OC Political

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Archive for April 5th, 2012

Will the Fullerton Recall Succeed?

Posted by OC Insider on April 5, 2012

In OC Republican circles, the group consensus seems to be that the success of the Fullerton recall is a foregone conclusion. But is it?

Tony Bushala, the Fullerton developer and owner of the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog, has spent at least $173,000 ($20K of it from his brother George) to qualify the recall against Fullerton councilmembers Don Bankhead, Dick Jones and Pat McKinley. Due to the timing of when Bushala turned in the signatures, the recall and replacement special elections will be consolidated with the June 5 primary.

Bushala has formed a new committee, Fullerton Residents for Reform, which will be the funding vehicle through which he pays for mail supporting his chosen candidates.

It’s easy to understand why people think the recall is a foregone conclusion: Bushala is a multi-millionaire who is completely focused on the recall, is willing to spend huge sums on it, and the recall targets are old and tired. Plus, there seems to be grass roots support for the recall.

On the other hand, there may be some wishful thinking by recall supporters. Generally speaking, it’s unlikely voters will recall local elected officials like councilmembers, especially ones they’ve been returning to office for years, unless they a) believe there is something seriously wrong with their city and b) voting for a recall will solve the problem(s).

Fullerton is a great and desirable place to live, and I’d be surprised is a majority of voters there think the city is in bad shape, let alone the train wreck recall supporters make it out to be. Plus, leading indicators of a genuine grass-roots campaign are missing. Many of those who show up for recall events or to harangue the council are from outside Fullerton, and outside Orange County. Grass roots would show up in the form of Fullerton residents making donations, small or large, to the recall campaign, yet a review of the campaign finance disclosures show only two Fullerton donors whose last name isn’t Bushala.

Look at it another way. Their genuine outrage at the tragic and senseless killing of Kelly Thomas aside, Bushala and his group took advantage of that situation to basically get a do-over of the 2010 council elections. The primary issues cited by recall supporters are the Kelly Thomas killing and a decades-old 10% water surcharge that turns out to be illegal.

The District Attorney is prosecuting two Fullerton policemen for murdering Thomas and the city’s movement to end the 10% water surcharge let a lot of the air out of those issues. As far as most voters who pay attention to city government see it, those issues are more or less being resolved, weakening the case that the solution is recalling Bankhead, McKinley and Jones.

Recalls are hard to win. In 2001, three Orange Unified School District trustees (one of whom was under house arrest) were recalled, but only after years of controversy and district actions generated wide-spread parent dissatisfaction. Parents organized and teamed with the teachers union to qualify a recall. Even so, the three trustees were recalled by very narrow margins, even though they didn’t work very hard to save their seats.

There are some similarities between the Fullerton recall and the 2010 recall of Mission Viejo Councilman Lance MacLean. In Mission Viejo in 2009, a vocal group of council critics initiated a recall against MacLean in 2009, in hopes of replacing him with one of themselves. Their signature gathering met with slow going and ultimately one of the recall leaders spent thousands of dollars to hire professional circulators to get it on the ballot. The recall election was held in February 2010. MacLean, who only campaigned actively to against his recall in the last few weeks, was recalled by a paper-thin margin of 19 votes out of 14,721 cast. And even that was rendered moot when recall leader Dale Tyler was defeated in the replacement election by Dave Leckness.

The Fullerton recall campaign leaders may have made a major strategic error by submitting their signatures almost a month before the February 16 deadline. If they had waited until that date, the recall/replacement elections would have been a stand-alone special election, probably in July, in which the low-turnout would tilt the odds in favor of the recall. Instead, the recall has been consolidated with the June primary, in which voter turn-out is expected to be in the mid-40 percent. Turn-out in a stand-alone special election would be half that.

The OUSD and Mission Viejo recalls were stand-alone special elections, in which voter turn-out was 21% and 23.9%, respectively. In both cases, the recalls only narrowly succeeded against politically inept incumbents who only sluggishly contested their recalls.

Which is another similarity with the Fullerton recall, one that argues in favor of its success. Dick Jones, Don Bankhead or Pat McKinley don’t appear to be working very hard to save their seats. Jones’ council term ends this December, so he may not care one way or another. Fullerton voters recalled Bankhead in October 1994, and then voted him back on the council a few weeks later, so he’s probably adopting a que sera, sera attitude toward the whole business.

Even if all three councilmembers are recalled, there’s no guarantee they will be replaced by recall supporters. Their best shot is in the Dick Jones seat, where Friends for Fullerton Future blogger and close Bushala ally Travis Kiger is running. Kiger has some big advantages: he can use his planning commissioner title, and he is the only replacement candidate in that seat who paid for a candidate statement in the sample ballot. If Jones is recalled, Kiger is almost certain to replace him.

A number of candidates who ran and lost for Fullerton Council in 2010 are running in the other two replacement elections. Running in the Bankhead seat is Greg Sebourn, a Bushala ally who finished a fairly distant fourth in the 2010 council election. Also running is a Rick Alvarez, who is more or less the establishment candidate. We’ll see if Alvarez can run a strong campaign, and whether Sebourn will run a better campaign than in 2010.

