As Some Sound DINO Alert, Warren Association Complicates Perez’s Assembly Ambition

Local Democratic Party activists are sounding an alarm about Fontana Unified School District Board Vice President Adam Perez’s entrance into the race for the 50th Assembly District position that is opening up with Eloise Gómez Reyes’ move to not seek reelection to that post for the fourth time and instead run for the California State Senate.
The 50th Assembly District seat is considered to be a safe one for Democrats, given the nearly two-to-one Democratic voter registration advantage in the district. As of this week, the district, which covers all of Bloomington, Colton, Loma Linda along with parts of Fontana, Ontario, Redlands, Rialto, Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino, has 253,401 voters, 117,013 or 46.2 percent of whom are registered Democrats while 60,390 or 23.8 percent are Republicans. Almost equaling the number of Republicans in the district are those who have no party affiliation: 56,425 or 22.3 percent. The remaining 7.7 percent are members of the Peace & Freedom, American Independent, Libertarian, Green or more obscure parties. It thus seems likely that whoever will replace Gómez Reyes as result of the qualifying March 2024 Primary and November 2024 General elections will be a Democrat. It is even possible that the Republicans, recognizing that the prospect for a member of the GOP prevailing in the contest is so dim, will not even field a candidate.
That is where their fellow and sister Democrats have to be very careful and discerning some Democrats are saying. Previously entered in the race were Etiwanda School District Board Member Robert Garcia and nurse and union activist DeJonaé Shaw, both with impeccable Democratic credentials. Declaring his candidacy this week was Perez. That has given some of the more knowledgeable members of the local Democratic Party pause. Though he is officially and ostensibly by registration a Democrat, Perez is a DINO, some insist: a Democrat In Name Only.
It is not that Perez is law enforcement officer who is employed as a detective in the Desert Hot Springs Police Department. There are Democrats among those who work as police officers, even if they are outnumbered by Republicans, as Republicans over the last seven to eight decades have promoted their party as being pro-law enforcement.
Nor is it that Perez spent five years in the Army, fighting in Iraq, during a war that was started by a Republican president who used what turned out to be the false pretext of that country having accumulated weapons of mass destruction that it was itching to use upon the West, overcoming the inadequate resistance of some Democrats who were skeptical about the justification provide. There were many Democrats who went along with George W. Bush in his march to war against Iraq.
Rather, it is Perez’s local support network, the one within his hometown of Fontana, which was key to putting him into office as a member of the school board, where he is now the board’s vice president, that is entirely Republican in nature.
Fontana lies within the blue collar belt of San Bernardino County, consisting of the cities of Fontana, Rialto, Colton and San Bernardino, as well as the unincorporated communities of Muscoy and Bloomington. By every statistical, demographic, numerical and affiliatory standard, Fontana, a former steeltown that was home to the Kaiser Steel Mill and where the Fontana Steelworkers Association is yet a force to be reckoned with, should be a Democratic city. Of the 212,704-population city’s 111;275 voters, 55,038 or 49.5 percent are registered Democrats. Within the city, registered Republicans number 23,153 or 20.8 percent, such that they are in fact outnumbered by the 24,929 or 22.5 percent who have no political affiliation. The remaining 7.4 percent are members of the American Independent, Libertarian, Green, Peace & Freedom or other obscure parties. Despite this overwhelming Democratic numerical advantage, the City of Fontana is ruled by Mayor Acquanetta Warren, a Republican, and her three Republican allies on the city council – Councilman John Roberts, Councilman Phil Cothran Jr and Councilman Pete Garcia. Only one Democrat – Councilman Jesse Sandoval – inhabits the Fontana City Council.
A major consideration in this circumstance is the political machine that Warren has constructed. Last year, she expended $482,093.31 from her political war chest getting herself reelected and supporting her allies, which included providing Perez with $4,000 for his successful school board reelection campaign. She has generously doled out money, usually to Republicans but to Democrats when it suits her, seeking to establish them in office. Among these have been Republicans Roberts, Cothran, Garcia and Jesse Armendarez, who was formerly a member of the school board and a member of the city council, at which time he was a part of her ruling coalition. Jesse’s brother Joe Armendarez, is likewise one of Warren’s political allies. He, too, is a member of the Fontana Unified School District Board. Similarly, Perez is a member of Warren’s team and a key element of her political machine.
Part of the winning Republican formula that has allowed the GOP to dominate Fontana, despite the city’s far greater number of Democrats, has been the way in which Warren’s machine works to quietly inform the city’s registered Republicans, who turn out to vote in far higher numbers than the city’s Democrats, who the members of her Republican team are. This virtually ensures that those candidates will collect all of the Republican vote. In their campaigning, the candidates endorsed by Warren make an appeal to the independent voters, emphasizing to the extent that they can, that those candidates arr independent-minded. Third, they formulate mailers promoting those candidates which make no mention of their party affiliation, which are then sent to Democrats. This convinces at least some of those Democrats to support them.
In the past, Perez was elected to the Fontana school board with Warren’s endorsement and the support of her political machine.
Quietly, Warren and her machine, highly conscious that allowing Perez to be identified as a beneficiary of Republican support would hurt him with the large number of Democratic voters in the 50th Assembly District, are still the same militating to get behind him in as silent of a way as possible, giving him money and assistance in appealing to Democrats using separate mailers, appealing to independent voters using separate mailers and appealing to Republicans, using separate mailers. Among a circle of Republicans who are longtime supporters of Warren and dynamic campaign functionaries and fundraisers in their own right – Phil Cothran Sr., Jesse Armendarez, Christopher Dustin, Ross Sevy, Cameron Wessel and Angel Ramirez – there is a belief that a dual-tracked or even triple-tracked campaign can be run that will put Perez – who many consider to be a closeted Republican – into the statehouse by having the Democrats of the 50th District vote him in.
One such track would be to run a standard positive and upbeat campaign for Perez aimed in the main essentially at the high propensity Democrats in the district, that is, those Democrats who have demonstrated a pattern of voting in past campaigns. There will be nothing in this literature to suggest that Perez is anything other than a typical Democrat, completely loyal to the party. Simultaneously, a campaign composed of slightly different literature would go to the district’s high propensity independent and Republican voters, again promoting Perez. Through a separate and ostensibly unconnected effort, one with no official tie to Perez, an attack campaign would be launched at whoever it is – Shaw or Garcia or a yet-to-emerge candidate – who polling numbers indicate is the strongest candidate. This would replicate in precise detail the handiwork of Warren’s machine’s political operatives in the past.
For all of those reasons, experienced local Democrats are letting members of their party know that Perez, whom they identify as a Republican wolf, is seeking to blend among the 50th District’s flock of sheep.
-Mark Gutglueck

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