Newsmakers with JR
Notebook: A Political Plagiarism Mystery; Wussup with Mollie? Doomsday Looms for House Dems
Not since John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day -- July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence -- has there been such a political coincidence as recently surfaced in Santa Barbara's 2022 election campaign.
Amazing but true, two local candidates -- one for the state Legislature and one for county school superintendent -- provided reporters with virtually identical statements about the rationale for their campaigns without, each says, peeking at the other's paper.
On Friday, March 11, former Supervisor Mike Stoker announced he is running for Santa Barbara's 37th district seat in the Assembly, and included this statement to supporters and the media, as reported by Josh Molina at Noozhawk:
"Whether you're Democrat, Independent or Republican, if you think California is headed in the right direction don't vote for me...But if you think California is headed in the wrong direction and you want to see our state take a reset and rethink these policies, if you think California is worth saving and turning things around ... then I am your man."
Four days later, teacher Christy Lozano spoke to the Independent about her just-launched campaign for County Superintendent of Schools, and stated the following during the March 15 interview with staff reporter Jun Starkey:
“Whether you’re Democrat, Independent, or Republican, if you think schools are headed in the right direction, don’t vote for me. But if you think our schools are headed in the wrong direction and you want a reset and rethink of school policies…then I am your candidate."
Coincidence? You be the judge.
Do great minds think that alike? We phoned up Stoker, the first to utter the immortal verbiage above, and he expressed bafflement at the similarity, saying that he had only recently met Lozano and spoken to her just briefly.
"I've been around a long time and if you know me, you know I write my own stuff," he said, "and I wrote my own campaign announcement."
A short time later, Newsmakers emailed Lozano, seeking her help in unraveling the mystery.
"LOL," she wrote back. "Your question is a compliment, while I admire Mike Stoker, this is my statement."
We sought clarification in a follow-up email, asking specifically if there had been any contact or communications with Mike or his campaign involved in crafting her comments,
"Jerry, draw what conclusions you wish but your comments and assumptions are yours," she wrote back. "So, in the court of Jerry Roberts I have been clear with my messaging to voters continuing to state that I don't believe schools are headed in the right direction of which many parents and teachers share the same concern."
Mulling the timeless phrase, "non-denial denial," Newsmakers took one more stab at solving the puzzle last night, asking Lozano for "yes" or ."no" answers to several key questions, including:
Did you see Mike Stoker's comments before you gave your statement to the Independent?
Do you wish to claim you wrote your comments yourself?
At post time, Christy hadn't responded. Update: Lozano responded late last night but, alas, didn't answer the questions we ask. Instead she wrote this: "I think a great story for you to use your sleuthing skills for would be figuring out who hired Molly (sic) Culver to sue me and try to undermine and destroy our democratic process." So there's that.
P.S. At one point, we also asked Lozano for the name and contact info for her campaign manager so we could discuss the nuts and bolts of her bid for superintendent. "As to my campaign advisor, that is internal campaign information," she responded. Which...huh?.
The litigious Mollie Culver. Lozano is running as a conservative challenger -- think anti-vax mandates, anti-woke racism instruction,, anti-sex ed -- to incumbent superintendent Susan Salcido.
(Issues aside, a victory would come with a nice salary bump: Christy made about $108,000 in salary and benefits as a physical education teacher in 2019, the last year for which data is available on the government transparency website CalSalaries; Susan made $278,000 in total compensation the same year, according to the site).
As political junkies already know, Lozano was successful this week in legally staying in the race, defeating a lawsuit, filed under the name of Democratic political consultant Mollie Culver, that sought to strike her name from the ballot.
The Good Golly Ms. Mollie suit argued that Christy should not be allowed to run because she lacks the proper credential to qualify formally as a school administrator - although she does have a credential that authorizes her to seek employment as an administrator.
In a first-rate piece of enterprise lawyering, her attorney, John Thyne III, argued that Lozano's campaign represents her effort to obtain such employment - and that winning the superintendent's post would complete her certificate for qualification. As the philosopher Agrippa might have said, circulus in probando.
In a quick ruling that beat the deadline for printing voting materials by one day, Judge Colleen Sterne bought Thyne's argument, ruling that his client's name should remain on the ballot and leaving to voters the task of sorting the matter out.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the lawsuit was that Culver, a hard-nosed campaign operative who much prefers operating below the radar, emerged as the plaintiff.
Mollie's been a little spotty about returning our calls lately, but the Angry Poodle appears to have solved this mystery in the Indy, tracing the matter to her longtime connection to Jack O'Connell, an ex-SB representative in Sacramento, as well as a former California Superintendent of Public Instruction. From Nick Welsh's column:
Representing Culver is a Sacramento law firm that frequently represents the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, on the board of which incumbent Salcido sits.
Culver is also exceptionally tight with former State Assemblymember, former State Senator, and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who still works closely with the aforementioned statewide cabal of county superintendents. The play here looks to be that Jack called Mollie, who sued Joe to keep Christy off the ballot. Got it?
Indeed we do.
Big wave threatens Dems. Big brains Back East who follow such things tell us that Democrats are headed for a major wipeout in November's mid-term congressional elections, with Trump-allied Republicans all-but-certain to flip the House from blue to red - and well-positioned to take back the Senate too.
Get ready for Joe Biden's impeachment, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and Intelligence Committee Chair Marjorie Taylor Greene (ok we made that last one up - but nothing would surprise Newsmakers at this point).
There are all sorts of explanations for this state of affairs - midterms are historically a referendum on the party of the incumbent President, which nearly always loses seats and, shockingly, Biden's approval rating, is worse than Trump's was at this point in his presidency.
You could look it up.
The common sense problem. Beyond that, it's also a plain fact that independents, moderate Republicans and even some centrist Democrats who backed Biden have been turned off by some of the far-left positions and actions taken by the president's progressive "allies" in the Congress, led by the reliably annoying AOC, as demonstrated clearly by a just out NBC News poll.
The pundit who has most consistently and convincingly made that case is the Democratic political scientist Ruy Texeira, who argues in "The Liberal Patriot," his Substack newsletter, that Dems have "abandoned common sense" on issues like defunding the police, transgender surgery for teens and categorical accusations about racism, and thereby are "losing the plot relative to the median voter." Texeira writes:
It’s truly amazing the extent to which Democrats have become associated with the view that disparities in American society can only be attributed to oppression and discrimination, particularly when it comes to race. No other explanation need apply.
But this defies common sense and is not the way normal voters see it, including normal nonwhite voters...It may be easy to convince left-leaning academics and progressive activists that the mere existence of disparities is proof of discrimination and racism. But the American people are a harder sell.
Newsmakers sez: check it out.
Images: Christy Lozano (SB Independent); Mike Stoker (Independent); Dems on the edge (TheHill.com).