3 Emerge At Top Of Field For Third District Nod

The field to replace James Ramos on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has reduced itself to what knowledgeable political insiders say are three potential realistic candidates as of late this week.
Ramos was elected to the board of supervisors in 2012, displacing the then-incumbent, Neil Derry. In 2016, he was reelected handily, outdistancing challenger Donna Munoz, 45,838 votes or 64.58 percent to 25,143 votes or 35.42 percent. This year, halfway through his second term, Ramos opted to run for the California Assembly in the 40th District. As of yesterday, November 29, Ramos, a Democrat, was well ahead of his rival in the contest, Republican Henry Nickel, 75,949 votes or 59.32 percent to 52,088 votes or 40.68 percent.
Consequently, Ramos must resign from his position on the board of supervisors to move into his position in the lower house of the state legislature. He is scheduled to deliver that resignation on Monday. The county’s charter requires the board to fill a vacancy on the board of supervisors within 30 days or schedule an election within 90 days to redress the void or defer the appointment to the governor. The charter is not restrictive as to the means or process of making such an appointment.
As of November 14, the board opened an application period for those interested and qualified to hold the position to apply for the appointment. That application period will close at 2 p.m. on December 3.
Beginning on December 11, the board is to begin interviews with those applicants, which are tentatively slated to be open to the public. Those eligible for the position are registered voters living within the Third District’s confines, which include the eastern half of the City of San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, the Reche Canyon and Cooley Ranch districts in southern Colton, Loma Linda, Highland, Redlands, Yucaipa, Barstow, Big Bear Lake, and Twentynine Palms, the Town of Yucca Valley, and portions of the county’s unincorporated mountain and desert areas.
While the board of supervisors is making a display of conducting an open selection process, the field of likely candidates has already been winnowed to a handful of politicians. Those three likely candidates are Chris Carrillo, Bill Emmerson and Neil Derry, personages close to the board of supervisors maintain.
The Sentinel has learned that Chris Carrillo, who is now James Ramos’s deputy chief of staff and currently a member of the board of directors of the East Valley Water District, is Ramos’s choice to succeed him. It is largely on the strength of Ramos’s recommendation that Carrillo is being considered so carefully by his board colleagues. Detracting from Carrillo’s chances, however, is that he is, like Ramos, a Democrat.
San Bernardino County remains one of the last bastions of Republicanism in the Golden State. Despite the consideration that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in San Bernardino County 369,782 to 278,175, in the November 6 election, Republicans outperformed Democrats at the polls overall within the county’s confines. This occurred despite moderate setbacks to the GOP across the country in the midterm election on November 6 and a severe shellacking the Republicans sustained in California. In Orange County, for example, which for decades and until quite recently was among the most intensely Republican strongholds in the country, the November 6 election resulted in all six of its Congressional seats falling to Democrats. In San Bernardino County, for decades the Republican Party has been strongly structured and its functionaries motivated, energized and oriented toward getting Republicans to show up at the polls or to vote by mail. That has consistently translated to a greater number of Republicans holding office in San Bernardino County than Democrats. One of the only exceptions to that this year was Ramos’s victory in the 40th District, where at present Republican Marc Steinorth is the incumbent assemblyman. The one other partisan office in the county that slipped from the Republicans to the Democrats this year was in California Congressional District 39, a portion of which overlaps into San Bernardino County from Orange and Los Angeles counties, where Republican Congressman Ed Royce did not seek election this year and Republican candidate Young Kim was bested by Democrat Gil Cisneros.
The present makeup of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors favors the Republicans by a margin of 3-to-2, as supervisors Janice Rutherford, Robert Lovingood and Curt Hagman are Republicans; Supervisor Josie Gonzalez, like Ramos, is a Democrat.
Carrillo, a Georgetown University graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in American government and a master of arts degree in public policy from Claremont Graduate University has done further post graduate study at Stanford University and has a law degree from Loyola Law School. Since 2014, he has owned his own law firm, which is based in Redlands. He was previously, from 2006 until 2012, a field representative for Senator Dianne Feinstein. He was previously deputy chief of staff for Ramos from 2012 until 2014, and returned to that position in June of this year when Ramos finished in second place in the primary election in the 40th Assembly District against the Republican Nickel and another Democrat, Libbern Gwen Cook, thus capturing a berth in the November runoff. Carrillo came back to the post in Ramos’s office largely in anticipation of his being tapped to replace Ramos after the latter’s expected victory in the 40th Assembly District, where a 10.3 percent voter registration advantage the Democrats possess and Ramos’s independent wealth virtually assured him of victory.
