Fourth District Chief Of Staff Sets Sights On 55th Assembly District Post

Mike Spence, the chief of staff to Fourth District San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman, is looking to leave that position as early as this spring to make a run for Hagman’s former post as assemblyman in California 55th Assembly District.
Hagman, an incumbent Republican state legislator who had spent six years in Sacramento, was elected Fourth District supervisor in 2104 in a tight race against Gloria Negrete-McLeod, who was then an incumbent Democratic Congresswoman. Spence, a city councilman in West Covina who was Hagman’s chief of staff in the state capital and all told had a quarter of a century experience in various political roles in the Sacramento, including serving as the chief of staff for then-assemblyman Joel Anderson (R- El Cajon), served as Hagman’s de facto campaign manager in the battle against Negrete-McLeod. Despite the Democrats’ edge in voter registration and Negrete-McLeod’s name recognition and more-than-adequate funding, Spence was able to direct Hagman’s forces to victory. He then followed Hagman from Sacramento to San Bernardino.
The opportunity for Spence to return to Sacramento, this time as an elected official, came about because of the decision by Hagman’s successor in the 55th Assembly District, Ling-Ling Chang, to step up for a run in the 29th State Senate District.
Spence will now have to cross swords with Chino Hills Councilman Ray Marquez,
Diamond Bar Councilman Steve Tye and Walnut Valley schools trustee Phillip Chen, all of whom are Republicans, to represent the 55th, which stretches from Chino Hills in San Bernardino County in the east to Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, Walnut and West Covina in Los Angeles County and through Brea, La Habra, Placentia, Yorba Linda and slivers of other cities in Orange County.
Spence is an anti-tax advocate who has long crusaded for paring back the bureaucracy of government and alleviating the financial burden on taxpayers.
In 1998, the city of West Covina unsuccessfully sued Spence over his opposition to a multi-million tax increase that would have imposed several hundred dollar-per year assessments on homeowners. Spence prevailed in the lawsuit and the tax proposal failed.
Born and raised in West Covina, Spence was student body president at Edgewood High School and he then attended and graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. He was elected six times to the West Covina Unified School District Board of Education, was a founding board member of the California Virtual Academy-L.A. High School, and is a past-president of the East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program/Technical College where he served 18 years as a board member.
The 55th Assembly district lopsidedly favors the GOP over the Democrats in terms of both voter registration and voter turnout, and Spence’s hard-edged Republican streak and longer and more intensive political experience would seem to provide him with frontrunner status.
Nevertheless, capturing the assembly post will not be a cakewalk for him as he does bring to the table some vulnerabilities which could be exploited by his rivals, particularly Marquez, who has contracted with San Francisco-based political strategist James Fisfis to carry out an aggressive, take-no-prisoners campaign. Spence is open to the charge of being a carpetbagger, since he does not currently live in the 55th District and will soon have to move across town to take up residence within that jurisdiction. He will be able to remain on the West Covina City Council, but that too may complicate his effort. It is anticipated that his opponents will make a point of his holding the high-demand job of being chief of staff to Hagman as well as serving on the city council while being engaged in a political campaign to go to Sacramento, and call upon him to either resign from his job with the county or take a leave of absence from it to ensure the taxpayers are not shortchanged while he is distracted from his nine to five job. Moreover, it appears, his rivals are loading up to make issue of the consideration that though he is an ardent pro-business Republican who advocates against excessive government regulation and bureaucracy, for most of his working life he has been a government employee, due to be eligible to pull in a six-figure government pension when he retires.

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