USA: A close look at California’s election process

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First posted in www.pinoywatchdog.com
Words and photos by Dionesio C. Grava

Elections in our part of town is kind of ho-hum. Kababayans, even if they were political animals back in the homeland, are usually not too engrossed in politics upon taking residence in the US. It could be because of preoccupations with the more urgent requirements of eking a living or that the game is played differently here.

One thing that may appear strange to newcomers is that candidates for elective positions in this country usually depend much on financial support from the voters. Filipino-Americans are not known to be significant contributors, if at all, to campaign endeavors such that despite our great number — at 3.4 million we’re the second largest Asian community in this country — only a few Fil-Ams got elected to high positions of power.

“Why? It takes courage and determination to get into American politics. The candidate also needs to have much money and knowledgeable of the process ,” said Mel Alfarero. Originally from Tagbilaran, he is the entrepreneur behind CC Alfarero & Associates and a consultant of Property Innovations, Inc. Alfarero is one of the few in the community who has been into politics for sometime.

He said that frequent talks about political empowerment in our community must focus on the fact that it all start with winning an election. “Elected officials are the ones who dispense influence, access, entitlement, policy, legislation and political favors. I don’t have much money but I learn the job anyway — the hard way,” he said.

Alfarero is the outgoing national chairman of the National Filipino-American Republicans (NFAR), former chair of Fil-Am Republicans of LA County (FARLAC) and an elected incumbent in the County Central Committee 37th District. Unfortunately the 37th District was dissolved as a result of the recent redistricting process and its jurisdiction taken in by the 38th and 45th Districts. He is presently one of 13 candidates vying for a seat in the 45th District in the June 5 California primary elections.

He was a delegate to last week’s statewide annual convention of the California Republican Assembly (CRA), the oldest and largest grassroots volunteer organization chartered by the California Republican Party. He informed that CRA failed to endorse a GOP presidential candidate, a decision reached after a heated and contentious debate.

Instead they ended up approving and endorsing a resolution to support efforts to defeat President Obama in the coming California primary on June 5 and the presidential election on November 6, this year. The convention also endorsed Hispanic Al Ramirez from Santa Monica, California, as its candidate for US senator against Diane Feinstein. Alfarero was the only Filipino-American designated by the assembly as a voting delegate. Another Fil-Am, Gina “Ines” McNelley from Orange County, is alternate delegate.

U.S. Politics 101

Candidate Alfarero volunteered to provide PinoyWatchdog readers a rundown of the election process as far as it affects the GOP or Republican Party. He said that his party has the Republican National Committee (RNC) based in Washington, DC. There are chartered Republican parties throughout the 50 states of the country such as the California Republican Party (CRP), Republican Party of Los Angeles County (RPLAC) and the Filipino American Republicans of Los Angeles County (FARLAC). He founded FARLAC, the only chartered Fil-Am GOP organization in California, in 1992. Current officers are Cecile Ramos, chair; Van Dichoso, vice chair; Cristina Cimino, secretary; and Amy Advincula, treasurer. Alfarero serves as the adviser. FARLAC officers were nominated as presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s delegates to the National Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida, to be held August 27-30, 2012. A total of 172 California delegates will be in that convention.

Alfarero said that the California primary on June 5 will select the Republican nominee for president, US senator, Congressional representatives, State senators and State Assembly members. Candidates for Republican and Democratic members of the different Central Committees will also be elected. California has 58 County Central Committees. The 45th Assembly District of LA County Central Committee were he is a candidate is located west of San Fernando Valley. The District has a population of about 350,000, about 10,000 of them Filipinos.

Elected members of the Central Committee receive no salary and operate as independent groups. They elect their own chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer. To be appointed also are alternate members of the committee. Their duties involve the recruitment of candidates for public offices within the district, monitor local elections, voter registrations, support endorsed candidates and assist in local, state and presidential elections. They participate in the endorsements of candidates and may form political action committees to raise funds for their operations. A Committee is composed of seven elected members, each to serve a term of two years.

Every ten years a population census is conducted to determine the boundaries of the redistricting process. The purpose is to draw new political boundary maps. For the first time in California the most recent carving of political boundaries was entrusted to a non-partisan Independent Redistricting Commission. The city of Los Angeles has a separate redistricting commission to set the political boundaries of City Council members.

California has adopted new procedures for the coming elections. Republican and Democratic candidates will now be listed on the same ballot and under identical candidate positions. This is called a limited open primary. California will remain a winner-take-all state. It means that those who get the highest votes get elected. The two highest vote getters who are unable to get 50 percent of the total votes will be forced to a run off. In the presidential contest it is different. The candidate for President who gets the highest popular votes will get California’s 55 electoral votes.

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