Browsowske To Capitalize On Appointment With Council Run In November

Less than a month into his appointed tenure as a Hesperia city council member, Jeremiah Browsowske moved to solidify his hold on that position and the base from which he intends to advance to the next phase of his political career. He will seek election to the post he now holds in the November municipal election.
Widely hailed in the High Desert as representing the second coming of Bill Postmus, Browsowske is seen as the last and best chance for the GOP to reassert itself and strengthen its tenuous grasp not only on the reins of power in Hesperia and the High Desert but over San Bernardino County as a whole. Simultaneously, Republican Party stalwarts from a generation ago are expressing concerns that linking the local party’s future to Browsowske’s ambition might prove a moribund course. They say they detect hidden elements within Browsowske and his character paralleling the traits and personality challenges that ultimately felled Postmus when information Postmus had kept secret for years as he climbed the political ladder ultimately lurched into full public view.
Like Postmus, Browsowske has moved to seize command of the Republican political machinery in San Bernardino County at a tender age. In Postmus’ case, he was a mere 26 years old when in league with Brad Mitzelfelt, Keith Olberg, Tad Honeycutt and Anthony Adams, he founded the High Desert Young Republicans in the 1990s. Browsowske in his early twenties became the head of that organization. In 2000, Postmus used the High Desert Young Republicans, together with links he had cultivated with a wider array of Republican Party activists, to seek and then capture the position of San Bernardino County First District Supervisor, in so doing defeating another Republican, Kathy Davis, whom he and his campaign team successfully painted as a liberal out of step with the conservative values of her First District/High Desert constituents. Postmus and his team effectively represented himself as a member of the Christian Right in appealing to the pastors of the large-scale Pentecostal and Baptist congregations in Hesperia and Vicorville. In their sermons, those pastors called upon their parishioners to peer into their own hearts and souls, consult with God through the miracle of prayer, and vote the way that Jesus would: for Postmus. In his first four years on the board of supervisors Postmus advanced himself considerably, such that in 2004 he was selected by his board peers as chairman of the board, was chosen by the membership of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee as chairman and was reelected by his constituents as supervisor. Two years ago Browsowske was unable to get elected to the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee in the 2016 election, having placed eleventh among eleven candidates seeking to represent the First Supervisorial District, which contributes eight voting positions to the party committee. Nevertheless, he had already moved into a power position on that panel, having been hired to serve as the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee’s executive director. Touted by San Bernardino County party loyalists as “a young man with a plan,” Browsowske had demonstrated his value to the party by pushing to staff party headquarters from 9-to-5 on weekdays and to bring in party volunteers to man the office on weekends. He had previously involved himself in eight campaigns for Republican candidates. Republican Central Committee Chairman Curt Hagman credited Browsowske with guiding all eight of those candidates to victory. One of those victories was that of Paul Russ, who successfully vied for Hesperia City Council in 2014, and consequently served a term as designated mayor.
In May, then-Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett died. The council elevated Councilman Bill Holland to replace Blewett as mayor. On July 11, the city council considered nine city residents who had applied to be considered for filling the gap on the council brought about by Blewett’s departure: Brigit Bennington, Victoria Dove, Russell Harris, Linda Holder, Robert Nelson, Anthony Rhoades, Veronica Rios, Chester Watts and Browsowske. After interviewing all of the candidates at City Hall except for Watts, who was infirm and could not attend, the council voted 3-to-1, with Paul Russ, Bill Holland and Rebekah Swanson prevailing, to appoint Browsowske. The council overrode a call by Councilman Larry Bird to hold off on making the appointment until Watts could be interviewed and the answers the other eight had provided could be fully analyzed.
Like Blewett, the members of the council who selected Browsowske – Holland, Russ and Swanson – are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. All are committed to furthering the fortunes of the GOP. Russ and Swanson are current members of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, as are Swanson’s husband, Hesperia Unified School District Board Member Eric Swanson, as well as former Hesperia City Council members Eric Schmidt and Thurston “Smitty” Smith.
The degree to which appointing Browsowske to the city council was a calculated move intended to strengthen Browsowske and the Republican Party became apparent last week when the filing period for this year’s Hesperia City Council election opened. Up for election this year are Russ and Holland. Also expiring at the end of the year is the term to which Blewett was elected in 2014. There is a twist in this year’s election. For the first time in its 30-year history, Hesperia will be holding district elections to fill its council seats. Previously, council members were elected at-large. As it turns out, the districts approved by the council when it adopted the district voting system place Holland in District Two, Russ in District Three and Browsowske in District Four. By circumstance, or luck, or calculation, or coincidence, or design, those three districts are to be contested this year, just as Russ and Holland’s current terms expire.
