Jim Penman


By William Cutting
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 – 08:30 p.m.

Election cycle after election cycle, San Bernardino City Attorney James F. Penman continues to pile up electoral victories.  It has been quite an impressive run for the cantankerous old man known to get a little red in the cheeks on occasion.

The only thing that seems to amaze me more is the lack of quality candidates Penman has faced during this span.  It is almost like their chosen ballot title designation is:

“Born to Lose”

Each election he bats around the ball of yarn.  Sometimes he lands some zingers and sometimes he just makes silly arguments that his impotent opponents are incapable of rebutting in an effective manner.

Take the latest dust-up offer some manufactured controversy involving political party endorsements.  Penman has managed to somehow convince his opponents that they should not go after and utilize endorsements from either political party.  Today’s article in the San Bernardino Sun has the following passages:

Penman said it wasn’t the endorsement itself he was criticizing — he said he may have sought an endorsement himself, before changing his registration from Democrat to “decline to state” in 2003, although he doubts it.

“It’s the inconsistency between attacking me for being political and then one seeking and the other having received the endorsement of the parties,” Penman said. “I think their waiting until they got caught and it was an issue in a debate, and then all of a sudden both of them backing off, is just indicative of a partisan mindset.”

Penman has routinely sought endorsements over the years. Sometimes he got them and sometimes he didn’t.  Penman’s opponents, Tim Prince and Gary Saenz responded by distancing themselves from the endorsements of the respective political parties:

But since Penman made that point in a forum last week, Prince has notified the San Bernardino County Democrats that he is dropping out of their endorsement process.

“I think it would play into Mr. Penman’s efforts to blur the distinction between partisan politics and the kind of politics he’s engaged in,” Prince said.

In a later conversation, Saenz said he didn’t remember participating in that endorsement process but couldn’t rule it out.

Roman Nava, chair of the Republicans’ endorsement committee, said last week that Saenz’s promise of an apolitical approach was part of their decision.

“I contacted him through a series of phone messages, and in one message he talked about his qualifications and the desire to make the decision — to put politics aside,” Nava said. “We don’t usually endorse unless it’s asked for. That platform appealed to us.”

So, Prince is intentionally walking away from the support of a party he has been actively involved in for years and Saenz presents himself as having questionable memories or questionable integrity.  How do you not remember being involved in a political endorsement process with a political party.  I mean…come on!

The response by Mr. Prince shouldn’t have been to tuck tail and run, but to instead turn the tables on Mr. Penman.  If Mr. Penman is suggesting that political endorsements are political then he is admitting to engaging in political partisanship as the city attorney.  After all, he has proudly trumpeted Democratic support over the years in political mailers. Don’t believe me, have a look at this:




Instead of responding in a defensive fashion and backing away from a valuable endorsement by a political party during an election campaign, Prince and others should be calling upon Penman to clarify whether or not he believes trumpeting the support of Democrats is partisan politics.  If it isn’t, then there is no reason to crucify Prince and Saenz and no fuel to change the narrative of the campaign.  If it is partisan politics in the eyes of Penman, then you essentially have the incumbent admitting that he has injected partisan politics into the non-partisan office.

At the very least, why aren’t these candidates highlighting the fact that Penman has taken thousands of dollars in contributions over the years from the various public employee unions, including police and fire.  He is somehow capable of “doing the right thing” and being free from undue influence by these powerful lobbying groups?

Come on guys. Do not let Penman dictate the rules of the game or allow you to dispense with arguably your most powerful weapons in a local election.