I received an email this week from an Asian activist who was wondering why it is that the Fullerton City Council has no Asians or Latinos on it, even though they make up over 56% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
That is a very good question. The elections in Fullerton are done on an at large basis, which is to say that everyone in town votes for the Council candidates as a whole. Other cities may require candidates to live in particular districts or areas, and the voters may in those cases be able to vote only on their ward-specific candidates.
Critics say that leads to divided Councils where nothing gets done. However ward-specific elections can also increase minority representation as some districts, or wards, may have higher concentrations of minority voters.
It’s not like Asians and Latinos are not running for the Fullerton City Council. In fact there may be something else at play here as well.
In last year’s November General Election, the top four vote-getters for the Fullerton City Council were all white, according to Smart Voter. Three of them won – Bruce Whitaker, Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory (pictured above). Travis Kiger, who had won a short term City Council seat during last year’s June Recall/Election, barely lost, to Flory.
The fifth place candidate was a Latino, Rick Alvarez. He was followed by Jane Rands, a member of the Green Party. Then came another Hispanic candidate, Kitty Duarte Jaramillo.
Jaramillo and Alvarez appeared to have similar backers – primarily Democrats and labor. Alvarez probably hurt himself by allying with the public safety unions that have come under such scorn due to the public employee pension crisis and the murder last year of homeless man Kelly Thomas, by several members of the Fullerton Police Department.
Jaramillo also had a negative in that she was a retired city worker, from Santa Ana and Fullerton.
Here’s the problem. If Latino candidates in Fullerton are too liberal, guess what? They are not gong to get crossover votes, which means they will lose if there are too many candidates. And that was the case in 2012, with a total of 12 Council candidates, all running for only three Council seats.
Asian voters have been leaning left for awhile. They backed Obama twice now. But liberal Asian candidates won’t fare well in Fullerton.
I believe that fiscally conservative Latino or Asian candidates could win in Fullerton…making a legal case moot. But are such candidates available in Fullerton?
Those who want change now may resort to a lawsuit – which will cost the City of Fullerton a fortune. I hope the Council will instead consider ward-specific Council elections. Better yet, now is the time to start developing minority candidates who won’t be liberal union shills.