Leyva Never Got On Track And Proved No Match For Hagman In 4th District Race

What slim prospect the Democrats had of breaking the Republican nut lock on San Bernardino County’s governmental structure was dashed on Tuesday with incumbent Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman’s drubbing of challenger Connie Leyva.
Hagman’s polling of 8,901 votes or 53.21 percent of the 16,727 votes counted and 86 of 218 precincts reporting as of midnight on the night of the election, four hours after the polls had closed, was taken as an indication that Hagman was going to take the race running away, with little chance of a run-off. By 4 p.m. today, Friday, June 10, with all 218 precincts accounted for and 19,299 mail-in ballots from District 4 voters counted, Hagman had widened his lead to 13,559 votes of the 24,346 cast so far, or 55.69 percent, to Leyva’s 9,009 votes or 37 percent. 
The third-place candidate in the race, Larry Wu, as of 4 p.m. today has received 1,778 votes or 7.3 percent.
In San Bernardino County, county supervisorial races can be decided in the primary elections if a candidate secures at least fifty percent plus one votes.
Hagman’s victory means that he will serve his third and final term on the board of supervisors after having first been elected to that post in the 2014 election. Since 2006, members of the board of supervisors have been subject to a three four-year term limit.From a purely mathematical standpoint, Hagman’s grip on the Fourth District supervisorial post would seem unlikely. His victory Tuesday all the more stands as a tribute to his consummate political skill, at least as it applies to the venues in which he has held elective office.
In the course of one municipal election, three primary elections for California Assemblyman, three general elections for the California Assembly, three elections for supervisor during the primary balloting and one election for supervisor held during a November general election – eleven contests in all – Hagman has never lost or failed to advance to the general election.
When competing in districts where registration favored Republicans, he took full advantage of that circumstance to advance to the position of city councilman or assemblyman. When competing in districts where registration favored, and in at least two cases heavily favored, the Democratic Party, Hagman defied the odds and ran aggressive and brilliant campaigns that overcame his opposition. When he found his political way forward obstructed by members of his own party, through backroom maneuvering he disposed of that competition. If that created resentment toward him among Republicans, his control of the local GOP political machinery rendered that complication irrelevant to his power climb.
Prior to his 2014 election to the Fourth District supervisor’s post, the district, consisting of Carbon Canyon, Chino Hills, Los Serranos, Chino, the West End, Montclair, Ontario, Guasti and southern Upland, had grown predominantly Democratic, with more voters registered as Democrats than with the GOP. Voter registration in the district has progressively grown more favorable to the Democrats on a constant basis, until at present 101,946 or 44.1 percent of the district’s 230,975 voters are Democrats and 61,271 or 26.5 percent are registered as Republicans with 51,832 or 22.4 percent claiming no party preference and 7 percent belonging to more obscure political parties. As a Republican, Hagman would seem to have been at a distinct disadvantage to Leyva, a Democrat. Nevertheless, just as he was seemingly at a disadvantage to his opponent in the 2014 and 2018 races, Gloria Negrete-McLeod, Hagman simply outhustled the opposition, proving more energetic, attentive, aggressive, creative and above all ruthless in promoting his candidacy.
While local governmental races in California are by state law non-partisan ones, in San Bernardino County, all of politics is guided by party affiliation.
Though the Democrats are the dominant political party in California overall, with both of its U.S. Senators and 42 of its 53 Congress members Democrats and its governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, secretary of state, insurance commissioner, controller, treasurer, auditor, comptroller, and superintendent of public instruction all being Democrats and the Democrats holding supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, there are five bastions of Republicanism in the Golden State, one of which is San Bernardino County.
The Republican primacy in the county would likewise seem unlikely, given a similar registration advantage that falls to the Democrats overall in the county. At present, 469,552 or 41.3 percent of the county’s 1,137,606 voters are registered Democrats and 332,495 or 29.2 percent are Republicans, with 244,344 or 21.5 percent expressing no party preference and 8 percent being members of various smaller parties. Nevertheless, the Republicans in San Bernardino County have proven far more energetic, coordinated, focused and intent than their Democratic counterparts when it comes to electioneering and far more willing to raise and spend money in the effort to promote Republican candidates and Republican causes than are the Democrats willing to monetarily support their party’s candidates and initiatives. The Republicans have proven themselves far more adept and skilled at appealing to voters unaligned with any party and those members of the offshoot parties. In addition, Republican voter turnout in the United States generally, in California and particularly in San Bernardino County is higher than that of the Democrats. As a consequence, four of the county’s five supervisors are Republicans and in 17 out of the county’s 24 cities and incorporated towns there are more Republicans seated on the city and town councils than Democrats.
