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Frenemys – Battle Lines in the 69th Assembly District Primary

The 69th Assembly district contest has positioned democratic friends against friends, old guard versus next generation leaders, and unions against business interests. It’s a battle among frenemys in the Democratic Party.

Following his landslide endorsement win at the Orange County Young Democrats (OCYD) meeting earlier this month, Labor Activist Julio Perez walked away from Saturday’s meeting of State Democratic Party delegates with an overwhelming level of support from delegates who chose a candidate for endorsement.

Orange County Delegates to the State Democratic Party gathered Saturday in Orange to begin the pre-endorsement process to select endorsed candidates in the primary contests planned for the February State Party Convention in San Diego.

Julio Perez

In his remarks to OCYD Perez said; “I’m tired of candidates coming to us saying they’re Democrats but not voting that way. You need to choose wisely whose side you’re on. I’m here to ask for your endorsement. I’m here to recruit trouble makers to make Orange County better. The bottom line is that you should follow your heart, because taking no position is often worse than taking the wrong position.”

Speaking to delegates at Saturday’s meeting, Perez promised to be a “strong voice for working people” in the 69th AD, “the most Latino district in the state.”
Tom Daly (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly spoke of his accomplishments, as one of three elected democratic Mayor’s of Anaheim, “bringing more parks, fighting a proposed utility tax, and job creation.” Daly told the delegates he has been a life-long resident of the district as well as a registered Democrat all of his voting life. “I’m committed to bringing results and value to all the residents of the district,” Daly said.

In order for an endorsement request to move forward to the convention a candidate must receive more than 50% support from delegates voting at the caucus. Delegates had the choice to vote for a candidate, or vote “No Endorsement.”

Perez was the largest recipient of votes in the 69th with eleven votes. Daly got three votes and Martinez received one vote. Six delegates voted for no endorsement. Having received more than 52% of the votes, Perez will have one last opportunity to reach 60% in delegate support at the convention to get the party endorsement.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

A more surprising development to come out of the meeting was the unexpected support Perez received from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and her appointed delegates putting him over the 50% mark. Sanchez had been silent about her endorsement prior to Saturday’s vote. Her support will likely give the Perez campaign a big boost in grass roots and establishment support.

After the vote Perez said:

“I am proud to have earned more than three times the support of any other candidate in this race. This vote is a significant step and I look forward toward earning the full support of the Democratic Party at the State Convention. This campaign is being built on the energy of grassroots supporters that will help me reach out to voters throughout the new 69th District.”

Julio Perez is emerging as the leading candidate in grass-roots support, endorsements and organization. Fundraising numbers will be available on January 31st and Perez has told us that he expects to report more than $100,000 raised at the end of 2011.

But even with the level of support Perez has gathered, there is still stark division over the race among democrats.

For example, at Thursday night’s weekly Drinking Liberally gathering, a long-time friend and I got into a spirited disagreement over the virtues of 69th Assembly district candidate Julio Perez. The unfortunate result was my friend leaving early in anger. I’m sure we’ll patch things up eventually, but this is an example of the deep division facing democrats in the 69th Assembly contest.

Jose Solorio
Asm. Jose Solorio (D - Santa Ana) - Photo: Chris Prevatt

The last such battle among Orange County Democrats was in 2006. At that time there were two contested primary elections for democrats. The 34th Senate contest placed Assemblyman Tom Umberg against County Supervisor, and former Assemblyman Lou Correa in a battle for party support. The 69th Assembly contest had three candidates, Santa Ana City Council members Jose Solorio and Claudia Alvarez , and Armando De La Libertad, but Alvarez chose to sit out the endorsement battle.

Senator Lou Correa

Correa and Umberg both sought the pre-primary endorsement. While Correa received a majority of votes at the caucus, he was unable to secure the 60 percent needed for endorsement and he decided to not seek the endorsement at the convention. Correa won the primary election with 59.7 percent of the vote.

Armando De La Libertad was able to secure the needed 60 percent support in the 69th AD contest and went on to receive the party endorsement at the convention. Solorio won the primary election with 52.4 percent of the vote.

In the 69th race both Senator Correa and Assemblyman Solorio have taken a different position from 2006 regarding endorsements by the Democratic Party. The Voice of OC reported last week that both Correa and Solorio had urged delegates to make no endorsement in the 69th. Solorio has personally endorsed Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly and Michele Martinez in the election.

Voice of OC editor Norberto Santana, Jr. wrote in his story The Battle Behind the Battle in the 69th Assembly District:

There is an urgency and anger among labor leaders and other activists in the party that is turning this election-year ritual into a referendum on the party’s future.

Labor leader Julio Perez is running against one of the county’s most senior Democratic elected leaders, Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly. Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez is also running for the post, but the focus is clearly on the Daly-Perez battle.

Daly is the ultimate establishment candidate. With decades of public service — mayor of Anaheim during the 1990s and clerk-recorder over the past decade — Daly pitches himself as a senior leader who can work with the various players from across the political spectrum on a broad range of issues. In other words, he’s a moderate who won’t be marginalized in conservative Orange County.

Tefere Gebre - Photo: Chris Prevatt

But moderation isn’t working anymore for labor leaders.

“We’re just finally calling people out,” said Tefere Gebre, who leads Orange County’s Labor Federation. He delivered that message again this week to a packed crowd at labor’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

The message from union halls these days, Gebre said, is straightforward: “Are you with the 99 percent or the 1 percent? You can’t straddle the middle anymore,” Gebre said.

The battle-lines have been drawn, and the primary campaign in the 69th Assembly district is likely to be a bitter fight for the heart, soul, and future of the Democratic Party in Orange County.

One Comment

  1. Howard be my name Howard be my name January 23, 2012

    Chris, thanks for this excellent and very comprehensive history and explanation.

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