Biane Associate Johnson Said To Have Inside Track On RC Berth

Nearly two decades after Paul Biane left the Rancho Cucamonga City Council to move up the political evolutionary chain to become San Bernardino County’s Second District supervisor, there are reports that his one-time political associate who served as his district representative, assistant chief of staff and then his acting chief of staff will succeed him as a member of the Rancho Cucamonga City Council.
Rancho Cucamonga officials say it is premature to declare Tim Johnson as the successor to Sam Spagnolo, who died at the age of 80 two weeks ago, less than two years into his fifth four-year term on the city council.
Experienced and well-placed sources within and close to Rancho Cucamonga City Hall with a command of the political lay of the land say that Johnson has more than an inside track on getting the appointment to hold Spagnolo’s place on the council for the six months between June and December. Word, unconfirmed by City Hall and denied by some city officials, was that the city council will appoint him sometime in June.
The matter is fraught with deep-lying political implication. Since less than half of Spagnolo’s term elapsed at the time of his death, an election must be held in November to fill, beginning in December, the gap on the council his absence represents. An early appointee to the position would have the advantage of incumbency in the race to be held in November in combination with this year’s general gubernatorial contest.
Johnson – a Biane protégé who was part of a coterie of Republican political hangers-on and political operatives in the mold of one-time State Assemblyman/State Senator Jim Brulte who associated himself with the likes of Keith Olberg, Bill Postmus, Tad Honeycutt, Brad Mitzelfelt, Matt Brown, Ted Lehrer, Anthony Adams, Curt Hagman and Anthony Riley – has known political ambition. In 2002, Johnson served as Biane’s deputy campaign manager. In 2010, before Biane was defeated for reelection as Second District supervisor in that year’s race and after a falling out occurred between Biane and Matt Brown, who was both Biane’s chief of staff and his campaign manager, Johnson rose to the occasion from his post as Biane’s district field representative to serve in the capacity of Biane’s de facto chief of staff and took on the official assignment of his campaign manager.
A decade later, after Rancho Cucamonga had switched to by-district elections to select members of its city council, it is reported that Johnson contemplated a run for city council but elected against doing so to respect the political establishment. By waiting his turn behind the aging Spagnolo, Johnson was reportedly promised establishment support after Spagnolo’s retirement, which logically was to occur following the end of his term in 2024.
While local governmental races are by law in California nonpartisan, party affiliation and homage to party leadership has been the watchword in getting into office in San Bernardino County over the last half century. Previously, the Republican Party dominated local politics in the county on the basis of greater Republican voter registration. While the number of voters registered as Democrats eclipsed registered Republicans in San Bernardino County in 2009, the GOP has continued to dominate the ranks of local elected officials on the basis of its far superior coordination, cohesiveness, fundraising, electioneering and voter percentage turnout when compared to that of the county’s Democrats. Consequently, despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans in San Bernardino County 473,085 or 41.2 percent to 335,051 or 29.2 percent at present, four of the county’s five supervisors are Republicans, and the Republicans hold a majority of the positions on 17 of the county’s 24 city/town councils.
In Rancho Cucamonga, despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans 40,491 or 38.3 percent to 35,672 or 33.7 percent overall, in District 1, where Spagnolo was councilman, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 11,970 or 42 percent to 9,250 or 32.4.
In this way, the Republican establishment holds tremendous sway over who will be chosen to replace Spagnolo. Johnson is a member of the GOP establishment, having been elected to the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee in 2008.
Johnson is not the only resident of Rancho Cucamonga’s District 1 interested in filling Spagnolo’s void.
Willing to replace Spagnolo as well are two others with governmental/agency/political credentials equal to or greater than Johnson’s, both of whom qualify for the position as residents of District 1: Luis Cetina and Tony Guglielmo.
Cetina has been since 2012 and is still a board member of the Cucamonga Valley Water District. He is currently competing for Second District county supervisor against four others in the June 7 primary election. The incumbent Second District supervisor, Janice Rutherford, is being termed out of office as she is approaching the end of her third term and 12th year in office.
Tony Guglielmo was from 2017 until 2021 a member of the Rancho Cucamonga Planning Commission, which included a stint as that panel’s chairman.
