Folks forget sometimes that the OC Weekly’s editor, Gustavo Arellano, has been around for a long time. Long enough to have gotten to know Jeff LeTourneau, one of two candidates vying to take over for Frank Barbaro as the new Chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County. The other candidate is paid consultant Henry Vandermeir, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Democratic Foundation (a conflict of interest obvious to everyone except Henry).
So Arellano knew damn well what he was saying when he wrote in an OC Weekly article posted online today that “If Jeff LeTourneau decided to retire from politics today, his place in Orange County progressive history would not only be secure, but he’d also be one of its titans.”
In fact Arellano proceeded to lay out LeTourneau’s legacy – and it really marks him as the top candidate to become the new DPOC Chairman. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from Arellano’s article:
- The 56-year-old Chicago native has been in the trenches longer and harder than just about anyone, arriving in Buena Park in 1982 as a Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) man to try to organize Knott’s Berry Farm workers, joining in the successful strike at the Disneyland Hotel in the late 1980s, fighting to humanize AIDS at a time when many county residents considered it a biblical plague, and reporting for duty for nearly every progressive campaign to hit OC in the past 30 years.
- And his most lasting legacy, of course, has been in the struggle for LGBT rights, a fight that has seen LeTourneau get beaten up by cops and conservative goons alike (most memorably, he was told, “Shut up, fag!” by the wife of then-congressman Bob Dornan during a town-hall meeting), while helping to transform the county from an intolerable place for homosexuals to a region where LGBT activism is more visible than ever.
- And though LeTourneau faces an uphill battle—he’s relatively late to campaigning and doesn’t yet have the blessing of the Democratic establishment—he’s running for the position because he feels the party has reached an advantageous point at which local Dems can strike at a vulnerable OC GOP (read my colleague R. Scott Moxley’s cover story this week)—or, like Republicans, face eternal irrelevancy as Orange County demographics change.
- “And I want to push the Republicans back to their rightful place,” the feisty LeTourneau says. “They’ll always have more money than us, but we can at least make it so they’re not representing the majority of Orange County anymore.”As chairman, LeTourneau says, he’ll push for standing committees “that have gender and racial equity.
- You’re putting a face on the party that’s reflective of the county as a whole, and now more people will be inspired to vote and run for office. It’s not rocket science—it really isn’t. It’s just basic community organizing.”
- “We [the Democratic Party of Orange County leadership] can be a tool of reform that has never been seen before,” LeTourneau concludes. “And now is the time.”
In a county full of limo liberals who do nothing to help the poor, the weak or the downtrodden, LeTourneau stands out as an authentic progressive who actually likes people. Thanks to Arellano for pointing that out!