Joey Acuña off to rocky start in bid for state Assembly

In less than one working day since it became apparent that Assemblymember Eduardo H. Garcia would not seek reelection for one final term, a Riverside-based PR firm issue a polished news release announcing that Coachella Valley Unified School District Board member Joey Acuña is running to succeed Garcia, who is endorsing Acuña’s campaign.

The release included a list of Acuña’s so-called early endorsers:

  • State Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas
  • State Assembly Speaker Emeritus Anthony Rendon
  • State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia
  • State Assemblymember Julie Bornstein (Ret.)
  • State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny (Ret.)
  • Riverside County Supervisor Manuel “Manny” Perez
  • Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin Gomez
  • Riverside County Board of Education Member Elizabeth Romero
  • Riverside County Board of Education Member Bruce Dennis
  • Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez
  • Coachella Councilmember Stephanie Virgen
  • Coachella Councilmember Neftali Galarza
  • College of the Desert Trustee Beatriz Gonzales
  • College of the Desert Trustee Ruben Perez
  • Coachella Valley USD Trustee Jesus Gonzalez
  • Coachella Valley USD Trustee Adonis Galarza
  • Coachella Valley USD Trustee Jocelyn Vargas
  • Coachella Valley USD President Blanca Hall (Ret.)
  • Desert Health Care District Director Lety De Lara
  • Desert Health Care District Director Kimberly Barraza
  • Valley Sanitary District Director Jacky Barnum
  • Coachella Valley Water District Board member Castulo Estrada

To many, Garcia’s decision not to seek reelection wasn’t official until 5 p.m. Friday and even then, some had doubts. Garcia has never explained to Uken Report — or his constituents why he’s leaving.

So, during a busy holiday weekend, we are to believe Acuña had time to hire a PR firm, secure endorsements, form a committee and raise money?

We are skeptical.

The release says it is “Paid for by Joey Acuña for Assembly 2024.” We cannot find such a committee (410 form) on the Secretary of State’s website and his PR firm did not immediately produce one. So, who paid for the PR?

Form 410 is a Statement of Organization required to be filed by a recipient committee. The form provides the public with information about the purpose of the committee and identifies the committee’s treasurer and principal officer(s). The Form 410 is also required to be filed in order to terminate the committee.

Derek Humphrey, head of Overland Strategies, the PR Firm, told Uken Report that Acuña was being filed Monday.

So, were the wheels set in motion for Garcia to resign and hand-select a successor?

Several aspects of this vacancy are not passing the smell test.

First, there have been widespread rumors of Supervisor V. Manuel Perez being in declining health. Out of respect for the Supervisor, Uken Report has not reported on them because we could not confirm them.

Then came this editorial in The Desert Review on Dec. 10. By mid-morning Monday, Dec. 11, it as removed from the site at the behest of Perez’s staff.

There is something not-above-board going on with Garcia’s departure, Perez’s health, Acuña’s lack of a committee and more. Voters deserve the truth.

In announcing his campaign, Acuña released the following statement:

“I’m running for State Assembly because I believe in the promise of California, and I want to make sure the kids who grow up in our district have access to world-class schools, good-paying jobs, housing they can afford, and clean air and water. I’ll listen to residents and work hard every day to improve and protect the quality of life in our Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino County communities.”

In a prepared statement, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia said, “Joey Acuña has dedicated much of his life to serving local communities. He is smart, thoughtful, and exactly the kind of leader our region needs representing us in Sacramento.”

Acuña is currently serving his fifth term on the Coachella Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees. In this role, he’s worked to improve graduation rates and expand both after-school and college counseling programs. Professionally, Acuña works as the Development Manager for local health clinics and a grant writer for tribes. He has also worked as a coordinator for a local after-school program. Acuña was the Democratic candidate for State Assembly District 80 in 2002 and lost one of the closest local legislative contests in recent history.


Image Sources

  • 2023-Joey-Acuna-800×568: CVUSD