We’re live from the Republican Party of Orange County’s third and final Endorsements Committee meeting for the June 2014 Primary.
The Endorsements Committee will make recommendations to the full Central Committee, who will vote on May 19 on the actual endorsements.
On the docket are Fifth District Supervisor and Superior Court Judge Office Number 35.
Mayor/Businesswoman Lisa Bartlett, Orange County Businessman/Councilmember Robert Ming, and Councilmember/Businessman Engineer Frank Ury are seeking the endorsement recommendation for Fifth District Supervisor.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Ferguson and Superior Court Commissioner Carmen Luege are seeking the endorsement recommendation for Superior Court Judge Office Number 35.
FIFTH SUPERVISORIAL DISTRICT
(6:15 PM): Endorsements Committee Chairman Mark Bucher invites the three candidates to come to the seats in front of the committee table.
(6:17 PM): Frank Ury says all three candidates are good Republicans. He says Mission Viejo is well-run. He says his body of work speaks for itself. He urges for brevity and election impact that the party stay neutral in this race.
(6:19 PM): Robert Ming says the May 19 endorsement is so late in the primary that it’s not unreasonable for the party to stay neutral. He does however say it is important for the party to endorse because it’s discouraging for candidates and volunteers if tireless volunteers aren’t endorsed.
(6:21 PM): Lisa Bartlett says it would hurt the party to endorse at this point. She says Dana Point has paid off its pension liability and has no debt. She urges neutrality.
(6:22 PM): Bucher asks if the three would withdraw their endorsement requests.
(6:22 PM): Ury and Bartlett agree to do so if all three withdrew concurrently. Ming declines to withdraw, reiterating the reasons from his opening remarks. All three stay in.
(6:23 PM): Mark McCurdy asks about sustainable development.
(6:23 PM): Ury says it needs to be done locally not by state bureaucrats.
(6:24 PM): Ming opposes a force from above mandating this on the local community’s residents.
(6:25 PM): Bartlett argues sustainability needs to be a local decision not a state one.
(6:26 PM): Peggy Huang asks about Ury endorsing Democrats.
(6:26 PM): Ury endorsed an apolitical Democrat who was running against a Republican who would soon be recalled. In the recall, he endorsed a Democrat against a tax – dodging incumbent Republican. That latter Democrat is now a Republican.
(6:28 PM): Jeff Matthews asks why endorse at all.
(6:28 PM): Ury says the second Democrat’s opponent was someone who would have been destructive to Mission Viejo. He said in both cases he picked the lesser of two evils.
(6:30 PM): McCurdy asks if any of them would back bringing back Redevelopment Agencies. All three say they would not.
(6:31 PM): Thomas Gordon asks why Ury didn’t stay neutral in the endorsement.
Ury says the Democrat-turned-Republican has proven to be a solid conservative.
(6:32 PM): Bucher asks what are the three most significant Republican endorsements for each candidate.
Ury says he is endorsed by Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and Congressman Gary Miller.
Ming says he is endorsed by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the California Republican Assembly.
Bartlett says she is endorsed by Congressman Darrell Issa, Chief Paul Walters, and unspecified South County elected officials.
Craig Alexander is a Dana Point resident, a former Bartlett supporter for council who opposes Bartlett for Supervisor, and who is also supporting Robert Ming for Supervisor, because she voted to raise hotel taxes and to ban plastic bags in Dana Point after he implored her not to. He turned to her and looked at her and said she had taken his liberty away, his responsibility away, and every other Dana Point residents’ liberty and responsibility away.
Larry Gilbert says Ury pushed to remove provisions of a city manager’s contract related to termination the day before the recall election.
Bartlett says the TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District) is not a tax. She says the Supreme Court ruled the TBID is not a tax. She says Dana Point’s 10% TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) is the lowest TOT of the County’s coastal cities.
