Overlooked Carrillo Will Vie Versus Rowe In 2020 Third District Election

Chris Carrillo, who was San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor James Ramos’s deputy chief of staff, will vie for the supervisorial post next year.
Ramos, who was first elected supervisor in 2012 and was reelected in 2016, successfully ran for the California Assembly in the 40th District in 2018. Ramos’s former colleagues on the board ignored his request that they appoint Carrillo to serve out the remaining two years on his term. Instead, supervisors Robert Lovingood, Janice Rutherford and Curt Hagman, all of whom are Republicans, settled upon former Yucca Valley Councilwoman Dawn Rowe, also a Republican. The lone Democrat remaining on the board, Josie Gonzales, consigned herself to the inevitable and voted with her colleagues to have Rowe replace Ramos for the two years remaining on his term.
Lovingood, Rutherford and Hagman failed to honor Ramos’s request and spurned Carrillo in large measure because the three are Republicans and both Ramos and Carrillo are Democrats. Though local offices in California are defined as being nonpartisan ones, in San Bernardino County in particular, party affiliation is of significance in who holds office at both the municipal and county levels, as wells as on the boards of school, fire and water districts. For more than 40 years, San Bernardino County has been a Republican bastion, such that for the last two decades, it has been out of step with the rest of the state, which has grown overwhelmingly Democratic in its orientation, with the Democrats holding a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, control of the governorship, the state attorney general’s office, and the California Secretary of State’s office. Both of California’ s two U.S. senators are Democrats. Of the 53 members of California’s Congressional Delegation, 46 are Democrats and seven are Republicans. In San Bernardino County, however, currently 16 of its 24 incorporated cities/towns have more Republican members on their councils than Democrats. Four of the five members of the board of supervisors are Republicans. The district attorney is a Republican. The sheriff is a Republican. While the number of registered voters registered as Republicans in San Bernardino County in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the first decade of the Third Millennium outran the number of those registered to vote as Democrats, in 2009 the number of registered Democrats in the county eclipsed the number of Republicans. Nonetheless, the GOP has continued to dominate San Bernardino County politically, even as the gap in favor of the Democrats in terms of registered voters has grown. As of this week, of the county’s 969,473 voters, 377,1436 or 38.9 percent, are registered Democrats, while 279,691 or 28.8 percent are registered as Republicans. The number of voters with no political party association whatsoever, 254,462 or 26.2 percent, comes close to the number of Republicans, while voters registered with the more obscure parties such as the Peace and Freedom, Libertarian, Green and American Independent account for 8 percent of the total. Despite having a four-to-three advantage over the Republicans in the county number-wise, the Democrats have consistently found themselves outhustled and outmaneuvered by their Republican Party counterparts in San Bernardino County. The Republican Central Committee sports highly motivated, highly coordinated and for the most part cooperative members who make concerted electioneering efforts, including appealing to non-affiliated voters and those with the marginalized political parties, to drive them toward supporting Republican candidates. The Republicans have proven more resourceful, energetic and generous in their efforts to raise money and endow the political war chests of Republican candidates than have the Democrats been effective in their support of their party’s candidates. Equally as important, registered Republicans consistently turn out to vote at the polls or through mail-in ballots at a clip nearly one-and-one third greater than Democratic Party-aligned voters in the county.
In the county’s Fifth Supervisorial District, where Democrat Josie Gonzales holds office, the Democrats hold a voter registration advantage approaching 3-to-1 over the Republicans, as 85,621 or 48. 8 percent of the district’s 175,475 voters are registered Democrats and 32,301 or 18.4 percent are registered Republicans. In the Fourth District, the Republicans, with 46,949 or 25.6 percent of the district’s voters, lag significantly behind the Democrats, with 75,904 registered voters or 41.5 percent. Despite that, Curt Hagman, a Republican, is supervisor. In the Second District, which a generation ago was at the epicenter of the region’s rising tide of Republicanism, Democrats have opened up a significant lead over the Republicans in terms of voter registration numbers, with the Democrats claiming 80,519 party affiliates, or 38 percent, against the 64,444 Republicans, or 30.4 percent. Still the same, Janice Rutherford, a Republican, is county supervisor in the Second District. Only in the county’s First District do the Republicans have more voters registered than the Democrats, as the Grand Old Party’s 63,253 voters – 33.7 percent – outnumber the 33.1 percent, or 62,045, who are Democrats. Robert Lovingood rules the roost their as county supervisor.
