Irvine's Don Wagner, the hard-core conservative president of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees, kicks off his bid for state Assembly this evening with the help from one of the other hard-core conservatives on the college board's dais, "Chairman Emeritus of the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee" Tom Fuentes.
Wagner hopes to win the GOP nomination for the 2010 race for the Assembly seat currently filled by Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), who is termed out and now seeking his party's nomination to square off against U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) next year.
Among the conservative heavy hitters the Wagner campaign lists as supporters are: Chapman University law school dean John Eastman; Orange County Board of Education president Ken Williams; Williams' fellow trustee Alexandria Coronado; Irvine Values Coalition president Scott Peotter; and frequent state/municipal campaigner, OC Young Republican for life and newspaper columnist Jim Righeimer.
But it is Fuentes, the "Don Wagner for Assembly Campaign Kick-Off Party special guest and master of ceremonies," who will be tonight's star attraction.
After wreaking havoc for years as head honcho of the OC GOP, the dapper fancyman of Lake Forest was relieved of his command in favor of former Assemblyman Scott "Slime" Baugh. Fuentes landed an appointment to the South County college board when suspected Nazi sympathizer Steven J. Frogue resigned in 2000.
Less controversial than Frogue, who managed not only to bring out the worst in people but the worst people period, Fuentes has managed to rile several on the college district's two campuses, Saddleback and Irvine Valley community colleges.
He tried to stop the Spain study abroad program in 2005 after the European country's leaders withdrew soliders from the Bush Administration's Iraq War. Fuentes has also openly damned from his board seat faculty academic senates, campus worker unions and the college accreditation process.
Close board watchers say he has pledged undying support to divisive Chancellor and board toadie Raghu Mathur. Oh, and "the Lord," who former monastery enrollee and onetime Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange spokesman Fuentes frequently cites in quasi-sectarian board prayers and invocations. Wagner also referenced "the Lord" at the most recent board meeting. And he's lashed out at those who've been critical of his mixing church and state.
Can we get an amen from the chemistry lab?
Both Fuentes boy toys--that would be the Christ and the chancellor--got a run for their tidings during the Chancellor's Opening Session in August, when Mathur showed a video of images accompanied by the tune "God Bless the U.S.A." The collage ended with the words, "Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you--Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom."
The chancellor of what is ostensibly a public institution welcoming all faiths (or none at all) defended showing the video at the subsequent board meeting, and Fuentes and Wagner said nothing to indicate they were displeased with the spectacle.
Though generally more polished, sophisticated and affable than Fuentes, Wagner's run on the board since 1998 has also included some controversial moments, such as when he attacked the American Library Association as "liberal busybodies." The practicing attorney successfully persuaded his fellow board members to cease the colleges' memberships in the ALA.
Though the Wagner campaign website boasts about the candidate's courtroom acumen, he didn't display legal smarts after faculty members complained at a board meeting that Mathur and other trustees were violating their rights when Wagner essentially said, "So sue us." They did--and won in court.
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Of course, that was taxpayer money Wagner was playing with, not a client's, so his campaign doesn't have to count it against him.
Speaking of non-brilliant plays, Wagner at first joined Fuentes in criticizing the college accrediting agency to the point where the district nearly lost accreditation, something that would have proved devastating for students attending schools aimed at feeding major colleges and universities. "To his credit, he regretted this and worked hard to satisfy the accreds in the end," a board watchdog said of Wagner.
By the by, you read that correctly above the photo of Wagner that began this post. What's supposedly a nonpartisan panel meets in something they've dubbed the "Ronald Reagan Board of Trustees Room." Amazing.
- Wagner's Assembly campaign website says he decided to run after becoming "frustrated" like so many Californians watching California's elected leaders "recklessly" commit the state "to spending programs we can't afford while ignoring badly needed reforms in the management of fiscal affairs."
- "But rather than sitting on the sidelines, and with the encouragement of friends and neighbors, Don has decided to do something about it," the site explains. "That is why Don Wagner is running to serve in the California State Assembly."
Sacramento needs the type of "conservative, fiscally responsible leadership" Wagner has demonstrated on the school board, boasts his site. Um . . . yeah.
His Assembly kick-off party is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the patio at Duke's Place within the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. Business attire, slicked-back hair and the tightest of underwear only, puh-leese.
- And don't forget to pray. To the Lord! Sounds like we'd all better get used to that.