She says plastic bag bans work in her city because it is a tourist destination and coastal city. She says each city should decide for itself. She says her city lost conventions because they couldn’t mark the ecofriendly box before the plastic bag ban.
Ury says dismissing without cause requires a six month severance. The only change to the contract was that when the city cuts the contract for cause without severance, then the city has a right to go to a judge for a ruling.
Gordon rhetorically asks Bartlett to explain what TOT stands for and whether she believes a fee is not a tax.
Bartlett says the Transient Occupancy Tax is a fee and not a tax. She says many cities set up TBIDs which allow hotels to determine how to spend collected TBID funds in their area. She says only four hotels are in Dana Point’s TBID. She says the four hotels determine how to spend the TBID funds.
Jeff Matthews and Mark Bucher ask lots of questions asking for clarification on how the TBID works.
Bartlett says the four hotels could not establish an additional fee unless the city granted a TBID because that would be colluding in violation of antitrust laws. She says the TBID money collected is tax-free and is used specifically to market the City of Dana Point as an international tourist destination.
64% of Dana Point’s revenue comes from TOT. That’s $15 million.
Gordon asks why is a $3 TBID imposed when Dana Point gets so much TOT revenue.
Ury and Ming say they do not have TBIDs in their cities and have 8% TOTs.
Peggy Huang asks Bartlett about her argument that the courts ruled that TBID is a fee not a tax as a reason to impose it.
Bartlett says that’s not why. She says it’s because the money helps develop economic and tourism growth. She says it works for Dana Point but wouldn’t necessarily work in other cities.
Huang asks if this is a form of corporate welfare. She says it sounds like it’s a way for hotels to skirt the IRS with city sanction.
Huang asks Ury about lifetime health benefits for Councilmembers.
Ury says a prior Council gave staff and Council lifetime health benefits. Ury made sure all employees hired after 2007 would not get this. Ury signed an affidavit forsaking his lifetime health benefits. He says he’s the one who found the problem. He only voted against an item of this sort because it was posturing and was completely redundant with an item he’d already done.
McCurdy asks about civil liberties, pointing to the example of scanning all license plates as Fountain Valley is doing.
Ming says he opposes license plate readers and supported banning red-light cameras in Laguna Niguel.
Ury says he opposes license plate readers. He points to his immigrant family who fled from Communist Hungary.
Bartlett opposed red-light cameras in Dana Point but believes each city should decide for itself.
Gordon asks if a fee is a tax personally and about whether Supervisors should have pensions.
Bartlett says a fee is not a tax. She says individuals should pay for their own pensions.
Ury says a fee is a tax. He opposes both. He agrees that individuals should pay for their own pensions.
Ming opposes fees and taxes. He says he would decline a pension and that elected officials should not take pensions.
Bucher asks a followup on plastic bags. Do cities have to ban plastic bags to be deemed ecofriendly?
Bartlett says hotels kept coming to the city saying they lost business from not getting conferences due to not being ecofriendly. She says that plastic bag bans were the least onerous way to become ecofriendly.
Gordon asks why couldn’t the free market just get rid of plastic bags instead of having a government mandate. He asks why couldn’t the TBID money be used for reusable bags?
Bartlett said residents, merchants, environmental groups, and hoteliers called for the plastic bag ban.
Craig Alexander interjects that the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce opposed the plastic bag ban.
Questions are complete. The candidates step back, and the committee begins deliberations.
Huang moves to endorse Ming. Matthews seconds for discussion.
Huang is troubled by Bartlett’s stance on taxes and fees and by Ury endorsing Democrats.
Matthews says when multiple good Republicans are running, many in the party say it’s best not to endorse. He says the party needs to figure out a way to determine who’s in good standing. He wonders if the party needs to adopt a formal policy.
He is very troubled by Bartlett’s plastic bag ban. He is somewhat troubled by Ury endorsing Democrats.
Gordon is very troubled by Bartlett’s stance on fees and taxes.
