I had a long talk with Jose Moreno (pictured above with his family) this evening. He is the embattled Republican running for the 69th Assembly District, in a race that features four other candidates who are all Democrats.
Moreno tried to pull out of the race today when he realized that he may have violated an obscure law called the Hatch Act. This law prevents federal, state and local public employees from running for partisan offices if their agencies receive any federal funding.
Moreno’s own union came after him – which I find ridiculous. As a union member Moreno should be defended by his union, the the American Federation of Federal, State and Municipal Employees, not attacked by it, and I have asked him to take this up with the state arm of his union. The local organization has endorsed ultra-liberal Democrat Julio Perez, for the 69th A.D., although multiple polls have him at only 5% of the vote.
On top of that, OC Political blogger Chris Nguyen came after him publicly, in a post on his blog. I believe that this was no accident. Nguyen works for Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby, who is facing a strong Democratic candidate in Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva. The theory is that Norby’s handlers would rather not see a Republican run for the 69th A.D., so that ultimately two Democrats will face off in the November general election. So Nguyen went after Moreno, perhaps hoping Moreno would drop out.
The O.C. Register reported earlier today that O.C. Voter Registrar Neal Kelley refused to allow Moreno to exit the race. Kelley is right about that by the way, but I wish Kelley had warned Moreno in the first place about the possible Hatch Act violation. Other County Voter Registrars clearly explain on their websites what the Hatch Act is. Kelley’s website does not have any info about the Hatch Act on it. Kelley dropped the ball on this and a good man is paying the price for it.
Moreno is going to have to face the music, at work, next week. But he won’t be alone. Moreno is going to do his homework. There are ample precedents for not applying the Hatch Act to employees like Moreno whose work does not directly involve any federal funds, or perceptions of conflicts of interest. And it is very likely that Moreno will be retaining legal counsel in advance of his meeting with his employer.
Ultimately if Moreno’s employer refuses to play ball, Moreno could be fired, which would be an awful end to this tale for Moreno and his family, which includes six children.
But Moreno has legal options. This fight is far from over. And he may be allowed to withdraw from the race while remaining on the ballot, and thus save his job. There are precedents aplenty where that has happened.
In the meantime Moreno is going to stay on the ballot, and there is a good chance that he will advance to the November general election. What will happen if he is allowed to withdraw as a candidate and does not campaign? I don’t know. I supposed it would mean less votes on June 5.
The Democrat that the Republicans would like to see advance, O.C. Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly, may in fact not make it to the general election. It is very likely that Moreno and another Democrat, Santa Ana Council Member Michele Martinez, will win in June, in the top two Open Primary, and advance.
As for Norby’s campaign, if I find out they were directly involved in this attack on Moreno I will be withdrawing my endorsement of Norby. Getting a good man fired is a horrible thing for these hacks to do and there will be a price to be paid. So far I have not heard back from Norby but there are friends of mine in the media who are looking into this. Stay tuned.