Last week, GOP Central Committee considered another round of endorsements, with two more candidates vying for the remaining endorsement for Anaheim City Council. Lucille Kring had been given the Republican stamp of approval in early endorsements, leaving Brian Chuchua and Steven Albert Chavez Lodge to duke it out for the second spot. Brian Chuchua has been the past recipient of the GOP nomination, and has already secured the CRA nod for this year’s race. In contrast Lodge has broken nearly every Republican standard set forth by Baugh and company. And yet, there was still debate…
Chris and Chris over at OCPolitical.com were good enough to live-blog the event, and I have included some excerpts here for the edification of our readers. OCPolitical’s report is in BOLD print.
Comments from CW are entirely my own, and while I share my opinions (as one would expect) I also share the source materials upon which I have drawn my conclusions. Enjoy.
Anaheim City Council
7:56 PM – (4 minutes early.)
Brian Chuchua notes his previous endorsement by the OCGOP in 2010, and his long-term residency in Anaheim. He complains that special interests control the Anaheim City Council, citing the TOT vote.
CW: Former Mayor Curt Pringle has returned to his lobbying firm, and now that the one-year cooling off period is over, he has been ushering through high-dollar deals. The most well-known, and controversial, was the January Council vote to divert $158 million in bed taxes to Gardenwalk hotel developer Bill O’Connell.
Voice of OC reported at the time, “With its proposed contribution, the city would in effect foot more than 25 percent of the project’s construction bill, and the investor would realize a nearly 16 percent rate of return on the project, according to the report.
Jan deRoos, associate professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, called the city-subsidized rate of return “extremely high.” A normal return, deRoos said, would be about 10 percent.”
This was not an inconsequential matter for Chuchua to bring up, it has greatly divided the community, leading to a contentious ballot Initiative effort, and Steve Lodge has gone on record as supporting the deal.
Chuchua pledges to work well with Mayor Tom Tait. (Tom Tait has endorsed John Leos, but has not yet announced who he might support for the 2nd seat.)
Tim Whitacre speaks in favor of Chuchua, citing Brian’s activism in the unsuccessful effort toward a recent Charter amendment.
CW: Let the People Vote was a bi-partisan coalition of businesses, residents, and civic leaders, and in an odd partnership, was funded by a public employees’ union, in protecting a shared interest. Both sides recognized that diverting bed taxes from the General Fund reduces the City’s ability to provide services to residents and businesses, and the union certainly has a stake in maintain that ability to provide services. An odd partnership, admittedly, but a common threat sometimes demands a common response.
Mayor Tait stood with many of Anaheim’s business owners and residents, trying to ensure that future TOT revenues generated by the Resort enjoy the same protection of public oversight that the SOAR coalition locked into zone changes in 07-08 . Chuchua very publicly took a stand in protecting taxpayers’ resources from future subsidy offers, essentially stepping between two loaded guns in an effort to preserve conservative values. Tim Whitacre acted as the paid consultant for the project, and saw firsthand who participated-and who opposed the efforts to protect tax revenues from special interests.
Whitacre states that Tait will endorse Chuchua (Nguyen and Emami note murmurs in the audience, questioning why Tait has not already endorsed a second candidate.
CW: I understand Mayor Tait has been on vacation, and is scheduled to choose a 2nd candidate upon his return.
CW: Kudos to Lucille Kring, who already carries the GOP endorsement and had nothing to gain, but jumped in to offer support for Brian Chuchua over Steven Albert Chavez Lodge.
Kring brought up Lodge’s contributions to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and the allegations that Lodge committed police brutality.
CW: They are more than allegations-the LA Times and court records show a jury judgment of $612,000 in an excessive force case against Lodge while serving as a Santa Ana Police officer. $500,000 of that settlement was in punitive damages, for the beating of Hossein Farahani, who suffered head injuries requiring 6-8 stitches and a ruptured disk in his back. Lodge claims Farahani was injured while resisting arrest, in fact his attorney told an LA Times reporter that Farahani may have been injured when “his head hit Lodge’s boot.” Really. The guy actually said that.
The heinous crime for which Farahani was being arrested?
8:01 PM – Steve Chavez Lodge arrives 1 minute late.
CW: While Central began early, a wise candidate would have arrived much earlier. How important was this to him?
He introduces himself as Steven Albert Chavez Lodge, with a couple giggles from the audience. He says he is a Reagan conservative with 5,000 arrests as a Santa Ana Police Officer. He wants Anaheim to be pro-business.
CW: Of course he wants Anaheim to be pro-business. His job with Hill International is to bring in new contracts, in fact he gets 1% of everything new he brings in…kind of like a lobbyist, with a nicer title on his business cards. Hill International has sent Lodge repeatedly to pre-bid conferences on Anaheim projects, with special attention to the ARC project, Anaheim Rapid Connect, which ties into the ARTIC train station mess. In case anyone is wondering, yes, Curt Pringle has his fingers in that pie too.
