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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
  • Imperial Valley Press Endorses Ron Oden for State Assembly! May 30, 2006

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    Oden endorsed in 80th Assembly District

    In the 80th Assembly Dis­trict, incumbent Assem­blywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, is run­ning unopposed in next week's primary election. The only question for Garcia is which of the two Democratic contenders, Steve Clute or Ron Oden, she will face in November.
    Clute is a former assembly­man and has received the offi­cial backing of his party; Oden, the sitting mayor of Palm Springs, believes he is in a better position to challenge the incumbent in the fall based on his hands-on experi­ence at the municipal govern­ment level.
    We think he has a point.
    While Clute already knows the legislative ropes and his way around the state Capitol, institutional knowledge is less important to us than innova­tive thinking and bold initia­tive, both of which Oden seems to possess in abun­dance.
    Not only that, but Oden is by far the more passionate and charismatic of the two candi­dates.
    The problem for both men, at least where the Imperial Valley is concerned, is that neither has much name recognition out­side Riverside County.
    Of the two, Clute is probably better known locally, mainly due to his pre­vious years in the Legislature, but Oden has been a frequent visitor of late and there seems to be a healthy buzz about his prospects among the party faithful we have consulted.
    It is something of a depar­ture for us to make an en­dorsement in a contested pri­mary election, but we are making an exception in this race because we believe voters in this part of the 80th district would benefit from a vigorous campaign in the general elec­tion to come. It isn't that we think the incumbent has been giving short shrift to her Imperial Valley constituency, because she has never failed to respond when the need arose. Our main com­plaint with the level of representation that Garcia has provided to Imperial County residents is that it has been all too perfunctory.
    Both Clute and Oden have seized on this perceived shortcoming on the part of the incumbent in their contest with each other. Either would be able to engage her on the range of issues that confront our combined desert region, starting with the Salton Sea and extending to trans-border energy generation in the Mex­icali Valley.
    But Oden appears to us to be the more polished cam­paigner, and we were frankly impressed by his grasp of the issues during our single edito­rial board meeting with him earlier this month. Clute rep­resents the old way, which comes with certain advantages but also poses its own draw­backs.
    Still, Ron Oden will be fac­ing a real test against this sea­soned political veteran — and the party apparatus that is lined up behind him. While we wonder if the Imperial and Coachella valleys are ready for the new politics Oden person-i­fies, we believe he offers a fresh perspective.
    And he has earned our en­dorsement.


    MegaScene Op Ed Ron Oden May 27, 2006

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    Click here to read Page 6 of MegaScene

    DESERT CITY LEADER: FUELED BY COFFEE, SENSE OF HUMOR AND AN EFFICIENT ASSISTANT – A JOLT OF RON ODEN – Spend a day with Palm Springs’ high-energy mayor May 27, 2006

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    March 19, 2006



    In 1989, a car pulled to the side of the road on Highway 111 at the western edge of this desert city. A man bolted from the passenger door of the car and raced up the hillside toward towering spurs of San Jacinto Peak. Seconds later, the driver got out and gave chase.

    Ron Oden says he still can’t explain the impulse that took hold of him that day as he and his brother, George, were driving into the desert city for a weekend visit. He just had to run. But it wasn’t simply an expenditure of energy; it was a kind of physical embrace.

    He ran until he was exhausted. George was not happy when he finally caught up with him.

    “He approached me and was using very strong language,” Oden says, with a chuckle. “I turned to him with tears streaming down my face and I said, `This is my home!'”

    “I thought he was nuts,” George says. “It was all kind of surreal and strange. But the good Lord obviously had a plan for him and it has become increasingly clear over the years.”

    After his epiphany, Ron moved to Palm Springs. He taught at the local colleges, became a community activist, discovered his homosexuality, was elected to the city council and, 2 1/2 years ago, became not only the first openly gay black mayor of Palm Springs, but the first such elected mayor of any large city in the country. Two weeks ago, he announced his candidacy for the California State Assembly.

    Once a Seventh-day Adventist minister, Oden, 55, starts his day with a shot of caffeine – a white chocolate mocha – and has no qualms about ordering steak for dinner.

    He was married for 12 years. Until last summer, his two daughters and his ex-wife lived in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes, Oden took them in. Since then, his oldest daughter and her husband have found a place in Upland. His 17-year-old daughter, who is expecting a child in May, and his ex-wife, continue to live in his home. Each morning, he drives his daughter to high school. Then he gets to begin his own day as the city’s mayor.

