Third District’s Five Candidates Include Appointed Incumbent

Dawn Rowe, the former Yucca Valley Town Councilwoman and staff member to Congressman Paul Cook who vaulted into the position of Third District San Bernardino County supervisor in December 2018 when she was chosen by her current board colleagues to replace James Ramos, is being challenged by four candidates in California’s upcoming March 3, 2020 Primary Election.
In county office elections, such as that for supervisor, a candidate can be elected outright in the primary election by capturing at least fifty percent plus one vote, bypassing the need for a run-off in the November general election. In simple head-to-head contests in which only two candidates for county office vie against one another, one candidate or the other in San Bernardino County has emerged victorious as no ties have ever occurred in such races historically. When more than two candidates are involved, the possibility that no single candidate will pull down a majority of votes exists. In situations where no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the two top vote-getters go toe-to-toe in the November election.
Technically, though Rowe is an incumbent, she is not seeking reelection, as she was not voted into office by the Third District’s voters. The board appointed her after Ramos, who had originally been elected as Third District supervisor in 2012 and was reelected in 2016, ran successfully for the California Assembly in the 40th District in 2018, and was then obliged to resign as supervisor with two years remaining on his supervisorial term.
Of note is that Ramos is a Democrat and Rowe a Republican. Upon his election to the Assembly, Ramos had suggested that his erstwhile board colleagues appoint his deputy chief of staff in the supervisorial office, Chris Carrillo, another Democrat, to replace him. Three of the board’s members – Robert Lovingood, Janice Rutherford and Curt Hagman – are, however, Republicans. They rejected elevating Carrillo to the supervisor’s position, even as the lone Democrat on the board, Josie Gonzales, advocated on Carrillo’s behalf. Though county elected positions are considered to be nonpartisan, party politics plays a major role in the election process at virtually every level of government in San Bernardino County, including races for Congress, the state legislature, county office and at the municipal level.
Upon assuming office, Rowe hired as her staff members three individuals – Suzette Swallow, Dillon Lesovsky and Matt Knox – who had been heavily involved in electioneering efforts for Republican candidates in the past. Word spread that Knox, as Rowe’s chief of staff, Lesovsky, as Rowe’s policy advisor, and Swallow, as Rowe’s communications director, were actually in place to ensure her election in 2020, as well as to work on behalf of other Republican candidates in the same election cycle.
In early 2019 it was widely assumed, and indeed Carrillo indicated, that he would challenge Rowe in this year’s election. In June, however, Carrillo reversed course, announcing he would not run for supervisor. It was bruited about the county that Carrillo, an attorney and board member of the East Valley Water District whose wife works as a prosecutor in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, was in some fashion being blackmailed by the Swallow/Lesovsky/Knox political operations team functioning out of the Third District supervisorial office based upon information they were able to obtain using the agency-to-agency privilege at their disposal through their status as government officials.
All four of Rowe’s opponents in March are Democrats. One of them is Redlands City Councilman Eddie Tejeda. Another is Kaisar Ahmed, who previously ran for Redlands City Council in 2016 and for Congress in the 31st Congressional District in 2018. Also vying is Karen Ickes, a human services manager. Latron Lester, a minister from Barstow, rounds out the field.
Going into the election, Rowe enjoys a sizable fundraising advantage over all of her opponents, with more than 33 times as much money to spend on her campaign than all of the others combined. At present, she has $190,492.69 in her electioneering fund.  Available documentation shows that Ickes has $1,000 at her disposal for her supervisorial run. Ahmed’s campaign filings give no indication of how much money his campaign has on hand. Similarly, Lester’s filings give no indication of any money in his campaign account. Tejada, as of December 31, had $4,750 in his political war chest.
Mark Gutglueck

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