UPDATED: Former OC GOP Chairman Tom Fuentes has passed away, according to the OC Political Blog.
I worked with OC GOP Chairman Emeritus Tom Fuentes back in his heyday, when I was the inaugural OC GOP Hispanic Outreach Director. He was something back then. No one could run a meeting quite like Fuentes, who was famous for his “one clap.” He had asked me to help the Republican Party to reach out to Latinos – but by the time I quit the OC GOP Central Committee, in 2007, the Republican Party of Orange County had gone from reaching out to Latinos to bashing them. It was a sad turn of events.
Fuentes is now deathly ill with cancer, but he is still working on behalf of his beloved Republican Party. He summoned GOP Assembly candidates Allan Mansoor and Keith Carlson (Huntington Beach) to his bedside this week, at his home in Lake Forest, according to O.C. Register columnist Frank Mickadeit, and sure enough Fuentes did it again – convincing Carlson to pull out of the race for the 74th Assembly District. That paves the way for Mansoor to go head to head with moderate Republican Leslie Daigle, a popular Newport Beach Councilwoman.
I question this move, as Mansoor has not accomplished much in his time in Sacramento, and he has earned a deserved reputation for being anti-Mexican. In the open primary, Daigle can likely count on a lot of Democratic voter support – and Mansoor will have a heck of a time appealing to independents and Democrats. And he isn’t the incumbent. He currently represents only 20% of the 74th A.D., which is a newly redrawn district.
All that aside, this was a typical move by Fuentes. And he did it in the company of his replacement, OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh, and OC GOP consultant Jon Fleischman, who came to fame as the PR spin master for disgraced former O.C. Sheriff Mike Carona. Talk about a bunch of good old boys!
Also making news today was the announcement by longtime Stanton Councilman Ed Royce, Sr., that he is retiring and will be leaving his elected office on Jan. 31, according to the O.C. Register. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Royce, Sr., then you know that he loves to introduce himself as the “real Ed Royce.” He is quite a character and he says that he is going to be helping his son, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, to win reelection this year.
As Fuentes and Royce slowly edge out the door, it is a stark reminder that the OC GOP of old is changing, and the old guard is going to have to get used to dealing with moderates like Daigle, particularly with the new open primary rules. The OC GOP would have been better off betting on the honorable Carlson in the 74th A.D. Now they’re stuck with Mansoor. Good luck with that!
It is too late for the OC GOP to undo the damage with regard to Latino voters. That ship has long since sailed. Fuentes had the right idea back when he asked me to help him – but no one can fix the mess the Republican Party is in now. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s flub this week, when he said that immigrants would opt to “self-deport,” is indicative of how ridiculous the party’s position regarding Latinos is. Too bad. Deportations doubled under President Obama, but the GOP’s eventual presidential nominee won’t get many votes from Latinos, despite that. I expect Obama to do poorly in Orange County this November, but nationally he is looking like a lock to win, as the GOP can’t find a good candidate to oppose him.
Too bad for Fuentes and Royce, Sr. They will leave the O.C. political stage as Obama is getting sworn in for four more years, assuming Fuentes can hang on through November. The party they loved and worked for, over so many years, may not be recognizable in a few years…