My first reaction to the image of Jose Solorio shaking hands with Texas Senator Ted Cruz at the Orange County Republican Party’s Flag Day fundraiser was; “what was Jose trying to prove,” I wondered? He’s running for the 34th Senate seat in 2014, as a Democrat, for Christ’s sake.
I was quite frankly confused, since just a couple days earlier I was pleased to read Mr. Solorio’s Facebook posted criticism of the Anaheim City Council for not appointing a single Latino to the Charter Review Commission.
…”the situation in Anaheim today is that many communities feel excluded from city governance, and appointments like this further grow the frustration level. I am sure that if you and I were to pick members for a body like this, that we would also have considered including perhaps more women and other Americans of Asian, Arab or Latino descent.”
Rather than simply fly off the handle I sent Mr. Solorio the following text message:
“GOP Flag Day Dinner with Sen. Ted Cruz? Really? Why was this a good idea for a potential Democratic State Senate candidate? Please explain.”
Mr. Solorio called me back. He told me that he is in “campaign mode,” seeking all possible votes be they Democrats, non-party affiliated, or Republican. “I was curious what he had to say about immigration,” Solorio told me, “and he said nothing.”
“I wanted to see how the Republicans would address diversity at their event. Santa Ana Unified School District Trustee Cece Iglesias delivered the invocation and County Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen led the pledge of allegiance” to a sea of mostly white faces, Solorio recalled.
“I also wanted to shake up Supervisor Janet Nguyen,” who has also launched a campaign for the 34th Senate seat, “and let her know that I’m not afraid of her and I’m willing to go to her home turf,” Solorio said.
Solorio made it clear that he was a guest of a long–time friend and business associate who had invited him to attend. I acknowledged my relief that he hadn’t given money to the GOP for the event, but couldn’t just let his answer stand without a follow-up. “Who was that person who invited you,” I asked? “I would presume that such a contribution would need to be reported on a disclosure at some point, I said, can you tell me who it was? People are going to want to know.”
“These types of events are not considered to have any reportable value,” Solorio told me. “So I would rather leave my friend out of it.”
I wouldn’t be living up to LiberalOC’s reputation as a journalistically recognized political blog if I didn’t try to find out who invited Solorio to the GOP equivalent of the Democratic Party of Orange County’s Annual Truman Award Dinner.
Not surprisingly it didn’t really take too much digging to find out. Our sources told us that Jose Solorio was the guest of long-time political donor and friend Judy Ware, at a table she had sponsored. Seated with him at the front of the room table was Michelle Steel, Current Board of Equalization member and candidate for the Board of Supervisors; Shawn Steele, former Chair of the California Republican Party; Tyler Diep, Former Westminster City Councilman and current staffer for Michelle Steel; and Judy Ware.
I asked Mr. Solorio how he would like to respond to critics that his attendance at the event was inappropriate for a former Democratic Assemblyman and current candidate for State Senate?
Other Democrats do it
“We’re supposed to be the party of tolerance and freedom. As long as it doesn’t signal a change in core values, it shouldn’t matter. I am a pro-jobs Democrat. I’m not afraid to carry my message up to their door,” Solorio told me. ”There were other democrats in the room, who I won’t name,” Solorio added. “There is no Democratic Party rule or policy that prohibits democrats from attending Republican events, and I’m not the first to do so. But I’m elected to a non-partisan position; I’m not a party official. I would be more concerned about party officials attending Republican events.”
Who are you talking about I asked? “Well, I’ve heard that Democratic Party Chairman Henry Vandermeir is currently investigating concerns about Carina Franck-Pantone, an elected member of the party central committee, attending a fundraising event for Michelle Steel,” Solorio said.
I checked into Solorio’s allegation about Franck-Pantone, and apparently she attended the May 18th Kick-off fundraiser for Steel’s Supervisor campaign at the home of GOP Chairman Scott Baugh, at the direction of her political consulting client, the Orange County Employees Association. OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino told me; “Michele Steel asked us personally to attend the event to find out more about her views and positions for the future of Orange County. We did not pay to attend and Carina accompanied our Assistant General Manager Jennifer Muir to the event at my direction.” Berardino added, “If anyone has a question about that they can call me.”
I asked Berardino what he thought of Solorio’s attendance at the Ted Cruz event and his going out of his way to shake his hand. “That’s his political calculation,” Berardino answered.
For my part, I think that a Democrat running for Senate attending the headline annual GOP fundraiser to shake hands with their anti-immigrant keynote speaker, is a bit different from a member of the DPOC Central Committee attending an event of a Republican candidate for a non-partisan office at the behest of her employer.
There’s no policy, but…
Solorio is correct that there is no Democratic Party policy that prohibits party leaders from attending Republican events. And while there are rules against party officials endorsing partisan Republican candidates, those rules do not extend to fundraisers, where no money changes hands.
But as far as political calculations are concerned, Solorio’s attendance at this event will do little to help repair his tortured relationship with labor organizations. The new complication for Solorio is that by attending the event held at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, violates a nationwide labor non-patronize order in support of worker’s rights against all but a few Hyatt brand hotels. Should Solorio seek endorsement of the state or local Labor federations for his Senate campaign, he’ll likely have to explain how crossing that line makes him a pro-labor candidate deserving of support. An objection from Labor could also cost him the Democratic Party endorsement, and accompanying support, in what is expected to be a very close contest in the 34th Senate district.
I asked Solorio how he responds to critics who question his commitment to democratic values in light of his attendance at the event and his getting up to greet Cruz. “Just because I shake hands with someone who I disagree with does not say that I have abandoned my core values,” Solorio said. “I do not agree with anything Cruz has to say. I am pro-immigration reform, pro-worker, and pro-jobs democrat.”
Mr. Solorio has explained his attendance at the OC GOP Flag Day Dinner with anti-immigrant, anti-worker, anti-healthcare reform, anti-voting-rights, TEA Party Republican Ted Cruz, as nothing more than a little opposition researched, coupled with in-your-face confrontation of his potential opponent Janet Nguyen. He told me that “a number of Republicans” came up to him at the event to express how they didn’t support Nguyen’s candidacy for Senate and their interest in finding out more about his candidacy.
But I have to say, that limited amount of support for a son of Mexican immigrants will be far overshadowed by the potential damage to his Latino base of support when the mailers go out to his core voters asking if they can trust a man who shakes hands with a man who represents the antithesis of everything they believe in.
What do you think?
Does it matter? Will the picture of Solorio shaking hands with Cruz have any effect on his base support? Will it be too complicated for voters to discern with a few word sound bite? Should he have been there? Should he have stayed in his seat as Cruz walked by his table? Was it worth it, for him to have his TEA Party moment with Ted Cruz?