Santa Ana Councilmember Jessie Lopez is fighting for her political life in a recall scheduled for November 14. Not a day goes by without she and her allies – such as Councilmembers Thai Phan and Johnathan Hernandez – denouncing the recall as “corrupt” and and abuse of the process, seeking to punish her for merely voting her convictions.
If anything, Lopez’s complaints illustrate the cynicism and hypocrisy endemic to political striving.
According the narrative relentlessly propounded by Lopez, Phan and the rest of the Santa Ana progressive cabal, she is a victim of “corrupt” recall being pushed by the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and apartment owners who object to tenant “protections” – read, draconian rent control – that Lopez and her council allies pushed through.
Here’s the thing – that’s a crock.
Phan thinks it is a terrible idea for the SAPOA to try and recall a councilmember – unless it’s to her political advantage, in which case she thinks it is a fabulous idea.
In May 2020, Phan was all in favor of the SAPOA’s successful recall of Councilwoman Ceci Iglesia, because it would give her the opportunity to move up the ladder of power while removing a conservative voice from the Santa Ana City Council. While Phan failed to win the replacement election, she was perfectly willing to throw Iglesias out of the lifeboat to advance her own political career.
Hernandez routinely denounces the recall in the most strident terms, singling out its primary sponsorship by the SAPOA for particularly intense denunciation.
Yet Phan and Hernandez were both supportive of recalling Iglesias:
How can that be? If it is wrong for the SAPOA to sponsor a recall against Jessie Lopez, then it must have also been wrong in the case of Ceci Iglesias?
No, because in 2020, it suited the political interests of Lopez, Phan and Hernandez to support the SAPOA in recalling Iglesias.
In 2023, an SAPOA-supported recall against Lopez runs against their political interests: Lopez would lose her seat and primary source of income, while Phan and Hernandez would lose the council majority.
In Phan’s case, the hypocrisy is compounded by her about-face this spring: targeted with being recalled along with Lopez, Phan flip-flopped and voted for a contract favorable to the SAPOA. Guess who’s no longer facing a recall?
We could dismiss this as standard-issue political hypocrisy – but Hernandez, Phan and Lopez present themselves as something different, as the brave vanguard of a new progressive politics in Santa Ana; true-believing reformers who are only in it for “the people.” So, we should take note when they reveal themselves to be merely about the acquisition of political power.