I’m remiss in writing this piece about the new Democratic Party of OC Central Committee leadership team, which was seated in January, and I’ll start by wishing all those new Central Committee members who were elected last March the very best.
Ada Briceno was unopposed and re-elected as party chair and over the past two years, she’s really grown into the job. What I appreciate most about Ada’s tenure is she took the time to find out for herself what was working and left it alone, and what wasn’t working and took steps to fix it. For those who were impatient, they might disagee with her approach but its earned trust and respect. And if the Party voted differently than she would have liked, she was a grown up and accepted the vote and moved on. But Ada’s leadership has made the county a darker shade of blue. She has earned the Party’s full support.
The NY Times extensive map of the 2020 election shows just how successful the party was. See above.
Florice Hoffman and Luis Aleman retain posts as treasurer and secretary. The vice chair lineup is completely different from 2019.
Libby Frolichman and Cynthia Aguirre were re-elected as West and North Vice-Chairs; both replaced the 2019 selections with Frolichman replacing ousted Victor Valladares in the West when he was removed by the DPOC in May. Aguirre was elected in October after Jeff LeTourneau resigned from the spot (but not the Central Committee) after making social media posts praising North Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh (more on that in a second).
Gloria Alvarado replaced Betty Valencia. Lara Horgan is the new South County Vice Chair replacing Annie Wright who declined to run again. Lara has big shoes to fill as Annie was a force and a real pleasure to work with. Annie not only standardized the club chartering documents and process, she spearheaded the effort to give Democratic clubs a voice in the Central Committee and, thereby, integrated the grassroots into the party assembly. When she was appointed Co-Chair of the Bylaws Committee, Annie established a task force that led to the adoption of the Code of Conduct, an effort that had languished for three years. Most of all, Annie conducted herself in a courteous and responsible manner, regardless of whether she agreed with people. I hope that Lara will continue this tradition of competent leadership.
As LeTourneau wasn’t elected to the Central Committee last March in AD 55, finishing seventh in a seven-horse race, and he wasn’t appointed as an alternate, there are new co-chairs for the Bylaws Committee and Resolutions Committee. On Bylaws, Region 19 Director Deborah Skurnik and Parliamentarian Alan Fenning take over with a goal of finishing the edits to the DPOC bylaws for State CDP certification. The DPOC Bylaws still are not certified by the State Party; I bet they will be done before the end of 2021. For Resolutions, Ken Wyant and Eugene Fields are Co-Chairs.
If you look at the map, the Party has much work to do in Orange/Anaheim Hills/Yorba Linda/Villa Park to the North, Dana Point and San Clemente to the South. Newport Beach remains a Republican stronghold and Huntington Beach is bluer than I thought it might be.
The disturbing shade of red comes from Little Saigon where both the OC Register and Voice of OC brought up the incredibly obtuse blunder of former Vice Chair LeTourneau’s social media post praising Ho Chi Minh and the fact that he wasn’t ousted by the Party outright. Not only did LeTourneau demonstrate total ignorance of Ho Chi Minh’s war atrocities experienced by this Vietnamese immigrant community, he displayed an astounding deficiency in political leadership by alienating a crucial voting bloc and prompting Vietnamese Americans to vote against the Democratic Party. He didn’t want to resign, but ultimately had no choice – negotiating terms I don’t think the entire Central Committee would have agreed to at all.
LeTourneau’s resignation as Vice Chair but retention of his Central Committee position allowed Assembly candidate Janet Nguyen to use his continued membership in the governing body for political mail that propelled her back to Sacramento. Congressional candidate Michelle Steel also took advantage of LeTourneau’s lapse in judgement by branding the Democratic Party as communist sympathizers and moving on to Congress. Local media affirmed that LeTourneau’s self-inflicted gaffe of political insensibility had a direct impact on the loss of these races for Democrats. The Voice of OC and the OC Register said the quiet part out loud.
Late last year, LeTourneau’s previously dormant Facebook page for his candidacy for DPOC chair became active again suggesting he was considering challenging Briceno for chair. The “about page” had this copy (and I can’t tell if its new or old copy):
“I am running for Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County to not only begin the healing process for the party, but to establish an organization that will be sustainable and viable for years to come.”
I don’t think the person who undid years of work in Little Saigon and, politically, cut the throats of three candidates in Little Saigon for Congress, State Assembly, and Board of Supervisors, has the ability to heal the party. LeTourneau showing up at your fundraiser is like a virus showing up at a family reunion.
His ally, Valladares, was the star of a Michelle Steel online ad that attacked Harley Rouda.
Last year, Valladares was the other Vice Chair who was also removed for “imprudent” social media remarks. So, between the actions of these two disgraced Vice Chairs, it’s no wonder Rouda lost a close race in a Congressional District with a decided GOP advantage which Rouda won in 2018.
And Valladares is a candidate to challenge Hoffman for Regional Director, believe it or not. His Facebook page promoting his candidacy sugarcoats his actual record. The guy lacked the competence to be a Vice Chair and wants to take on a bigger role as Regional Director. It’s a disaster movie waiting to happen. Valladares’ latest “WTF” moment – suggesting that DPOC communications director should be paid less than her already way-under-market salary. Huh? This coming from someone who’s never held a job requiring a professional skill-set judging a very underpaid professional who does stellar work for the Party. Since when does any Democrat suggest someone other than billionaires and millionaires make less? Victor does.
So, the new Central Committee appears to have purged some of its most internally damaging troublemakers – for now. But as I wrote in my “exit interview” survey as I departed my AD-68 seat, “some people in the DPOC never got out of high school.” But I think the new crew is a major step forward.