He says the most important function of city government is public safety. He says his experience will help stabilize Anaheim.
CW: While Lodge did not specify, one wonders which of his past experiences will help stabilize Anaheim.
Court records show bar owner Elba Freeman sued the City of Santa Ana for a pattern of harassment, begun when she filed a complaint against Lodge, citing in facts of the case that
“Complaint Against Officer Lodge”
“2From 1976 to 1985, Freeman operated The Red Turtle without receiving any citations from either the Santa Ana Police Department (“SAPD”) or from the Alcoholic Beverages Commission (“ABC”). However, in 1985, Freeman filed a complaint against SAPD Officer Steven Lodge, alleging that Lodge was harassing Freeman and her employees and customers, subjecting them to verbal abuse and even physically assaulting them on occasion. After Freeman filed the complaint against Officer Lodge, police involvement with The Red Turtle increased significantly.”
CW: The case goes on to detail efforts to have the ABC revoke her license, officers terrorizing her clientele, primarily Latino (It appears Lodge was not using “Chavez” at the time, the name does not appear in the records I have, and Freeman accused him of being anti-hispanic!)
Whether or not one accepts and believes tales of Anaheim Police being racist, or too quick to reach for a gun or baton, the reality for Anaheim is that there is (for some residents) a significant perception of that environment within the Police department, and that perception gave rise to the unrest in late July/early August of this year. Until that perception is replaced by a more positive viewpoint of Anaheim’s police force, the city continues to sit on a powder keg.
Mixing the public records of Steve Lodge’s career in law enforcement, with those negative perceptions of APD creates the potential for even greater division between the two sides.
That the Anaheim Police Association endorsed Lodge is of greater concern for many residents. Some see the banners, the newspaper ads, and they wonder: “Did Anaheim Police fail to vet their candidates before endorsing? Or did they endorse Lodge with the knowledge that these cases were in his record?”
None of the above appears terribly “stabilizing” for a city already in crisis.
Allan Bartlett speaks against Lodge, repeating Kring’s comments that Lodge donated money to Loretta Sanchez and that Lodge may have committed police brutality. Bartlett says, “it’s not conservative to give millions of dollars to a large corporation like Disney.”
CW: Bartlett refers to campaign donations from Lodge to Loretta Sanchez in 2010, the year that the GOP pumped untold buckets of time, money, and energy into Van Tran’s campaign in an effort to unseat Sanchez.
Bartlett’s mention of Disney may reference an agreement in which Disney was scheduled to operate the Gardenwalk hotels on behalf of Bill O’Connell. While Disney claims they are no longer interested in the deal, the contract was never changed to reflect Disney’s status as a disinterested party. Interestingly the Economic Assistance agreement itself, as amended in January 2012, specifically lists Disney as a potential party, in fact “Item 206: Transfer to Disney” lists conditions under which the agreement could/could not be transferred to Disney. Seems like an awful lot of work for a company no longer interested in the deal. But what do I know? I am not a lawyer, and I know Disney has some VERY good attorneys working for them, so who am I to question a complicated document…
Meanwhile, nobody is talking; in fact O’Connell has refused to even reveal the name of the investor who will benefit from Anaheim tax dollars.
Tim Whitacre says, “On behalf of Mayor Tom Tait, who previously endorsed Mr. Lodge, has unendorsed Mr. Lodge.” He asks if Lodge has sought union support in violation of the non-union pledge in the OCGOP questionnaire.
CW: Lodge has sought, and received, the backing of Police and Fire unions in Anaheim, as well as the Santa Ana Police PAC and the OC Sheriff’s union PAC. The Anaheim unions have already begun Independent Expenditures on behalf of their slate of Jordan Brandman and Steven Albert Chavez Lodge.
Committee Member Chandra Chell echoes Whitaker’s concern, asking again if either candidate is endorsed by Curt Pringle.
CW: Mayor Tait had endorsed Lodge early in the race, but as Tait came to know Lodge better, the Mayor pulled his endorsement. Meanwhile Curt Pringle has not only endorsed Lodge, but in what can only be interpreted as a disrespectful slap in the face to the man currently serving as Mayor, Lodge’s website shows the support of “Mayor Curt Pringle.” Not “Former Mayor”….but “Mayor.” This is a change from earlier events in which Tait and Pringle supported Lodge together, and their names were listed with the appropriate titles of Mayor and Former Mayor.
This gaffe has been pointed out, but remains on Lodge’s website. That blatant disrespect for a conservative Republican Mayor is reason enough to deny Lodge the endorsement; and possibly force him to turn in his Ronald Reagan Fan Club secret decoder ring.
