While the media and the OC blogger community is currently fixated on what attack blogger and Republican Matt Cunningham did in Anaheim, when he made fun of Latino families whose children have been shot and killed by the local police, there was another disaster that “set back party efforts to recruit Latinos “by 20 years.” I am referring to the infamous poll guard incident in Santa Ana, that directly benefited Cunningham’s master, former Anaheim Mayor turned lobbyist Curt Pringle.
That fiasco happened in 1988, and then OC GOP Chairman Tom Fuentes took the hit for it. In fact he had to resign his job as Director of Communications for the OC Catholic Diocese, according to the LA Times, after the poll guard incident blew up in the national media, just as Cunningham had to resign yesterday from his post on the OC Parks Commission – and we have since learned that Cunningham has also lost some OCTA consulting contracts as well.
For those of you who are too young to remember the poll guard incident, it started when “A Santa Ana mayoral candidate in the Nov. 8 election said Wednesday that she was ordered by a uniformed guard acting as a partisan poll watcher to produce some sort of personal identification when she voted on Election Day, an apparent violation of state election laws. Sadie Reid-Benham, who finished third in the mayor’s race, said she and her 19-year-old grandson, who was voting for the first time, were questioned by the private security guard at a Santa Ana senior citizens center about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 8, according to the L.A. Times.
Assemblyman Dick Longshore died the day after the June primary election, and under California law the OC GOP Central Committee members were charged with selecting a replacement. They chose Pringle, who had unopposed for the OC GOP Central Committee in 1986, when he was still working for his parent’s drapery business in Garden Grove.
Pringle’s campaign consultant in his Assembly race, according to a friend of mine who worked on Longshore’s last campaign, was
Scott Taylor (I heard today from Scott himself. He worked on the campaign of Dick Longshore’s wife. When she lost to Pringle he moved on to other races. Apparently it was Dave Gilliard who cooked up the poll guard plan with Tom Fuentes). The poll guard shenanigan involved posting uniformed security guards at the polls in Santa Ana, where the demographics were shifting and white candidates could no longer easily win. The idea was, of course, to scare off Latino voters.
Evidence gathered during the trial that happened after the poll guard incident, included a map given to a sign-making company by the GOP campaign that indicated intended sign placement. Signs reading “Thank You Curt Pringle” were to go in predominantly white areas and bilingual signs saying “Non Citizens Can’t Vote” were to be placed in largely Latino areas, according to the L.A. Times.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on behalf of five Santa Ana Latinos, who said they were harassed and intimidated by uniformed security guards as they voted last Election Day. They included Plaintiff [Rudy R.] Rios, a member of the Laborers’ Union – and now, in 2013, it is once again labor that is leading the charge against Cunningham and his paymasters at the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. They have scheduled a candlelight vigil at Anaheim’s City Hall this Monday.
County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, probably the most prominent Republican Latino in the state, said the poll guard episode “showed a tremendous lapse in judgment.” Bruce Nestande, a highly respected county Republican leader who was co-chairman of the Bush campaign in Orange County, was shocked that Republicans took part in the security-guard fiasco, and he said “anyone who has that thought process ought not be involved in our party.”
Nestande was right but the poll guard fiasco did not cost any Republicans their jobs. Fuentes continued to serve as the head of the OC GOP, even after his party had to pay for the legal bills and fines that were generated by the lawsuit. Pringle lost his Assembly seat the next time he ran for re-election, to Tom Umberg, but eventually Pringle ran for the Assembly again, in a white district. And Taylor is still advising Republican candidates today.
Understand this – the mentality that caused the poll guard incident NEVER went away. These people still feel the very same way about Latinos. That is why what Cunningham did should not come as a surprise. These folks consider themselves to the be Masters of the OC Universe. They feel they are above the fray. They feel that they are entitled to power and will do anything to hang onto it. As bad a mess as Cunningham is in now, you need to realize that this will surely happen again. The players might change but the thought process remains.
If you want to read more about the poll guard disaster go to Dissent the Blog. They have a great rundown of it that is unmatched.
One last thought – this is not just a Republican mess. As I posted yesterday, Cunningham was actually brought on board at the Voice of OC as one of their Community Board members – a ridiculous action as there is no way that Cunningham represents the people of Orange County. But who funded the Voice of OC? That would be Nick Berardino, the head of the powerful OCEA – the union that represents Orange County’s public employees and is dominated by Democrats.
Berardino also helped to fund an attack on me when I ran against the odious Carlos Bustamante for the Santa Ana City Council. I only ran in that race because the Democrats gave Bustamante a free pass and I felt that was unacceptable. The attack on me as a mailer put together by none other than Cunningham and his pal Dan Chmielewski, the publisher of the Liberal OC blog.
And don’t forget that a long time before Cunningham was posting teddy bears in a mockery of Latino victims of police violence, Chmielewski and his pals at the Liberal OC posed Barbie and Ken dolls making fun of me, because I asked the Santa Ana Police Department to stop men from having sex at my neighborhood park, Santiago Park. The SAPD ended up arresting twelve men in a sting operation at that park, where you can still find condoms and rubber gloves along the walking paths today. The Liberal OC, of course, appears to have sided with the men at the park.
You have to wonder if Chmielewski, who has been defending Cunningham, as usual, advised him on the teddy bear caper that has finally brought down Cunningham and may yet end up taking down the entire Pringle cabal.
How does Cunningham feel about all this? He wrote “This obsession with race and ethnicity is getting old,” in a comment over at the Voice of OC. I am sure he feels that way even more now!