Cook Appointing Political Hitman Who Penned Attack Ad Targeting His Foe To Airport Board

Dillon Lesovsky, the political dirty trickster who worked with Matt Knox to assist Paul Cook fend off a serious political challenge by Tim Donnelly in 2018 and thereby remain in Congress until last month, is to be elevated to a position on the San Bernardino County Airports Commission based on Cook’s recommendation.
Last year, Cook did not seek reelection to his position as Congressman in California’s 8th Congressional District, opting instead to run for San Bernardino County Supervisor in the First District, representing a significant portion of the Mojave Desert that lies within San Bernardino County.
Cook in running for supervisor had seized upon the opportunity presented to him after then-incumbent First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, a fellow Republican, in 2019 announced he was opting out of seeking reelection last year.
In 2018, however, Cook, who was first elected to Congress in 2012 and had been a California Assemblyman before that and the mayor of Yucca Valley previously, was intent on remaining in the House of Representatives. As a former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who considered himself to be a rock-ribbed conservative Republican, Cook would normally have had little concern over his re-electoral prospects, given that the 8th Congressional District, located in Southern California’s sparsely-populated but expansive desert outback, was generally filled with residents who fell far to the right on the political spectrum. In 2018, however, Tim Donnelly, taking advantage of California’s open primaries, qualified as Cook’s opponent in the November race by running in a strong second place in the June Primary election, setting up a Republican vs. Republican contest.
Cook and his political advisers had reason to consider Donnelly a formidable opponent. Donnelly’s political persona was anchored to his identification as the most conservative politician in California and one who is unrelentingly faithful to bedrock ultra-right principles, which matched perfectly with a solid plurality if not an outright majority of the voters in the overwhelmingly right-wing 8th Congressional District.
Donnelly, who was an assemblyman for two terms before he made a failed attempt at capturing the Republican nomination for California governor in 2014, had taken a diamond-hard stance against illegal immigration, and was a die-hard Second Amendment advocate, living up to the principle he espoused by routinely carrying a concealed gun onto the floor of the statehouse while the legislature was in session. He took an aggressive stand against a 2011 bill restricting the open carrying of handguns in California by labeling the measure “a form of tyranny.” He topped that when, on the way back to Sacramento after the Christmas and New Year holidays for the first state legislative session in 2012, he was stopped by Transportation Security Administration officers at Ontario Airport for having a Colt .45 handgun loaded with four rounds of ammunition and five additional rounds in his carry on baggage. Donnelly thereafter wore the misdemeanor charges of carrying a loaded firearm in public without a concealed weapons permit and possessing a gun in an airport as a badge of honor. His conviction did not hamper him politically, as he was seen by gun owners as having stood up to unreasonable liberal efforts to restrict gun ownership, and he was handily reelected to the Assembly in the November 2012 General Election.
Of particular concern to the Cook political machine was Donnelly’s popularity with the large numbers of gun-toting constituents in the 8th District, which covers a large swath of the Mojave Desert and the San Bernardino Mountains, where gun ownership is a way of life for a majority of those living in isolated rural areas.
Lesovsky and Matt Knox had been members of Cook’s congressional staff. They were also tried and true members of Cook’s electioneering team. Faced with the Donnelly challenge, they committed themselves to keeping Cook in office.
The duo set about undoing Donnelly’s candidacy by constructing a website,, attacking Donnelly and augmenting it with signs to promote the website. utilized doctored photos to paint Donnelly in the most negative of light, and dwelt at length on a number of derogatories relating to the former assemblyman, including that he had a criminal record, which was an unspecified reference to his gun-carrying conviction; accusations that he was scamming senior citizens; allegations that he had deserted his family; assertions that he had engaged in “political fraud,” which was again unspecified; and insinuations that he stole from his own wife. All that was punctuated by the contention that Donnelly was unemployed. In violation of state law, the website had no identifying California Fair Political Practices registration number nor any indicia required under California law for campaign literature and materials to show what entity, organization, committee or campaign paid for the website. The campaign on behalf of Cook, which was directed by Knox as Cook’s campaign manager, and the hit perpetrated by Knox and Lesovsky proved highly effective, as Cook trounced Donnelly in the November 6, 2018 election, 108,414 votes or 61.33 percent to 68,370 votes or 38.67 percent.
Paralleling Cook’s victory in the 2018 election year was that of James Ramos, then San Bernardino County’s Third District supervisor, who successfully vied for the California Assembly representing the 40th Assembly District. Ramos yet had two years on his term as supervisor, and he was obliged to resign from the county post to take his place in the California Legislature in Sacramento. After his resignation, the board of supervisors appointed former Yucca Valley Councilwoman Dawn Rowe, who was also a member of Cook’s congressional staff, to serve out the final two years of Ramos’s term as supervisor. Upon becoming Third District supervisor, Rowe hired Knox as her chief of staff and Lesovsky as her office’s policy advisor.
While working in Rowe’s office, both Knox and Lesovsky continued to function as political operatives, with Knox working on Rowe’s 2020 election campaign to remain as Third District supervisor and Lesovsky working on Cook’s campaign for First District supervisor.
On Tuesday, January 26, the board of supervisors is scheduled to make 45 separate appointments to various boards, committees, commissions and joint powers authorities, including two to the San Bernardino County Airports Commission. Cook has nominated Lesovsky to a 4-year term, commencing February 1, 2021 and expiring January 31, 2025 filling Seat 3 on that commission. It is anticipated that the entire board of supervisors will routinely and unanimously confirm that appointment.
-Mark Gutglueck

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