Wu: Drama in the 74th District race

OK, before I get started, let me start with some disclaimers.

First, before you say how horrible a reporter I am, I am not a reporter. I'm an opinion columnist who writes what I believe.

Got it?

Second, I've known Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) since about 2004 and consider him a friend. I've known Assembly candidate Robert Rush since 2006 and consider him a friend. I've known Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle since 2006 and consider our relationship contentious, at best.

Each of them is running for the 74th District, an Assembly seat that spans Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach.

And, I should note, I have never taken one dime as a political consultant from any of them, though Rush once made a donation to a political action committee for which I volunteered as a spokesman.

So on to the show.

Newport Beach attorney Keith Carlson, who is also a friend, was running for the 74th Assembly District seat until a bunch of influential Republicans "talked him out" of the race.

It's a very common thing. The reasoning was the two conservatives in the race — Mansoor and Carlson — would split the vote so that the liberal Republican, Daigle, would slip right through onto Sacramento. So Carlson, for the sake of the conservatives, backed out.

Enter Rush, a Democrat. With his presence in the race, Daigle's strategy of courting the Democrats, independents and liberal Republicans is jeopardized. Daigle and Mansoor will now have to battle over the Republican votes to make it to November.

So where would the unions play? You would think that they would support the Democrat. That's what unions do, right?

Well, not so fast.

After receiving his certificate of completion from the Orange County Labor Federation's Candidate Academy, Rush met with OCLF Executive Director Tefere Gabre and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West Regional Political Organizer Julian Quinonez in an attempt to get their support.

What he got was quite different.

Rush claims they told him that he should drop out, saying that Daigle would be easier to work with.

Rush also says that Quinonez told him he had a lunch meeting with her two weeks prior.

But that wasn't all.

Rush said that Quinonez told him that if he stayed in, the race would get negative, to which Gebre stated that OCLF wasn't going to spend money against him, but that the other unions might.

Wow, right?

I made some phone calls to verify this and get comments from Quinonez and Gebre. I also sent emails to Daigle for comment.

Gebre told me that the union's only goal is to remove Mansoor from office and that Rush's presence in the race would jeopardize their chances of removing him.

In addition, Gebre told me that he never implied to Rush that other unions would probably spend money to defeat him.

Quinonez confirmed meeting Daigle for lunch, but then qualified that by saying he had personally invited each of the candidates in for meetings.

Mansoor was the only one who did not respond, he said.

So I emailed Mansoor and his campaign manager, Chad Morgan.

Both said that they had not received any such invitation, but Mansoor would love to meet with Quinonez. I later heard from SEIU's communications director, who said that the SEIU's political director said that Quinonez never made such an overture to Mansoor.

I replied that Quinonez told me directly by telephone that he had, only to hear, "I don't know what to tell you."

Quinonez said that the SEIU had made "no decision on the 74th Assembly District race," and said, "no comment," on everything else.

Daigle did not respond to my week of emails seeking confirmation of the lunch.

So there you go. Drama in the 74th.

Unions trying to chase Rush out of the race to support Daigle, claiming that it would get ugly for Rush if he stays in.

Quinonez confirming a meeting with Daigle, but saying that was normal because he even invited Mansoor in for a meeting, too.

But then you have the SEIU political director saying that Quinonez never made such an invitation.

Stay tuned. There should be more and more fun as we get closer to the June primary.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page.

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