Benjamin Demers, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/16/2012 06:26:39 PM PDT
The June 5 primary provided its share of setbacks for the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee and its chairman, Ron Wall.
The primary results saw missed opportunities for the Democrats in a pair of key congressional races – the 8th and 31st districts.
In the 8th District, which runs from the Nevada border as far west as Highland and Crestline, Wall had hoped that at least one of two Democratic candidates – Jackie Conaway or John Pinkerton – would slip past a slate of 10 Republicans and one independent to reach the November general election.
Conaway and Pinkerton were soundly defeated. Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, and Tea Party conservative Gregg Imus will run against each other for the 8th District seat.
The results from the 31st District saw four Democrats – Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, Loma Linda lawyer Justin Kim, nonprofit director Renea Wickman and retired educator Rita Ramirez-Dean – all fail to move on to the November ballot despite the party’s voter registration edge in a district that runs from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands.
State Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, will face each other in November.
In the new “top two” primary, the top two vote-getters move on to the general election, regardless of party.
Republicans in San Bernardino County turned out to vote in far greater numbers, despite the Democrats’ edge in voter registration.
The two primary responsibilities of the Democratic Central Committee is to get Democrats registered to vote as well as into office.
Wall recently sat down to answer some questions about the primary.
Question: Walk me through what happened in Congressional District 31.
Answer: You have to look at the history of that whole race. Going back to the redistricting, originally, there was a district on that side on the first draft that was even more heavily Democratic. (Rep. Joe) Baca (D-San Bernardino) lived in that district, and it was assumed he was going to be our candidate there. Then things shifted some and the district on the west side (35th Congressional District) became more heavily Democratic and included 60percent of Baca’s former district, so he decided to go in that one. That left that district without any incumbent on the Democratic side. But no one knew what (Rep. Jerry) Lewis (R-Redlands) was going to do.
So initially there weren’t any strong candidates who said “I’m going to run there.” And the only two who initially indicated they wanted to run in that district were Renea Wickman and Rita Ramirez-Dean and also Russ Warner (who ended up running in the 40th Assembly District).
At that point, I think Democrats felt that Russ was probably the stronger candidate. It wasn’t until later when Lewis decided he was going to retire that both on the Democratic and Republican side we had others enter the race.
The reason I mentioned some of that is because our party endorsement process totally changed just like the top two primaries. It had traditionally been that we didn’t do our endorsement until the filing period closed and then we had a local caucus…. (The endorsement process involves) local delegates vote and (a candidate must) get 70percent of the vote. If no one gets 70percent of the vote, then it goes up to the state party convention provided one of the candidates got at least 50 percent in the local caucus.
What happened was you had, before Aguilar and Kim got in, you had Dean and Wickman – who had been members of the party and had been candidates before – were reaching out to potential delegates. So when we got closer to the endorsement, Aguilar and Kim got involved. They were not as well known by the party delegates. So when it came time to actually vote on that, no one reached the 50 percent threshold for it to go to the state convention so there was no endorsement in the race.
So what happened on the Democratic side, once there was no endorsement, we as the Central Committee, have to abide by the state endorsement or, in this case, non-endorsement, so we could not show favoritism toward any Democratic candidate at that point. So it prevented us from working on behalf of the candidate, but it also prevented us from saying anything negative about any candidate either.
As an organization, we really had our hands tied. We couldn’t say once the endorsement was voted on we couldn’t say, “Hey, don’t run.”
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