Members of the Orange County Democratic Party Central Committee Monday night voted overwhelmingly to endorse Greg Diamond’s candidacy for district attorney, with members saying it was a courageous challenge to incumbent Republican Tony Rackauckas.
Then two hours later, more than two-thirds of the committee voted to strip Diamond of his North County party district vice chairmanship.
“I think that endorsing me on the one hand and saying I’m not fit to be an officer on the other will send an interesting message,” Diamond told party leaders at the Plumbers and Steamfitters union hall in Orange.
Diamond’s ouster was prompted by demands from labor groups, particularly building trade unions, that he be stripped of his leadership position because his activists group claims the Anaheim Convention Center bonds were illegally approved and has sued to invalidate them, threatening a project the unions hope will create hundreds of jobs for their members.
But Monday night's debate revealed that the union pressure might simply have been the final straw for Diamond, who many see as a liability to the party because of his tendency for presumptuous actions and over-the-top rhetoric, whether it is at central committee meetings, in public appearances or on a local blog.
A two-page letter circulated at the committee meeting complained that Diamond had unilaterally appointed himself acting chair of the resolutions committee after declaring that the appointed chair was ineligible. It also claimed that he represented himself as party vice chair on blogs and at city council meetings and that he opposed Anaheim’s Democratic mayoral candidate Lorri Galloway in favor of Republican incumbent Tom Tait.
One committee member called Diamond a “bully” who “threatened people.”
“Are you aware that he put on a hand puppet show at a televised [Anaheim] City Council meeting?” said party Chairman Henry Vandermeir, who had pushed for the removal. “These kinds of behaviors as a party officer do not reflect who we are.”
Diamond’s theatrical and defiant personality was on full display when he responded to the allegations. He didn’t respond to some of the specifics of the complaint, declaring instead that the committee had robbed him of due process rights.
The 10-day notice of the action wasn’t specific enough, and he had very little time — less than 15 minutes — to defend himself, Diamond asserted.
In response to allegations that he wasn’t doing anything to assist Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva’s campaign, Diamond said he was busy organizing a push for a state bill to place a veterans cemetery in Orange County. The passing of this bill would do far more to help Quirk-Silva’s election prospects, he argued.
Diamond also asserted that his challenges during executive committee sessions were intended to stop Vandermeir from “consolidating power” through regular violations of the party’s bylaws.
“I certainly don’t think I’m a bully,” Diamond said. “I say things people are often afraid to say.”
Diamond’s supporters said his lawsuit to stop the convention center expansion wasn’t about stopping union jobs but rather a valiant effort to stamp out corruption at City Hall. They said the bonds floated for the project were far larger than necessary and needed to be challenged.
“The point is, we are all good Democrats. We all believe in good union jobs,” said Jeff Latourneau, a Diamond ally who had run against Vandermeir in the race for chair.
And they argued that Diamond’s challenges were part of politics.
“That is part of the democratic process,” said Anita Narayana, party secretary.
The vote to remove Diamond was 35-15, just one vote more than the necessary two-thirds threshold.
Given the sharp split, there were last-minute scrambles by the different camps to manipulate the parliamentary process and swing a victory in their direction, including questions over whether a few couldn’t vote because of unpaid dues. The bills were paid just seconds before the vote was called.
In the end, Vandermeir’s camp barely edged Diamond’s. But even Vandermeir called it a hollow victory.
“This was not a good night for the Democratic Party, regardless of how it happened,” Vandermeier said, adding that his focus now was to “move forward.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the Orange County Democratic Party Central Committee's meeting location.
The article had also stated that Diamond is involved in a lawsuit to stop the Anaheim Convention Center Project. The suit's goal is actually to invalidate the project's bonds, which Diamond claims were illegally approved.