Bucher is very troubled by Bartlett’s plastic bag ban. He recalls when plastic bags were good because they saved trees. Bucher notes that Ming has a very clean record considering no one has attacked Ming’s record. (Editor’s Note: Ury and Bartlett did note earlier that they did not bring any speakers in support or opposition because they supported the committee staying neutral.)
Ming is recommended for endorsement by a 4-1 vote.
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE OFFICE NUMBER 35
(7:11 PM): Jeff Ferguson speaks about his record of handling thousands of cases. He speaks of being involved in a massive task force involving several federal and local agencies that resulted in 128 indictments. He speaks of being involved in forfeiture cases. He speaks of having broad legal knowledge.
(7:14 PM): Carmen Luege speaks about that it is good for the Republican Party to endorse her because she has 30 years of legal experience after graduating from UCLA. She spent 7 years as a civil attorney and 17 years as a federal prosecutor. She has spent 6 years as a Superior Court Commissioner. She speaks of valuing freedom after experiencing the oppression of communism. She says she is endorsed by the Lincoln Club, Grow Elect, and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff. She says it is good for the Republican Party to endorse a female Hispanic for judge.
(7:18 PM): Scott Voigts says Jeff Ferguson has been in the trenches walking precincts and paying for Flag Day tables. He was a prosecutor of the year.
(7:19 PM): District Attorney Tony Rackauckas speaks about Ferguson’s good judgement. He saw Ferguson’s good judgement when they were both prosecutors. When Rackauckas was a judge, he saw Ferguson’s good judgement in the courtroom.
(7:21 PM): Adam Probolsky says Luege couldn’t be involved in the party because being a federal prosecutor and court commissioner prevented her from being involved. He notes they could have brought Governor George Deukmejian or a former member of Congress to speak for her. He says perhaps it’s best for the Party to stay out.
(7:23 PM): Mathews asks why Luege cited judicial canons of ethics in not answering the questionnaire.
(7:24 PM): Luege explains that she is already a judicial officer as a Court Commissioner while Ferguson is not currently a judicial officer.
(7:25 PM): Ferguson says he was subject to the canons when he entered the race.
(7:26 PM): Luege says that only applies if he is elected.
(7:27 PM): The deliberations begin. Matthews admits his previous statements on Supervisor were a diatribe. He isn’t sure how they can pick between the two.
(7:28 PM): McCurdy says Ferguson’s involvement and answering the questionnaire are advantageous. He realizes circumstances may have hindered Luege’s involvement, but circumstances in life are not always fair.
(7:30 PM): Huang says she has practiced both civil and criminal law and appreciates seeing well-rounded candidates. Huang says Luege has done both civil and criminal cases. Huang believes it’s important for judges to have backgrounds in both.
(7:32 PM): Gordon says he has seen Luege at Republican events, so she is involved too. He leans toward keeping the party out of this race.
(7:33 PM): Bucher says he’s inclined toward neutrality as well.
(7:34 PM): Gordon moves and Huang seconds neutrality.
Gordon says the candidates should appeal to the voters.
The vote is 5-0 for a recommendation of neutrality.
NO ENDORSEMENT FOR SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE OFFICE NUMBER 35.
(7:36 PM): Meeting adjourns.
(After the meeting, the Bartlett campaign requested that this blog disclose that Peggy Huang’s husband, Dr. James Huang, serves on the endorsements committee of the Lincoln Club, which has already endorsed Ming.)
(Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Custom Campaigns, the firm that owns this blog, has received compensation from the Ming campaign. For those of you reading the blog on a desktop computer, that should be evident from the ad on the left side of the screen [ads are not visible if you're reading this on a smartphone]. However, compensation has not affected the live blogs, which have repeatedly been cited for their accuracy by various opposing sides and people present in the room, whether it’s the live blogs of OCGOP proceedings, CRA proceedings, candidate forum, etc. Indeed, supporters of different candidates have frequently shared the live blogs on social media, citing their accuracy.)