Several short weeks after switching her party affiliation from life-long Republican to Democrat, District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes is trying to secure the endorsement of the Democratic Party of Orange County Central Committee, which will vote on it tonight.

Whether she gets it is another matter, since a number of Central Committee members object to the party giving consideration to a candidate who so recently joined the party under cicrumstances that appear opportunistic rather than principled.

Melahat Rafiel, a member of the Democratic National Committee, e-mailed this appeal to party members this weekend:

Dear Central Committee colleague –

My name is Melahat Rafiei, proud lifelong Democrat, former Executive Director of the DPOC and a two-term DNC Member alongside my new colleague Chair Briceño. I am reaching out to you in opposition to the recommendation for Denise Barnes.

Now, I do agree with our Chair that we must do everything we can to welcome new Democrats into our party. But, we also have to call a spade a spade: Denise Barnes is no Nathan Fletcher or Assemblymember Maienschein – both former Republicans who became Democrats in recent years. Denise Barnes registered as a Democrat on June 12, 2020 (21 days ago), just in time to run in a solidly Democratic district in a year that promises to bring a Democratic tsunami. Polls have Biden winning California by over 40 points.  With the hard work of every member of this body, I am certain that we will carry that lead all the way down the ballot.  Our endorsement means a lot, especially this year.

Yes, we should welcome new Democrats, but the DPOC welcome basket should not include an automatic endorsement.  That endorsement is meaningful and communicates a set of values. It needs to be earned, and Denise Barnes needs to do that — like all the other DPOC-endorsed Democrats, seasoned or fresh. This body has a strong record of holding Democrats accountable, including long time Democrats like Irvine Councilwoman Farrah Khan and Anaheim Councilmember Jordan Brandman. And that is exactly what we should do in this case.

Councilmember Barnes has had plenty of opportunities to show that she shares our party’s values, and at every opportunity, she has failed. Instead she demonstrated that she DOES NOT share those values.  Her voting record speaks for itself.

Denise Barnes’ Voting Record:

    1. Needle Exchange: July 14, 2020 – Councilmember Barnes voted YES to permanently ban any needle exchange programs in the city. She joined ALL of her Republican colleagues in this vote which was taken just 32 days AFTER she registered to be a Democrat.
    1. Cannabis: June 9, 2020 – Councilmember Barnes voted NO to regulate cannabis sales and distribution in Anaheim. For those who don’t know, Anaheim has a thriving illicit market, which endangers consumers and is just plain bad for neighborhoods. This was also a vote against the efforts of our friends at UFCW 324 as well.
    1. Rent Control: August 28, 2019 – Councilmember Barnes voted NO on a resolution in support of AB 1482 (Chiu) to institute rent control statewide. The Governor signed this bill into law in October 2019.
    1. LGBTQ Pride Flag: January 15, 2019; December 18, 2018; June 6, 2017; and May 23, 2017 – Councilmember Barnes voted NO to flying the LGBTQ Pride Flag on the City Hall Flag Pole from May 22nd (Harvey Milk Day) through Pride Month in June. She has had 4 opportunities to show her support for the LGBTQ community and has chosen to vote against them EVERY SINGLE TIME. Are we really going to endorse a person, Democrat or Republican, who can’t support flying the Pride Flag?

In 2016, Denise Barnes was a Republican running for office for the first time. She sought and received the endorsement of the conservative, anti-choice California Republican Assembly.  Click to see their endorsements for 2016.  If you’ve never heard of the CRA and don’t know about their ultra-right wing views, you can learn about what they believe in by clicking here. Her desire to seek support from ultra-right wing groups didn’t stop with the CRA.  She also sought and secured the endorsement of yet another extreme anti-choice, anti-women group known as The Orange County Pro-Family Candidate Campaign.  Their highly selective endorsement went to her and other Republicans like Don Wagner, Christina Shea, Tim Shaw, Tri Ta — all candidates this body aimed to defeat. She certainly didn’t display any of our values then.  When she ran in 2016, Denise Barnes unsuccessfully sought the endorsement of the Republican Party of Orange County. Now she is seeking our coveted endorsement without displaying any of our party’s ideals or values. Has anyone even asked her who she supported for President in 2016?

For all of these reasons, I believe that the Democratic Party of Orange County should not vote to endorse Denise Barnes for this race. She has not earned it yet.

Democratically Yours,

Melahat Rafiei

The Democratic Party’s center of gravity has shifted significantly to the Left in recent months. Denise Barnes is a lifelong Republican who four short years ago garnered the endorsements of some of the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. It stretches credibility to the breaking point to believe she has completed such a long and dramatic philosophical journey in such a compressed period of time. The more credible explanation is opportunistic political advantage seeking re-election as part of Councilman Jose F. Moreno’s slate in a council district with a 20-point Democratic voter registration.