Daly and His Dollars Dominate the Field in the 69th Assembly District

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Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly celebrates victory in the primary race for the 69th Assembly District seat with his wife Debbie at the Case Garcia restaurant in Anaheim. (Photo by: Brendan Wiles)

County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly dominated the field of candidates vying for the 69th Assembly seat, garnering more than 40 percent of votes in a race that attracted some of the biggest dollars in state races.

Business leaders steered nearly $1 million to Daly’s campaign through independent expenditures while labor leaders spent nearly $300,000 on campaign mail against him.

Predictions of a tight race between labor leader Julio Perez and Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez for the second slot didn’t materialize. They finished third and fourth, respectively, with 17.9 percent and 16.5 percent of the vote.

Instead, both candidates came in behind the 22.5 percent won by Jose Moreno, a Latino Republican who tried to withdraw from the race a few months ago saying he feared that as a public worker at the county dealing with federal grants he may have violated a federal law restricting campaigning for office.

Yet given the district’s voter registration margins, its likely that Daly has already won the race and will represent the state’s most Latino Assembly district.

On Tuesday at the Casa Garcia Mexican restaurant in Anaheim, Daly was jubilant.

“It’s even better than I expected,” Daly said.

While Daly acknowledged that the independent expenditures were “helpful”  during the campaign, he said that his own decades of service were the key.

“I have a track record and years of experience,” Daly said. "Voters are looking for stability. They’re desperate for problem solvers. … I’m not an ideologue.”

Daly said there is no bad blood among his and the Martinez and Perez camps.

“Many people supporting Martinez and Perez are people I respect and have known for a long time,” Daly said. “My door will be open to any person who cares about Orange County,” Daly said.

Yet on Tuesday night, labor leaders supporting Perez weren’t interested in talking about olive branches.

Tefere Gebre, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, said the election was a statement by labor that it is tired of being used as an "ATM" by candidates from both parties.

He described his support for Perez as a personal beef with termed out Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Despite heavy backing from labor, one of Solorio's first moves was to join a business caucus, Gebre said.

“Are we going to recycle the same assholes over and over again?” Gebre asked. “If that's the case, then what the [expletive] am I doing here?”

Yet at Daly’s victory party, Solorio said Tuesday’s vote confirmed what he said all along, "that this is a moderate district."

Tom Umberg, another former assemblyman from the 69th District, was also at Daly’s celebration and noted that Daly had the right mix of skills for the situation in Sacramento.

“Tom is a pragmatic problem solver and exactly what Sacramento needs,” Umberg said.

As for the tension in Democratic party circles over the split between Daly and Perez camps, Umberg said it will pass.

“Everybody comes together,” he said.

— NORBERTO SANTANA JR. and ADAM ELMAHREK

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