A few folks in Santa Ana have been mighty perplexed about the current City Council majority. I would definitely include failed Santa Ana Mayoral candidate Alfredo Amezcua in that number, along with former Mayoral candidate Thomas Gordon, and many former Santa Ana City Commissioners – who were give the boot by the current City Council majority.
You need four votes on the City Council in order to get anything done. Currently the majority on the City Council is made up of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez, along with Council Members Michele Martinez, Vincent Sarmiento and Sal Tinajero. Mayor Miguel Pulido primarily goes along with the majority, although at times they differ. Council Members David Benavides and Carlos Bustamante are sitting at the little kids’ table – utterly bereft of power and influence at City Hall.
But that could change in 2012. Alvarez will be terming out. I am not sure what she intends to do at that point. She could run for Mayor, or for the SAUSD School Board. Or she could walk away and concentrate on her job as a O.C. Deputy District Attorney.
Current SAUSD Trustee Romany Reyna is an ally of Benavides. Reyna previously ran for the Council seat held by Alvarez and now all he has to do is wait for her to term out and run again.
I have however heard that Reyna is having second thoughts, as well he should. If he runs for the Council in 2012, he will vacate his School Board seat. If he loses his Council race he will be done in local politics. I don’t know that he is willing to take that chance. It depends on who ends up running against him for Alvarez’ seat on the City Council.
If Reyna does run for the Council, and he wins, and Bustamante is re-elected, they will surely team up with Benavides and likely with Mayor Pulido – and the new City Council majority will be quite different from the current majority.
Both Reyna and Benavides are religious conservatives. Bustamante is a Republican. Pulido is more moderate than that bunch, but he has been pulled to the left by the current Council majority. There is no telling what this new right-leaning majority might do, once empowered.
Pulido will also face a few challengers in 2012, including the aforementioned Amezcua. Past Republican Assembly candidate Otto Bade also told me recently that he intends to run for Mayor in 2012. Bade lost his concession this year at the Santa Ana Zoo, where his La Perla restaurant will be replaced by a Knowlwood’s restaurant.
I think Amezcua and Bade would ally with the new, conservative faction if either one of them were to prevail against Pulido.
I also think that failed Mayoral candidate Charles Hart intends to run again in 2012. Hart was recently appointed to the Republican Party of Orange County’s Central Committee, representing the 69th Assembly Caucus. If he were to somehow win in 2012, perhaps as a result of a Latino vote split, I think he too would end up allying with the new, conservative faction.
To make matters worse for Alvarez and company, Councilman Sarmiento is likely to be running for Assemblyman Jose Solorio’s seat in the 69th Assembly District. Sarmiento will be tough to beat. As such, he will be vacating his City Council seat – and the Council majority will have to find someone to fill that spot. That will happen after the November election, so if the new faction takes over, guess who will be appointing Sarmiento’s replacement?
And that’s not all. I fully expect at least one or more of the other Council Members to run against O.C. Supervisor Janet Nguyen. Either Sal Tinajero or Michele Martinez would have good odds of beating Nguyen, unless she redistricts her seat and adds more Vietnamese voters to it, while weakening the Latino vote, which she just might do.
So where does all this leave the people of Santa Ana? It leaves us two years for our Council majority to get the job done, before they dissolve and/or get replaced. That is a small window and it is closing fast.
If the majority fails to replace itself, the fact is that many of the ousted and bitter former City Commissioners will be back and business as usual will return to City Hall. Imagine that – in two short years our progress might well be stopped and reversed. That is a chilling thought.