A tipster tells us that one member of the Santa Ana City Council is likely to challenge Janet Nguyen in 2012 for the First District supervisor’s race. With councilmember Vince Sarmiento being touted as the candidate likely to run for Rep. Jose Solorio’s Assembly seat, we’ve narrowed it down to Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez, Councilman Sal Tinajero or Councilwoman Michelle Martinez. A email was sent to each of them Thursday night asking for comment. As of today, the only member of the trio to reply was Tinajero who denied he was running but suggested Alvarez as the likely candidate.
Of the three, Alvarez is termed out and will be looking for a new office to go for. She’s been rejected by voters in her previous attempts for the Assembly, so challenging Nguyen makes sense. She has a high profile position with the DA’s office but she also invokes strong emotions from rank and file Democrats.
Tinajero is said to still be harboring a desire to try for the Assembly seat held by Solorio, but a primary challenge against his councilman colleague would destory the kumbaya the council majority wears on its’ public face. Tinajero did not demonstrate an ability to raise the sort of money he would need to in a bid for Assembly when you look at funds raised for his last council run. Sarmiento can, and Sarmiento has a better record legislatively and is probably more electable. But a Tinajero candidacy for Assembly might be a better option as the councilman can run from a safe seat on the council.
Martinez has a fresh face and lots of energy, as well as a bit of a war chest because she was unopposed in the last council race. Despite being unopposed, she invested in lots of campaign signs under the guise of marketing herself to voters. She was the second highest vote getter for the council behind David Benavides. By 2012, she will only have had six years of elective office under her belt. But she is a tireless campaigner.
Martinez also comes with some baggage that voters in the First District might not forgive as easily as voters for city races have. Martinez’s signature effort to curb gang violence — EPIC — has been on hold for two years due to budget issues and while she lists it as an accomplishment on her website, the New Santa Ana Blog reported it was an “EPIC fail.” When asked directly if the program was a success, a failure or an incomplete, Martinez could only provide an explanation of the current status of the program and work being done in conjuction with the Santa Ana Police to curb gang violence.
Regardless of which one of these three challenge Nguyen or move on to higher elective office in 2012, all three carry some significant baggage into the election that they will need to address with voters. Alvarez continues to lack an understanding of the Brown Act while Tinajero and Martinez have had to return campaign contributions from developers for projects that they later voted on. And both blamed city staff for the “mistake” when they should have taken responsibility for managing their campaign finances better. City staff is not responsible for tracking campaign contributions.