Pulido Wins Eleventh Term But Fails to Unseat Council Majority

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Miguel Pulido cruised to an eleventh term as Santa Ana mayor Tuesday, easily besting Councilman Roman Reyna by a nearly 20-point margin.

But he failed in his effort to unseat the City Council majority that has successfully sapped his power in recent years, with council members Michele Martinez, David Benavides and Sal Tinajero trouncing the slate of candidates Pulido put up against them.

With all precincts reporting, Pulido was leading Reyna 50.7 percent to 33.6 percent.

Martinez won her race with 51.4 percent of the vote. Gilad Salmon was second with 19.5 percent and Mirna Velasquez was third with 17.9 percent.

Benavides beat challenger Alex Padilla 54.9 to 45.1 percent, and Tinajero won 63.3 to 36.7 percent over Miguel “Mike” Gonzalez.

“I will continue to work on the things I’ve been working on,” Pulido said Tuesday night at the Robin’s Nest wine bar in downtown Santa Ana. “Reinvigorating the downtown, improving public safety and bringing the streetcar to Santa Ana.”

He refused to comment on the victories by his opponents on city council.

Members of the council majority, who were holding their celebration less than two blocks away, were more verbose, saying the pressure they’ve put on the mayor in recent years will only intensify going forward.

“When I was fighting the mayor before, the gloves were on,” Martinez said. “Now the gloves are off — its bare knuckles. If he gets in the way of what’s good for the city I will shut him down.”

For the better part of two decades, Pulido — along with former City Manager Dave Ream and former Police Chief Paul Walters — had nearly total control of the city, with the city council acting as little more than a rubber stamp.

But beginning in 2012, members of the council majority, dubbed the Santa Ana Spring, began to assert themselves by, among other things, firing Walters, hiring City Manager David Cavazos, and passing a “sunshine ordinance” that required more transparency in city affairs.

Most recently, the council voted to release an investigative report that found Pulido likely committed felony conflict of interest when he engaged in a property swap with a city contractor.

The report led to investigations by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission and the Orange County District Attorney, which are still ongoing.

Despite the investigations, Pulido was never seriously threatened by Reyna, who chalked his loss up to a lack of voter education.

“It’s a shame that most voters aren’t aware of the actions of the current mayor and how detrimental they are to the city,” Reyna said Tuesday night. “But an election is an election.”

Benavides echoed Reyna, saying this election showed council majority has strong support from Santa Ana residents. However, he offered few specifics.

“We owe it to the community to stay together and move forward,” Benavides said.

Please contact David Washburn directly at dwashburn@voiceofoc.org.

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