Overlooked In 2018 And Self-Restrained in 2020, Carrillo Making 3rd District Run Vs. Rowe In 2024

Chris Carrillo, who in 2018 was dismissively passed over when the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors selected Dawn Rowe to replace James Ramos as Third District supervisor when he was obliged to vacate that position upon being elected to the California Assembly, has resolved to challenge Rowe at the ballot box next year.
Carrillo, who had been Ramos’s assistant chief of staff and a board member with the East Valley Water District, was among 48 residents of the Third Supervisorial District who applied to succeed Ramos.
Carrillo was familiar with district issues as one of Ramos’s top staff members. Ramos had been elected to the board by defeating incumbent Neil Derry in 2012 and was convincingly reelected in 2016 when he was opposed by the poorly-financed Donna Muñoz, a Morongo Valley resident. Upon being elected to the Assembly with two years remaining on his term as supervisor, Ramos made a recommendation to his board colleagues just before he resigned to head off to Sacramento that they appoint Carrillo as his board replacement. Nevertheless, the remaining members of the board of supervisors – Curt Hagman, Robert Lovingood, Josie Gonzales and Janice Rutherford – looked over the four dozen applicants and reduced the field to 13. Those 13 consisted of former Third District Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, then-Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, former Twentynine Palms Councilman James Bagsby, Loma Linda Councilman Ron Dailey and then-Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, former Chino Councilman/then-current Big Bear Councilman William Jahn, former Assemblyman/then-State Senator Bill Emmerson, Congressional Candidate Sean Flynn, Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Jan Leja, former San Bernardino Councilman Tobin Brinker, former Westlake Village Mayor Chris Mann, then-San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis and Rowe, who at that point was a former Yucca Valley Councilwoman and mayor and was working as a staff member of then-Congressman Paul Cook. The 13 were invited for an interview, one to be held publicly, as the next round of the process.Carrillo had been entirely bypassed. The reason for that was not difficult to discern. Hagman, Lovingood and Rutherford were Republicans. Carrillo, like Ramos and Gonzales, is a Democrat. It took two votes of the four remaining supervisors to designate an applicant for an interview.
Though local elected offices in California are defined as being nonpartisan ones, in San Bernardino County in particular, party affiliation is of significance in who holds office at both the municipal and county levels, as well as on the boards of school, fire and water districts. For more than 40 years, San Bernardino County has been a Republican bastion, such that for the last two decades, it has been out of step with the rest of the state, which has grown overwhelmingly Democratic in its orientation, with the Democrats holding a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, control of the governorship, the state attorney general’s office, the California Secretary of State’s office, the state controller’s office, the state superintendent of schools’ office and the insurance commissioner’s office. Both of California’ s two U.S. senators are Democrats. Of the 53 members of California’s Congressional Delegation, 46 are Democrats and seven are Republicans. In San Bernardino County, however, currently 17 of its 24 incorporated cities/towns have more Republican members on their councils than Democrats. Four of the five members of the board of supervisors are Republicans. The district attorney is a Republican. The sheriff is a Republican. While the number of registered voters registered as Republicans in San Bernardino County in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the first decade of the Third Millennium outran the number of those registered to vote as Democrats, in 2009 the number of registered Democrats in the county eclipsed the number of Republicans. Nonetheless, the GOP has continued to dominate San Bernardino County politically, even as the gap in favor of the Democrats in terms of registered voters has grown. At the point where the board of supervisors was looking to replace Ramos, of the county’s more than 965,000 voters, 38.9 percent were registered Democrats, while 28.8 percent were registered as Republicans. The number of voters with no political party association whatsoever stood at 26.2 percent, coming close to the number of Republicans, and voters registered with the more obscure parties such as the Peace and Freedom, Libertarian, Green and American Independent accounted for 8 percent of the total. Despite having a four-to-three advantage over the Republicans in the county number-wise, the Democrats had consistently found themselves outhustled and outmaneuvered by their Republican Party counterparts in San Bernardino County.
