Dutton And Rutherford Intend To Switch Assessor And Supervisor Positions In 2022

The Sentinel is reliably informed San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford and San Bernardino County Assessor Bob Dutton have hatched a plan to effectuate what they both believe will be an exchange between them of their current posts with the 2022 election.
Rutherford’s exit as supervisor in another three years is necessitated by the term limit requirement on supervisors put into the county charter as a consequence of the 2006 passage of Measure P, which was sponsored by then-Second District Supervisor Paul Biane as a means of increasing the salary of each of the members of the board of supervisors from $99,000 per year to $151,000 per year at that time. As part of the strategy of selling the measure to the voters, Biane and his two closest political associates, Matt Brown and Tim Johnson, incorporated into the measure a term limit provision that reduced the number of times an individual could serve on the board to three four-year terms.
Biane, a one-time Rancho Cucamonga councilman who had first been elected to the board of supervisors in 2002 and thereafter went on to become first the vice chairman and eventually chairman of the Republican Central Committee as well as of the board of supervisors, in 2006 had ambitions for higher office beyond supervisor, but was looking to remain in the office he then held at least until another realistic opportunity for gaining election in the California legislature or Congress presented itself. Because Measure P was not applicable prior to its passage, Biane’s first two terms on the board did not fall under the term restriction, and therefore he was eligible to run for Second District supervisor again in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Four years after the passage of Measure P, Biane in 2010 sought reelection. He had, however, been severely damaged by the political scandal then enveloping Bill Postmus, a former member of the board of supervisors who in 2006 had successfully run for county assessor. Biane’s close affiliation with Postmus, including during the crucial 2004 to 2006 time period when Postmus was chairman of both the board of supervisors and the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee and Biane was the vice chairman of both the board of supervisors and the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, redounded to his detriment. In the June 2010 primary, he managed to outdistance his main challenger, then-Fontana City Councilwoman Janice Rutherford, 14,184 votes to 13,169 votes, but with four other candidates in the race, Biane’s total accounted only for 34.18 percent of the vote, and he was forced into a run-off against Rutherford, who had claimed second place with 31.74 percent.
Over the next five months, more and more details with regard to the Postmus scandal emerged, and Rutherford was not bashful about using those revelations in her campaign against Biane. Ultimately, in the run-off between them held in conjunction with the November 2, 2010 general election, Rutherford prevailed 44,166 votes, or 51.81 percent to Biane’s 41,086 votes or 48.19 percent.
In 2014, Rutherford was reelected handily in a contest against Randolph Beasley. That same year, one-time Rancho Cucamonga Councilman Robert Dutton, whose time on the city council had corresponded with that of Biane and who went on to serve as a California assemblyman from 2002 until 2004 and then served eight years in the California State Senate from 2004 until 2012, vied successfully for San Bernardino County assessor/recorder.
In 2018, Dutton was unopposed in the race for assessor/recorder. Rutherford faced a stiff challenge from then-40th District Assemblyman Mark Steinorth. Rutherford emerged victorious, with 30,705 votes or 53.26 percent to Steinorth’s 26,943 votes or 46.74 percent.
Both Dutton and Rutherford are entrenched members of the San Bernardino County Republican establishment. Though neither the assessor/recorder post nor Dutton are constrained by term limits, making him eligible to run for reelection as assessor in 2022 and beyond, he is now 69 years old, making it advisable for him to make a move toward becoming a supervisor at the earliest opportunity, before he is well advanced into his eighth decade of earthly existence. Moreover, those around Dutton believe he has adequate money banked in his political campaign war chest and fundraising capability beyond that, along with name recognition, to ensure his viability as a candidate for supervisor.
The county assessor’s position pays $233,021.71 in annual salary and $89,732.68 in benefits, for a total annual compensation of $322,754.39. The county supervisor’s post provides at present $174,262.24 in salary, $18,373.95 in other remuneration and $70,977.96 in benefits for a total annual compensation of $263,614.15 annually.
