In Final Hours, Candidates Depend on Ground Game

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Heavily financed political action committees have played a gargantuan role in this year’s election, paying for a flood of campaign signs, robocalls and mailers that never seemed to end.

But as is always the case, the final days and hours are all about the ground game.

Over the weekend in the Santa Ana mayoral race, incumbent Mayor Miguel Pulido and challenger Councilman David Benavides  had cadres of volunteers manning phone banks. Pulido was personally making phone calls to residents, according to termed-out Assemblyman Jose Solorio, a longtime Pulido ally.

Meanwhile, in addition to calls from volunteers for the Benavides campaign, residents also received robocalls from the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome.

Pulido campaigned at Saturday night’s Dia de Los Muertos festival, the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead when thousands packed the West Fourth Street corridor to view colorful shrines for dead relatives. Pulido greeted residents and signed “zombified” pictures of himself from a booth run by Santanero Zine, a downtown art magazine.

During the day, volunteers from the Teamsters and Laborers unions walked precincts in central Santa Ana for Pulido, passing out door-hangers promoting a “jobs slate” that includes Pulido, according to Solorio.

“The mayor has had an aggressive GOTV [get out the vote] campaign,” Solorio said.

Benavides and dozens of volunteers, including the Valley High School football team, waged a precinct walking campaign over the weekend for the challenger as they had during previous weekends. Mexican Olympian and Santa Ana resident Jesse Ruiz, a Benavides supporter, has driven a mobile billboard promoting Benavides and council candidate Roman Reyna 900 miles around the city, according to a Benavides Facebook post.

“We’re doing it all, and we’re getting ready for a big win Tuesday night,” Benavides said.

Benavides mayoral campaign is part of what Councilman Sal Tinajero in August coined the “Santa Ana Spring,” a coalition of candidates and the council majority, which opposes Pulido and wants to shift the focus in City Hall to transparency in government and accessibility to residents, according to coalition council members.

And while the coalition hasn’t managed to spark a widespread, grassroots revolution among residents, Tinajero and others say that remaining united against Pulido throughout the tumult of the campaign season is a positive sign. Tinajero said that even if Benavides loses, if Reyna and council majority-backed candidate Eric Alderete win council seats, it will be a victory for the coalition.

Three council seats are open. One is held by Councilman Carlos Bustamante, who is stepping down amid his sex crimes scandal, and another by Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez, who is termed out. Councilman Vincent Sarmiento is running for reelection.

“There’s a launching point when you have wood and you have a flame, and although that flame didn’t grow to a roaring blaze, you still have a flame,” Tinajero said. If Alderete and Reyna win council seats, the flame will become a “blaze,” Tinajero said.

City Hall observers have cast the Anaheim City Council race as the most important  in recent memory because of issues like corporate tax subsidies. Candidates on competing slates have dispatched dozens of volunteers to walk precincts.

Nine candidates are competing for two City Council seats left open by termed-out council members Harry Sidhu and Lorri Galloway. Two slates of candidates — one backed by Mayor Tom Tait and another by former Mayor Curt Pringle — are considered the top-tier competitors.

The Tait-backed slate comprises former labor leader John Leos and former Councilwoman Lucille Kring, while the Pringle-supported slate consists of schools trustee Jordan Brandman and Steve Chavez Lodge. Hill International director of public affairs. The Pringle slate is also heavily financed by business interests, especially the Disneyland Resort, and by the city’s police union.

Candidate John Leos, who is backed by Tait and some public employee unions, had visited 150 homes by 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the candidate said. Around 15 volunteers for Leos were also walking precincts.

One elderly woman who answered her door said that Leos was the “only candidate who’s ever come by” in the 60 years she has lived there.

“I think [the ground campaign] is going to make all the difference in my campaign,” Leos said.

Meanwhile, candidate Jordan Brandman, also a schools trustee, had about 21 volunteers walking precincts at a central Anaheim neighborhood district known as The Colony, according to Bill Taormina, a high-profile Anaheim businessman who allowed his offices to be Brandman’s volunteer headquarters over the weekend.

Brandman and his campaign handler Dennis DeSnoo did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek. You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/nicholasgerda.

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