Freddie Rodriguez builds momentum, but signs show otherwise

First, I hope that no one tried to vote for a Democratic endorsement today… as this was a closed vote (although open to the public to view). You had to be one of the 72 individuals enumerated in the Democratic Party’s bylaws (Article VIII, Section (3)(e)(1) to be specific) in order to have a vote – so I stand corrected.

With that said, it was not a surprise that Freddie Rodriguez gets the endorsement. Considering that the Torres slate won handily in the Assembly Democratic Caucus in January (disclaimer: I was part of that vote), had members of her slate win nomination to the County Central Committee, and controls a certain number of seats by virtue of being an elected official, the only question was whether he would surpass the 60% threshold, and Rodriguez did with 70% of the vote.

Rodriguez has the backing of the Democratic establishment in Sacramento and likely will be a middle of the road, reliable vote for Democratic leadership in the State Assembly that will not lead to embarrassing headlines, politically or personally. To his credit, he is the only candidate who has come up with a list of issues on his website. The Torres family has opened a lot of doors for Rodriguez – Robert Torres serves as press spokesman, his lead fundraiser is Torres’s, and having a mentor in the State Legislature will help ease the transition greatly. Having the phrase “Endorsed by the Democratic Party” and a picture of Torrres and Rodriguez together on a mailer will open doors to a lot of residents who may not know much about the candidates.

But looking at the surrounding environment, it is interesting to note that out of the people Rodriguez served with – fellow City Councilmembers – none have endorsed Rodriguez. Three have endorsed Manuel Saucedo. Two have endorsed Jason Rothman, although it would be questionable if the dad didn’t endorse the son.  And Paula Lantz is a former Republican so her endorsement doesn’t mean that much. (Most recently her registration was changed to Decline To State, as Pomona’s Republican heritage faded away.) Rodriguez’s endorsement speech was unusually targeted at comparing himself to “opponents” who, among other things, voted to reduce fire services – a clear reference to Soto. But don’t count Soto out since she obtained the endorsement of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the only statewide elected official to weigh in on this race, along with Congresswoman McLeod and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales. (I still count Haughey out, because he still doesn’t have a working website.)

Overall, this is a race which will be decided by a few thousand votes, if not less. With a registration of 177,000 and an estimated turnout of below 10% – if the senate special election was any indication – the nine candidates are chasing after 17,000 votes. If you voted in the last election, and your phone number is on the voter file, it may be a good time to avoid the phone and the door this summer.



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