Pringle endorsed Lodge but not Chuchua.
Lodge says he gave money to Sanchez because being in construction requires that he give a donation to Sanchez. He apologizes and says he regrets it now.
CW: Beyond the apparent acknowledgement that Lodge seems to participate in the pay-to-play game, his denial of an ongoing relationship with Sanchez contrasts with photos on his own campaign website. Here is a photo of Lodge and Sanchez, together at his campaign kick-off just this year.
Lodge says, “people get hurt when they fight” in reference to the allegations of police brutality. He says he did not violate any police department policies.
CW: First of all, a “fight” indicates the active participation of at least 2 people, not one person in a position of authority against another subject to that authority.
Regarding Lodge’s claim that he “did not violate any Police department policies” public records say otherwise.
The LA Times reported, “Freeman said police harassment began after 1985, when she filed a complaint alleging that Officer Steven Lodge pushed her and used foul language during a routine bar check. He served a four-hour suspension for the incident.”
No matter where else the incident went, Lodge was suspended by his department for his part in what began several years’ worth of court appearances.
Committee Member Mary Young asks if Chuchua gave money to a Democrat.
Chuchua gave money to Democrat John Santoianni running for Anaheim City School District who he called a personal friend. Chuchua says he was curious about Santoianni.
Committee Member Thomas Gordon asks Lodge about defined benefit vs. defined contribution.
Lodge says pension reform is necessary to make the system solvent and that Governor Brown’s 12-point plan did not go far enough.
CW: Lodge is currently collecting a defined benefit pension from SAPD, and it may well be a Disability pension, as public records show Lodge filed a Worker’s Comp claim against the City of Santa Ana. In addition, Lodge served for years on the Board of his union PAC.
Committee Member Thomas Gordon asks Lodge if he is backed by any unions.
Lodge says he is endorsed by the Anaheim Police and Fire unions and the Santa Ana Police union but has not taken any money from them.
CW: Not entirely true. He did take their money, let it sit in his account for months, and then refunded it back in August when he either decided to try for the GOP endorsement, or realized Baugh’s manifesto existed, (since he did just move to Orange County from the Inland Empire he may have missed it.)
Oh wait, he did manage to keep one check…
On August 8, 2012, Lodge filed a new 410, corrections to Schedule A in which he listed the union donations and says, “please note this contribution was deposited in error by treasurer and has been refunded.”
02/07/2012 $1,000 from Santa Ana Police Officers PAC (410 form August 8th shows returned)
06/21/2012 $250 from Santa Ana Police Officers PAC (410 form August 8th shows returned)
06/13/2012 $1,000 from Assn of Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s Political Action Committee (410 form August 8th shows returned)
12/28/2011 $1,000 Anaheim Police Officers PAC
CW: I CAN FIND NO RECORD OF THIS DONATION BEING RETURNED!
It appears Lodge held on to at least one check, and the rest took months to return. Many of us know Lodge’s Treasurer; she is the ultimate professional, so out of respect for her I have not put her in the impossible position of asking her about transactions with her candidate.
Does Lodge expect us to believe that a careful professional, known and respected in the world of politics, someone very aware of the Baugh manifesto, deposited union checks despite Lodge’s instructions to the contrary, and then it took them both months to discover the money was there-despite Lodge signing the forms that reported the money to the City Clerk? Really? Anyone buying this?
Committee Member Ray Grangoff expresses concern about Lodge’s ties to Jordan Brandman.
Lodge says while many people have endorsed both he and Brandman; he says he has no ties to Brandman and has never been to any events with Brandman.
Chuchua interjects that there’s pictures of Brandman and Lodge at events together.
CW: Chuchua is correct, Brandman and Lodge are often seen (and photographed) together at campaign events, as they are being run as a slate by the Chamber/Resort/public safety unions. Their viewpoints are clearly so aligned that these special interests buy one advertisement, for both candidates together. At least one photo, reportedly taken in the back yard at Kris Murray’s private residence, shows Brandman and Lodge quite friendly, in a relationship based on mutual friends and mutual endorsements. On the other hand, Brandman may be relieved to have Lodge distance himself, given the bad press Lodge has been getting relating to the Police brutality charges that the media has been uncovering.
Committee Chair Mark Bucher asks Lodge to further elaborate on pension reform.
Lodge says he feels more reforms are necessary.
Committee Member Mary Young expresses concern that both gave money to Democrats. She says they both seem conservative.
CW: With all due respect to Mary Young, Brian Chuchua has been a long-standing example of a conservative Republican. Chuchua has refused to even meet with unions, honoring the intent and the letter of the Baugh manifesto.
To date the only conservative stand I have seen from Lodge is his incessant quoting of Ronald Reagan on his facebook page. I would be most interested in Mary Young elaborating on what she finds conservative about Lodge.
