It’s been rumored for many weeks that Martin Lopez, a staffer for militant UNITE-HERE Local 11, planned to run for Anaheim City Council in District 4 against Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring.  Although he hasn’t filed formal paperwork, it’s clear from several sources he is going to be a candidate.

Here’s a March 17 post from his Facebook page, and subsequent comments from his friends and supporters:

martin lopez fb running

Martin Lopez fb running comments

Local leftist blogger Vern Nelson writes in a comment to an earlier post that Lopez has personally confirmed his intention to run for city council.

Lopez has been a leader of the left-wing coalition that successfully pushed for replacing at-large council elections — which tended to favor center-right candidates — with by-district council elections, which members of the coalition believe will enable them to elect a left-of-center council majority.  He is a firm believer in the retrograde progressive idea that authentic representation in government is a function of race and ethnicity.

He was appointed by then-Councilmember Lorri Galloway (a Democrat and UNITE-HERE ally) to the Anaheim Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, which was formed in 2012 in the wake of Jose F. Moreno’s CVRA lawsuit demanding by-district council elections, to make recommendations on possible changes to how Anaheim elect’s council elections. During one of the first meetings of the committee, Lopez publicly stated he thought it was a waste of time and he preferred preferred bypassing a city-wide election and directly imposing by-district council elections. Not coincidentally, that was also the position of Jose Moreno and the other plaintiffs.

Lopez works as recording secretary and political organizer for UNITE-HERE Local 11, which exists on the more radical end of the union spectrum. UNITE-HERE supported legislation raising the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour and works for municipal ordinances mandating a $15-plus minimum wage for hotel workers. It advocates for “retention” ordinances, which undermines competition and small businesses: for example, if a janitorial service wins a contract for building maintenance, a retention ordinance would force it to add to its payroll for 90 days all the employees of the service it replaces. Lopez’s union supported Proposition 47, the liberal 2014 initiative that is contributing to rising crime rates, hostility to enforcement of immigration laws and advocacy of quick citizenship for illegal immigrants are out-of-step with most voters, regardless of their political party.

As one of his supporters gushes in the above Facebook post, Lopez’s election would give UNITE-HERE direct representation on the Anaheim City Council – which entails serious ramifications for Anaheim’s economy. Although there are thousands of hotel workers in Anaheim, most of them are not unionized. The only hotels where workers are represented by UNITE-HERE are the Anaheim Sheraton, the Anaheim Hilton and the Disney properties – a situation the militant hotel and food service workers union wants to rectify.

UNITE-HERE also represents Aramark employees, and Aramark is the food service vendor at the city-owned Anaheim Convention Center.  Aramark was also the food service vendor for two other city-owned venues, Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, until 2014 when the stadium switched to Legends and the Honda Center brought its food service in-house. UNITE-HERE unsuccessfully sought council intervention on its behalf against the Honda Center.

It would be awkward for an employee of the union representing employees of Anaheim-owned facilities to also serve on the Anaheim City Council. Even more so given that one of Lopez’s  supervisors is Ada Briceno – the UNITE-HERE Local 11 second in command and interim executive director of the union’s sister organization OCCORD – who frequently lobbies city government.

The Anti-STR Campaign
While his politics are well to the left of the average Anaheim voters, Lopez has several factors in his favor. He has been a leader in the grass-roots campaign against short-term rentals (STRs). District 4 is the epicenter of the mushrooming growth of STRs in Anaheim. Lopez lives in Sherwood Village, a condominium community next to the Anaheim Convention Center where STRs have exploded. UNITE-HERE, Jose F. Moreno and others progressive activists have taken advantage of this opportunity to forge an alliance with homeowners who would ordinarily have little in common with the radical politics of that coalition.  The longer the issue festers and burns, the closer those ties become – generating a pool of potential volunteers Lopez can tap who aren’t chanting, red-shirt wearing UNITE-HERE activists.

There’s also the network of donors and activists built during the course of the by-district elections battle – which entailed four years of non-stop organizing and fundraising. There are only 15,000 voters in District 4, and fewer than 6,000 of them voted in the last council election. While turnout will be higher in a presidential election year, that is a small voter universe on which to train voter contact – via both mail and walkers.

Few voters know who Lopez is or how radical his politics are, although that will almost certainly change during the campaign.

Splitting The Progressive Vote
Lopez doesn’t have the progressive landscape in District 4 to himself. Another activist member of the Anaheim Left, Rev. Arturo Ferraras, has also filed to run in District 4.  To the extent he is able to communicate with voters, his campaign themes will overlap with Lopez’s.

Also, if one accepts the progressive notion that representation if a function of race and Latinos vote their ethnicity, Ferraras and Lopez will splinter that vote. Ferraras is Filipino, so racial bean-counters can argue over whether he is “really” Latino.

Furthermore, there’s the reality of an incumbent on the ballot: Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring. She will have the advantages of superior name recognition, incumbency and a records of winning council elections (and always as a non-incumbent). Multi-candidate ballots (EMS professional Robert Williams is also running) generally help the incumbent by splintering anti-incumbent votes.

Kring will be able to count on the support of the business community, police and fire – plus a network of resident support built up over two decades.

An interesting question is whether Mayor Tom Tait will recruit his own candidate in District 4, or support (overtly or covertly) Lopez.

Stay tuned…