The two members of the San Bernardino City Council most closely affiliated with Mayor John Valdivia appear to have won reelection in Tuesday’s polling, one by a very thin margin that could yet be reversed.
Juan Figueroa, the council’s newest member who was elected last May in a special election to fill in the vacancy representing the city’s Third Ward created when Valdivia was elected mayor while serving as Third Ward councilman in 2018, and Bessine Richard, who formed an alliance with Valdivia over the last four years, held off the single challenger each faced in their respective contests that took place on Tuesday.
Figueroa convincingly defeated Luis Ojeda in the Third Ward contest. Figueroa claimed 1,819 votes or 69.08 percent to Ojeda’s 814 votes or 30.92 percent.
Richard’s margin of victory was nowhere near that comfortable. Ward Six’s voters, so far, have retained her in office by seven votes. Richard brought in 1,232 votes or 50.14 percent. Her opponent, Kimberly Calvin, was nipping at her heels with 1,225 votes or 49.86 percent.
Figueroa, who was elected with Valdivia’s assistance last year, and Richard have supported the mayor right down the line in the past. Their support going forward is considered to be even more crucial, as Valdivia finds himself beleaguered with a bevy of accusations that have been lobbed at him by five of his own staff members and one of the city’s commissioners relating to his having created a hostile work environment for them, having engaged in inappropriate behavior including assailing the woman among them with sexually-tinged innuendo, pushing them to engage in activity beyond their job requirements, pressuring them to work on behalf of political candidates he has supported, and seeking to inveigle them in illicit activity he was himself involved in, including receiving money or gifts he had taken from donors, sponsors or other he was not properly reporting, or misusing city assets or funds.
The city, through the law firm that employs the lawyers serving in the capacities of city attorney and deputy city attorney, Best Best & Krieger, is carrying out an investigation into Valdivia’s conduct. Valdivia is likely to need all of the support on the city council he can muster.
Valdivia was a prime mover in both Figueroa’s and Richard’s reelection efforts, helping them to coordinate their campaigns through the political consultant, Chris Jones, who served as Valdivia’s hired campaign manager, and who served in the same capacity for Figueroa and Richard.
On the same day, January 18, 2020, Valdivia made identical $2,000 contributions to both Figueroa’s and Richard’s campaigns. Valdivia provided another $4,241.24 to Figueroa’s campaign in the form of an in-kind contribution. In addition, Valdivia was instrumental in vectoring money from other sources and contributors, many of them those who have previously donated to Valdivia’s electioneering fund.
In the case of Figueroa, this totaled at least $37,250. In the case of Richard, Valdivia was responsible for bringing at least $31,000 into her campaign from other sources.
While Figueroa’s cushion of victory is great enough to eliminate any prospect of the outcome changing, there are yet enough provisional ballots at the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office as well as yet-outstanding, yet-to-be-received or yet-to-be counted mail-in ballots that a reversal of Richard’s lead lies within the realm of possibility.