The city council and city staff are said to be leaning toward appointing Johnson for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he is favored by the Republican political establishment, including several current members of the Republican Central Committee. Among the four candidates Cetina is running against in the supervisor’s race is former Fontana City Councilman Jesse Armendarez, the darling of the GOP establishment in no small measure because he owns a successful real estate company and has shown a willingness to utilize his own personal capital not only to fuel his own campaign but those of other Republican office seekers. As such, Armendarez has garnered the support of the Republican Central Committee in the Second District supervisorial race, despite Cetina’s Republican Party affiliation. Cetina’s competition with an anointed Republican has put him out of favor with those at the top of the county GOP hierarchy. They are not inclined to lend any support to giving Cetina the enhanced title of Rancho Cucamonga Councilman because that would strengthen him if, as anticipated, he ends up in a run-off against Armendarez in the November race after the June 7 primary in which it is unlikely any one of the five candidates will capture a majority of the vote. Armendarez is the best-financed of the five in the race, and though Cetina has more money to spend than the other three candidates – Nadia Renner, DeJonaé Shaw and Eric Coker – he does not have the same support network that Armendarez has established. It appears that there will be a shoot-out between Armendarez and Cetina in November.
The prospect that Cetina could qualify for a run-off in the Second District supervisorial race and then be elected supervisor in November is one argument against appointing him to the council, some have said. Still, others have made the argument that by the city council conferring the appointment of Spagnolo’s position on Johnson, he will be given an unfair advantage in the November race. To be completely evenhanded, some have said, the council should appoint a caretaker to temporarily replace Spagnolo until December, someone who will not run in November so that those who are in that race are competing upon a level playing field.
It is widely suspected that Johnson himself has designs on the Second District supervisors slot. If he were to accede to the Rancho Cucamonga City Council District 1 post by appointment and then use the name recognition and power of incumbency to gain election this coming November to the post for a short term through 2024 and gain reelection at that time, he would be perfectly vantaged to run for supervisor in 2026, at which point he would have ultimately succeeded his mentor Biane for the job.
In 2006, Johnson was working for Biane and instrumental in helping him pass Measure P, which called for raising the salaries of members of the board of supervisors from what was then $99,000 per year to what became $151,000 per year. Johnson, loyal to Biane, advocated on behalf of Measure P. In doing so, Johnson sought to sell the public on the initiative by completely ignoring it would raise the supervisors’ pay by more than half of what they were already making. Instead, he like Biane, the measure’s author and first beneficiary, touted Measure P’s other provision, which was the imposition of term limits on the members of the board of supervisors by prohibiting them from vying for the same position on the board after they were elected to a third four-year term.
Selling points that Johnson possesses is that he is the chief operating officer of Quality Management Group, which manufactures and sells high density housing and that he was formerly the executive director for the California Apartment Association. As such, elements of the government in Rancho Cucamonga who do not want to fight mandates from the California Legislature and the California Department of Housing that California cities give up their land use authority and accommodate state standards calling for high density housing by embracing massive apartment complexes and single-family residential subdivisions entailing twelve-to-sixteen homes to an acre want Johnson on the city council because they believe he will be able to stand down any residential or citizen resistance to the intensification of housing construction in Rancho Cucamonga. Whereas a generation and a generation-and-a-half ago, Rancho Cucamonga’s city fathers predicated their planning on a presumption that the city would reach build-out, i.e., a maximum population, of around 200,000, at present city officials, politicians and members of the building industry are looking to Rancho Cucamonga achieving a population by 2060 of 300,000 or beyond. Johnson is considered to be a bulwark against the no growthers, slow-growthers and controlled-growthers who will seek to prevent that from occurring.
The widespread presumption that Johnson will be sitting on the council dais by July 1 is overblown conjecture, Rancho Cucamonga Councilwoman Lynne Kennedy said this week.
“There has been no decision about Sam’s seat,” Kennedy told the Sentinel on Tuesday, May 17. “The council delayed any discussion about options in respect for Sam’s dedicated service to this community and respect for his family. His memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 and we are giving ourselves time to mourn and process this tremendous loss. As you know, in the absence of information, people will attempt to fill in the gaps with speculation and rumors, which is what is happening in this instance.”
Mark Gutglueck

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