After concerted effort to oust Sheriff Bianco, Democrats failed

RIVERSIDE COUNTY — Almost from the onset of the pandemic, many Democrats criticized Sheriff Chad Bianco’s leadership, or lack thereof. Their ire escalated when Bianco said he would not enforce any type of coronavirus vaccine mandate on sheriff’s employees. From that day forward Democratic leaders began beating the drum for his ouster in the June primary. In the end, they acknowledge that they failed, though it is a “qualified” acknowledgement.”

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. In October, Democrats of the Desert, the largest Democratic Club in the Coachella Valley, met to strategize ways to stop Bianco from winning a second term.

They ramped up efforts after learning that Bianco seven years ago paid dues for one year to belong to Oath Keepers.

Then-Mayor of Palm Springs Christy Holstege, a Democrat, called for his resignation. Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, also a Democrat, who endorsed Bianco in 2018, failed to do so this time. It was no secret that Democrats wanted him gone.

Numbers alone favored a Democrat. As of May 31, there were 526,591 registered Democrats and 410,968 registered Republicans, according to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters.

The latest update shows Bianco with 208,811 votes, or 60% of the vote, while his challenger Michael J.  Lujan netted 135,154 votes, or 39.29%, according to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters. Approximately 1,000 timely postmarked Vote-by-Mail and 2,000 Provisional ballots still must be processed. The next updated results will be posted at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 22.

Why Democrats Failed to Unseat Sheriff Chad Bianco

Stephen R. Jaffe

“I think the Democrats failed to identify and field a viable candidate early enough in the election cycle,” Stephen R. Jaffe told Uken Report. “Mr. Lujan entered the race at the last possible moment and lacked the exposure and name recognition to defeat the incumbent.  Mr. Lujan was also impeded by his “No Party Preference” choice.  Only registered Democrats are permitted to appear, be endorsed or assisted by chartered Democratic clubs, such as Democrats of the Desert.  It is impossible to know if it would have made a difference in the election result if Mr. Lujan chose to identify as a Democrat.”

Jaffe said that historically, voter turnout drops substantially during the midterm election cycles, especially in the primary phase of those cycles.

“This past primary election was no different,” Jaffe said.  “The turnout was very disappointing.  Unfortunately, Democratic voters did not turn out in numbers to overcome their Republican counterparts. Low turnouts strongly favor incumbents, who have greater name recognition than those seeking to unseat them.”

Many voters were clueless that Democrats were pushing Lujan.

Why Democrats Failed to Unseat Sheriff Chad Bianco

Amalia DeAztlan

Amalia DeAztlan, president and co-founder of Democratic Women of the Desert, said she was involved in helping to identify a viable candidate from the beginning. She was among those who interviewed Lujan.

“He was very good and very honest,” DeAztlan said.

Both Democratic clubs were hindered in that they could neither endorse Lujan nor financially support him. Typically, DeAztlan said her group donates “thousands and thousands” to Democratic candidates. That was not possible this time. Many ended up donating individually.

Throughout much of the campaign Bianco ran a highly produced, slick recruitment ad for his department, DeAztlan said, suggesting it was a thinly veiled campaign ad.

Below is one of many variations of the ad.

Did Democrats fail? It depends on how you look at it — and by how you define failure.

“Lujan had only three months to campaign,” DeAztlan said. “He got 40% of the vote. He did really good.”



Image Sources

  • Stephen Jaffe: Facebook
  • Sheriff Chad Bianco: Courtesy photo