California Democrat in San Diego Congressional Race Funded Weak Opponent so as to Knock Out His Strongest Opponent

The San Diego Union-Tribune has this story about the June 2012 primary race in California’s 51st U.S. House district. The two candidates who had been thought to be strongest were current Democratic State Senator Juan Vargas, and the area’s former State Senator, Denise Moreno Ducheny. The 51st district is strongly Democratic. Under California’s top-two open primary rules, it had been assumed they would place first and second in the June primary and compete against each other in November.

The primary race had three Republicans and four Democrats running. Senator Vargas spent between $40,000 and $50,000 to promote one of the Republican candidates, Michael Crimmins. Crimmins himself did not have a very active campaign, and only raised $5,000. He had been expelled from the Republican County Central Committee in 2010 by a vote of 44-1. The basis for his expulsion was partly that he had made allegedly racist comments about one of his primary opponents in his 2010 congressional race, and also that he had allegedly filed baseless ethics charges against the Republican Party’s state chairman. In the 2012 race, the Republican Party had endorsed Xanthi Gionis. Crimmins’ 2012 campaign web page said he was endorsed by Tom Tancredo, Darrell Issa, Duncan Hunter, Ron Packard, and Ed Royce (all current or former Republican congressmen), as well as Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but those politicians had not endorsed him for his 2012 race, but for his earlier unsuccessful runs for Congress in a different district.

Senator Vargas’ strategy of boosting Crimmins worked. Crimmins came in second, so Ducheny is now defeated. The same trick was used in Washington state in 2010, in the State Senate 38th district race. In that race, there were two Democrats and one Republican running. The district was heavily Democratic. However, one of the Democratic candidates, Nick Harper, made large independent expenditures to boost the Republican. The expenditures were not reported until after the primary was over. As a result, the Republican placed second, and the other Democrat, incumbent Jean Berkey, placed third and was unable to run in November. After the election was over, some Democratic State Senators felt that Harper’s action had been so unethical, they tried to oust Harper from the Senate, but that motion was defeated. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link about the San Diego race.


  1. Larry Allred · · Reply

    The top-two primary scheme by its design and outcomes has great appeal to the politician as opposed to the voter who, if their watching, is sickened.

    I vote in Washington’s 38th legislative district and will monitor the treatment of the top-two issue by the candidates for that senate seat in 2014.

    Voters, voters, voters!

  2. […] UPDATE: Richard Winger provides some important context. This entry was posted in chicanery, political parties, primaries. Bookmark the permalink. ← “The Case That Could Challenge Citizens United” […]

  3. Nick Kruse · · Reply

    This kind of stuff happens in non-toptwo states too. Democrats sometimes “help” Libertarians and Republicans sometimes “help” Greens. This is what politics is.

  4. Richard Winger · · Reply

    #3, I have never heard of any instance when Democrats helped Libertarians get on the ballot, in any state. If you have, tell us.

  5. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #4 There are reasons the Democrats don’t run candidates in all statewide races in Texas.

  6. Demo Rep · · Reply

    ONE election day.

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  7. Nick Kruse · · Reply

    @5, That’s one example I was thinking of.

  8. Jim Riley · · Reply

    Crimmins was the nominee of the Republican party in a 2008 congressional race – different district; and us such was an ex officio member of the county central committee. There was some sort of run-in with the county central committee regarding the May 2009 statewide special election (to vote on various propositions).

    After he was removed from the county central committee in February 2010, he won the GOP nomination for Congress in June, when he also successfully ran for election to the county central committee (he was elected again last week).

    In 2010, one of his opponents complained that he was still using a 2008 web site. His web site is now updated to 2010, showing him running in a different district.

    Xanthi Gionis is an odd name which is a formidable barrier when there is no name recognition, and the most prominent feature of her website are some 30-year old newspaper clippings about her getting her law degree at 20 with the intent to next get her medical degree.

    Ducheny’s real problem was that she managed to only get 20% of the Democratic vote, in a district where the combined Democratic vote was 70%.

