Despite Reforms & Confidence She Represents A Move In The Right Direction, Democrat Chair Washington’s Policy Being Second-Guessed

An internecine battle has broken out between members of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee over the committee’s failure to make an endorsement in the mayoral race in heavily Democratic Rialto.
There have been several twists in the matter, which is now threatening to have an impact on two of the more powerful African-American Democratic women in the county and divide the party after it made what many were celebrating as a crucial move in July to overcome nearly a decade of internal bickering that has allowed the rival Republican Party to dominate local government.
On July 18, the central committee during a remotely conducted meeting selected Kristin Washington to serve as the county party chairwoman, displacing Chris Robles, who had headed the local party since 2012.
The number of registered Democrats in San Bernardino County eclipsed the number of registered Republicans in 2009, more than 40 years after the political rise of Ronald Reagan had engendered a four-decade-long era of Republicanism in San Bernardino County and in much of the Golden State. Yet despite the rising numbers of Democrats that continued to widen the gap over their Republican counterparts, Democratic candidates consistently failed at the polls in local races, such that at present, four of the five members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors are Republicans and on 17 of the county’s city and town councils members of the GOP outnumber Democrats.
On August 27, the Democrats again held a full meeting of the central committee by means of teleconference, this time to make endorsements of the local candidates running in the November 3 Presidential General Election. Only Democrats were eligible for those endorsements, which are granted by means of that endorsement being accepted by 60 percent of those participating in the vote. By previous arrangement, a team of interviewers had been carrying out an evaluation process of the various candidates for office, and prior to the August 27 meeting, recommendations based on that evaluation process were provided to the committee members.
In Rialto, Deborah Robertson had been elected mayor in 2012, after a decade on the city council. She garnered the party endorsement in her maiden run for mayor when she was opposed by Republican Rialto City Councilman Ed Scott. In 2016, when her opponent was Republican Rialto City Councilman Ed Palmer, she again received the Democratic Party endorsement. Among most observers, it was widely assumed that Robertson, as one of the most consistently electable Democrats in San Bernardino County going back two decades and as one of the highest-profile African American politicians in the county as well, would naturally receive the party endorsement again. And indeed, the evaluating committee had given her the nod prior to the August 27 meeting.
Washington, another rising African-American Democratic woman in San Bernardino County, has been given high marks for the manner in which she has been inclusive of virtually every one of the central committee members who want to weigh in during meeting discussions in a way that contrasted favorably with the manner in which Robles oftentimes slighted committee members. Nonetheless, some consider her to be less impressive in terms of adhering to procedure and protocol in conducting the central committee’s meetings.
At the August 27 endorsement meeting, if a candidate, upon being considered for the party’s endorsement, received the requisite 60 percent of the votes cast to get the endorsement, he or she was endorsed.
A problem ensued, however, when the committee took up the endorsement in the Rialto mayoral race. A notable twist of parliamentary procedure took place under Roberts Rules of Order and the San Bernardino County Central Committee’s bylaws, when committee member Debra McAffee made a motion to substitute Lupe Camacho, the other Democrat in the Rialto mayoral race, for Deborah Robertson as the party’s endorsed candidate. The background to that was that Robertson has lately involved herself in a degree of controversy, which includes the City of Rialto having undertaken an investigation of her relating to a conflict of interest involving the city’s pass-through of community development block grant funding to a nonprofit organization headed by her daughter, as well as her association with and support of embattled West Valley Water District Board Member Channing Hawkins.
A vote was taken, and it was announced that Camacho had received less than 60 percent of the votes cast. Subsequently, however, it was asserted by committee member Tim Prince that those abstaining or not casting a vote were being counted as no votes. In running the numbers, the regional director kept a count and backed up what Prince said. Washington stated she would take that information under submission, but did not reverse the decision to deny Camacho the endorsement. As a consequence, the Democrats are making no endorsement in the race, which involves the Republican Palmer competing against Democrats Robertson and Camacho.
This circumstance is one that is detrimental to the Democratic Party, some party members maintain.
In Rialto, a majority of the city’s 48,181 voters – 25,434 or 52.8 percent – are Democrats, while registered Republicans in Rialto number 7,660 or 15.9 percent. Though those numbers would seem to lock the Republican Palmer out of any realistic chance of winning in November, with the far greater voter turnout that Republicans normally muster, the concern is that the poorer Democratic voter turnout combined with no clear distinction between the two Democrats in the race could result in the Democratic vote being split somewhere very near the middle, boosting the chances that Palmer could prevail.
Moreover, some Democrats say, Washington was showing partiality in favor of Robertson. Scoring uncast votes against a candidate is an invalid vote counting procedure per the committee’s bylaws, they say.
Strong feeling in the local Democratic Party about this circumstance has combined with concern over Washington’s refusal to adhere to the local party’s bylaws, the Sentinel has learned, to induce central committee member Ruth Musser-Lopez to seek from the California Democratic Party’s statewide leadership a review of the matter. Musser-Lopez’s hope is that the state party leaders will impose some discipline on the county party, and reverse Washington’s ruling that Camacho is to be denied the endorsement. “I want the party’s compliance review board to look at the numbers and determine whether Lupe actually received 60 percent of the vote when the abstentions are not figured into the tally,” Musser-Lopez said.
Whether that will come about or whether action to ensure that one of the Democrats competing against Palmer will enjoy an advantage going into November is yet to be determined
-Mark Gutglueck

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