As promised, I am going to delve more into what happened with the campaigns, the players involved, and the independent expenditure effort by Planned Parenthood. Full discosure, I was the former Political Coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties from April, 2005 until March, 2008 and part of my job duties did involve the effort to bring comprehensive sex education to the SAUSD.
It was no secret that Rosemarie Avila was enemy #1 for Planned PArenthood. She and her cronies would make wild claims at their “intentions” for comprehensive sex education. Who could forget that Valentine’s Day evening where she legendarily proclaimed that GOD IS MAD AT SANTA ANA and compared approving comprehensive sex education to Hurricane Katrina. So it made sense she would be PP’s target in 2008 to get out of office. Then she decided not to run for re-election, opening up the seat, which seemed almost certain to go to a Democrat and not a religious fundamentalist, since they had no farm team in Santa Ana.
Planned Parenthood obviously decided to get involved and endorsed three candidates, Valerie Amezcua, Gloria Alvarado and Irene Ibarra, who all received contributions from their Community Action Fund. The bulk of the money spent in Santa Ana went towards mailers that attacked the two remaining incumbents, Rob Richardson(despite his voting for comprehensive sex eduction on February of 06) and Jose Hernandez. They were attacked on issues not related to Planned Parenthood, but on their horrible management of the school district.
Looking at elections results, the attacks worked. They came late, which means they missed the people who mailed the absentees early. Those first results actually had Richardson and Hernandez far ahead of the seven challengers, well into the 20 percent range. Throughout the night, their percentage dropped, which meant the bulk of the election day votes were not for them, unfortunately those votes from people disgusted with Richardson and Hernandez split seven different ways, with some candidates getting more of those votes than others. The person who ultimately was the biggest beneficiary of the votes going to all the different candidates was Roman Reyna, who was the first name on the ballot.
So with several mailers hammering the two incumbents, what went wrong. First, the problem was in the mailer’s themselves. They were great hit pieces, simply hitting Richardson and Hernandez on the truth, in both Spanish and English. The problem was they gave no alternative of who the recipient should vote for, only who NOT to vote for. They listened, and many went with the first few names they saw on the ballot, or simply voted for one, the top name on the ballot. THe best example of hit pieces were the ones SOL did on Claudia Alvarez in the 2006 Assembly primary. Like the Planned Parenthood ones, they were bilingual, to the point, sharp and hard hitting, but they did one thing different, THEY LISTED AN ALTERNATIVE CANDIDATE TO VOTE FOR, which was Jose Solorio. Like the SAUSD race, they had multiple candidates and doing the hit pieces alone, without the alternative would have likely thrown votes to Armando de la Libertad and would have given Alvarez the victory.
Â Planned Parenthood needed to provide that one alternative, although doing that would have meant picking a favorite of the three they endorsed.Â They chose to do the whole enchilada and go for all three seats. Problem is, to bring change to Santa Ana, it is going to have to be incremental, seat by seat.Â My next critique is Planned Parenthood doing the negative mailers. Of course there were some pissed off people in the Pulido crowdÂ who did not like seeing their little golden boy Richardson attacked.
So what are ultimately my thoughts. First, there is a part of me that questions whether or not Planned Parenthood should have done the negative attacks or have gotten so involved in Santa Ana. My final day at PP, we found out our sworn nemisis was finally leaving the board. I figured Planned Parenthood would be interested in filling just her seat, so I admit I was suprised when I heard there were plans to go after the two remaining incumbents.
Now I believe Richardson and Hernandez deserved the hit pieces, after the terrible decisions they have made as board members. I just wonder if it was Planned Parenthood’s battle to fight. Don’t get me wrong, I relish the irony that some of Judy Ware’s money was actually spent on going after her little mijos on the SAUSD Board,Â Richardson and HernandezÂ had it coming. But in the end, this huge expenditure by Planned Parenthood did not pay off, due to not having all of their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed. It was bold going directly against Mayor Pulido’s chosen ones, but to do so, you have to prepare for every possible contingency and make sure you are fully ready for battle, he and Richardson are not easy to beat and spent a lot of time ensuring Richardson and Hernandez would win. The fact that , even though the incumbents were not good, they were not anti-choice idealogues, unlike Rosemarie Avila and Katherine Smith in the AUHSD. I worry for the long term implications, because people like Pulido and Richardson do not have the community’s best interests in minds, and would allow teen pregnancy to skyrocket in Santa Ana in order to get revenge for Planned Parenthood daring to challenge their feifdom.
The question is what to do now. Well the good thing is that the winner of that coveted third seat, Roman Reyna, it turning out to be a voice for positive change in Santa Ana, which is refreshing and a puppet did not win. This means the SAUSD board is just one seat away from real change. This can happen, all the forces involved just need to truly be methodical and be prepared to counter their onslaught, which I will go into in the conclusion to this series.