    I think Vargas’ claim that he was polling at 60% was boastful exaggeration by his campaign manager. If it were true, he would not have had to do anything to ensure a Republican would advance to the Top 2. There simply was not enough Democratic votes left over to stop a Republican candidate.

    When she was in the senate, Ducheny did sponsor legislation to repeal mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, but I doubt that would have drawn massive cross-over support from Republicans.

    A curiosity is that Vargas might not have been elected in 2010 if the Senate race had been Top 2. He received 50.02% of the vote in a 2-candidate Democratic primary (a 22-vote margin). This was substantially below the number of votes received by the single unopposed Republican. Throw in some other voters, and Vargas might have finished 3rd.

  9. Jim Riley · · Reply

    The San Diego Union-Tribune article notes:

    “It’s wrong to exclude any candidate, especially ones with military service,” Vargas said in a mock news story pasted on the reverse side, without mentioning the debate hosts excluded Crimmins. Ducheny agreed to participate, but Vargas wouldn’t.

    Any guess as to the identify of one of the debate hosts that the San Diego Union-Tribune did not name. Who was the debate host that excluded Crimmins?

    Whose debate did Ducheny agree to participate in? Whose debate did Vargas refuse to participate in?

    May a sponsor of a debate prior to a Top 2 primary limit participation to 2 candidates, and not run afoul of campaign finance laws?

  10. Ms. Ellie · · Reply

    Channel 10 political debate, my recomendation, boycott the Channel. I believe that you may have completely missed the point of Gionis’ website, although her impressive academic achievments are prominently listed on her webpage, she was the endorsed republican candidate in the 51st Congressional District and the only real threat to Vargas. Hence, Vargas chose to promote Crimmins in his mailings. As I understand it from my investigation, Gionis was contacted early on in the campaign but unwilling to “meet” with Vargas. Most importantly, it is interesting to note that Gionis did not during her campaign or at any other time, breach any federal election rules or regulations, misrepresent any fact or deliberately attempt to defraud the registered voters of the 51st District, for the self-promoting purpose of tampering with the legal progression of a federal campaign, as did her counter-parts Vargas and Crimmins. Her campaign materials focused on the candidate and the issues “my what a novel idea”! These two “pieces of work”, Vargas and Crimmins obviously realized that they had no “substance” early on in the process and had to come up with a “trick” to play on the constituents, whom they obviously considered as a very unintelligent public. In fact, the actions of Vargas and Crimmins, even confessed by Vargas’ “strategist” in newspaper articles illustrate the intrinsic belief, shared by both candidates, that Latinos and Democrats in general, are stupid and can be easily fooled by more intelligent beings such as these two “clowns”. Afterall, they are smarter than the average bear, Crimmins being white and Vargas, without an ability to speak Spanish, trying to be as non-Latino, White as possible. This is not only wrong, but actually very sad and even more sadly, they were able to defraud the voting public in just the way that they had intended. If you live in the 51st District, you would have seen Xanthi Gionis on Canal 66 in Imperial County in commercials and on Spanish television programs “speaking to her constituency” in fluent Spanish, albeit, with an American accent, all the while, proclaiming her dedication and desire to help the impoverished and unemployed 51st District with a plan for developing the region in a way that nobody ever has and likely nobody ever will. As far as I understand it, though, Mrs. Ducheny and Ms. Gionis are likely to re-surface in this election before the “fat woman sings”. Just remember there are legal consequences to election fraud, intentional misrepresentation and tampering with federal election results. They take the form of answered federal complaints filed at both the State and Fedearl levels. Have they heard of the Congressional Ethics Committee? If any such allegations are proved against them, it may lead a complete and utter final exodus of these two clowns from the political arena altogether. Just remember, these “wannabe” federal officials will have a serious awakening when using their “poor 51st District” tactics with the “big boys” in Washington. Say what you would like, I believe that the Congressional ethics committee has already been notified of the “shinanigans” of these two “princes of ghetto politics”. I would venture to say that Crimmins and Vargas will have to answer for their conduct or lack thereof in front of a national audience very shortly. Just remember, “politics are dirty” only until the “clean-up” committee shows up and casts national and international light on things. Americans want to “clean up” American politics, why not start with Vargas and Crimmins.

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