Rita Ramirez Dean 1943-2023

Rita Ramirez-Dean, an old school Democrat whose perennial and earnest candidacies for elected office over the course of four decades provided a repeated and clear demonstration of the San Bernardino County Democratic Party’s inveterate inefficacy in the face of a more sophisticated and cohesive Republican opposition, died on June 11.
Ramirez-Dean was 80.
An educator whose high-water mark in politics came for her as a member of the Copper Mountain Community College Board of Trustees, Ramirez-Dean ran for San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools once, Congress four times, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors once and the California Assembly last year. While she had a demonstrated ability to win over her Democratic would-be constituents in the many different jurisdictions where she sought office and repeatedly captured her party’s nomination for those positions in the primary elections held over the years, she was unsuccessful in constructing candidacies that appealed far enough across the political spectrum to capture the support of a sufficient number of independent voters and Republican voters to add to the Democratic voter totals she did manage to bring in to prevail.Born in Santa Ana in 1943 to Beatriz Ramirez and José Ramirez as the youngest of four daughters, she grew up in Orange County. Ramirez-Dean attended Chapman University, and Northern Arizona University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in math and philosophy, California State University, Fullerton and California State University, San Bernardino, obtaining a Master of Arts in philosophy, curriculum, instruction political science and then her PhD. in education from Louisiana State University. Along the way she was granted an educational specialist certificate, secondary teaching certificate for history, mathematics, political science, curriculum and instruction, reading, sociology, business, Spanish, education and administration.
A professor fine arts and foreign language at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree from 1972 until 1999 and professor at Copper Mountain and its sister campus College of the Desert in Palm Desert from 1999 until 2004, Ramirez Dean was the chair of the foreign language department and later the chair of Copper Mountain College’s reading department, which she founded.
With her husband, she had moved to Twentynine Palms in 1972, establishing a household there and raising two sons.
She was a member of the Copper Mountain College Board of Trustees from 1999 until 2012.
Having been bitten by the political bug but in large measure unfamiliar with the mechanics of campaigning, Ramirez-Dean spun her wheels in the 1980s and early 1990s, only gradually and never fulling coming to terms with the brutal reality of pay-to-play politics in virtually every geographical location throughout far-flung San Bernardino County, and the necessity of appealing to voters within the region’s predominant party – the GOP.
Basic tenants and elements of Ramirez-Dean’s political philosophy clashed with the attitudes of a substantial or even predominant number of her would-be constituents, such that Ramirez Dean was not able to win an election at the county supervisorial, congressional or state legislative level. She advocated free community and state university education for all, including illegal aliens, providing tax incentives to employers to encourage hiring, the welcoming of immigrants to America on the hope that they would choose to become naturalized citizens, providing extensive benefits to military veterans and policies to ensure environmental protection.
Ramirez was also actively involved with the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee.
To the vast number of Republicans in the districts where Ramirez-Dean sought election, she was perceived as a progressive or ultra-liberal, which virtually squelched any potential for her being elected to office in the general elections held in November. General elections come in the aftermath of California’s March or June primaries in which Democrats duke it out with one another for their party’s nomination and Republicans do the same. Ramirez Dean did well in most primary races she ran in against other Democrats, but she repeatedly ran into difficulty upon reach the general election races wherein Republicans held an outright voter registration advantage over Democrats or the more numerous Democrats were so poorly coordinated that despite their overall numerical advantage they would prove incapable of getting enough Democrats out to vote and drive enough of them to the polls to outmatch the Republicans who consistently had far greater voter turnout than the Democrats.
A case in point was in 2016, when Ramirez-Dean had what was, in actuality, her most impressive, though ultimately unsuccessful, electoral performance. In that year’s open primary for Congress representing California’s 8th Congressional District during which voters were allowed to cross party lines and vote for any candidate of their choosing rather than one limited to their own party, Ramirez found herself in a race against two strong Republicans – incumbent Congressman Paul Cook and former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly – and two poorly financed Democrats, John Pinkerton and Roger LaPlante. Ramirez-Dean was able to use her strong liberal-progressive Democrat credentials and her Latina ethnic identity to make a strong showing by picking up more than 60 percent of the Democratic vote. In this way, she managed to outpoll Donnelly, 26,325 votes to 24,886, or 21.9 percent to 20.7 percent, good for second place and a berth in the November general election against the top vote-getter, Cook, with 50,425 votes or 42 percent. In the November run-off, Cook, to whom accrued virtually all of the Republican Donnelly’s votes, trounced Ramirez Dean, 136,972 votes to 83,035 votes, a margin of 62.3 percent to 37.7 percent.