    “This is a part-time job,” he says with a sly grin. “Ha!”

    9 A.M.

    Oden is passing through the city offices with a box of doughnuts, offering employees a morning sugar rush.

    He snags one for himself before retiring to his office for a weekly meeting with City Manager David Ready. On the table this morning are such topics as the city budget, public hearings on the Tahquitz Plaza retail center, a three-year capital improvement project and the city’s multispecies plan.

    The 20-minute meeting is intense. Afterward, Oden’s assistant, Martha Edgmon, briefs him on his schedule for the day.

    It’s the first of many times Oden will check with her. He admits to having an attention-deficit problem. Despite keeping several full-page pads in his car swirled with large hand-scrawled notes as well as a Blackberry, Oden simply can’t keep up with his calendar. During his day he will rely on Edgmon to remind him, sometimes, several times, on upcoming appointments.

    “I show up,” he says. “Martha points me in the right direction and pushes me.”

    10 A.M.

    After a quick stop at Koffi, a coffee shop on Palm Springs’ main drag where everyone, including the customers, seem to know Oden, and vice versa, the mayor snags his custom coffee and arrives at the entrance to O’Donnell Golf Club.

    A local television crew is waiting to interview him on perhaps his most controversial proposition since taking office in 2003. In his State of the City address in February, Oden suggested it was time to turn the once-restricted club over to the city for all of its residents to enjoy. The city already owns the property, but the club has a 99-year lease that doesn’t run out until 2043.

    It’s not right, he says, for the club’s 200 members to enjoy privileges on city-owned land while Palm Springs’ other 45,000 residents don’t have access to it

    “I’m just asking them to do the right thing,” Oden says.

    In doing so, he has touched a big nerve.

    City Councilman Chris Mills says he and Oden vote the same way on city issues more than 90 percent of the time. But the O’Donnell Golf Club is an exception.

    “We definitely don’t see eye to eye on that,” Mills says. “I should mention I’m a member of the club.”

    A five-year veteran of the council, Mills says working with Oden is never dull.

    “He’s an extremely passionate guy,” he says. “He’s emotional and very excitable and certainly has a high energy level for everything he feels strongly about. When he speaks, he certainly gets you enthused with his passion and I think that rubs off on the citizenry.”

    Mills says Oden has also brought additional attention to the city.

    “Palm Springs is a worldwide-known name anyway,” he says. “But the fact that Ron is the first elected black/gay mayor, I certainly know he has brought an exposure to Palm Springs in a light that we haven’t had before and that’s been positive.”

    Even with that attention, Oden says his appearance sometimes startles people.

    “They introduce the mayor of Palm Springs,” he says. “I’ll start walking up and they’re still looking around for the mayor. I get up to the podium and they’re still looking around. People will say, `I didn’t know they had any black people in Palm Springs.'”

    If he hasn’t grabbed the attention of the room by his entrance, once he begins to speak he’s in command. His delivery has a familiarity to it, almost like listening to Bill Cosby if the comedian were hopped up on caffeine.

    “He’s a showman,” says fellow Councilman Mike McCulloch. “He brings a certain element to events that everyone enjoys. When I was mayor pro-tem a year ago, I would fill in for Ron. I would do my Ron Oden impersonation. I throw my arms around and I say `Welcome to Palm Springs!’ and just sort of be flamboyant. He has a certain pizazz that he brings to the office.”

    1 P.M.

    Oden has just finished an hour-long lunch meeting with Doug Sanders. The former pro-golfer is pitching the idea of a massive charity golf tournament.

    “Everybody always has the best program possible for the city,” Oden says as he drives to his next appointment. “I try to cut through to the chase. `What is it you want from me? How can I help?'”

    Speeding along Ramon Road, he checks his notes and makes an entry in his Blackberry. He is on his way to the taping of the local television show “922You,” where he will be given a few minutes to talk about his city.

    On the set, co-host David Ryan laughs about what he is about to do.

    “This is like lighting a firecracker and throwing in the air,” he says, “Ron Oden promoting Palm Springs.”

    2:30 P.M.

    Tamarisk trees and desert scrub fly by as Oden takes the freeway back to his office and talks about his unique status.