As late as last year, the Republicans yet held a lead – a very slim one – over the Democrats in terms of voter registration in the county’s Third District. The Third District is the county’s most diverse district, consisting of the heavily urbanized metropolitan area entailing east San Bernardino and Redlands, the foothill community of Highland, while extending into the somewhat unique communities of Grand Terrace and Loma Linda, the rustic communities of Yucaipa, Mentone and Oak Glen, the mountain community of Big Bear and the desert cities of Barstow, Twentynine Palms and the town of Yucca Valley. Redlands was for a century a major cultural and social center and the home of the county’s Republican political machine. Within the last six months, the Democrats have inched ahead of the Republicans in terms of voter registration in the Third District. Those numbers now stand at 73,057 voters or 34.6 percent for the Democrats to the Republicans’ 72,744 voters or 34.4 percent.
In 2012, James Ramos, who was at that time the chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, used his personal wealth and that of his tribe’s members to promote his candidacy for Third District supervisor. The tribe’s San Manuel Casino was by that time, as it remains, one of the most successful economic engines in the area. Ramos’s demonstrated willingness to fuel his candidacy with as much money as would be required for him to win, coupled with a rare internecine Republican Party dispute between then-incumbent Third District Supervisor Neil Derry and his predecessor as supervisor, Dennis Hansberger, who was a primary figure in the Redlands Republican Political Machine, led to a faction of the Republican Party withdrawing its support of Derry. In this way, Ramos, a Democrat with the support of a fragment of the Third District’s Republican base, ousted Derry as Third District supervisor in 2012, elevating Ramos to the vaunted position of supervisor. He handily won reelection in 2016 against the poorly-financed Donna Muñoz.
It appears that Ramos felt that the mandates he had as a result of his elections in the Third District in 2012 and 2016 gave him, if not outright appointive power to choose his replacement to fill out that last two years of his term as supervisor when he departed to Sacramento to take up his newly elected post in the Assembly, then at least a voice in the selection process that should have been given careful consideration. When the board of supervisors undertook to carry out a recruitment effort to replace Ramos late last year – a process that was rigged from the outset in that both Lovingood and Rutherford were committed ahead of time to ensuring Rowe’s selection and Hagman, as a Republican, was fated toward supporting the consensus of his party colleagues on the board – the board carried out what was essentially a sham examination process in which the 48 applicants were reduced to 13, including Rowe, who were interviewed by the board publicly in a specially-called session on Tuesday December 11. The board slighted Ramos and Carrillo at that time in that Carrillo was not among the 13 semi-finalists. Those 13 were reduced to five finalists – Rowe, former Chino Councilman/current Big Bear Councilman William Jahn, former Assemblyman/State Senator Bill Emmerson, Congressional Candidate Sean Flynn and Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, all of whom are Republicans, whereafter Rowe was selected. Despite suggestions that Rowe might be able to ameliorate the affront to Ramos by moving to name Carrillo as her chief of staff, she did not do so, for among other reasons that she considers his Democratic Party-affiliation to be antithetical to her governance formula.
Rather, Rowe hired as staffers two Republican Party political operatives – Matt Knox and Dillon Lesovsky – whose reputation as dirty tricksters proceeds them. Indications were that Knox and Lesovsy have been given license to engineer Rowe’s 2020 reelection campaign from their county offices. Rowe, pointedly, has not moved to squelch those reports, which is widely perceived as an effort to ward off opposition next year.
In overlooking Carrillo and ignoring Ramos, the Republican members of the board may have bought themselves and their party a level of opposition in the 2020 Third District election they had not counted upon.
Carrillo almost at once began preparations for 2020. An attorney, his father is a licensed contractor/developer associated with the San Manuel Indian Tribe. With James Ramos in Sacramento, a Democratic town, he is now firmly ensconced in the heartland of the Democratic Party. The combination of Democratic Party money, together with Ramos’s own personal wealth and that of his tribe members, could very easily be directed toward independent expenditure committees supporting Carrillo which can sidestep the electoral spending limits members of the board several years ago imposed on themselves.
It is anticipated that tomorrow, March 23, the Mojave Desert Democratic Club will endorse Carrillo for election in the Third District next year. Carrillo and his supporters are now working on getting the endorsement of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee and lining up further support.
-Mark Gutglueck

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