Two Challenged & One Unchallenged Hesperia Incumbents To Remain In Office

Despite some strong and determined competition in two of the three city council races in Hesperia in Tuesday’s election, it appears that the incumbents will remain in office.
There was no contest at all in one of the three competitions, as Brigit Benington, who was appointed last year to replace Jeremiah Brosowske representing the city’s Fourth District after three-fifths of the council bounced Brosowske off that panel while claiming he had not met the residency requirement to hold that office, ran unopposed in the specially-called election to select someone to serve out the final two years of Brosowske’s term. Brosowske had captured the Fourth District post with a narrow victory over Bennington in the November 2018 election, following his own appointment to the council in July 2018 to replace Russ Blewett, who had died in office in May 2018.
In the September 2019 city council vote to relieve Brosowske of his elected position, Mayor Larry Bird, Councilman Cameron Gregg and Councilman Bill Holland had prevailed, with Brosowske and Councilwoman Rebekah Swanson dissenting. This year, both Bird and Swanson, who in 2016 had been elected to the council as at-large candidates, had to stand for election in Hesperia’s newly created District 1 and District 5, respectively, as the city in 2018 made a transition to a by-district voting system.
Brosowske, a political operative who has previously identified strongly with the Republican Party, having served at one point as the executive director of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, was active with a vengeance in this year’s Hesperia campaigns. While he did not have an opportunity to manage a campaign against Bennington because she had no opposition, Brosowske worked like the devil to get Bird out of office, while supporting Swanson in her effort to remain on Hesperia government’s ultimate decision-making panel.
The network Brosowske controlled put together an aggressive campaign on behalf of Bird’s challenger, Mark Dundon. Dundon, a member of the board of the Hesperia Unified School District, has pursued a pro-business and pro-development campaign in which he also decried the treatment that Brosowske had endured at the hands of Bird, Gregg and Holland. While Dundon had received a relatively modest $5,060 in direct contributions into his campaign fund through October 17, Brosowske masterminded an indirect electioneering effort for Dundon in the form of a campaign of attack on Bird emanating from independent expenditure committees and political action committees that are supposed to remain unconnected to the campaigns of the candidates they are assisting. Much, indeed most, of the funding that went to those independent committees assailing Bird came from the development community, with which Brosowske has an easy rapport.
Another factor in the campaign was the City of Hesperia’s placement of Measure N on this week’s election’s ballot. Bird was a major sponsor of Measure N, which amends the Hesperia Municipal Code and the specific plan for the I-215 Freeway corridor to reduce the maximum number of homes that can be built on an acre from eight to three, reduces the number of apartments that can be constructed on a single acre from 25 to to eight, and would require that voter approval be given for an apartment to be built that would reduce the current required square footage for floor space. The development industry has opposed Measure N, and Bird’s sponsorship of it has prompted many of those deep-pocketed developmental interests to put money into the effort to remove him from office and replace him with Dundon; keep Swanson, who opposes Measure N, on the council; and defeat Measure N.
Bird who has collected $45,775.10 into his campaign fund, including $17,080.10 he has loaned or provided to himself, steadily waged a campaign to remain on the council. That investment in himself and his political career, at least so far as today when the latest round of polling numbers was released by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters, appears to have paid off for Bird. As of 4 p.m. today, he had pulled down 2,620, or 50.9 percent of the 5,147 votes so far tallied in the Fifth District election, compared to the 2,524 votes or 49.04 percent captured by Dundon, with three write-in votes having been cast for other candidates. Over the next two to three weeks, further straggling mail-in ballots from voters in the Fifth District are expected to come into the county elections office. The likelihood that Dundon will pick up enough of those to overcome his 96 vote deficit, while possible, is not likely.
Meanwhile, Swanson has been engaged in her campaign in Hesperia’s First District against former Councilman Mike Leonard and former Hesperia Public Safety Commission Chairman Anthony Rhoades. Reportedly, Rhoades, a Brosowske political ally who had been appointed to the Public Safety Commission by Brosowske, was persuaded to enter the race as a ploy to assist Swanson against Leonard. Leonard was a firefighter with the Hesperia Fire Department before he was elected to the city council in 2004 and then served 12 years as councilman before opting out of running once more in 2016. His strongest appeal as a candidate is considered to be his credibility as an advocate with regard to public safety issues. In this way, Brosowske’s calculation seems to be that having Rhoades, himself a strong public safety proponent, in the race would pull more votes from Leonard than from Swanson.
Swanson had received $11,798 into her political war chest from January 1 through October 17 of this year. Leonard has raised no money at all this year, according to his campaign finance disclosure statement filed with the Hesperia city clerk’s office.
If, indeed, it was Brosowske’s intent to run Rhoades in an effort to assist Swanson, that strategy may well have worked. As of 4 p.m. today, Swanson was running in first place, with 1,856 or 43.32 percent of the 4,284 votes counted so far. Leonard boasted the endorsement of 1,719 voters in the First District at this point, or 40.13 percent. Rhoades is running in third, with 705 votes tallied, or 16.46 percent.
-Mark Gutglueck

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