Despite the consideration that a majority of those who had applied for consideration as Ramos’s successor were Democrats, of the thirteen finalists selected, only one – Dailey – was a Democrat. Arguably, Carrillo was the most impressive Democrat who had applied. Indeed, a case might have been made that his was the most compelling résumé of all of the candidates, Republican and Democrat. In addition to having been Ramos’s assistant chief of staff, making him the one applicant most familiar with the running of the supervisor’s office and the Third District in particular, for six years he had worked for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein as a senior aide. His membership on the East Valley Water District Board gave him another layer of currency with the issues at play in the Third District. Beyond that, however, perhaps the most significant factor was Carrillo’s own gravitas, in that he is an attorney steeped in aspects of the law relating to governmental issues.
A Georgetown University graduate with a Master of Applied Psychology degree from Claremont Graduate University and a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School, his primary focus is on employment litigation. He has experience in real estate and public vs. private possessory and nonpossessory law. He has taken several cases to trial.
By spurning Carrillo when the board made its winnowing of the field from 48 to 13, Hagman, Lovingood and Rutherford hoped to foreclose the possibility that Carrillo would be able to make a case for himself in the widely-viewed public forum they were holding, in which side-by-side comparisons with the other candidates would have made it difficult for the board to deny him continuing consideration as the field was narrowed further.
The 13 were reduced to five finalists – Rowe, Jahn, Emmerson, Flynn and Rigsby, Republicans all. Gonzales made an appeal to her colleagues that at the next public hearing where they were to interview those five that they make up for the previous sleight to Carrillo by making a special arrangement to interview him. Hagman, Lovingood and Rutherford agreed to do so, but the session with Carrillo had all the earmarks of an afterthought. The momentum was clearly moving in Rowe’s direction. Gonzales, the lone Democrat remaining on the board, consigned herself to the inevitable and voted with her colleagues to have Rowe replace Ramos for the two years remaining on his term.
There were suggestions that Rowe might be able to ameliorate the affront to Ramos and Carrillo and simultaneously outfit her office with an individual up to speed on the challenges in the Third District by hiring Carrillo as her chief of staff. She did not do so for a multitude of reasons, including the expectations of those who appointed her that she use the opportunity to advance the Republican Party, that she considered Carrillo’s Democratic Party-affiliation to be antithetical to her governance formula and concern that by doing so, she might put Carrillo in an advantageous position to run against her in 2020.
Rather, Rowe hired as staffers two Republican Party political operatives – Matt Knox and Dillon Lesovsky, who had been her colleagues while she was on Congressman Cook’s staff – whose reputations had been well established in conjunction to the below-the-belt electioneering effort on behalf of Cook against their fellow Republican Tim Donnelly when Donnelly had used California’s open primary system to qualify his candidacy in the 8th Congressional District in 2018. The campaign against Donnelly, an extremely negative one which culminated in a series of accusations against Donnelly alleging everything from breaking the law to defrauding the elderly to abandoning his family, was encapsulated in a website created by Knox and Lesovsky, dubbed “Dirty Donnelly” and harbinged what Rowe was contemplating against Carrillo for the 2020 election.
Almost as soon as Rowe was sworn in, Democratic support began coalescing around Carrillo in preparation for 2020. He appeared to be involved and enthusiastic.
His connection to Ramos was of tremendous potential benefit to him. With James Ramos in Sacramento, a Democratic town in the heartland of the Democratic Party, it was assumed that massive amounts of money would be coming Carrillo’s way, if not directly into his campaign fund, then to independent expenditure committees supporting him, which could sidestep the $4,400 individual contribution limit members of the board of supervisors several years ago imposed on themselves.
It thus appeared that Carrillo was cruising toward a showdown with Rowe in 2020 in which he had a fair prospect of winning.
Knox and Lesovsky, meanwhile, appeared to have been given license to engineer Rowe’s 2020 reelection campaign from their county offices.
In June 2019, Carrillo abruptly withdrew as a candidate for Third District Supervisor in 2020.
No real opposition to Rowe emerged. In the March 2020 election, with 46,263 or 54.96 percent of the 84,181 votes cast in the Third District, she trounced then-Redlands Councilman Eddie Tejeda, who managed to bring in 15,572 votes or 18.5 percent; Kaisar Ahmed, who had previously vied unsuccessfully for the Redland City Council and Congress and polled 12,808 votes or 15.21 percent; Karen Ickes, a homeless services coordinator, with her 8,128 votes or 9.66 percent and Latron Lester, a musician and minister from Barstow who captured 1,410 votes or 1.67 percent.
The three years since her election have not been especially kind to Rowe. A minor scandal over her employment of Knox and Lesovsky for what were patently political purposes developed and though her board colleagues did not become too animated about it, since some of them had received political assistance themselves from the duo or were looking forward to their assistance, it was decided that it might be best for them to leave her office.
Since then, Rowe has found it difficult to install competent, efficient and knowledgeable personnel into the various positions in her office, ones who are experienced and have mastered the ropes of county operations, procedures and protocols. This has left her highly dependent on the guidance of the county’s administration and County Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hernandez in particular. Hernandez, however, has been distracted by a number of issues, which resulted in inadequate performance or county governmental response to circumstances. A case in point was the delay and failures in meeting the challenges of what is now referred to as the Blizzard of ‘23, the severe winter storm that blanketed the San Bernardino Mountains over the last week of February and first ten days of March, making roads impassable, trapping residents without food, fuel and medicine and resulting in a rash of deaths the county has yet to precisely quantify.
Word comes now that Hernandez has been put on an extended vacation leave while a determination as to whether and how he is to be fully relieved of his executive duty. This has thrown Rowe’s office into disarray.
When it rains, it pours, as there is indication that Carrillo is now running against Rowe in earnest.
“Too many families in San Bernardino County are being left behind by politicians who put themselves ahead of residents,” Carrillo said. “From Redlands, Yucaipa, and Yucca Valley to Barstow, Crestline, and Big Bear Valley, our communities face unique challenges. I’m running for supervisor to put people first and stand up for common sense solutions.”
A sine qua non for Republican officeholders in San Bernardino County has been their ability to identify with and align themselves with public safety institutions and entities, in particular law enforcement, and extending to firemen.
Events beyond Rowe’s control, however, have overtaken her in that regard. The Blizzard of ‘23, while touching down at spots within the First District and the Second District, was hardest felt in the Third District communities stretching from Crestline through Cedarpines Park, Cedar Glen, Blue Jay, Lake Gregory, Lake Arrowhead, Twin Peaks, Arrowbear, Running Springs, unincorporated Big Bear City, incorporated Big Bear Lake, Forest Falls and Angelus Oaks.
As an attorney, in 2016 Carrillo represented former San Bernardino County Deputy Fire Chief George Corley in an action against the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District in which it was alleged Corley was terminated because of age discrimination. After trial, the jury rendered a verdict in which it found that Corley’s age was a substantial motivating reason for the district’s termination of his employment and awarded damages for lost earnings. When the county appealed the case, Carrillo continued to represent Corley before the state appellate court, prevailing when that panel returned a published decision upholding the trial court in Corley v. San Bernardino County Fire Protection.
As a consequence, Carrillo is on excellent terms with the union representing the county’s firefighters.
This morning, the San Bernardino County Professional Firefighters, International Association of Firefighters 395, which represents over 600 firemen and firewomen with San Bernardino County, Big Bear City, Big Bear Lake, Colton, Loma Linda, and Montclair fire departments, endorsed Carrillo in the 2024 election.
In announcing the endorsement, Jim Grigoli, president of IAFF Local 935, stated, “Chris’s knowledge of county government will provide the experience needed to end the disastrous financial mismanagement that has cost San Bernardino County taxpayers millions of dollars in lost federal funding. Chris understands the concerns of District 3 and will be ready on day one to deliver results for local communities. The residents of District 3 deserve a new representative who will restore competence and integrity to the county board of supervisors. That’s why Local 395 is proud to support Chris Carrillo for supervisor and we look forward to helping him win.”
Carrillo said, “I’ve stood with county firefighters throughout my career and when elected supervisor, I’ll fight to ensure firefighters have the resources they need to continue protecting San Bernardino County communities.”
Calls to Rowe’s office were unreturned at press time.
-Mark Gutglueck

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