Rose Espinoza, a Democrat and 17-year member of the La Habra City Council, has announced her candidacy for the 4th Supervisor District. This is her second try for this seat: in 2006 she challenged then-incumbent Supervisor Chris Norby, losing 72.1% to 29.1%.
In a press released sent out yesterday, Espinoza said:
I’m running because our 4th district needs a community-minded voice at the table. As a lifelong resident of the 4th district, I made time to give back to a community that has given much to me. I first got involved going door-to-door discussing gang activity in our neighborhood and formed a neighborhood watch program. When local students were struggling with school, I started Rosie’s Garage, an award-winning nonprofit that helps our kids with tutoring, mentoring, and deters from joining gangs. On the La Habra City Council, I’ve dedicated the same energy and devotion to the community.
There are many issues facing our county, notably transparency, affordable housing and homelessness, among many others. I will continue fighting for you for a better Orange County. I hope to see you on the campaign trail.
Espinoza is the fourth significant candidate to join the contest to succeed 4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who is termed out in 2018. The others are Espinoza’s council colleague, La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw, a Republican; former GOP Assemblywoman Young Kim; and Democrat Joe Kerr, the former president of the Orange County firefighters union who moved into the 4th Supervisor District from the wealthy South County enclave of Coto De Caza.
Espinoza’s entry complicates the dynamics of the race for Kerr, who had been the only Democrat in the race. A number of Democratic elected officials and labor unions have already rallied around Kerr, including the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA) and the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association.
At the same time, the Democratic Party has become the party of identity politics. The party establishment supporting a white male carpetbagger over a Hispanic woman who has lived in the district her whole life and been a local elected official since 2000 makes for strange optics, especially since the district is trending both Latino and Democratic. The 4th District partisan breakdown is 40% Democrat, 31.8% Republican and 24.2% No Party Preference; Latinos comprise 33% of the electorate.
Take, for example, one of Kerr’s backers – Anaheim Union High School District Trustee Al Jabbar. Jabber is a county employee and an OCEA activist. He is also a huge proponent of supporting minority candidates. Jabbar is also active in the New American Leaders Project, a progressive political group whose mission is to “fight systemic white supremacy by getting women, immigrants and other underrepresented Americans on the ballot and into power.” Does someone like Jabbar go with his union loyalties, or follow his social justice warrior instincts?
Espinoza won’t be able to match fundraising muscle of the Kerr campaign or the independent expenditure capacity of Kerr-allied special interests like the OCEA. However, now that there is a Democrat alternative to Kerr, it will be interesting to watch which way Democrat local electeds and activists in the 4th District go.