The Myth of St. Curt

Mayor Pringle wasnt a racist then, and he aint Cesar Chavez now

Photo by OCW staffIf you believe the Los Angeles Times, Curt Pringle found Jesus—or not Jesus, but Cesar Chavez. Or the Virgin of Guadeloupe. Somewhere on the road to Anaheim's City Hall, the story goes, Pringle made amends for his 1988 use of poll guards to keep Latinos from voting in his first Assembly race, and Latinos rewarded him on Election Day with the mayor's office.

The story is wrong, depending as it does on a single piece of misunderstood evidence: Pringle's August appearance at a rally in support of Gigante, a Mexico-based supermarket chain angling for a liquor license in a working-class Latino neighborhood.

"The Anaheim mayoral election was still months away, but Curt Pringle made the critical move of his campaign in August [by supporting Gigante]," Kimi Yoshino and Jean O. Pasco wrote in the Los AngelesTimes on Nov. 7. Gigante's public-relations task force astutely turned the city's denial of a liquor license into the zoning equivalent of the Rodney King beating.

Pringle lent Gigante not just his name but his person as well, standing shoulder to shoulder with Latino activists who have trash-talked him for more than a decade.

Los Amigos chairman Amin David told the Times that Pringle's appearance at the Gigante demonstration was "masterful," evidence of a personal "renaissance." Longtime Pringle foe Nativo Lopez, the embattled Santa Ana school board member, told the Times, "The Curt Pringle of 2002 is not the Curt Pringle of 1988. I don't think he's the same person ideologically."

But there's only one Pringle, and his newfound allies notwithstanding, he's neither the racist some saw in 1988 nor the amigo some see today.

The Gigante endorsement was consistent with Pringle's long-held support of big business; he said as much when he declared his support of the multibillion-dollar supermarket chain. It was a political bonus that such a stand also helped him kiss and make up with a crucial constituency.

Pringle a new man? Hardly. He raised more than $280,000 for his mayoral campaign from old friends who are also ideologically pro-business (including the Lincoln Club of Orange County), developers (such as the Irvine-based Busch Firm), and firms with close ties to the very Republican Party officials who landed him in political hot water back in 1988 (contributors at Tait & Associates of Santa Ana can count among their fellow employees GOP chief Tom Fuentes and Pringle's new council colleague Tom Tait). Their open checkbooks gave Pringle twice as much cash as his closest mayoral opponent, the relatively impoverished Frank Feldhaus.

Pringle was never a racist, and he's not the reincarnation of Cesar Chavez now. He is today what he always was: an affable politician with a knack for cultivating friends among the powerful. He'll be quite at home in Anaheim's City Hall.

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