While Dutton would see a reduction of nearly $60,000 in his total annual compensation by leaving the assessor’s office and would also be giving up the position of being the county’s highest taxing authority, a post with both prestige and a certain degree of leverage with regard to enhancing his political fundraising ability, Dutton has already served in the state legislature and is termed out as a state senator. Though he could yet run for the Assembly or Congress, his ambition for that level of higher office appears to have been sated, and the position of county supervisor would allow him to remain local without having to travel regularly to Sacramento or Washington, D.C., and occupy a position of prominence and far-reaching power. It would also allow him to install John Mannerino, Dutton’s longtime business and political associate, into the high-paying position of his chief-of-staff.
Dutton and Rutherford believe that their endorsement of each other for the supervisorial and assessor posts will capture the mutual support of the other’s backers, enhance their electability and head off at least some of the competition, making each the odds-on favorite to capture the posts they covet.
Some see in Rutherford’s and Dutton’s ambition of monopolizing high ranking governmental positions between them a clash with the Republican values they espouse. Ideological purists with the GOP advocate for limited government and seek from politicians empathy with and an understanding of the rigors and travails of entrepreneurship, the difficulties and challenges of running a business, particular in an environment beset with what some or most Republicans consider to be excessive governmental regulation and taxation. While Dutton earlier in his life was a businessman involved in several of the companies established on the west end of San Bernardino County by his father, Ted Dutton, he has for more than 20 years, with the exception of the 2012-to-2014 gap, largely been a creature of the government. Rutherford can lay claim to nothing even approaching Dutton’s status as a successful entrepreneur, with her most celebrated venture in the private sector having resulted in abject failure, with vendors and employees having been stiffed for more than $100,000 when the enterprise she had undertaken with her husband went bust. Her résumé and work history largely feature employment with government entities or affiliations in some fashion involving government. The most noteworthy of these assignments other than those elected positions she has held pertain to her employment in the office of Bill Leonard, a former California state senator and member of the California Board of Equalization. As an institutional government employee, in particular one who has gravitated toward higher-paying assignments including ones in which her authority extends to setting the pay grades for government employees as well as herself, and her thereby demonstrated uncommon degree of generosity with taxpayer funds, Rutherford has come to be resented by a contingent of Republican kindred as someone largely out of step with their values and interests.
While both Rutherford and Dutton are in no hurry to have their backroom agreement to trade county offices and support each other in their respective upcoming 2022 campaigns spread before the general public, a number of other county politicians know about the arrangement, including some of those who are themselves interested in the Second District supervisor’s and county assessor’s posts.
The Second District encompasses the northern two-thirds of Upland, all of Rancho Cucamonga, the westernmost portion of Fontana and the unincorporated communities of San Antonio Heights, Mt. Baldy, Lytle Creek, Devore, Rim of the World, Crestline, Lake Gregory, San Moritz, Lake Arrowhead, Blue Jay, Cedarpines Park, the Valley of Enchantment and Green Valley Lake.
State Senator Mike Morrell has designs on the Second District supervisor’s office, as does former Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, who ran a strong campaign against Rutherford last year. In addition, Ken Petschow, an airline pilot and San Antonio Heights resident who declared his candidacy for Second District supervisor in 2018 but withdrew without filing nomination papers after Rutherford made a commitment of future political support if he would step aside, may seek to cash that chit in come 2022. Were Petschow to do so, it would put Rutherford in an awkward position, as she could not make good on that promise and fulfill her pledge to Dutton at the same time.
One of Rutherford’s current board colleagues, Josie Gonzales, who like Rutherford was once a member of the Fontana City Council, will term out of office next year. She, too, is said to be interested in running for assessor in 2022. Rutherford’s successful reelection effort in 2018 very nearly depleted her campaign treasury. This is in contrast to Gonzales’s campaign fund, which at present exceeds $800,000.
-Mark Gutglueck

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