Last Thursday at Angel’s Stadium, I ran into our esteemed Assemblyman Jose Solorio. I noticed he was collecting signatures to run for his third and final term in the Assembly. Has it been that long already that he is at his final term? WOW, time does fly. So I thought to myself, what happens come 2012 when he is termed out of the Assembly.
With redistricting approaching, it is a safe bet that an Assembly district will continue to be based out of Santa Ana, but due to population shifts, the district will get larger and will either have to take in more of Garden Grove, Anaheim or portions of Orange in order to compinsate. Either way, it will still be a safe Democratic district. Since the district is centered on Santa Ana, it is conventional wisdom that one of the many Democratic City Council members will be seeking this seat. So here is a quick handicap of each one of the potential contenders.
Claudia Alvarez- So far she is batting .000 for this after two tries. She made it clear from nearly day 1 way back in 2000 that her goal was to be Lou Correa’s successor. Unfortunately other people did not get the memo, and as a result she has spent a lot of that time viciously attacking anyone who she felt was a potential threat to her Assembly ambitions, as a result making lots of enemies and burning lots of bridges. The result has been two losses, one in 2004 to Tom Umberg and then the trouncing of the century by Jose Solorio. It was clear her tactics had burned bridges, when she even lost areas like Floral Park to Armando De La Libertad. Conventional wisdom is when Measure D was conceived, the idea was to allow Claudia Alvarez to stay in office long enough to get a third try at the Assembly in 2012, it is certainly a coincidence that the extra council term she got happens to expire just in time to attempt to replace Jose Solorio. Yet, others on that council seem just as ambitious as she is, which makes me wonder if the political civil war to end all political civil wars is brewing. So lets take a look at potential challengers to her.
Vincent Sarmiento- One look and he just screams ambition. The man is a Berkeley grad and an accomplished attorney. People I have talked to have told me he is a master in the courtroom and hearing him speak, his intelligence and ambition truly show. A newby to the political scene, he has quickly earned the respect from Orange County politicos in both parties. He is a man who seems sure of himself and has clearly made friends in all the right places, just the things you need to do to run for Assembly. Likewise, he has spent much of the time building bridges with power players rather than burning them. I see much parallel to Jose Solorio, with the one exception being he is not as accessible to Santa Ana residents as Jose Solorio was, which is a weakness. The genius of Solorio was that the residents, i.e. theÂ voters, Â knew him, he actually was out in the community. Vince has not been as out there, but has the built a network that would enable him to raise money quickly and challenge Claudia Alvarez, and likely beat her.
David Benavides- Truly the most Lou Correaesque of the Councilmembers, he is one who is out in the community a lot. A genuine nice, down home kind of guy, much like Lou Correa, he has gotten to know many of the average folks out in Santa Ana. His strength builds on Sarmiento’s weakness. Definitely he has more of a rapport with the community than Sarmiento, and clearly will have a leg up on Claudia Alvarez in this category. He currently is the only Councilmember to have an office hours that is open to the community. This may explain why Claudia has been savaging him in the Council Meetings. Much like she did to previous perceived threats such as Nadia Davis, Sal Tinajero, Armando De La Libertad, Jose Solorio, Tom Umberg, Michele Martinez just to name a few, she is doing everything possible to assassinate Benavides’ character. Clearly this is the person she fears the most for the Assembly, but is her fear misplaced. As I said earlier, Sarmiento’s strength would be in fundraising and there is no bigger threat than being ahead in the mother’s milk of politics.
It will be interesting to watch what happens next. At this point, as much as Claudia perceives Benavides to be a threat, it appears she is letting her guard down on Sarmiento. I look at him and I see an ambitious, self-assured man. Just the type that has beaten her in the past, just ask Tom Umberg and Jose Solorio.