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Oden holds onto hope for win June 8, 2006

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80TH ASSEMBLY: Palm Springs mayor trails by only 253 votes in tight battle for Democratic nomination.

12:01 AM PDT on Thursday, June 8, 2006

The Press-Enterprise
PALM SPRINGS – Trailing by 253 votes in his bid to win the Democratic primary in the 80th State Assembly District, Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to announce that he was not conceding yet.

"With thousands of votes still out, I'm going to wait," Oden said.

Oden and fellow Democrat Steve Clute are vying for the right to take on incumbent Bonnie Garcia, of Cathedral City, in November's general election. Garcia ran unopposed in Tuesday's Republican primary.

Although Election Day is over with Clute the apparent winner, registrars in Riverside and Imperial counties said thousands of provisional and absentee ballots dropped off at polling places Tuesday have yet to be counted.

Rebecca Martine, Riverside County's Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters, said certification of the election results will probably take the entire 28 days allowed by law.

"We will give updates between now and when we certify," Martine said, adding that updated vote totals will be available on the registrar's Web site.

Imperial County's Registrar of Voters, Dolores Provencio, said her county has at least 2,000 ballots left to count. Candidates cannot request a recount until after an election is certified, Provencio said.

On Wednesday, Oden said he does not plan to seek a recount if he loses.

Oden held a 669-vote lead in the Riverside County portion of the district. But Clute led by a wider 922-vote margin in Imperial County.

In between congratulatory calls and television and newspaper interviews on Wednesday, Clute expressed cautious optimism about the race's outcome.

"It may not be totally over yet, but I like my position," he said.

During the campaign, all three candidates cited education, the environment and growth as among the most important issues confronting the 80th Assembly District, which includes all of Imperial County and snakes through eastern Riverside County from Palm Springs to Blythe, avoiding the Republican strongholds of Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells.

Oden's campaign benefited from more money and a candidate whose name is well known in the Coachella Valley. Oden also boasts some national and statewide name recognition by virtue of his status as Palm Springs's first black and first openly gay mayor.

But Oden's name and fundraising edge apparently did not translate as well in rural, heavily Latino Imperial County where Clute's relied on months of face-to-face campaigning and his record as the region's former assembly representative from 1982 to 1992.

Prior to the election Oden, a former educator and longtime Palm Springs city councilman before becoming mayor in 2003, expressed some concern about the perception that he was a product of the Coachella Valley and unfamiliar with the southeastern portion of the district.

To compensate, Oden tried to spend more time campaigning in Imperial County and promised to acquire a second home there if elected to get a better feel for the area.

Oden labeled Clute a candidate from the past while dubbing himself a representative of the future. Oden emphasized his experience working in nonpartisan city politics and said that would help him work both sides of the aisle in Sacramento, unlike Garcia, whom he claimed has been too partisan.

Clute said his status as a Democrat in a state legislature controlled by Democrats would give him the ability to do more for the 80th District than Republican Garcia

A former U.S. Navy pilot and state assemblyman who works as the head of the nonprofit Children's Spine Foundation in Riverside, Clute was reluctant to criticize Oden, who entered the race months after the former announced his intention to run last year.

Although some campaign watchers criticized the primary battle between Clute and Oden as listless and uninspiring, Clute praised Oden's campaign for making it a competitive race.

"Ron Oden came on hard and tough and made this closer, certainly than I wanted it to be," he said.

At Wednesday's new conference, Oden blamed Clute's lead on a concerted effort by labor unions to defeat the mayor for his controversial council vote in favor of a Wal-Mart Supercenter that recently opened in Palm Springs.

"Somehow this one vote became a litmus test," he said.

Oden said he does not plan to seek a second stint as mayor when his current term expires next year.

"I believe 12 years of one person's voice in local government is enough," he said.

Oden said he would back Clute against Garcia if the current results hold up.

"I ran because I believed I was the only candidate who could win that seat," Oden said. "However if he wins, I'm a Democrat and I will support him."

Oden not ready to concede defeat June 8, 2006

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Democratic Assembly candidate says Wal-Mart vote hurt him

Ron Oden

Keith Matheny
The Desert Sun
June 7, 2006 June 7, 2006

Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden is not ready to concede defeat to fellow Democrat Steve Clute in Tuesday’s 80th District State Assembly primary election.Clute, a former state Assemblyman from Palm Desert, led Oden by 253 votes with all precincts reporting, 9,386 to 9,133.But Oden said Wednesday afternoon at a press conference at Palm Springs City Hall that some 4,000 votes in Imperial County and 1,000 votes in Riverside County remain uncounted.“I will lend my full support to my opponent should he win; but at this point it’s just too soon,” Oden said.But Oden spoke like a man ready to accept what may be an impending political defeat. And he tied a possible loss to one sole factor — his 2004 approval of a Wal-Mart supercenter in Palm Springs.

