Fullerton: Republicans Divide, Democrat Jesus Silva Wins Council Seat

The omnipresent slogan of Tom Fuentes’ long, successful Republican Party of Orange County chairmanship was “Victory Through Unity.”

The tacit slogan of Democrat Jesus Silva’s (the husband of Democrat Assembly candidate Sharon Quirk-Silva) apparently successful run for Fullerton City Council could be “Victory Through GOP Disunity.”

There were three council seats up this November, and 12 candidates. Incumbent councilmembers Jennifer Fitzgerald and Bruce Whitaker were running fr re-election, leaving the third seat open. The strongest Republican candidate was Planning Commissioner Larry Bennett, who was supported by Mayor Fitzgerald and an extensive array of bi-partisan community support.

Rather than coalesce around the GOP candidate with the best chance of winning, Councilman Bruce Whitaker deemed Bennett insufficiently conservative (according to his lights) and recruited ironworker Susan Gapinski. Rep. Ed Royce dual-endorsed Bennett and Gapinski, and the OC Register also endorsed Gapinski. The OC GOP endorsed Bennett.

A number of political observers feared the result of splitting Republican efforts between Bennett and Gapinski would be that neither was elected and Silva would exploit the division to win the third seat.

And voila:

Bennett came in fourth with 13.7%, trailing Silva by just 0.9%.

Gapinski, on the other hand, finished in the lower half of the candidate pack with just 6.6%. Counter-factuals lack certitude, but it’s more than likely Bennett would have won the third seat with the benefit of united Republican support. Thanks to the self-defeating tendency to elevate purity (as defined by some) over winning, Fullerton’s newest councilman is the progressive Democrat activist husband of the newly-elected Democratic Assemblymen Sharon Quirk-Silva.

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