    “I don’t feel like a trailblazer,” he says. “I didn’t set out to make any inroads. What I do is not about my sexual orientation, nor is it about my race. I’m not limited to those facets of my life, but I carry those facets into all aspects of my life. I’m sensitive and aware of the needs of lots of groups of people.”

    As if on cue, his phone rings with a call from Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group. Kors is in Florida and is updating Oden on some issues. He says, like it or not, Oden’s mayorship is groundbreaking.

    “I think the impact is enormous,” Kors says. “I am at a conference in Miami and his name comes up a lot. He’s been able to build bridges to other communities. He’s really changed the dynamic.”

    Thoughts about that kind of impact don’t take up much of his time, Oden says. But there are personal moments that have affected him.

    Shortly after his election, he says, he was at a public event for young people when a woman came up and gave him a hug.

    “She pointed across the room and said, `That’s my son.'” he says, recalling a biracial young man of about 12. “She said, `He’s gay. He doesn’t know it yet. But in the next few years, as he is struggling, I will be able to point to you and say to him, “You can make it, because Ron Oden made it.”‘

    “There are levels (at which) you affect people that you never anticipate,” he adds. “It certainly is heartwarming, but there are moments when you feel a weight of responsibility that you never signed up for.”

    4:30 P.M.

    Oden has entered the Palm Springs Follies from the backstage area, negotiating a narrow arched corridor in the historic theater. He’s here to deliver a proclamation on the 15th anniversary of the Vaudeville-style show. First, however, after taking the stage amid a presidential fanfare, he must endure a little ribbing by master of ceremonies Riff Markowitz.

    “Can I see your legs?” Markowitz teases. “When the mayor came on I couldn’t decide whether to play `Hail to the Chief’ or `God Save the Queen.'”

    Oden laughs along with the audience, delivers his proclamation and then poses for photographs with the show’s principals and other dignitaries. Outside the theater, while he schmoozes with the public, Greg Purdy, the publicist for the Follies, makes a call for the mayor. It’s to Edgmon.

    “Where’s Ron’s next stop?”

    6 P.M.

    As it turns out, there’s enough of a break in Oden’s schedule to allow him to enjoy dinner. Over a rib-eye steak, he talks about growing up in the San Fernando Valley while feeling the strong influence of his extended family in Alabama. He spent summers on his grandfather’s farm there and vividly remembers hiding with the family under the kitchen table when the Ku Klux Klan was in the neighborhood. He was 5.

    “That was the first time in my life I realized that there were people that wanted to hurt other people for something they had no control over. I realized then that there were two Americas. And my parents taught us how to live in both, while they were hoping for one.”

    His family, he says, continues to be a source of strength. They have supported him through his gradual awakening to his homosexuality that took place after he moved to Palm Springs. Currently, he says, he is not in a relationship.

    “It’s me that they love,” he says. “It’s so empowering to have that unconditional acceptance. Whether people like me or not doesn’t matter. The decisions I make, I make because I believe they’re the right decisions for the city and its future.”

    7:30 P.M.

    The day isn’t over. Oden still has to visit the Convention Center to give a welcome to a teachers convention, followed by a presentation at a fundraising dinner. He won’t reach home before 9 p.m.

    If he is fatigued, there is little sign of it. His desire to touch people’s lives, he says, energizes him. He attributes that, in part, to his grandfather’s influence.

    “He died officially at 103, but by family accounts, he was at least 107,” Oden says of the farmer who was also a minister. “He always said, `As long as you have the gift of life, make the world a better place.'”

    Art: PHOTOS

    Caption: RODRIGO PEÑA/THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE / (1) Mayor Ron Oden is Palm Springs’ first black and openly gay mayor. He recently announced he is running for the 80th District of the California State Assembly. (2) Oden gets a quick touchup before a TV appearance. (3) “This is my home!” MAYOR RON ODEN, DESCRIBING HIS REACTION THE FIRST TIME HE DROVE THROUGH PALM SPRINGS IN 1989 (4) Mayor Ron Oden talks to the California Association for the Gifted at the Palm Springs Convention Center. It was just one of several stops in Oden’s 12-hour day that also included TV interviews and meetings. (5) Oden credits executive secretary Martha Edgmon with keeping him on time to his appointments. (6) Oden talks to KMIR 6 television reporter Gloria Margarita. (7) Oden laughs as Riff Markowitz pokes fun at him during an appearance at the Palm Springs Follies.

