Political Fix (16 June, 2016)

Hindsight is 20/20.

It was an exciting finish to a very contentious primary election. In State Assembly District 26, incumbent Devon Mathis and Democrat Ruben Macareno advanced to the runoff in November. Dennis Smith and Kuyler Crocker advanced to a runoff for Tulare County Supervisor District 1. Amy Shuklian won outright for Tulare County Supervisor District 3. She and Phil Cox don’t go to a runoff because she received more than 50% of the vote.

As for my election predictions? I didn’t make a complete fool of myself.

After I picked my winners and losers in the June 2 issue, everyone thought my predictions were wrong– that is, everyone except those candidates I predicted would win. Tulare County Supervisor District 1 candidate John Elliot thought my predictions were right on the money.

When I called candidates to see where they would be as the election returns rolled in, Dennis Smith said he didn’t agree with my analysis and Kuyler Croker said I was going to eat crow. They were both correct.

But they were not 100% correct. After taking a second look at the final results, I got it half right.

The vote for the state assembly was close enough to consider a recall, as I predicted, just not between the two candidates I had picked. For Tulare County Supervisor District 3, I predicted that Ms. Shuklian would win by a hair. She actually won by ten points. My number one and two picks for Tulare County Supervisor District 1 ended up coming in third and fourth, and were separated from the winners by very few votes. Out of a roster of eight candidates that’s close enough.

So what did I miss?

Vincent Salinas, a candidate in District 1, educated me that I did not take into account the number of voters in Mr. Crocker’s hometown of Lindsay/Strathmore versus Mr. Elliot’s hometown of Three Rivers. Crocker lives in a fairly densely populated area of 4000 people who know the Crocker name. Mr. Elliot comes from an area of less than 2000 people. Mr. McCauley comes from the only other densely populated area of District 1–Exeter, with 10,000–but we won’t bring that up.

Another criteria I cottoned on to a little late was that my prediction didn’t take into consideration the person being replaced. Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida expressed his belief that Obamacare had ‘death panels’ right from the dais during a supervisors meeting. Dennis Smith actually brought up “Agenda 21” at the first candidates’ forum at Cafe 210. Both men share the same political orbit and Mr. Smith could slip right into Mr. Ishida’s seat without missing a beat.

On the other end of the pendulum, everyone in the audience at the last forum kind of groaned when Mr. Elliot expressed his understanding of the value of bike paths.

Looking back on it, I wonder what I was thinking when I predicted Mr. Elliot would win. He neither had the same political beliefs as the sitting supervisor, like Mr. Smith, nor did he come from the same neck of the woods like Mr. Crocker.

Lastly, when so few votes equal a win, reading tea leaves would be more reliable than making election predictions. When I said that Mr. Smith’s loyal group of supporters was too small to propel him into the general election, I didn’t take into consideration that he would only need a paltry 1800 votes to secure first place. Chris Telfer, founder of Tulare County Tax Payers Association, had to win almost 4000 votes just to get on the Tulare County Republican Central Committee – and who votes for central committees?

The very critical lesson I learned about elections in general, and Tulare County in particular, is that it does not boil down to the qualifications of the candidate–it boils down to who is showing up at the voting booth and all the baggage they carry with them.

We Need To Talk About Vincent and Rudy

Because I have heard locals say such things as: they didn’t know who John Kasich is, didn’t know that Ted Cruz was born in Canada but are certain that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and that they will not vote for Rudy Mendoza because he is a Democrat, nothing surprises me anymore about the ignorance of some Tulare County voters.

So I need to wear that hat when analyzing why two imminently qualified Republicans do surprisingly bad running for office in a solidly Republican county.

Tulare County Supervisor District 1 is 63% Hispanic and the 26th Assembly District is 58% Hispanic. So how is that Vincent Salinas and Rudy Mendoza can’t win? For two hard working men, who are well educated on the issues, Mr. Salinas’ and Mr. Mendoza’s election results were no less than shocking.

Of the eight candidates for Tulare County Supervisor District 1, the three Hispanic candidates came in 6th, 7th and 8th, by a lot. Mr. Salinas came in second to last and only garnered 469 votes.

