to run the successful campaign.
The Luddites who opposed Measure A did so on the grounds that it was being built in a “historical corridor.” Those opponents all lined up the very next year behind one of their own, Evangeline Gawronski, as she ran for the City Council’s Ward 2. Martinez jumped into that race and no one thought she had a chance.
Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido did not support Martinez but he also did not ally with Gawronski. Instead Pulido got behind a City Commissioner named Fortino Rivera. When the election came along the unthinkable happened. Martinez somehow won, by a paltry 740 votes.
Martinez tried to reach out to the Gawronski supporters – the very same people who opposed Measure A. It didn’t work and in 2008 she made the seemingly crazed decision to run against Mayor Pulido. He ended up with 55% of the vote and she only got just over 16,000 votes.
Why did Martinez run for Mayor in 2008? A friend of mine heard gang banger defense lawyer Alfredo Amezcua say that she was his trial balloon. Amezcua had groomed Martinez for years – and some even alleged that they were lovers. She took one for the team in 2008.
You would think that Pulido would have found someone to run against Martinez in 2010, when her Ward 2 seat came up for reelection. But she ended up helping Pulido, who was challenged by an emboldened Amezcua. And Martinez cruised to reelection without facing an opponent.
Amezcua spent a small fortune on his Mayoral campaign in 2010. At his side were the rabble who had opposed Measure A. They assumed the victory was theirs but when the smoke cleared, Amezcua was utterly trounced by Pulido, who beat him by 10,000 votes.
Two years later, in 2012, Martinez, in the midst of a safe Council term, ran for the 69th Assembly District. Pulido appeared at several of her campaign events and she raised and spent a quarter million dollars. But carpetbagging labor organizer Julio Perez jumped into the race as did Amezcua supporter Francisco Barragan. Martinez was humiliated in the end, coming in almost last place. Perez might have won that primary election but the few votes Barragan netted, about 600 votes, were the difference that handed the victory to former Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly. He went on to beat an unknown Republican candidate in the General Election.
Martinez joined forces with her colleagues David Benavides, Sal Tinajero, and Vince Sarmiento in a much ballyhooed “Santa Ana Spring” during the 2012 General Election. They successfully passed a Mayoral term limit measure which limited Pulido to three two-year terms – although the Council gets to serve three four-year terms.
Now, two years later, Martinez is facing a serious challenger, Mirna Velasquez, who has been endorsed by the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and the OC Labor Federation. Two other candidates are also in the race – a salsa dancer named Rene Gomez, who was recruited by the Republicans Party, and liberal LA Jewish web designer Gilad Salmon. These men stand no chance of winning but will take a few votes.
We are a few weeks away from the General Election and Martinez and her colleagues are having trouble raising money. She has no following to speak of. Even her right hand man, Alex Flores, has peeled off and is running the campaign of Alex Padilla, a paralegal who is challenging Benavides in Ward 4.
Martinez can’t possibly be enjoying any of this. She probably just wants it all to end. That will happen soon enough…