OCEA’s Next Target: Tom Daly?

To the last I grapple with thee; from  hell’s heart I stab at thee!”

— Captain Ahab in Moby Dick

I’ve heard from multiple reliable sources that the Orange County Employees Association has fixed on its next target: Assemblyman-elect (and former Anaheim mayor and councilman) Tom Daly. The goal: find and fund a candidate to challenge Daly for re-election in 2014. The focus is apparently on Santa Ana Councilman Sal Tinajero, with a Anaheim City School District Trustee (and ACLU litigant) Dr. Jose Moreno another mentioned possibility.

This would be of a piece with the OCEA’s recent shift away from its traditional don’t-let-the-perfect-be-the-enemy-of-the-good-enough approach to politics. The OCEA’s expensive and failed attempt to elect union staffer Julio Perez in AD69 is an example. Perez had the requisite left-wing ideological qualities — “There’s not less money in the economy, there’s just less money in government coffers” — but little else to mark him as the man to beat Daly. And so he didn’t.

I’m going to go out on a climb and say this is an ill-advised strategy likely to end in expensive failure. For one thing, expensive failure has been something of a hallmark of OCEA political strategy in recent years. Half a million dollars in two failed, back-to-back attempts to elect John Leos to the Anaheim City Council.  Around $300,000 for Julio Perez to place third in AD69 $200,000 in IEs against Shawn Nelson in the 2010 supervisorial special election. That’s just the last two years.

True, OCEA did defeat the proposed Costa Mesa charter, Measure V. But obtaining a “no” vote on a charter measure that was placed before voters in a fairly hasty manner – especially when you are outspending the “yes” side by order of magnitude — is not political genius. Confusion and doubt are the stalwart allies of any “no” campaign.

Even in Costa Mesa, both conservative, pro-outsourcing incumbents retained their seats, and their ally, Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy, ran a strong race and is strongly positioned to win a seat in two years. Anti-outsourcing candidate Sandy Genis is a former councilmember who has retained a strong profile in the community and would almost certainly have won even absent OCEA support.

The point is that it is hard to see the point in OCEA declaring jihad on Tom Daly. He ran far ahead of the candidate field in the June primary, and romped to victory in November. The top-two primary is tailor-made for a Daly’s brand of centrist, bipartisan coalition politics. He was the top priority of the California business community, which spent enormous sums in pro-Daly IEs.

And he’s going to be an Assemblyman for 12 years. That is a long time for the OCEA to have earned the hostility of the Democratic Assemblyman from central Orange County.

Who knows? It’s 14 months until filing opens for AD69. We’ll see if OCEA is still in Captain Ahab mode at that time.

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  1. “I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market.”

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