That vote rallied labor unions against him, Oden said.

“Their goal was to get me. They said I was the target,” he said. “They are the ones who actually made this (a) race.”

Oden said he did not regret his Wal-Mart vote.

When asked if he would consider a recount should the margin between him and Clute remain close, Oden replied, “I doubt it.”

The winner of the primary will face incumbent Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, in the general election Nov. 7.

For more, read Thursday’s The Desert Sun.thedesertsun.com | Oden not ready to concede defeat

thedesertsun.com | What do Oden and Clute share? June 5, 2006

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Nicole C. Brambila
The Desert Sun
June 3, 2006 June 3, 2006

Congressional candidates Steve Clute and Ron Oden have more in common than their bid for Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia's seat.Any guesses?It's not their political party either – both are Democrats.

Give up?

Both candidates have lost Congressional bids to a Bono – Sonny and Mary that is.

The 57-year-old Clute, who held a state Assembly office from 1982 to 1992, made an unsuccessful bid against then Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono in 1994.

"Had I realized what a celebrity Sonny Bono was, I don't think I would have run," Clute said Wednesday.

And Oden, the 56-year-old openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, six years ago challenged Mary Bono for the congressional seat she's held since Sonny, her husband, died in a skiing accident.

Oden let out a hearty laugh Thursday when the odd similarity was compared to the cult game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."


Inspired by the stage play "Six Degrees of Separation," the game requires players to connect any film actor to Bacon in as few links as possible.Today, Clute and Oden are trying to topple Garcia, who's held her state post since 2002.

Their platforms are both Democratic- education, the environment, a living wage and so forth.

So, what separates them? Depends which candidate you ask.

For Clute, it's the basics – getting out and talking with people in the district.

"You really don't need (polls) if you're doing your homework and meeting people out in the street," Clute said.

"For win or for lose, I believe I'm in it for the right reasons."

Sure, today's candidates have to shake hands and kiss babies like they always have, Oden said. They also have to be tech savvy.

"I don't think that high-tech alone is going to do it," Oden said. "And, I'm not that kind of person."

Oden has a glossy Web site.

Clute doesn't.

But for Oden, the distinction in this race is simple: recent experience.

"It has been decades since we've had anyone in this position with any local experience," Oden said. "I have that. I know the local issues, the local politicians."

The Race

The 80th Assembly District is comprised by all of Imperial County (Brawley, El Centro, Salton Sea) and part of Riverside County (Palm Springs, Indio, Blythe).Steve Clute

  • Hometown: Palm Desert
  • Age: 57
  • Education: Bachelor’s in sociology from University of California, Riverside (1971) and a master’s Degree in management at from Webster College in St. Louis
  • Family: wife, Pamela (married 1977)
  • Previous elected office: State Assembly 1982-1992, Riverside County
  • Accomplishments: Navy pilot (1971-1978)
  • Campaign Funds: raised $27, 548.92; spent $33,020.61
  • Party affiliation: DemocratJust the facts
  • Three things in need of fixing: Health care access, lower tuition costs, and work-force and affordable housing.
  • Top priority: Infrastructure needs.
  • Motivation for running: “To serve the constituency and make it the highest priority.”Ron Oden
  • Hometown: Palm Springs
  • Age: 56
  • Education: Bachelor’s in history, sociology and theology; master’s in theology and ethics studies
  • Previous Offices: Palm Springs mayor (2003) and Palm Springs City Council (1995)
  • Campaign Funds: Raised $54,947; spent $75,562.68
  • Party Affiliation: DemocratJust the facts
  • Three things in need of fixing: The Salton Sea, a growth plan that also protects our resources and quality of life, and making sure a fair share of our tax-dollars are returned to our area.
  • Top priority: An educational policy that promises every child in the district the tools they need to excel in an increasingly competitive job market.
  • Motivation for running: “To give the district an experienced voice in Sacramento that understands local issues and because I am a veteran.”
  • June 5, 2006

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    Candidate for State Assembly: Ron Oden
    Tuesday, June 6th is Election Day and here in the Desert, the Democratic race for the 80th District seat in the State Assembly is heating up. Tonight, we have team election coverage with profiles of both candidates.By Rebecca Seed
    NewsChannel 3

    Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden says Sacramento needs someone who has firsthand experience in local government and that's why he's running for State Assembly.