In the McKinley seat, the replacement candidates include Doug Chaffee, Barry Levinson and Matthew Rowe. Chaffee is a Democrat and establishment-type who fell only 90 votes short of being elected to the council in 2010. Levinson is more of Tea Party-type who finished 5th in 2010 with 10.6% of the vote. Rowe is a young-ish, conservative Iraq War veteran.

Even if voters support all three recalls, recall supporters may win only one of the seats. With the exception of Chaffee and Levinson, none of the replacement candidates have shown much ability to raise or loan themselves meaningful campaign warchests. At the end of the day, the election prospects of Kiger, Sebourn and either Levinson or Rowe will largely depend on how money Tony Bushala spends on their behalf through his Fullerton Residents for Reform independent expenditure committee.

All in all, it’s premature to conclude the recalls of Bankhead, Jones and McKinley are sure things. Odds of a successful recall are probably, at this moment, about 50-50.

Posted in Fullerton | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

OCBC Issues Correction & Apology to Mansoor

Posted by Newsletter Reprint on April 5, 2012

In an embarrassing press release, OCBC had to admit that their score for Assemblyman Allan Mansoor was miscalculated.  There have been many grumblings about the misalignment of the OCBC scorecard with those of other business groups, and now just outright getting Mansoor’s score wrong lands another blow to the credibility of the OCBC scorecard.  Here’s their full press release that came over the wire yesterday:

OCBC Sets the Record Straight on Mansoor

IRVINE, CA — Orange County Business Council (OCBC) has issued a correction of its Legislative Scorecard, originally produced and distributed last October, 2011.  A transposition of one vote caused the score for Assembly member Alan Mansoor to be miscalculated at a lower rate than it should have been. His correct score is 72% pro-business legislative votes aligned with OCBC’s policy positions.

OCBC takes position and advocates on behalf of dozens of state bills throughout the legislative session. In 2011, OCBC identified 30 bills to track the votes of the OC legislative delegation. The list of these bills was provided to legislative members in May 2011.  The adjusted calculation of the legislator’s “score” is based on the number of times a legislator voted with OCBC, divided by the total number of times a legislator was present for a vote.

The mistaken score has been posted on the OCBC website since last October.  The information was recently used by Assembly candidate Leslie Daigle in campaign material, which is when the error was discovered.  The error in information lies entirely with OCBC  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 74th Assembly District | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

OC’s Best Ballot Designations

Posted by Chris Nguyen on April 5, 2012


Ballot designations are the only piece of information that appear directly on the ballot other than a candidate's name (and party in some - but not all - races).

Last week, I wrote about OC’s worst ballot designations. In this post, I’ll be looking at OC’s best ballot designations.

As I said last week, “The most important thing a candidate does in a campaign may well be selecting a ballot designation.  That little phrase underneath a candidate’s name are the last piece of information that voters see before casting their ballots.  In low-profile races (like Central Committee, where you can’t even get a candidate’s statement in the sample ballot), that little phrase may well be the only piece of information that voters see before casting their ballots.”

Elected officials’ ballot designations are an inherent advantage, so I’m excluding the designations of elected officials.

OC’s Ten Best Ballot Designations (for Non-Incumbents/Non-Elected Officials)

  1. Retired Navy Captain (Emily Sanford in the 74th District Republican Central Committee)
    Retired Naval Officer (Norm Dickinson in the 73rd District Republican Central Committee)
    Who could possibly vote against the military?  People have a deep respect for career military officers, as these people have served their country, have substantial leadership experience, understand complex government bodies, and are educated.
  2. Deputy Attorney General (Peggy Huang in the 55th District Republican Central Committee)
    Voters love prosecutors.  Prosecutors put criminals in prison.  Deputy District Attorneys rarely lose elections.  Deputy Attorney General is higher on the food chain, so it should be even more impressive to voters.
  3. Deputy District Attorney (Cyril Yu in the 74th District Democratic Central Committee)
    See above.
  4. Retired Police Commander (Albert Ayala in AD-72)
    Voters love law enforcement because the police catch criminals.  A retired police commander has served his community, has leadership experience, and understands dealing with government.
  5. Law Enforcement Officer (Jorge Robles in CD-38)
    As above, voters love law enforcement because they catch criminals and have served the community.
  6. Businessman/Victims Advocate (Todd Spitzer in the 3rd Supervisorial District)
    How on earth do you vote against a victims advocate?  That’d be like voting against victims.
  7. Businesswoman/Childrens Advocate (Brenda McCune in the 55th District Republican Central Committee)
    How on earth do you vote against a childrens advocate?  That’d be like voting against the children.  (Of course, we’d expect all OC Political bloggers to have great ballot designations when running for office, and she’s done just that.)
  8. Retired Constitutional Litigator (Jonathan Adler in the 74th District Democratic Central Committee)
    Voters hate most lawyers as ambulance chasers and corporate raiders.  However, there are two types of lawyers people like: the prosecutors who put criminals away and the constitutional lawyers who battle for constitutional causes and rights (note that Spitzer and McCune went with “Advocate” instead of “Lawyer” – it’s the same job but “Advocate” sounds friendlier than “Lawyer”).
  9. Emergency Physician (Bill Honigman in the 73rd District Democratic Central Committee)
    Doctors improve health.  Emergency room doctors save lives.  People vote for lifesavers.
  10. Charitable Organization President (Usha Shah in CD-47)
    Too many people who work for non-profit organizations run with “Non-Profit Organization” or “Non-Profit Group” in their ballot designation.  “Charitable Organization” brings happy thoughts that make voters feel warm and fuzzy.  “Charitable” just sounds better than “Non-Profit” even though 90% of the time they’re the same thing.