In addition, there is a world of difference between Chuchua giving a donation to a middle-of-the-road candidate in a local school board race, and Lodge donating to, and cozying up at his campaign event, with the most notoriously liberal Democrat in the region. How many GOP dollars have been poured into repeated attempts to defeat the Santa Ana headache? No, I am sorry, Brian Chuchua’s overture of bipartisan assistance to a candidate for a local school district is not in the same category as offering aid and comfort to someone on the level of Mrs. Brixey-I mean Ms.Sanchez.
Committee Member Chandra Chell says some people in the room support Chuchua while none support Lodge.
CW: While Lodge’s supporters include Anaheim’s Republican power structure, including GOP darling Kris Murray, and of course all-star Curt Pringle, and OCBC’s Lucy Dunn, and OCTax PAC Reed Royalty, none of them came to speak in support of their golden boy. Some are now being mocked for supporting Lodge.
Chell moves to support the endorsement recommendation for Chuchua and Gordon seconds.
Chell expresses concern about Lodge’s endorsement by Pringle.
Committee Member Matt Harper says Anaheim is very complex and Kring was an easy call. He wants to delay an endorsement vote, and gets agreement from Young and Grangoff.
Committee Member Ray Grangoff says both would do well.
CW: Again, like my inquiry regarding Mary Young’s impression of Lodge, one must wonder what this determination is based upon. Lodge has no track record with Anaheim, having moved to the city in late 2009, and I can find no record of involvement with Orange County GOP activity. How would “both” candidates do well?
Committee Member Mary Young says you can’t control who endorses you. She says OCEA head Nick Berandino endorsed her against her will.
CW: Mary Young may not have met with OCEA, but Lodge actively sought out the endorsements of Anaheim’s unions. While the Anaheim Police PAC appears more reasonable than most in negotiating, Anaheim Fire unions have dug in their heels over minimum staffing requirements that significantly inflate firefighter pay and benefits by $2-$3 million every year. Their standard demand for a number of election cycles has been for candidates to support co-opting a percentage of the Public Utility fees to maintain that unsustainable level of staffing/pay, which allows the average Anaheim firefighter to draw a six-figure salary. There is no evidence that Lodge was endorsed without his permission.
Kring says she’d “much prefer” Chuchua over Lodge because he “has a lot of baggage” and is backed by “special interests.” ….
Kring blasts OCBC and OCTax as Pringle high-speed rail tools who are also backing Lodge.
CW: Thanks to Thomas Gordon for asking Lucille Kring for her input. While the endorsement committee can debate the merits of candidates ‘till the cows come home, the true test for a local race should include feedback from Republicans with consistent GOP values, and a firm understanding of the issues unique to that community-which pretty much defines Lucille Kring, and I am glad someone asked her.
Committee Chair Mark Bucher asks if Lodge supports high-speed rail.
Lodge thinks money should be spent on local transportation rather than high-speed rail.
CW: Again, Lodge is an independent contractor for a company that has shown significant interest in “local transportation” projects such as ARC, so his support for these projects may be more than mere policy.
Committee Chair Mark Bucher is “more troubled” by union support than the other members of the committee.
Committee Member Mary Young thinks if the police union didn’t back Lodge, it might be a sign he was a bad police officer.
I hate to say it, but it appears to a number of us that Lodge may have been a bad Police officer, despite the union’s backing. They are not mutually exclusive issues.
Committee Chair Mark Bucher cites Assemblyman Allan Mansoor as an example of a former law enforcement officer who is opposed by police unions.
Kring interjects that police unions could still do independent expenditures.
CW: Police and Fire have already teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to buy ads promoting their “slate” of Jordan Brandman and Steven Albert Chavez Lodge, as well as hanging large (expensive) banners on fences all over the city.
The vote was 3-3 for Chuchua (Bucher, Chell, and Gordon in favor with Grangoff, Harper, and Young against).
The committee vote fails.
NOTE: I am told Chuchua will return on Monday for a full vote of the Central Committee, in another attempt to gain the endorsement he has earned as a solid conservative in years past. No word yet on whether Lodge is making another pass at the endorsement.
While I understand that the Endorsement Committee’s questions intended to reveal specific information about the candidates, I think we have discovered more about content of character than GOP values. Just as in the effort to determine what Steven Albert Chavez Lodge’s legal name is, we see what looks like a consistent pattern of throwing others under the bus, finger-pointing, blame, and counter-attack in an effort to manipulate the facts to his liking.
We see character, or rather a lack of it. We see nothing in Lodge deserving of a GOP endorsement under any circumstances, certainly nothing that would promote him above a solid candidate such as Brian Chuchua, for whom conservative Republican is a core value, not a fundraising tactic.