    "I think its important to have people there with an awareness and understanding of how local government works and I can carry that."

    But the issues that Oden would face if he makes it past Tuesday's election and wins the seat in November are far greater than those that he deals with as mayor of Palm Springs.

    Oden says the Salton Sea is one of the biggest issues and he supports a plan created by the Salton Sea Authority.

    "It has a better health plan, it involves economic opportunities for the people that live there, it focuses on tourism and revitalizing the sea."

    The 80th Assembly District extends all the way from Riverside County to the Mexico border and immigration is a big issue here.

    "The fact is, they are a part of the system of our operation, and we can't pretend that they're not here. I just believe that, whatever plan that we adopt, it needs to be humanitarian based and it needs to allow people the opportunity to become citizens."

    But before Oden has a chance to face these issues head on, he has to face Democratic opponent Steve Clute on Tuesday. Oden says he has the experience to win.

    "I am currently elected and I am current on the issues that we are dealing with in the Coachella Valley. I'm now current on the issues in Imperial Valley as well."

    Mayor Oden says he has the upper hand in Tuesday's election because he's already an elected official. The real challenge will come in November. If he wins on Tuesday, he'll face incumbent Bonnie Garcia.

    The Desert Sun Endorses Ron Oden for California State Assembly, 80th District June 1, 2006

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    Oden's independence makes him better candidate for Assembly seat

    The Desert Sun
    June 1, 2006 June 1, 2006

    Democrats next Tuesday should back Ron Oden as the party's candidate for the 80th District Assembly seat. As Palm Springs' current mayor, Oden has shown himself to be an independent thinker, offers municipal experience that could prove beneficial for the valley and holds strong ties with many in the community.Oden faces Steve Clute, head of the nonprofit Children's Spine Foundation and Palm Desert resident, in the June 6 primary. The winner takes on incumbent Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, in the November general election.As mayor, Oden has proven himself a moderate willing to work across party lines, and in doing so has proven himself an independent voice on the City Council. He takes stands on principle but not on ideology. Indeed, during the past three years Oden has successfully worked with Palm Springs Councilmen Mike McCulloch and Chris Mills to get city business done. Most notably is establishing a retail district in the Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail area. Because of this, he's helped improve Palm Springs' standing as a business-friendly city. This is the kind of leadership that is needed in Sacramento, where special interests too frequently influence decision-making and where partisanship prevents solutions.Oden offers important municipal experience that could prove useful in representing the valley. He served eight years on the Palm Springs City Council, having been elected in 1995, and has been mayor since 2003. Our valley essentially is a string of cities;the Imperial Valley, also in the 80th Assembly District, is becoming increasingly so. Bringing an understanding of cities' needs and problems they've faced when dealing with Sacramento gives Oden an advantage over Clute.

    Strong ties to the valley mark another of Oden's strengths. He has served on a variety of regional bodies, including the board of directors for the United Way of the Desert. That experience comes through when Oden talks about how he would help the district if elected. He focuses on bringing state dollars to the valley to ensure we have more than one transportation artery and so that we expand our colleges. He speaks about striking a balance to resolve Salton Sea issues and then aggressively advocating that plan at the state level. He wants to recapture the movie industry from other states and countries, bringing it not just to the LA. basin but to the valley.

    Clute touts how past experience in the state Legislature will give him a running start representing the district if elected. But with term limits, the Legislature has changed since Clute last served from 1982 to 1992. That, accompanied by Oden's charisma and ability to make connections, erodes the advantage Clute claims.

    Democrats will decide Tuesday who will be their candidate for the 80th Assembly District: Ron Oden or Steve Clute. WE SUGGEST Democrats should vote for Ron Oden.

    Our Endorsements

    Positions we’ve taken:

  • Proposition 81 (Library bonds): No
  • Proposition 82 (Preschool education): No
  • 45th Congressional District (Democrats): David Roth
  • 80th Assembly District (Democrats): Ron Oden
  • Riverside County sheriff: Bob Doyle
  • County superintendent of schools: Dave Long
  • 5th District Board of Supervisors: Marion Ashley