Thus, Holland, who was first elected in 2010, took out candidacy papers to run for a third term on the council. Russ is likewise looking to stay in office four more years. And Browsowske is a candidate as well.
By election code in California, local/municipal races, like contests for county offices such as the board of supervisors, are officially non-partisan. In actuality in San Bernardino County, all local races are highly partisan, with the Republican Party in particular working toward keeping a controlling lock on as many of the 24 city or town councils in the county as possible. Indeed, even though the number of voters registered as Democrats eclipsed the number of voters registered as Republicans in San Bernardino County in 2009, the Republicans have continued to dominate the county politically at the local level. As of last Sunday, of the county’s 908,491 total registered voters, 358,402, or 39.5 percent are affiliated with the Democratic Party. That substantially outnumbers those registered as Republicans: 274,992 or 30.3 percent. Those who are registered with no party preference total, 223,054, or 24.6 percent. The American Independent Party claims 31,005 voters or 3.4 percent in San Bernardino County, followed by 4,164 signed up as members of the Peace and Freedom Party, or 0.5 percent. The Green Party has 2,887 registered members in the county, accounting for 0.3 percent. The remaining 13,998 county voters, or 1.5 percent belong to even more obscure parties. Despite the consideration that the Democrats have 83,410 more voters countywide than do the Republicans and a 9.2 percent registration advantage over the GOP, in 17 of the county’s 22 incorporated cities combined with its two incorporated towns, there are more Republicans on their respective councils than there are Democrats.
Browsowske is perceived by many active Republicans as a young, energetic and charismatic candidate fit to lead the Grand Old Party for the next generation, to drive Republicans to the polls in sufficient numbers to overcome the registration advantage that is continually accruing to the Democrats and keep San Bernardino County a bastion of Republican officeholders in the Golden State, even as the Democrats continue to dominate in much of the rest of California. Russ, Holland, Swanson and scores of other Republicans in San Bernardino County, including nearly all of the current members of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, want to see Browsowske elected in November and retained as a member of the city council. This will give him the  option of running in 2020 either for Robert Lovingood’s position on the board of supervisors or Jay Obernolte’s 33rd District position in the Assembly, and doing so with minimal risk, since if he were to lose he would remain in office, with two years yet to go on his term as councilman. That Browsowske will emerge victorious in November is, for San Bernardino County Republicans, a foregone conclusion. The only remaining question for them at this point is whether it will be Lovingood or Obernolte who will graciously step aside or vie for some other office – such as that of the 8th Congressional office now held by Paul Cook – so that the future of the Republican Party in San Bernardino County and California in the form of Jeremiah Browsowske can be fulfilled.
Browsowske has taken a leaf out of Postmus’s book by weighing in on topics that have applicability at levels further up the political evolutionary chain than are relevant to the office he holds. Like Postmus, Browsowske is embracing such issues in a way that is calculated to positively resonate with the so-called “conservative” wing of the Republican Party. In Postmus’ exercise of this strategy, he latched onto issues such as abortion, vowing to oppose public funding for the procedures. He did so, despite the consideration that the decision-making authority with regard to such issues lay at the level of the legislature and the courts, well beyond his reach as county supervisor. His calculation, however, was that his stance would appeal to those “conservative” voters too ignorant to understand that the matter was outside his authority, while simultaneously encouraging those who agreed with him on the issue to consider elevating him to higher office. A current “conservative” cause that Browsowske has taken up is that relating to the Democratic-led California Legislature’s resistance, in the form of SB 54, to federal immigration restriction enforcement favored by Republicans.
In effect since January 1, Senate Bill 54 limits state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Specifically, the state law prohibits police in California from assisting immigration officers by informing them of immigrants they have arrested for most non-violent crimes, and disallows releasing those in their custody to immigration officials without a warrant.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging Senate Bill 54 was violating federal law by aiding and abetting illegal aliens. In March, the Los Alamitos City Council adopted an ordinance that exempted that small Orange County city which snuggles up against Los Angeles County from Senate Bill 54. Shortly thereafter, the Orange County Board of Supervisors signed Orange County on as a plaintiff in the federal government’s suit against the State of California over Senate Bill 54. Thereafter, a raft of Orange County cities likewise joined the protest against the state law.
In April, the City of Huntington Beach filed suit against the State of California in an action that was separate from the federal lawsuit, alleging “Constitutional overreach,” and extending an open invitation for other California municipalities to join with it in that lawsuit.
In San Bernardino County, similar sentiment against Senate Bill 54 manifested. On March 20, the Hesperia City Council in closed session instructed its city attorney to author an amicus brief in support of the federal government’s position and on May 1, the Hesperia City Council in open session approved joining an amicus brief prepared by the Immigration Reform Law Institute in support of the Department of Justice lawsuit asserting the supremacy of federal immigration laws.