Mr. Mendoza not only managed to lose to a Democrat, but one who is not especially popular among his rank and file. Ruben Macareno has made some controversial decisions as Chair of the Democratic Central Committee, and it has earned him lasting resentments.  Before the primary, the Tulare County Latino Political Action Committee wouldn’t endorse either Mr. Mendoza or Mr. Macareno. They came out and said that Mr. Mendoza “was out of touch with the Latino community” and gave a solid “no” for him for assembly.

Talking about ethnicity and why people vote the way they do is a complicated endeavour. But one thing stands out in the Central Valley: Hispanic Republicans are virtually unelectable.

Republicans are not racists, but if someone is racist, they could find a seat at the table in the GOP. That means that Republicans tend not to vote for Hispanics. At the same time, Democratic Hispanics are not going to vote for a Republican, even if that person is Hispanic.

So who is left to vote for Vincent and Rudy?

Hispanics don’t want to be put in a box, but the over-40 age group can be very conservative. They are anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, and don’t have the greatest record with women’s issues. This means that a large percentage of Hispanics should be Republicans, and at one time they were.

Then came along Republican Governor Pete Wilson and California Proposition 187, also known as Save our State (SOS) initiative in 1994. Proposed and supported by Republicans, the initiative attempted to keep undocumented families from getting free health care and prevented their kids from attending public schools. Hispanics did not appreciate the idea that the state needed “saving” because they were in it. The measure passed in November 1994 but was ultimately found unconstitutional by a federal district court.

California has never been the same since, i.e. it turned from a purple state to a deep blue where Republicans can’t win a statewide office.

Enter stage right Donald Trump, and whatever Hispanics were left in the Republican Party are gone. That makes Mr. Salinas and Mr. Mendoza as common as white rhinos on the African Serengeti. Not only have Hispanics left the party but legal Mexicans are running to get their citizenship just so they can vote against the Republican nominee, Mr. Trump.

This is not the party of Reagan and most definitely not the party of millennials, and hasn’t been the party for Hispanics in a very long time.

And Finally….

I just got done attending a three week trial that was decided in favour of Tulare County. What struck me during all the testimony was the profound difference between what was happening on the national front and in that court room.

On the same day that Hillary Clinton made history by clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, I listened to witnesses complain how a fellow co-worker wore short skirts, dresses with spaghetti straps, and high heels.  It was even pointed out twice, highlighted with a red laser pen on a photo, how the plaintiff’s slip was showing. The way she dressed only played a small part in why she was fired, but the witnesses repeated it with such contempt.

I would call their attitude Old Testament but that would be too generous. How is it in 2016 we are still talking about women’s clothing?

My kids are millennials and don’t understand what sexism is as they ticked off their ballots for Bernie Sanders in the primary. When I told my 23-year-old son that when I was born women could not be astronauts he said, “Oh, I thought a woman had gone to the moon on one of the space missions.”

It’s heartening to hear my son assume that a woman has been to the moon. It’s also refreshing to see my adult sons not give a second thought to jumping in the car as my 16-year-old daughter slips behind the wheel. They don’t understand how such a simple thing, happening in our driveway, could not have occurred in my mother’s generation or when I was a teenager.

As I watch my daughter drive off to the gym or farmers market, I’m yanked back into the 15th century thinking about the trial. Another witness continued to criticize their co-worker for putting her hand on a married man’s arm or back, and how she came to work with bare shoulders. It was obvious, to them at least, that because of her actions she was having an affair. Actually, make that two.

Did the subject of any of the men’s clothing, tattoos, or chest size come up? Are you kidding?

Thirty years ago, Congresswoman Pat Schroeder from Colorado declared that she was running for the Democratic nomination for president. By anyone’s standards she was imminently qualified for the job except for the fact that she was a woman. She dropped out of the race a few months later and was excoriated for shedding a few tears during her concession speech.

Now it is 2016, and things are very different–and yet very much still the same. Americans are lucky enough to have the most qualified candidate, probably ever, running for president. More than 100 men have been nominated for the presidency in the last 220 years, and Ms. Clinton just succeeded in breaking into that ultimate of men’s clubs.

I only have one piece of advice for Ms. Clinton to counter the drawbacks of being a woman: choose a female running mate.

In the mean time, while we await her decision, everyone is probably wondering what Ms. Clinton will wear to her first debate.

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