Former Santa Ana City Manager Dave Ream was not a fan of the Orange Juice blog
I have taken a lot of heat over the past couple of years because I ended up supporting Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido for Mayor last year – and I was retained by his consultant to design his campaign blog. This left a few of my friends scratching their heads.
I fought Pulido and his allies for over fifteen years – and flayed them onthe political blog I created, the Orange Juice. The Orange Juice blog changed Santa Ana politics. It broke down the barriers built up by now retired Santa Ana City Manager Dave Ream. We went after him and his allies with such a vengeance that they monitored our site all day long.
We often partnered with the OC Weekly, to great effect. But I also had a good rapport with former L.A. Times reporter Jennifer Delson. It all came to a head really when Pulido’s handpicked candidates began to lose, to upstart candidates who were not well-funded. These underdogs blazed a trail that has now led to an all-Latino City Council. The upstarts included Council Members Michele Martinez and Sal Tinajero – and Pulido also did not support now Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez.
In fact the only Council Members today that Pulido initially supported are Council Members David Benavides and Vince Sarmiento.
The Martinez for Mayor Volunteer Team
Martinez tried to fight the system for awhile, even running for Mayor against Pulido. But when that failed she finally realized that you need four votes on the Council to get anything done. Today she works quite well with her colleagues – and collectively they have cleaned house. Ream is gone today as are most of his “Reamers.” It is indeed a new day in Santa Ana.
And, incredibly, I managed, along with my colleague and former blogger Sean Mill, to split the “Usual Suspects” – a group of mostly white Republicans who are rabidly anti-immigrant and are also stridently against the working poor, from Pulido. How did that happen? It is quite a story actually.
Mill and I had lunch in September of 2009, with Alfredo Amezcua and his confidante Dr. Art Lomeli, in downtown Santa Ana. They wanted us to help Amezcua in his campaign against Pulido. We agreed to help him. Not two weeks later his publicist, the aforementioned Delson, called to ask me to stop blogging about Amezcua. Mill and I were dumbfounded.
Amezcua and Mill, before he joined the Usual Suspects
We actually began this blog, the New Santa Ana blog, to help Amezcua. We had even created an account for him. Needless to say, he never used it. We were taken aback by Delson’s request but more was to come. We caught Amezcua canoodling with Usual Suspects at a meeting he coordinated. And we quickly realized that Amezcua was allied with the very folks that Mill and I had been fighting for a very long time.
What drove Amezcua to ally with Mexican-hating Republicans? Lord only knows. Looking back I think he was desperate to beat Pulido. But this was surely a devil’s bargain and it came back to bite Amezcua in the a**.
Amezcua’s campaign sign in the yard of a longtime Usual Suspect
Amezcua ended up assembling a pretty lame campaign committee. And Amezcua spent, by all accounts, a quarter million on his failed campaign. Pulido absolutely trashed Amezcua. It wasn’t close. Amezcua got even less votes than Martinez did when she challenged Pulido.
It didn’t help Amezcua’s cause that the Usual Suspects had recruited one of their own, Charles Hart, to run for Mayor. They later dumped Hart and jumped on board Team Amezcua, but Hart was on the ballot and the damage was done.
George Collins, who the Usual Suspects look down upon although he is also a Republican, also ran for Mayor last year, further diluting the anti-Pulido vote.
During the campaign Amezcua once visited a Com Link meeting, at the Santa Ana Police Department’s community room, when Pulido was speaking there. As Amezcua left he snidely commented to me that he should have stuck with me. He should have. But he didn’t and the results are history.
Amezcua and former Usual Suspect fave Charles Hart
So how did I end up helping Pulido? Mill and I figured out that, while Amezcua was in bed with the Usual Suspects, Pulido was now heading up an all-Latino City Council – and they were getting things done. They supported Harvey Milk Day. They opposed Arizona’s hater anti-immigrant law. Pulido’s team was not happy with the lame webmaster they worked with last time and finally I was asked to take over and create a new site, which I did. I won’t apologize for that. I am good at what I do and I did a damn fine job.
Does that mean I sold out? Of course not. I am still fighting even now the crazed Usual Suspects, who lately have begun to sound like the KKK members who founded Orange County. That battle seems to never end.
Santa Ana politics are so crazy it is hard for most folks to even begin to understand what goes on here – particularly if you have not lived in this city for very long.
The city has gone over to the Democratic Party column over the years, as longtime white Republican residents have either a) fled the city, or b) died. Don’t scoff at the latter – it is very true. Santa Ana is today the youngest city in Orange County, not just because Latinos have a lot of kids but also because the older folks have been steadily dying for years.
The demographic shift has also resulted in more renters as has the fallout from the foreclosure crisis. The latter has also seen a steady influx of Vietnamese residents as they have scooped up the discounted properties.
The incoming Vietnamese residents are going to result in an increase in Republican voters, over time, but their kids are going, increasingly, to the Democratic Party and also are filing as Decline to State voters.
One thing I have learned is that you just cannot work with the Republicans in town. Don’t think I didn’t try. I was once one of them, but in 2007, after being the only Latino elected to the OC GOP Central Committee, I famously quit the party. I was sick and tired of the increasing racism of the Republican Party.
That move backfired in a way as it really set off the Republicans I used to work with. One of them, Supervisor Janet Nguyen, ended up endorsing her fellow Republican, Santa Ana Councilman Carlos Bustamante, when I ran against him in 2008. Nguyen and I were close friends, but after I quit her party, she was done with me – and I with her.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s all Republican Latino Advisory Committee
I had advised Nguyen to be a non-partisan Supervisor. She ended up staring a Latino advisory committee – and she filled it with Republicans only. She just didn’t learn. It may yet cost her when she comes up for reelection in 2012.
Nguyen hired a young man, who back then was named Ryan Gene Williams. He had run for the State Assembly and gotten his tail kicked by Assemblyman Jose Solorio, back in 2006. I was one of the few folks in town who helped him out. In fact when his appendix burst I was one of only two people in town to visit him in the hospital. The other was Democratic activist Paul Lucas. But once I quit his party and cut ties with Nguyen, Williams, who later changed his last name to Trabuco, turned on me.
So did Thomas Gordon – who ran for Mayor of Santa Ana back in 2006. I did not know him. Williams brought him to my attention. He said that Gordon had an interest in running for Mayor against Pulido. He was up against a tight deadline. I decided to help him. Not only did I write his candidate’s statement, I also sent my wife to City Hall with a check to pay for the statement. Gordon later paid me back.
And Gordon, like Williams, turned on me after I quit his party. Ironically Gordon sided with the same Usual Suspects who laughed at him in 2006, when they all voted for Pulido.
Imagine that. In 2006 the Usual Suspects were solidly in Pulido’s camp. By 2010 they were all with Amezcua – and he lost badly, underscoring how little influence they have today – and how few votes they wield.
Gordon in fact tried to run against Tinajero last year, but Gordon failed to collect enough signatures and even his own signature was rejected. It was an epic fail of massive proportions. Minuteman Lupe Moreno was among those who signed his nomination papers.
How I wish that Pulido and the City Council would cut off the Usual Suspects and stop underwriting their organization, Com Link, and the Neighborhood Associations, which truthfully represent at most 1% of the residents of Santa Ana.
This is how they behave at Santa Ana City Council meetings
I continue today to watch the Santa Ana City Council very closely. And I am still fending off the Usual Suspects. They may have dwindled in numbers but they are still a threat to our city and to our residents.
No matter what happens in the future, I will always know that I had a hand in ending the Usual Suspect’s reign of terror. And that is more than good enough for me.