Carrillo’s chances of succeeding his current boss hinge primarily upon Ramos’s ability to convince his fellow and sister supervisors that his recently reappointed deputy chief of staff merits stepping into the soon-to-be-vacant position. Ramos has cultivated a cordial working relationship with his colleagues. As a leading member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which operates a highly lucrative casino on that tribe’s reservation in Highland, Ramos has both personal wealth and access to money under the control of the tribe, and both have demonstrated a willingness to support charitable and political causes. Thus, members of the board of supervisors might potentially reap future financial support by complying with Ramos’s wishes at this juncture with regard to his choice of a successor.
On the other hand, three-fourths of the board that will be called upon to fill the vacant slot among its own ranks next month affiliate with the Republican Party. That party loyalty, particularly within the context of perpetuating San Bernardino County as a Republican toehold in California, may prevail over any promptings the board majority may feel to honor their departing comrade.
A second leading candidate for the position, Bill Emmerson, is a dentist by profession, who had obtained a degree in political science from La Sierra University and then became heavily involved in Republican politics, working as a field representative for former Congressman Jerry L. Pettis in the 1960s, and subsequently joining the staff of the Assemblyman and later State Senator W. Craig Biddle, where he worked from 1969 to 1974. Thereafter, Emmerson went to dental school and obtained his dental license and embarked on a 26-year career in the dental profession. In 2004, he returned to politics, successfully running for the California Assembly in the 63rd District, where he served until 2010, at which point he was nearing the point where he would be obliged to leave the lower house because of California’s term limits. Before that occurred, however, Emmerson was presented with an opportunity to extend and intensify his political tenure after 37th District State Senator John Benoit was appointed to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in November 2009 and a primary election was held in April 2010 to choose Benoit’s successor. Emmerson threw his hat in that ring. No candidate won a majority in that race, but Emmerson as the top vote-getting Republican qualified for a run-off against the top vote-getting Democrat, Justin Blake, and the top vote-getting American Independent candidate, Matt Monica. In the run-off election held that June, Emmerson won with 81,655 votes or 59.66 percent to Blake’s 41,243 votes or 30.13 percent and Monica’s 13,965 votes or 10.2 percent. He was sworn in as a state senator the following day. In 2012, with the reapportionment following the 2010 Census, Emmerson successfully transferred his incumbency in the State Senate to the newly-drawn California Senate District 23, where he was reelected. The following year, however, Emmerson abruptly resigned from office in an effort to head off a brewing scandal relating to a relationship he was having with Mimi Walters, an investment banker-turned-California Assemblywoman/later State Senator, who is currently a Congresswoman. The subsequent special election that had to be held to fill the senate seat for what was to have been the remainder of Emmerson’s term cost taxpayers in San Bernardino and Riverside counties more than $900,000.
Other than lobbying, Emmerson has remained out of politics for the last five years but is now being looked at seriously by the board of supervisors as Ramos’s replacement. Advocating for his selection have been Jim Brulte, the current chairman of the California Republican Party, and Randall Lewis, the vice president and prime mover with the Lewis Group of Companies. Outgoing 40th Assemblyman Marc Steinorth said it is the general perception of many that Emmerson offers the board the “best choice” among the list of possible replacements and that Emmerson’s selection would generate “good will. He would be the safest choice, based on everything I know,” said Steinorth.
Others agreed, saying that all of the candidates to be considered carried “baggage.” One elected official opined that Emmerson qualified as “the least shady” of those being considered. A positive consideration in the elevation of Emmerson to the supervisor’s position is that he would not serve beyond the current term, allowing for an election in 2020 that would not entail one candidate or the other having the advantage of incumbency in that contest. In recent days, however, an opposition research paper that apparently originated while Emmerson was yet in the state legislature has been circulating. It purports to undercut Emmerson’s Republican bona fides, alleging he was given a D rating by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association on its 2012 “Legislative Report Card,”as a result of his voting record on tax issues. In order to enhance his opportunities while functioning as a lobbyist in Sacramento, Emmerson has changed his voter registration to no party preference.
