In what could only be described as a political shellacking in the June 5 primary, V. Manuel “Manny” Perez cruised to a remarkable victory to become Riverside County’s Fourth District Supervisor easily holding off Republican challenger Jan Harnik, a member of the Palm Desert City Council.
As of 3:57 a.m., Perez had 56.39 percent, of 24,115 votes while Harnik garnered 43.61 percent, or 18,651 votes. Some 84 of 156 precincts had reported.
The resounding victory is the culmination of tireless campaigning; back-to-back speeches, interviews and campaign appearances; a track record of accomplishments during his first 10 months in office as an appointed supervisor; wildly successful fundraising and running a positive campaign.
Harnik opened a 2018 campaign committee on March 10, 2017, but in the end, Perez outraised his sole opponent.
Perez raised more than $266,000 in total contributions during the most recent fundraising period, Jan. 1, 2018 to April 21, 2018 and had a cash-on-hand total of $392,951 a lead of more than $89,000 over his opponent for the same period.
Harnik, a member of the Palm Desert City Council since 2010, raised nearly $136,000 during the same four-month period. She reported cash on hand of $303,572.
Since May 25, 2017, more than two months after Harnik began her fundraising, Perez raised more than $819,000 for his campaign.
In addition to a successful fundraising campaign, Perez also garnered the endorsements of every Riverside County public safety organization, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Democratic Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz and many more.
The victory brings to an end Perez’s term as an appointed supervisor. He is now a supervisor the people chose to represent them and lead them.
Governor Brown appointed Perez last year to fill a vacancy. Though Harnik and her supporters saw Perez as someone to keep the seat warm until Harnik won the race, Perez seized the appointment as an opportunity to show what he could do. He hit the ground running and with the wind at his back and never looked in the rearview mirror. He strode into office with a calm confidence.
Ten months after being appointed to the seat, Perez had accomplished what some describe as “remarkable,” even “unprecedented” for a county Supervisor in such a short amount of time.
He fought for equal pay for equal work and won unanimous support from his colleagues for an amendment. He fought to create a Medal of Valor to recognize citizen heroes for their risk of life. Riverside County, home to more than130,000 veterans, never had such an award.
He passed a number of polices benefiting his district residents and businesses, including health care, veterans issues, jobs and the economic development, investment incentives, Salton Sea, homeless, and education and job training — and that was only the beginning.
Lupe Ramos, a member of the Indio City Council and a registered Republican, is one of more than 100 appointees for Riverside County’s Fourth District. She has served for Supervisors Roy Wilson, John J. Benoit and now Perez.
“I applaud our Supervisor for the professionalism he exhibited throughout the 2018 campaign,” Ramos told Uken Report on Tuesday. “The voters of the Fourth District are tired of the failing campaign’s mud-slinging tactics. His victory solidifies the people’s belief in his leadership and overwhelming support of his vision for our Valley.”
Ramos added that Perez’s “focus, commitment and attention to the needs of his constituency are to be applauded. I am proud and honored to be a supporter of Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and look forward to his longstanding continued service.”
For the past decade, Perez has earned a reputation for getting things done and his time as Supervisor was no different. Perez served the desert region in the California State Assembly for three terms between 2008 and 2014, rising to the role of majority leader. In the Assembly, Perez authored more than 60 pieces of legislation that were signed into law, including bills that helped to create jobs, make neighborhoods safer, improve public schools, and jumpstart the local renewable energy industry.
Perez’s victory brings to a close a race that was characterized as one of nastiest the Coachella Valley has seen in three decades.
In March, Harnik filed a lawsuit against Perez for using the title “County Supervisor” on the ballot. In April, Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled that the ballot designation for candidate Perez should read “appointed Riverside County supervisor.”
It was the first volley Harnik lobbed in her mostly negative campaign.
She paid for a controversial and malicious mailer and ad campaign alleging Perez “voted to release murderers and other dangerous criminals from prison.” The mailer further claimed that “Manuel Perez’s misguided policies released cop killers and rapists from prison.”
The negative ad buy jeopardized some of Harnik’s friendships, cost her respect in some corners of the county and sparked accusations that she is a racist.
Palm Desert Mayor Sabby Jonathan, who endorsed Harnik, said he was “not a fan” of the mailer.
Harnik issued a news release claiming Perez was ducking debates. The reporting did not bear that out.
Harnik, in the one positive mailer she released, claimed credit for things that raised the ire of a former member of the Palm Desert City Council.
Jean Benson, who served 32 years on the City Council, including six terms as mayor, posted on social media a blistering comeuppance about Harnik’s claims.
Benson lambasted Harnik for claims she made about the city’s surplus and UCR Palm Desert.
“Check your facts before making such erroneous statements,” Benson wrote. “It offends those of us who know who did what!”
Some who know Harnik said the negativity is out of character for her. They blamed her political consultant for giving her bad advice. Whether he did or did not, Harnik was ultimately responsible. And, no one will ever know the true impact of the negative campaigning.
Harnik will likely now turn her focus to seeking a third, four-year term on the Palm Desert City Council.