Hagman, who was a member of the Chino Hills City Council from 2004 until 2008, including a short stint as mayor, was elected to the California Assembly in 2008. In 2014, he was obliged to leave the Assembly as a consequence of what were then the strictures of California’s term limits, which restricted a member of the Assembly to three two-year terms. In 2013, ahead of the 2014 election season, Hagman ruthlessly deposed Robert Rego as the chairman of the San Bernardino Republican Central Committee, taking that position for himself and then using that post to intimidate Gary Ovitt, a Republican who was then the incumbent Fourth District supervisor, into not seeking reelection.
In 2014, Negrete-McLeod and two lesser-known candidates also ran for Fourth District supervisor. McLeod was at that point a sitting Democratic Congresswoman who had captured that position in 2012 when her maiden candidacy for Congress had been infused with more than $3 million by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did so because he wanted to remove the incumbent Negrete-McLeod was running against that year as a consequence of California’s open primaries, fellow Democrat Joe Baca Sr, whom Bloomberg considered unsympathetic toward his gun control agenda.
After less than a single term in Congress, Negrete-McLeod wanted out of Washington, D.C., and had set her sights on the Fourth District supervisorial position.
Hagman, recognizing that Negrete-McLeod throughout her political career had been at best a lackluster candidate who had again and again experienced serendipitous boosts of her fortune in running for office, as when Bloomberg had endowed her with $3 million in funding she would never have come up with on her own when she defeated Baca. Previously, Negrete-McLeod had advanced when she tossed her hat in the ring for the Assembly and the State Senate in districts with highly favorable Democratic registration numbers at propitious times when the incumbent, Nell Soto in both instances, had exhausted her time in office under the state’s term limitations. She had never faced or overcome a stiff electoral challenge. Hagman pressed the advantage he had of employing the greater Republican electioneering machinery he had at his disposal in what was supposed to be a non-partisan race. He also had the advantage in 2014 of having Mike Spence, a brilliant Republican strategist, directing his campaign. After qualifying for a run-off following the June 2014 balloting in which four candidates competed for Fourth District supervisor, in the November 2014 showdown with Negrete-McLeod, Hagman eked out a 24,480 vote or 52.11 percent victory over the Congresswoman, who tallied 22,502 votes or 47.89 percent. In 2018, Hagman and Negrete-McLeod faced each other in a head-to-head rematch in the June primary. Again proving far more determined and energetic, not to mention more politically dexterous and creative than Negrete-McLeod, Hagman prevailed, with 25,468 votes or 53.41 percent to her 22,213 or 46.59 percent.
It was widely anticipated that Leyva, who, at 56, is a year younger than Hagman and a quarter of a century younger than Negrete-McLeod, would prove a far more dynamic campaigner than the sluggish Negrete-McLeod and give Hagman a run for his money.
Hagman, however, came out from his corner swinging, and independent expenditure committees supporting him utilized the rise in gasoline prices brought on by the worldwide fuel shortage in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine to suggest that Leyva, a current member of the California Legislature which has maintained high taxes on California gasoline, was responsible for “$6 dollar-a-gallon gasoline.” Those ads carried the tagline, “We can’t afford Connie Leyva.”
Hagman did not hesitate to make use of paradox and contradiction in carving out his victory. At the same time that Hagman was attacking Leyva as a tax-and-spend liberal, he was accepting the endorsements of the county’s public employee unions, which are more closely affiliated with Democrats than Republicans. This cut right to the heart of Leyva’s appeal to Democrats, as she built her political career on her previous position as the president of the California Labor Federation. Leyva was further hurt by Hagman’s campaign spots with Democratic Congresswoman Norma Torres.
At no time during the spring did Leyva ever seem to get her campaign on track. She took a worse shellacking than Negrete-McLeod did in either 2014 or 2018.
-Mark Gutglueck

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