Neil Derry, said to be the third inside track candidate, was Ramos’s immediate predecessor on the board of supervisors, having served a single term in office, at which point he was challenged by Ramos and Jim Bagley, the one-time mayor of Twentynine Palms in the 2012 Primary Election, which eliminated Bagley from the running. In the November 2012 run-off, Ramos prevailed with 67,382 or 59.13 percent to Derry’s 46,569 votes or 40.87 percent. In 2008, Derry knocked off longtime Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, who had first served on the board of supervisors representing the Third District following his election in 1972 and left the board after two terms in 1980. Hansberger returned to the board by vying for election successfully in 1996, and then was reelected in 2000 and 2004. Derry, who was elected to the San Bernardino City Council in the Fourth Ward in 2001 and then faced no opposition in seeking reelection to that post in 2005, challenged Hansberger for Third District supervisor in 2008, making for a Republican vs. Republican match-up. Hansberger, who had not lost in any of his five previous races for Third District supervisor and had the backing of that wing of the Republican political establishment based in Redlands, underestimated the energy and intensity with which Derry campaigned. Moreover, Derry tapped into electioneering money that was available from the competing and much younger and hungrier Republican establishment based on the west side of the county. Hansberger, who realized too late the depth of the forces that were being mounted against him, was unable to rally in time and Derry achieved victory, garnering 22,567 votes or 51.89 percent to Hansberger’s 20,926 votes or 48.11 percent.
Since Derry was chased from office by Ramos in 2012, he has remained active politically, including serving as the first vice chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, having done so when Supervisor Curt Hagman was serving in the capacity of central committee chairman. Thus, Derry appears to have at least a fair chance of zooming into the position Ramos has kept him out of for the last six years. His chances are complicated by a rivalry between him and Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford that was extant in late 2011 and 2012 during the earliest part of Rutherford’s tenure on the board. It is unclear at this point as to whether the animosity between the two yet lingers or has diffused. It is recognized that in the current atmosphere, Derry is likely to support policies and changes Rutherford favors. If a rapprochement between the two has occurred, Derry’s viability would be greatly enhanced.
Of some moment is what direction Supervisor Robert Lovingood will go in making his decision. Given the dynamics on the board, his is likely to be the crucial swing vote in determining who will join the four board members on the dais within the Robert Covington Meeting Chambers at the county’s primary administrative building on Arrowhead Avenue in downtown San Bernardino.
It appears that Derry has as many as two solid votes; likewise, Emmerson could muster two votes, as well, though both Gonzales and Hagman are not favorably inclined toward him. Carrillo at this time could likely count on only one solid vote from Supervisor Josie Gonzales, who will be the sole remaining Democrat on the panel after Ramos’s departure. Nevertheless, if a deadlock between Emmerson and Derry emerges, some order of compromise elevating Carrillo might be arrived at.
Similarly, other candidates have been mentioned, all of whose prospects for advancement rely upon an unbreakable deadlock involving Emmerson, Derry and Carrillo, in which case they might be considered compromise substitutions. Those second tier candidates are Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, Redlands Mayor Paul Foster, Redlands Councilman Paul Barich, Redlands Councilman Eddie Tejada, San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis, Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, Loma Linda Councilman Ovidiu Popescu, Yucaipa Mayor Greg Bogh, Yucaipa Valley Water District Board Member Chris Mann, Grand Terrace Mayor Darcy McNaboe, Grand Terrace Councilwoman Sylvia Robles, Big Bear Lake Councilman Bill Jahn; former Twentynine Palms Mayor Jim Bagley; and former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.
Additionally, it is reported that former Supervisor Hansberger would be open to accepting the appointment in a two-year interim capacity. A rumor is that Congressman Paul Cook, fresh off an electoral victory but weary of the biweekly cross country commute to Washington, D.C has contemplated making a move down the political evolutionary chain and would accept the supervisorial appointment.
Reportedly, Rutherford’s first choice would be Chad Mayes, the former Yucca Valley mayor and current Assemblyman who was for a short time her chief of staff. Mayes is unwilling to depart from the state legislature, however. There is also an unverified report circulating that very early this year, either right before or right after Ramos declared his intention to run for the Assembly, Rutherford made overtures to Barich and Tejada as well as Steinorth, telling them they could assume the third District supervisorial position in the aftermath of Ramos’s anticipated Assembly victory. In the case of Steinorth, he would have been able to accept such an appointment only upon relocating from his Rancho Cucamonga residence to somewhere within the Third District. Efforts to verify the report that Rutherford made the offer were not successful at press time. Nor could it be verified whether such a commitment could have been delivered upon.
Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply