A panel of political pundits Friday predicted organized labor’s largess will grow at the Board of Supervisors, more Asian voters will go for Republicans, and abysmally low voter turnouts will be the norm except in presidential elections.
With more than a century of experience in Southern California politics gathered in the Courtyard Marriott in Baldwin Park for a program billed as “Election 2014 in Review: The San Gabriel Valley and Beyond,” five top political analysts traded opinions on the future of regional politics.
Most agreed that the election of former U.S. Labor Secretary under President Barack Obama, La Puente-native Hilda Solis who replaced Gloria Molina, and labor-backed candidate Sheila Kuehl who replaced Zev Yaroslavsky on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month would increase the power of public employee labor unions, such as the SEIU and the California Teachers Association.
“Absolutely labor won and they will have access,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles and a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University.
Hal Dash, chairman and CEO of Cerell Associates, a political consulting firm in Los Angeles, said the two new supervisors, along with veteran Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas may function as a pro-labor bloc. “What do these new supervisors owe to labor?” he asked.
The election of several Asian Republican women to positions of power in Orange County and eastern Los Angeles County stirred debate.
“They are showing Asian-American voters there can be a path to election within the GOP,” said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book and a Republican political consultant.
Hoffenblum cited the election of Diamond Bar councilwoman Ling-Ling Chang to the Assembly as an example, as well as Young Kim of north Orange County taking the seat of Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, winning the 34 state senatorial district. Nguyen took the place of Democrat Lou Correa who termed out.
But Guerra called the election of Asian candidates within the Republican Party “an anomaly” and said the statistics show Asians are voting more Democratic. “The Republican Party is losing Asians to a faster degree than Latinos,” he added.
Mike Shimpock, a consultant to Democratic candidates with SG&A Campaigns, said in an interview that many Asian voters were swayed by a Republican email blitz over SCA-5, a ill-fated Democratic legislative effort to bring back ethnic and racial quotas to state university enrollment.
Shimpock also said Asian voters are more likely to vote for other Asian candidates, regardless of party affiliation, more so than Latino Democrats who will vote for the candidate in their party even if he or she is not Latino.
Most of the panelists said Democrat voters in the San Gabriel Valley are more moderate than Democrat voters along coastal Los Angeles and in San Francisco. Dash described San Gabriel Valley registered Democrats as similar to those in the San Joaquin Valley.
Many were frustrated when moderator Zach Courser, associate director of the Dreier Roundtable at Claremont McKenna College, asked them why Los Angeles County voter turnout hit a record low of 25.2 percent in November. The previous low was 43 percent.
The experts attributed the dwindling interest to a lack of wedge issues in the county and a lackluster gubernatorial election at the top of the ticket easily won by Jerry Brown.
“It is apocalyptic. It (low voter turnout) warps elections and alters those who show up at the polls,” Shimpock said.
Guerra, half-jokingly, said the only way to increase voter participation during off-election years is to hold a lottery and reward one voter with a $100,000 cash prize.
He more seriously suggested combining municipal elections that take place in the Spring with November elections. Voters visited by city council candidates from Claremont to Pasadena in February and March will most likely say: “You’re late. We just had an election” not realizing city elections are often held in March and April, he said.
Guerra said statistics show Los Angeles County voters vote in big numbers during presidential elections only. “People turn out to vote when they think it matters and they only think the president matters,” he told the moderator.