You are probably as sick of this year’s general election as I am. The last few weeks have given us all plenty to dislike about the top two presidential nominees – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And here in Santa Ana several candidates aligned with the Democratic Party have tried to use Trump against Republicans running for non-partisan offices, in one of the most underhanded schemes I have ever seen in my over 20 years of covering Orange County politics.
These candidates, including Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee Claudia Alvarez and the slate of SAUSD School Board candidates sponsored by the Santa Ana Educators’ Association (the teachers’ union) – including Rigo Rodriguez, Mark McLoughlin and Alfonso Alvarez, have forgotten that Santa Ana is not quite as Democratic as they think it is.
In fact according to the O.C. Voter Registrar registered Democrats make up only 55% of the electorate in Santa Ana. Republican voters make up 18.6% of the Santa Ana electorate and No Party Preference voters total 22.8% of the electorate. Third parties comprise the balance of the electorate.
In most of the Santa Ana non-partisan elections, for the City Council, the SAUSD School Board and the Rancho Santiago Community College District’s Board of Trustees, the candidates are all registered Democrats. In races with two Democrats, such as the Mayoral race, the winner will have to pick up Republican and NPP voters. So candidates who hew too far to the left risk alienating almost half of the electorate!
That is why I think Benjamin Vazquez, the very left-leaning Santa Ana Mayoral challenger, is toast. There is no way he will be able to get enough Republican and NPP votes to defeat the incumbent, moderate pro-business Democrat Miguel Pulido.
And this is why Santa Ana City Council incumbents Vince Sarmiento and Roman Reyna are in big trouble. Sarmiento is being challenged by a moderate Democrat – local family law attorney Jessica Cha. And Reyna is up against Juan Villegas, a law enforcement officer with 25 years at the O.C. Sheriff’s Department. Villegas, like almost a quarter of the voters in our city, is not affiliated with a political party. Both Cha and Villegas have the support of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association, which has been excoriating Sarmiento and Reyna in mailer after mailer.
Because my oldest son is a registered Democrat my household receives plenty of mailers form PACs that are supporting candidates such as Vince Sarmiento, Claudia Alvarez and the teachers’ union slate of SAUSD School Board candidates. And there is the rub. While these candidates and their affiliated PACs target only Democrats their mailers go to households with registered voters who are Republicans, No Party Preference and third party voters. So when a pro-Sarmiento PAC mailed out a voter slamming Trump, praising Clinton and falsely insinuating that Cha was in favor of Trump that mailer was not seen just by Democrats. Nope – it was also seen by plenty of other voters. And some of those voters probably are not going to be too happy about Sarmiento.
Sarmiento almost lost four years ago – to a candidate that did not even run a campaign. This time he is facing a candidate who has mounted a well-funded campaign. In such an election every vote counts. Lord knows how much damage the Pro-Sarmiento PAC mailers have actually done to his campaign.
Sarmiento’s pals are not the only ones lying about fake alliances with Trump. We received a mailer from a PAC supporting the Santa Ana Educators’ Association that alleged that SAUSD School Board Trustee Ceci Iglesias and her colleague and fellow candidate Angie Cano are supporting Trump. Nope. That is a huge lie! They are not in fact Trump supporters.
The odious RSCCD Trustee Claudia Alvarez also benefited from a crooked mailer sent out by a PAC that insinuated that her opponent, Steven Nguyen, supports Trump. No he doesn’t! The mailer also essentially called Nguyen a racist. He is half Mexican American and his dad is the son of a Vietnamese mother and an American GI. How could Nguyen be racist? The racist actually is Alvarez, who once compared a DTSA landlord to Hitler, only to have that episode blow up in her face when the landlord turned out to be Jewish!
Santa Ana is not nearly as dominated by Democrats as some politicians would like to make it out to be. In fact our area is represented by several elected Republican Legislators including First District Supervisor Andrew Do and State Senator Janet Nguyen. They beat top Democrats just a couple years ago, including Lou Correa and Jose Solorio, who are both on the ballot again this year.
What will happen in this General Election? That’s anybody’s guess. But I have a feeling that dishonest campaigning will backfire on those who resort to such tactics.