Even in victory, Ramirez would find herself outmaneuvered by the Republicans. In 2015, the 72-year-old Ramirez, having retired as a college professor, moved to Victorville, at least partially in anticipation of running for political office from there. Virtually from its outset as an incorporated city in 1962 and in actuality prior to that, Victorville had been dominated by the Republican Party. In 2018, Ramirez-Dean made a significant inroad against Republican primacy in Victorville when she was elected to the city council there, joining Blanca Gomez, another Democrat, on the council dais. Two years later, in 2020, a third Democrat, Leslie Irving, was elected to the council, and Gomez was reelected. At that point, the Victorville City Council consisted entirely of women, of whom two-thirds were Democrats, the first majority Democrat city council in Victorville history.
The Democrats did not remain in ascendancy for long. In December 2019, Ramirez-Dean stumbled as she was walking to her car, bruising her leg internally in the process. The bruise became infected, and in the winter and spring of 2020, she underwent three stages of surgical amputations on her lower left leg, losing first her middle toe, then her foot and then her lower leg. She was hospitalized from January until April 2020. She was placed into a convalescent care facility, where at that time, deaths from COVID-19 among patients were occurring. Her son Gene insisted that she leave the facility and that she be brought back to what had been the family home in Twentynine Palms, where he could monitor her.
In the meantime, Ramirez-Dean had continued to participate, remotely, in the city council meetings. Victorville city staff had mailed or delivered the agendas and staff reports to her at the Twentynine Palms home where she was staying.
Over time, however, the two Republican members of the city council, Debra Jones, who had been rotated into the appointed mayor’s position, and Elizabeth Becerra, recognized the partisan advantage Ramirez-Dean’s condition presented. They maneuvered to have the city council discontinue granting Ramirez-Dean the medical excuses for not physically attending the city council meetings that had routinely been granted to her since her January 2020 hospitalization. Then, by offering Irving the honorific of making her the city’s mayor pro tem and promising her advancement to the position of mayor the following year, Jones and Becerra induced Irving to go along with removing Ramirez-Dean from office. In February 2021, Jones and Becerra ordered up a report put together by Victorville City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky that made a preconceived finding Ramirez likely was not residing in Victorville based upon her acceptance of the mail and agendas sent from the city to her recovery location at her traditional family home in Twentynine Palms over a period of nine months.  In March 2021, after de Bortnowsky presented that report publicly, Ramirez-Dean was removed on a 3-2 vote of the city council, with Jones, Becerra and Irving prevailing.
In a footnote to that development, Jones and Becerra welshed on that part of the deal with Irving pertaining to her getting an eventual appointment to the mayor’s post, although she was, temporarily, elevated to the post of mayor pro tem. After the 2022 election in which Bob Harriman, a Republican, was elected to what was essentially the position held by Ramirez-Dean, the council reappointed Jones mayor, bypassing Irving at the time when she was supposed to have been handed the mayoral gavel.
In recent days, Victorville city officials have been weeping crocodile tears over Ramirez-Dean’s death.
“We were very saddened to learn of Rita’s passing. She was an inspiring leader with a passion for service and dedication to bettering the lives of others first as a college educator, then as an elected official. We extend our condolences to Rita’s family and friends at this difficult time,” Mayor Jones was quoted as saying in a copywritten article that appeared in the Victorville Daily Press.
Ramirez-Dean is survived by her sons, James Joseph Dean of San Francisco and Gene Kenneth Dean and spouses, Fil Lacap and Fréda Antoine Dean; her granddaughter Olivia of Los Angeles, CA; and her sisters, Rosie Camacho of Santa Ana, CA and Lucille Frost of Payson, Utah.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Brown Colonial Mortuary, located at 204 W 17th St, Santa Ana, CA 92706. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the same location.

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