OPINION: Why Alan Clayton is wrong to leave out other Latino candidates

Editor's note: the following is a rebuttal to an op-ed that appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Alan Clayton is misinformed, or at the very least ill-advised, on who is considered a viable candidate to succeed Supervisor Don Knabe upon his exit from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2016.

In a disheveled, rudimentary, and propaganda-laden analysis, positioned as an editorial, Clayton makes claim that a recently elected state Senator, Tony Mendoza, with less than two months of on-the-job experience, is the only viable candidate to fill the seat.

Clayton’s argument is based upon the thesis that the next supervisor representing the 4th District should be Latino.

By his own estimation, Clayton derives that, “Latinos should increase to over 32 percent by November 2016 [while] White eligible voters should be approximately 39 percent in November 2016”.  I am not certain as to his logic in demanding a Latino must be elected, but I do agree that there are several qualified and eligible potential Latino candidates ready and able to lead the district; just not the one Clayton is peddling.

A well-rounded list would have included  Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia with exemplary leadership qualities and progressive ideas that, if implemented, could reap tremendous benefits for the district. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez is no doubt qualified and has the aptitude to become a real champion for the district.  And Mendoza’s opponent in the state Senate race, Mario Guerra, who is well liked by members of both parties and who, as Mayor of Downey, transformed the city creating thousands of new jobs through economic development. Guerra also came very close to upsetting Mendoza in last year’s State Senate race despite an enormous disadvantage in both registered voters and campaign funding, as Guerra was outspent nearly 3-1 by Mendoza in the race.

These are only three of many possible alternative candidates with proven track records, whereas Mr. Clayton’s “only possible” candidate of suggestion is mired in controversy, such as a state review of money laundering accusations, being removed by fellow legislators from the Latino Caucus, a request to carry a weapon on his person that was denied because it lacked basis, and a documented mishandling of finances resulting in a foreclosure on his home in Sacramento. This is not a personal attack on Mr. Mendoza, as he is perfectly pleasant and friendly as a human being and a wonderful husband and father. Rather, this is a refutation of Mr. Clayton’s assertion that he is the only possible, viable Latino candidate for a very important position.

So, why would Mr. Clayton advocate a candidate with such a bad reputation and an as-yet undetermined record in the state Senate?

We all know too well the downfall of elected officials who crave their next seat without a body of work on which to stand. One such example is former Congresswoman Laura Richardson, whose controversial political career followed her from a brief stint on the Long Beach City Council, to a briefer stint in the State Assembly, followed by a quick leap to Congress where her financial misdealing led to a Congressional ethics review and her eventual downfall.

I’m sure Mr. Clayton would agree that ethnicity is not the singular basis for representation, and that vision, ability to serve, and a list of accomplishments in their current and previous roles should be the preferred metrics for a candidate (a la Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti).

And, if Senator Mendoza should consider a run, as he has indicated in a recent email to supporters, for the Supervisorial seat, doesn’t he owe the voters of the 32nd Senate District a qualitative amount of time serving their needs instead of cashing in on brief time served?

After all Mr. Mendoza did state in a recent letter to constituents of the Senate District he currently represents, “…it has been a long two years without the communities of the 32nd District having a voice in Sacramento. Representation is long overdue, and I am ready and committed to serve you.”

So the question to Mr. Clayton is this: Has Senator Mendoza become non-committal and already switched his service vow from the people to himself?

And to the voters living in the 4th District: Aren’t we tired of self-serving career politicians?

I know I am.

Kevin Perez-Allen is Executive Vice-President for a small public affairs firm and lives in Whittier.