The generation of amicus briefs are largely symbolic acts that are unlikely to have any impact on the matter at issue. Browsowske has embraced the city council’s decision to participate in the protest against the state legislature’s action by co-signing an amicus brief prepared by the Immigration Reform Law Institute in support of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit that seeks to uphold federal immigration laws. In his statements, Browsowske has leveled criticism at the Democratic-controlled state legislature, accusing it of obstructing the application of federal law and the immigration policy of the Donald Trump Administration, which he defended as being a “common sense approach to the violation of our national sovereignty.”
Browsowske has also made clear he supports the most controversial decision made by the city council in the last decade, the approval of the 15,663-residential unit Tapestry master-planned community to be built on property at Las Flores Ranch in Summit Valley, which is to be annexed into the city. Tapestry is the follow-on development proposal to the 8,900-unit Las Flores Ranch project that never came to fruition after revelations of how the company promoting it had engaged in graft, money laundering and under-the-table payments to Hesperia officials at the time, including former City Manager Robert Rizzo, former city councilmen Percy Bakker and M. Val Shearer, as well as former Planning Commissioner Donna Roland. Some have questioned the Tapestry project’s scope and intensity, which they believe will outrun the infrastructure meant to support it, creating gridlock on Hesperia’s already inadequate road system. Project opponents have suggested that the project proponents obtained the approval of city officials in large measure by the provision of political contributions to those elected decision-makers, including Blewett, Russ and Holland, which resulted in those politicians ignoring the untoward ramifications of the massive subdivision.
Browsowske has said he believes Tapestry will prove out to be “beneficial to the community.”
Al Vogler, who was a member of both the Hesperia and Republican establishments in years gone by, told the Sentinel he is concerned that both Hesperia and the county Republican Party are replicating the same mistakes with Browsowske that were made with Postmus beginning roughly two decades ago. Vogler was a member of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee during the Postmus era and was also an architect of his late wife’s successful campaigns for the Hesperia City Council in the early 2000s, just as Postmus was rising to power and exercising a considerable degree of control over Hesperia through his political allies – Tad Honeycutt, Jim Lindley, Dennis Nowicki and Bill Jensen – all of whom were members of the Hesperia City Council while his wife was a councilwoman and mayor on that panel. Eventually Postmus, who had ascended into the High Desert’s political stratosphere and was on several people’s short list as a viable future candidate for California Governor or Senator and on some longer lists of potential future U.S. Presidential candidates, crashed to earth in scandal when it was revealed that he was a clandestine and highly promiscuous homosexual who had impromptu relations with hundreds of men over the course of his six years in office, was hopelessly addicted to the drugs methamphetamine, ecstacy and amyl nitrate, and had arranged, as both county supervisor and then as county assessor after he was elected to that office in 2006, to install more than a dozen of his boyfriends who had no relevant skills to speak of into high paying governmental positions.
“When I see the Republicans staking everything on this Browsowske kid, it reminds me of what was going on with Bill Postmus,” Vogler said. “There was this huge emotional appeal to conservative values, and promoting the Republican Party, and everyone was impressed with how dynamic the younger generation was and how committed they were to moving everything forward. It was a lot of form, but no real substance. They looked good. They mouthed all the right Republican platitudes and they mastered the rhetoric. But they were just promoting themselves. When it came to running the government and arriving at the right policies, they didn’t know what they were doing. They pumped up the party, but in the end, when everyone found out what they were up to, they nearly ruined the party.”
Putting Browsowske in charge of the party is likely to have the same outcome that putting Postmus in charge of the party had, Vogler said.
Moreover, Vogler said, he sees the same tendency at play in Hesperia today as was taking place there a decade-and-a-half ago, when Postmus’s allies Lindley, Nowicki, Honeycutt and Jensen were in charge. At that point, he said, the development community was having its way with the city, engaging in what he said was unregulated construction because those builders were making major political contributions to Postmus and his political machine. Postmus was calling the shots, Vogler said, and Lindley, Nowicki, Honeycutt and Jensen went along with whatever Postmus dictated.
“That may have been good for Bill Postmus at the time, and it may have helped the Republicans in some of those elections because the developers were bankrolling them, but it wasn’t good for Hesperia,” Vogler said. “Go look at some of those neighborhoods now. Some of them are half empty or two-thirds empty because no one wants to live there. The developers are long gone. They got their money and they’re out of it. The city’s standards got sold down the river for political donations. And now you have this kid (Browsowske) who is on the city council. When he makes his decisions now, will he be thinking of what is best for the city? Will he be looking at the impact of the decisions he will be making and what that will mean to the city in ten more years, or twenty more years or over the next fifty years? Or will he be more interested in the political donations the developers are giving him so he can run for the Assembly or for Congress?”
Mark Gutglueck

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