Interestingly, half of the above are lawyers.  Note that none of these lawyers used “lawyer” in their designation.  None used “Attorney” except when it had key modifiers to become “Deputy Attorney General” or “Deputy District Attorney” instead.  These candidates realize voters don’t like lawyers, but they’re smart enough to realize people like prosecutors and advocates.

Lessons from the group above:

  • Non-prosecutor lawyers should generally run as advocates.
  • People like the military, law enforcement, and doctors.
  • When possible, “Charitable” should be used instead of “Non-Profit” to attract voters.

Best Pair of Ballot Designations in a Two-Person Race: 3rd Supervisorial District

  • Businessman/Victims Advocate (Todd Spitzer)
  • Councilwoman, City of Villa Park (Deborah Pauly)

Spitzer’s designation was #6 on my list of the ten best ballot designations in OC.  Pauly’s designation was ineligible to be on the list due to my “elected officials’ ballot designations are an inherent advantage” rule.  Therefore, this race inherently has the best pair of ballot designations in any two-person race.

Best Set of Ballot Designations in One Race Featuring 3+ Candidates: AD-72

  • Small Business Owner (Travis Allen – Republican)
  • Retired Police Commander (Albert Ayala – Democrat)
  • City Commissioner/Businessman (Joe Dovinh – Democrat)
  • Member, Orange County Board of Education (Long Pham – Republican)
  • Businessman/Mayor (Troy Edgar – Republican)

I noted last week that the five candidates in CD-46 has the worst set of ballot designations in any one race.  Well, another set of five candidates, this time in AD-72, has the best set of ballot designations in any one race with three or more candidates.

Every single one of these candidates maximized their occupations and political positions in their descriptions of themselves.

  • Allen runs a wealth management firm.  “Wealth Management Businessowner” could be offputting to some voters.  He wisely (and accurately) chose to describe himself as a “Small Business Owner” because his wealth management firm is a small business, and he does own it.  Plus people on both sides of the aisle respect people who own small businesses; indeed, the majority of Americans work for small businesses.
  • Ayala’s “Retired Police Commander” came in at #4 on my list of best ballot designations.  When the most hopeless candidate makes the best ballot designations list, you know you’ve got a fun race.
  • Dovinh’s “City Commissioner/Businessman” maximizes his appointed political role and takes advantage of his job as a general contractor.  The “City Commissioner” part wisely leaves off a specific city making it possible he could be a city commissioner in any of the cities in AD-72: Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Seal Beach, Westminster, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, or Santa Ana.  (He’s a Garden Grove Planning Commissioner for the record.)  Additionally, there are cities out there (though not in California) that call their city elected officials commissioners instead of councilmembers.  For voters looking for candidates with private sector experience, Dovinh’s “Businessman” designation appeals to them.
  • Pham’s “Member, Orange County Board of Education” takes advantage of my “elected officials’ ballot designations are an inherent advantage” rule.  Not only that, he takes advantage of the Elections Code regulation that allows sitting elected officials to exceed three words in a ballot designation if they use their elected title as their sole ballot designation (this counts as a five-word designation; remember, “Orange County” is legally one word for purposes of the Elections Code).  Further, Pham is one of a small group of elected officials whose elected position includes “Orange County” in the title.  Since the entirety of AD-72 is in Orange County, his title sounds like he could represent all the people of AD-72 (for the record, he represents Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Tustin).
  • Edgar’s “Businessman/Mayor” takes advantage of his status owning two businesses and the fact that he is currently Mayor of Los Alamitos.  Edgar is the only candidate in AD-72 who didn’t maximize the word limit, and he also failed to use the stronger “Businessowner” over “Businessman” in his designation: I would have tweaked this to be “Orange County Businessowner/Mayor” or “Small Businessowner/Mayor” though this is still a strong ballot designation.  Everything I said about Dovinh’s ballot designation applies to Edgar, with the added advantage that the mayor is leader of a city while a commissioner is just one of several officials.  Edgar’s not a directly-elected mayor; he’s mayor in one of those cities (specifically, Los Alamitos) where mayor is rotated on an annual basis among the councilmembers.  However, for ballot designation purposes, it doesn’t matter if you’re directly-elected or rotated into the position, as long as you’re the mayor when you’re running.

So last week, I wrote about OC’s worst ballot designations. In this post, these are Orange County’s best ballot designations.

Posted in 38th Congressional District, 3rd Supervisorial District, 47th Congressional District, 72nd Assembly District, Republican Central Committee | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »