Quixotic Runs Of Hopeless Candidates In 29th Senate District Race Baffles Pundits

The four-way match-up in the 29th Senatorial District which will take place in the March primary election involves two Republicans and two Democrats that at least some political analysts find baffling. The long-shot Republicans in the race appear to be running to further their name recognition and set up some potential future realistic race for office, most likely for some office other than state senator in the 29th District. The two Democrats boast somewhat greater electoral viability this time around, but are exploring turf beyond their respective political wheelhouses.
None of the four is an incumbent in the newly drawn district.
Every decade in California, during the political term that takes place following the election year ending in 2 involves two overlapping State Senate maps as a consequence of the members of the upper legislative house in Sacramento being elected to staggered four-year terms and the shift in the state’s electoral map in conjunction with the census. From December 2022 until December 2024, the dual State Senate map features odd-numbered districts that were and are using boundaries adopted after the 2010 Census, while even-numbered districts use boundaries from the post-2020 census. As a result, areas within those districts may or may not be represented by two state senators and other areas may or may not have a state senator at all during the 2023-24 legislative session. The State Senate map enacted after the 2020 census will fully take effect after the 2024 elections.
What was previously designated as State Senate District 29 covered southwestern San Bernardino County, northeastern Orange County and a limited swath of mostly southern Los Angeles County. Josh Newman, a Democrat, has represented the 29th since he defeated incumbent Republican Ling-Ling Chang in 2020. The new State Senate District 29 includes Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Rialto, Bloomington, Colton, San Bernardino, Muscoy, Devore, Verdemont, Devore, University Heights, portions of Highland and Redlands.
Gómez-Reyes was first elected to the Assembly in 2016, two years after she failed to make it into the general election in 2014 when she vied for Congress. In 2016, she defeated a sister Democrat, incumbent Cheryl Brown, in the California State Assembly District 47 general election, using a campaign in which she stated that Brown was not progressive enough. In that race, Gómez-Reyes showed a knack for fundraising, bringing in $766,901 in donations.
Once in office, Gómez-Reyes sought to establish herself as the premier member of the Assembly in the Inland Empire, succeeding in doing so. She entertained an outside – remote yet actual – hope of eventually acceding to the position of Assembly speaker. Previously, term limits had prevented any member of the Assembly from serving more than three 2-year terms in the lower legislative house and more than two 4-year terms in the State Senate – meaning a cap of 14 years as a state legislator. Those elected from 2012 onward, however, saw their total allowed time in the legislature reduced to 12 years, though they are allowed to serve all of that time in either the Assembly or State Senate, if they wish and the voters cooperate. Gómez-Reyes, as a member of the dominant Democrat Party, had hoped she might become the preeminent state politician in not just San Bernardino County but Southern California and by remaining in the Assembly until December 2028, make a bid to become Assembly Speaker by 2024 or 2026.
Her ambition was foiled by Anthony Rendon, the speaker from 2016 until 2023; Robert Rivas, the current speaker, and Assemblyman James Ramos. Ramos, the wealthy former chairman of the San Manuel Tribe of Mission Indians, was a member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors until he was elected to the Assembly in the 40th District in 2018. Shortly thereafter, an at first low-key and then an increasingly more pitched battle between Gómez-Reyes and Ramos for the dominant position as San Bernardino County’s/the Inland Empire’s political shot caller ensued. Ramos’s wealth – he reportedly makes $18,000 per day in personal income from the San Manuel tribe’s casino operation – has allowed him to make substantial donations to other members of the Assembly, increasing his clout among his colleagues and advancing his own ambition to become Assembly Speaker, perhaps as early as 2026. In competing pieces of legislation – such as that pertaining to the regulations to be imposed on warehouses – Ramos’s less restrictive proposals have displaced those of Gómez-Reyes, which called for more exacting standards to limit the environmental impacts and health implications of logistics facilities on nearby residents. Approaching the 2024 election cycle, her last opportunity to move out of the Assembly into the State Senate, Gómez-Reyes did so.
As a current officeholder, Gómez-Reyes, 66, enjoys a commanding financial edge over her opponents. In her 2022 reelection effort she collected a prodigious amount of money that totals more than nine times what her three opponents might realistically home to raise combined this year. A glimpse of her major donors two years ago reveals she received $19,400 each from the California Nurses Association, the California State Council of Service Employees, the California Teachers Association, Dignity California Service Employees International, the California State Council of Service Employees Political Committee Local 721; the California Teachers Association; the Service Employees International Union Local 721; $17, 600 from Pace of California School Employees Association; $16,700 from the California Professional Firefighters Ballot Issues Committee; $16,300 from the California State Association of Electrical Workers Political Action Committee; $16,200 from the Faculty Our University’s Future; $16.000 from the California Faculty Association; $11,000 each from Albert Arteaga, the California Independent Telephone Political Action Committee, the Service Employees International Union Local 2015 and M Quinn Delaney; $10,900 each from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Raise the Wage California, the Pace of California School Employees Association and the California State Pipe Trades Council Political Action Committee.
Obviously, as a member of the Assembly since 2016, Gómez-Reyes is oriented toward life in Sacramento. In the current legislative session – 2023-2024, she is assigned to the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, the Budget Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Labor and Employment Committee, the Utilities and Energy Committee and the Rules Committee. In the 2021-2022 legislative cycle, she was a member of the Rules Committee, the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, the Budget Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Labor and Employment Committee and the Utilities and Energy Committee.
Prior to that, Gómez-Reyes in 2019-2020 was a member of several of those committees and served as the chairwoman of the Human Services Committee.
How well Gómez-Reyes is perceived to have functioned in her capacity as a legislator has something to with the philosophical, political or professional orientation of the evaluator.
She has been given a 100 percent positive rating by the American Civil Liberties Union. In her votes deemed of significance to the California Chamber of Commerce in 2022, she was shown to be in accord with that business advocacy group three times and out of step with it 14 times. Across the board she was deemed to be aligned with the California Environmental Justice Alliance in terms of legislation that group supported and opposed. She voted in synchronization with the California Labor Federation 100 percent of the time. She is lined up in 99 percent of her votes with the California Environmental Voters Alliance. Gómez-Reyes was given a grade F from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in terms of supporting Proposition 13, the landmark property tax limitation measure passed in 1978. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, she voted in accordance with that group’s preferences 18 percent of the time.
She is a graduate of Loyola Law School and a licensed attorney.
In pursuing the State Senate District 29 position, Gómez-Reyes said, “My top priority is serving our community and putting the needs of everyday people first, not corporations or special interests. I’m proud of my 35-year record of getting things done for working people and supporting families, small businesses, veterans, youth, and seniors.”
She said, “As a daughter of immigrants who worked the fields as a 12-year old and took on three jobs after high school to put myself through college, I know all too well the struggles facing working people. That’s why throughout my career as an attorney, public servant, and Assembly majority leader, I’ve worked to deliver results that make a difference for our community here in the Inland Empire, and it’s why I’m committed to doing more in the State Senate.”
Jason O’Brien is the other Democrat in the race. He is employed as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. He was formerly a member of the Fontana Unified School District Board of Education. In 2016, when he was elected to that position, O’Brien became the first African-American man in district history to serve on that panel.
O’Brien, 53, replicates a crucial element of Gómez-Reyes platform in that he has taken a firm stand against the proliferation of warehouses in Fontana, specifically when in 2014 he ran against incumbent Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who is such a strong advocate of warehouse construction in Fontana that she is known, by her supporters and opponents alike, as “Warehouse Warren.”
O’Brien contends that the Inland Empire already suffers from a glut of logistics facilities, and that their numbers are out of balance and they are monopolizing space that could be put to more productive and positive economic use. He says the relatively poor pay and benefits provided to those who work in distribution facilities, the large diesel-powered semi-trucks that are part of those operations with their unhealthy exhaust emissions, together with the bane of traffic gridlock they create are reasons why governmental policy should encourage alternative development schemes for that property .
O’Brien and his wife, Shannon, founded Children’s Resources a nonprofit organization that provides parent education seminars aimed at promoting academic success for students from disadvantaged homes. With his wife, he also created Echo Interpreting, LLC., which works in conjunction with Children’s Resources to provide bilingual educational programs for parents and students. He is a sponsor of annual college scholarships to graduating African-American seniors in Fontana to aid in their pursuit of higher education.
A graduate of Howard University, O’Brien has a degree in political science.
One of O’Brien’s stated goals as a state legislator is to implement policies and programs to create jobs and reduce unemployment and facilitate the employment of students upon graduation from high school, junior college and four-year college.
Kathleen Torres Hazelton, 73, is a native of Washington, D.C. Kathleen’s father was an immigrant from Mexico. He worked as a physician for the Veterans Administration Hospital (now the Veterans Health Administration), and her family moved to different places throughout the country as her father’s assignments with different hospitals fluctuated.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Baylor University in 1974 and a degree in nursing from the Baylor University School of Nursing in 1976, she served in the United States Air Force from 1979 to 1992 as a staff nurse and certified nurse-midwife. While in the Air Force, she earned her master’s degree from the University of Utah in 1988. She and her husband met in the Air Force, and they moved to California in 2006.
In 2020, Hazelton ran as the Republican nominee for California State Senate in the Senate District 25 against incumbent Democrat Anthony Portantino. She lost rather decisively, 166,529 votes or 36 percent to Portantino’s 295,432 votes or 64 percent.
She lists “public safety, support for law enforcement, building bridges between the community and police, protection for the unborn, strong Borders, competitive, quality health care, support for our veterans, conservative water and land resources management and school choice” as the primary planks in her campaign platform.
On the latter issue, Hazelton said, “Parents should have the ability to choose moral and accurate education for our children.”
Hazelton said if elected she will work toward the “repeal of Assembly Bill 5.” AB5, known colloquially as the “gig worker bill,” requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees. “People should not lose their entire livelihood and businesses over an ill-conceived and punitive law created for the labor unions,” Hazelton said. “Special interests should not dictate how people choose to work! We should enable independent contractors to return to gainful and profitable employment.”
She said she is in favor of “lower taxes so people can maintain their homes and businesses.”
Carlos Garcia has been on the Upland City Council since he was chosen in a special election in 2020 to serve the last two years of former Councilman Ricky Felix’s term. He was reelected in 2022.
He is a graduate of Pepperdine University, with a bachelor’s degree in information technology and a master’s degree in educational technology.
Whereas Gómez-Reyes, O’Brien and Hazelton hew to the classic paradigm in which the first two as Democrats are aligned with unions and the latter as a Republican favors policies that side with the private sector and management over unions and labor when it comes to tussles over control of terms and conditions within the workplace, Garcia has confused his constituents in Upland by demonstrating himself as being highly sympathetic to unions, in particular public employee unions, in his action as a council member.
Garcia, 52, does fall within conventional GOP lines, nonetheless, as a strong supporter of law enforcement.
In this year’s Senate District 29 race, Garcia has emerged as what is being referred to as the “stealth candidate,” as he has made no pronouncement on his positions on any issues or any pending legislation.
Similarly, Garcia has not yet filed any reports with regard to his financial backing in this year’s State Senate race.
Reports emanating from his circle and those around Upland City Hall have it that he is to be heavily supported in this year’s campaign by developer Jeff Burum, who was particularly active in opposing his competition in the 2020 city council race. Burum, those affiliated with the Upland establishment said, is bankrolling an electioneering blitz that will be timed to land in mailboxes, in newspapers and in radio and television spots in late February and the first days of March, aimed at promoting Garcia into a second-place finish that will qualify him for a run-off against Gómez-Reyes in November. His apparent strategy is to hope for some untoward revelation regarding Gómez-Reyes to manifest or for her to otherwise self-destruct.
Registration in State Senate District 29 strongly favors the Democrats, with 227,323 of the district’s voters or 46.1 percent registered as Democrats, 116,170 or 23.5 percent registered as Republicans, 106,485 or 21.6 percent affiliated with no party and 8.7 percent registered with the Libertarian, Peace & Freedom, Green, American Independent or other more obscure parties.
-Mark Gutglueck

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