Spence’s DUI Accident Clashes With His Straight And Narrow GOP Image

Mike Spence’s extended absence as Fourth District San Benardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman’s chief of staff was precipitated by a single-vehicle traffic accident in which he is alleged to have been driving under the influence.
Spence has not been to work for more than five weeks.
At half past noon on June 12 Covina police officers responded to a report of a vehicle that collided with a utility pole near the intersection of Azusa Avenue and Cypress Street in that city. According to the department’s watch commander, Sergeant Gregg Peterson, officers said Spence appeared to be intoxicated.
Spence’s condition as a result of the accident was so serious that he was transported at once to Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, where it was determined he suffered a broken hip, a broken femur, two shattered vertebrae and three broken ribs in the crash. He was cited for a DUI while yet at County USC, but was not arrested. He underwent two surgeries at the medical center for a spinal fusion and to repair his hip and femur. He was subsequently transferred to Casa Colina Hospital for Rehabilitative Medicine in Pomona.
The results of a toxicology report, based upon blood that was drawn at County USC after Spence arrived there, had yet to be publicly released at press time.
The Sentinel was unable reach Spence.
Hagman’s deputy chief of staff Katherine Kolcheva has been elevated to serve as interim chief of staff.
The development is likely to have a substantial impact on not only Spence, but Hagman, the City of West Covina and the Republican Party.
Spence was considered to be a GOP stalwart, and a key element in the effort to reestablish the Republican Party statewide and maintain its tenuous political grip on San Bernardino County.
Hagman, a Republican and former Chino Hills mayor, was elected to the California Assembly in 2008. Spence served as Curt Hagman’s chief of staff during all six years Hagman has served in the State Assembly. Hagman brought Spence to San Bernardino County to serve as his chief of staff here after Hagman, having been termed out of the Assembly, vied for and eked out a razor-thin victory over then-Congresswoman GloriaNegrete-McLeod in 2014, when they both sought the post of Fourth District San Bernardino County supervisor.
Spence, a councilman in West Covina, had a quarter of a century experience in various political roles in the state capital, including serving as the chief of staff for then-assemblyman Joel Anderson (R- El Cajon).
Spence and Hagman share a hard-edged Republican streak, evident in the bare knuckled campaign waged against Gloria Negrete-McLeod for supervisor. Negrete-McLeod, a Democrat, was portrayed as soft on crime and an advocate of policies that are unfavorable to business interests in hit pieces originating with the Hagman campaign. Spence served as the chief strategist for Hagman in that electoral run.
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 dollar 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.
Spence was for four years the taxpayer representative on the Mount San Antonio Community College Bond Oversight Committee.
After Hagman’s 2014 victory in vying for supervisor, Spence readily took on the key San Bernardino County political/governmental assignment Hagman offered, despite remaining a creature of Los Angeles County, where he was then and still is a member of the city council in the 16.09-square mile, 106,098-population West Covina. Spence’s role with Hagman was considered crucial, as San Bernardino County remains a bastion, of a sort, of Republicanism in California, which over the last two decades has slipped under the control of Democrats.
Throughout the 1990s and well into the 2000s, political registration in San Bernardino County favored the Party of Lincoln. But in the 2008-09 time frame, Democrats eclipsed the GOP in terms of sheer numbers of registered voters throughout the county. By 2013, the county’s 24 cities were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in terms of voter registration advantage. In most of the county’s economically challenged cities such as San Bernardino, Adelanto, Barstow, Needles, Rialto and Colton, voter registration was lopsidedly in favor of the Democrats. The Democrats also enjoyed by that point a decided lead over the Republicans in Montclair and Fontana, and less distinct advantages in Highland, Victorville, Chino and Ontario. In the county’s other 12 cities – Chino Hills, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, Apple Valley, Loma Linda, Grand Terrace, Yucaipa, Yucca Valley, Redlands, Twentynine Palms and Big Bear – the Republicans registered to vote outnumbered Democrats. But despite the slightly greater numbers of Democrats in San Bernardino County overall, Republicans, who turn out at the polls and vote by absentee ballot in far greater numbers than do Democrats, yet predominate at the polls in all but a handful of cities, most notably Colton and Adelanto. On the county board of supervisors Republicans still outnumber Democrats three to two and in the California Assembly and State Senate, the Republicans in San Bernardino County hold their own against the Democrats.
Spence was, until just recently, seen as an architect of the Republican hold out in San Bernardino County – pushing fiscal conservatism, law and order, the private sector over the public sector (despite his status as a virtual career-long public employee), traditional family and religious values, and personal discipline.
With his accident, brought on by intoxication within a half hour of high noon on a Sunday, Spence may have compromised his ability to effectively militate for the Republican cause. Less than a week before the accident, he was a Republican candidate for the Assembly in the 55th State Assembly District, a race in which he finished a close third in the June 7 primary, being only narrowly denied the opportunity to vie in the November general election.
Spence has since his accident made public statements to the effect that he has had a problem with alcohol since he was a teenager and that he has struggled against his alcoholism his entire adult life. Simultaneously, he has maintained he is not a drug user. He has not outright conceded that he was drunk on June 12, saying he doesn’t recall anything about the accident or what led up to it. The revelation of his out-of-control alcohol use, nevertheless, is absolutely contrary to his cultivated public image. There is no indication, yet, if his misadventure in the city that neighbors the one in which he lives and where he is a current council member and former mayor, will damage his electability. And Hagman has not given an indication yet as to whether his now-open secret will result in his termination as chief-of-staff.

Leave a Reply