Late last month, the OC Register’s Brian Joseph stirred a pot when he begged the question, “where does AD-69 candidate Julio Perez live?” Joseph cited failed attempts by a process server attempting to serve Perez with a lawsuit for an unpaid debt. While the issue of Perez’s residency was cleared up by reporter Andrew Galvin, Joseph missed a bigger story — Perez accrued $35,000 in credit card debt for which his bank was suing him for to collect. And AD-69 candidate and Santa Ana council member Michele Martinez is in no position to go after Perez on his personal finances. She nearly foreclosed on her condo in 2011 and forced into a short sale after failing to keep up with payments for her home at 303 East 9th Street #406 in Santa Ana.
This begs the question: if a candidate for state assembly can’t manage their own money, how can taxpayers expect them to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars in Sacramento?
For Perez, the credit card debt stems from living expenses while a student at the University of Michigan and medical bills he covered for a relative. Joseph details the lawsuits here:
Questions about Perez’s residency have been raised because he is being sued by Midland Funding LLC, a debt-buying company. Midland is trying to collect more $7,800 in debts that it says Perez racked up with Chase Bank. (Click here to see the complaint). Midland previously won a $10,000 judgement against Perez in 2011. (Click here to read that judgement.) The current Midland suit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on Jan. 19. Perez on Wednesday confirmed that Midland had won a judgement against him in 2011 but said that he was unaware that another suit had been filed this year.
Perez offered this statement to TheLiberalOC:
“It is unfortunate when anyone in California struggles with unscrupulous lenders in this economy. I am one of them, and it’s frustrating. But I’m working diligently to settle this private matter responsibly. What humbles me is the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Californians are dealing with the same issues – particularly in this community. That’s one of the reasons why I’m running for the Assembly. To help the little guy who is struggling to make ends meet.”
Martinez’s condo was sold in a short sale in February 2011 (with a date time stamp from the OC Clerk Recorder’s office of Tom Daly which is a tad ironic) in a move to avoid foreclosure proceedings against her. You can see the other documents associated with the short sale here, here, and here. Martinez currently rents an apartment in Santa Ana.
While both Perez and Martinez can make the case that their own personal financial troubles certainly mirror the financial problems many voters in AD-69 face, there are some significant differences. Perez also rents and has a roommate to cut costs. He drives a high mileage older model Ford Explorer SUV. Perez is living within his means and making good on his debt. Martinez, we believe, lives alone and drives a BMW convertible for which she gets a $500 a month car allowance as a city council member; this allowance goes towards car payments, insurance, maintenance and fuel. Her income is largely derived from her work on the city council and via paid commissions and boards. Her LinkedIn page does not list any private sector experience.
We also posted about Martinez’s $15,000 in loans to her own campaign in addition to the theft of her high end training bicycle. Santa Ana Planning Commissioner Sean Mill, in a comment on the OC Political blog, revealed that Santa Ana police had recovered Martinez’s bike which he said was valued at $6,000. So within a span of a year, Martinez loses her home, continues to drive a pricey BMW, and has an expensive bike stolen, and wrote a big check to herself. With two candidates with a history of poor personal finances, which candidate seems to live more like those in the district they seek to represent?
Republican candidate Joe Moreno has already reported he lives paycheck to paycheck. Francisco Barragan has saved enough dough to live a life of an activist while still paying his bills. Tom Daly is putting two older children through college now, making both he and Barragan the two candidates most fiscally responsible. Moreno, a working class father with a number of small children, is probably the candidate who most voters could identify with based on the way he lives his life.
Daly is often criticized as someone who wastes taxpayer dollars with the most frequent example being the purchase of a building for the county archives, and as we’ve pointed out, Daly didn’t have the authority to purchase said building. This transaction was approved by the Board of Supervisors (all Republicans) and deemed a quality asset for the county by CEO Tom Mauk. Martinez has been on the Santa Ana City Council since 2007 as the city’s financial picture has grown increasingly dim, critics (and allies of Martinez) point the finger at former City Manager Dave Ream. But Ream never made a single vote to approve any of the budgets. Conversely, moves being made to improve the city’s financial picture now should be attributed to Acting City Manager Paul Walters — simple stated, you can’t blame the city manager when things are bad and then take credit when things are good. It doesn’t work that way. Perez, Barragan and Moreno have no record of voting on any sort of public budgets.
All these issues aside, it is a crying shame there is no debate in this race. Voters deserve to hear from the candidates themselves on a host of difficult questions. Perhaps the OC Register can get one started but it only matters if all of the candidates attend and participate. A debate will gives voters a chance to see how candidates think on their feet and get a sense of their experience and ideas without turning this election into a race for student coucil president.
Perez told Liberal OC in an email, “The voters have a right hear from us all, directly and unfiltered — not scripted and piecemeal. That why I’ve called for a series of debates. My sincere hope is you use your blog to amplify my call for all of us to come together and debate how to get California back on track. I’ll answer any question voters in the 69th want to pose to me. My cell is all my handouts. I’m happy to answer any question in an open forum.”