You don’t get a consolation prize when you run for office. You either win or lose. After many weeks of politicking a number of local Santa Ana candidates will discover their fate this Tuesday, Nov. 5, when the combined Santa Ana City Council and SAUSD School Board Special Election finally comes to fruition.
So who will win these seats?
Let’s take a look first at how we arrived at this moment. The City Council seat, in Ward 4, opened up after the incumbent, Roman Reyna, was sued in civil court by the candidate he defeated last November, Phil Bacerra. Reyna it seems moved into Ward 4 but fudged his campaign paperwork. Eventually he was charged by the OCDA and he was indicted and fined a half million dollars! He had to resign from the City Council and promise never to run for local office again.
Bacerra is the leading candidate to replace Reyna. Other challengers include former Santa Ana planner Manny Escamilla, former Planning Commissioner Beatriz Mendoza, business owners Jennifer Oliva and Brandon Sisco, and Bishop Gale Oliver Jr.
Escamilla’s base is the left-wing of the Democratic Party, essentially those who support the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. While those voters are fired up they are small in number and given to not voting.
Mendoza used to work for U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. She has the support of the same people that supported Reyna last year. She is a single mom and the campaign has been very tough on her.
Sisco is an outlier. He does not seem to be spending any money on his campaign. I am not sure why he is even running. But he seems to be having fun in the process.
Bishop Oliver Jr. is getting a lot of support from conservatives in the area. There are a lot of folks walking precincts with him. However he has not run for office before and presumably his name I.D. is low. Perhaps voters will be moved to vote for a minister?
Oliva is getting some help from the local police union, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association. So she has sent out some mail and has signs up. This is her first campaign too. Council Member David Penaloza has endorsed her and she serves him on our Arts Commission.
Bacerra however has a big advantage as he was on the November ballot last year and he remains popular in north Santa Ana. Like Escamilla, he is a college graduate and a planner by trade. He has served on the Planning Commission and he has plenty of contacts, here in Santa Ana and also up in Sacramento. He will benefit from the fact that these types of elections tend to have low turnouts that favor older voters. That’s his base!
If I was a betting man I would bet on Bacerra to pull this one out.
The SAUSD is also holding a Special Election after their former Trustee, Cecilia Iglesias, got elected to the Santa Ana City Council last year. The SAUSD Trustees were unable to figure out who to appoint to replace Iglesias so now we get to vote for a replacement.
The candidates include Iglesias’ longtime friend and ally, Gisela Contreras, former City Councilman David Benavides, Anaheim public schoolteacher Carolyn Torres, and Housing Commissioner/Realtor Cecilia Aguinaga.
The same folks walking for Bishop Oliver Jr. are also walking for Contreras. She is the only candidate who fully supports parental choice in education. This is her first campaign but she has the full endorsement and support of Council Member Cecilia Iglesias, a veteran of many elections.
Benavides was once married to a local schoolteacher but he divorced her a few years ago, when he was running for Mayor of Santa Ana. He heads up a local nonprofit, Kidworks, that is definitely in the education arena however he is what he appears to be – a career politician looking for his next gig.
Torres is cut from the same liberal cloth as Escamilla. You can expect her to promote the teacher’s union, oppose school choice (charter schools) and support new taxes and bond measures.
Aguinaga worked for the SAUSD many years ago. She has been involved in Santa Ana politics and community affairs for a long time. She has run a few times for the SAUSD School Board. This time around the local police union has funded several effective campaign mailers for her. However she is not walking precincts and will depend on the mailers and her existing name I.D.
This race is a tough one to call. Benavides has the highest name I.D. but he is covered in Roman Reyna stink and that will scare off a lot of voters. Torres is too liberal for what is a moderate community but her ballot designation is a good one. She is the only teacher on the ballot. Contreras is working hard but has few funds and is relying on grassroots support. Aguinaga has come close before. Perhaps this time she will finally win?
So who are you voting for?