Cook & Rowe Wins Sew Up Two More Years Of GOP County Sway

Republicans extended their domination of San Bernardino County Government for at least two more years this week when appointed incumbent Dawn Rowe and Congressman Paul Cook won outright their respective races for county supervisors in the Third District and First District.
While in California local elective offices – those at the municipal and county levels as well as those boards overseeing school, water and fire districts – are considered nonpartisan, in San Bernardino County party affiliation is a major factor in all elections. And unlike 54 of California’s 58 counties where the Democratic Party has the upper hand, San Bernardino County is a GOP bastion.
As it now stands, four of the county’s five supervisors are Republicans – Rowe, First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford and Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman. Only Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales is a Democrat. She is leaving office at the end of the year, as she is termed out, having served four and three-quarters consecutive terms since she was first elected in 2004. In 2006, the passage of Measure P significantly raised the pay and benefits of county supervisors, while imposing on them a three-term limit from that point forward. Gonzales’s first term, which initiated prior to Measure P going into effect, was not counted toward the three-terms she was allotted beginning with her 2008 reelection.
Rutherford was first elected in 2010, reelected in 2014 and in 2018. She is scheduled to remain in office until December 2022, but is not eligible to seek reelection that year. Hagman, who was formerly a member of the Assembly and was termed out of California’s lower legislative house in 2014, successfully ran for supervisor that year and was reelected in 2018. He will be able to seek reelection in 2022. Lovingood was elected supervisor in 2012, his maiden foray into politics. He was reelected in 2016 and could have sought reelection this year, but is choosing to return to the private sector, where he was successful. His decision touched off a round of political musical chairs among several of the county’s established Republican officeholders in the desert region. Cook, who was originally from Connecticut, served 26 years in the U.S. Marines before retiring as a colonel and then entered politics, first on the city council in Yucca Valley. He served six years in the California Assembly before running successfully for Congress in the 8th Congressional District in 2012. With Lovingood’s departure, the 77-year-old former Marine jumped at the chance to leave Congress and the biweekly cross country air travel that entailed, and declared his candidacy to succeed Lovingood. Jay Obernolte, the one-time mayor of Big Bear and a member of the Assembly since 2014 who somewhat disingenuously maintains he is not a career politician, instantaneously moved to declare he would vie for the position in the House of Representatives that Cook was abandoning. When Lovingood did not, as some thought he might, seek to move into Obernolte’s Assembly slot, former Hesperia Mayor Thurston Smith declared his candidacy for that position.
In state and federal races in California, the two top finishers in the primary election automatically qualify for a November run-off even if the first place finisher captures a majority of the votes. At the county and city level in San Bernardino County, however, a candidate can gain election outright by getting a majority of the vote in the primary election. That is what Rowe and Cook did on Tuesday.
Rowe was challenged by four Democrats –  Redlands City Councilman Eddie Tejeda; Kaisar Ahmed, who previously ran for Redlands City Council in 2016 and for Congress in the 31st Congressional District in 2018; Karen Ickes, a human services manager; and Latron Lester, a minister from Barstow. As of press time today, Rowe had captured 39,028 votes or 55.61 percent, giving her the victory. Tejeda had the strongest showing among the also-rans, with 12,822 votes or 18.27 percent. Ahmed came in third with 10,439 voters or 14.87 percent. Ickes claimed 6,731 votes or 9.58 percent. Lester’s 1,172 votes was equal to 1.67 percent.
Cook chalked up an impressive win, pulling in 37,434 votes or 65.52 percent in a field of four that included Victorville Councilwoman Rita Ramirez-Dean, Adelanto City Councilwoman Stevevonna Evans and Marcelino Garza, a special assistant to the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. All of Cook’s opponents, like all of Rowe’s, are Democrats. Ramirez-Dean had the strongest showing, with 12,040 votes or 21.07 percent. Garza corralled 4,594 votes or 8.04 percent. Evans managed to get 3,063 votes or 5.36 percent.
When Cook is sworn into office and takes his place on the board dais in December, he will be reunited with Rowe, this time as an equal. Previously, Rowe worked in Cook’s congressional office as a field representative. Rowe now employs two other former Cook staff members, Dillon Lesovsky and Matt Knox, the former as her policy advisor and the latter as her chief of staff.
Mark Gutglueck

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