    Zone: ALL ZONES

    Section: YOUR LIFE
    Page#: E01


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    California Political Desk

    The California Political Desk provides information, news releases, and announcements obtained from communication and public relations offices throughout the state.

    California Political Desk
    May 12, 2006

    LOS ANGELES – Recognizing Controller Steve Westly’s longstanding commitment to LGBT rights, the Capital Political Action Committee (CAPPAC), a leading Sacramento-area LGBT political action committee, has endorsed Steve Westly for Governor in 2006.

    According to CAPPAC’s website, “CAPPAC is a non-partisan, political action committee formed to promote the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people with a focus on the capital region and races of state-wide and national importance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. CAPPAC’s mission is to provide a voice for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the political process.”

    “The Capital Area Political Action Committee (CAPPAC) is pleased to endorse your candidacy in the Democratic Primary for Governor,” said Rebecca Darling, a representative of CAPPAC, in a recent letter to Westly. “We appreciate your support for equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and look forward to working with you to guarantee these rights for all Californians.”

    “I am proud to have stood with the LGBT community for more than 25 years,” said Controller Westly. “I am committed to ensuring true equality for every Californian, and I will carry this commitment with me to the Governor’s office.

    Steve Westly – whose campaign is co-chaired by openly gay State Senator Carole Migden – has also won endorsements from many other LGBT leaders and organizations including Orange County’s Eleanor Roosevelt Stonewall Democrats; Los Angeles’ Stonewall Democrats; Sacramento’s Stonewall Democrats; Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC); Equality California; Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center; San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty; San Mateo County Supervisor Richard Gordon; Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden; Chula Vista Mayor Stephen Padilla; Cathedral City Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pettis; West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang; San Jose City Councilmember Ken Yeager; Marriage Equality California founder L.J. Carusone; Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Board of Directors Co-Chair Dean Hansell; former E*Trade President and COO Kathy Levinson; Human Rights Campaign Board of Governors Co-Chair Alan Uphold; and GLSEN Board Member Yashar Hedayat.


    Garcia: It wasn’t a D.C. party May 25, 2006

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    Cindy Uken
    The Desert Sun
    May 12, 2006

    Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia chose “a party” over “public service” when she attended a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House instead of staying in Sacramento to vote on a historical $37 billion bond package, her two Democratic challengers say.

    It was not a party, Garcia said, explaining that she traveled to Washington, D.C., for a three-day policy summit during which she met with President Bush on immigration.

    Garcia, of Cathedral City, said she also met with congressional leaders, lobbyists and cabinet members who are involved in immigration reform.

    The trip was planned six weeks ago, she said. When she left May 3, there was “absolutely no indication” the bond issue would come up for a vote on May 5 during her absence. When she learned there was, she told her staff she would fly back if needed, she said. But by Thursday night it was clear the governor had the votes he needed to get the bond package passed so she stayed in Washington.

    “I make absolutely no apologies for what I did because I know who I am and I know what I stand for,” Garcia said. “I had an opportunity to speak to the leader of the free world on something that impacts 12 million people.”

    Ron Oden, mayor of Palm Springs, and Steve Clute, a former legislator from Palm Desert, aren’t buying it.

    “If you’re summoned to the White House, that’s an honor and it would be hard to pass up,” said Oden. “But this vote was the highest bond vote in the history of our state with money that directly impacts people in the 80th Assembly District. I would have been in the Assembly.”

    “Yeah, sure,” Garcia shot back after hearing what Oden said.

    Oden and Clute face each other in the June 6 primary; the winner will challenge Garcia, a two-term incumbent, in November.

    Clute said the opportunity to vote on a $37.2 billion bond package that so significantly impacts local government – and will create many high-paying jobs, especially the 80th Assembly District, comes along only once in a lawmaker’s lifetime.

    Given the same circumstances, Clute said he would have canceled the trip to the White House.

    “If you want to have substantive input on immigration you really should be heard in testimony in a congressional hearing,” Clute said. “If another face-to-face meeting with an extremely unpopular president is worth sacrificing four of the biggest votes of any legislator’s life, that’s her way. It would not be my way.”

    Critics say Garcia’s absence on the critical vote gives her an excuse to tell voters she didn’t support the bond package that will take a toll on taxpayers’ wallets if it’s approved.

    Garcia said she fully supports the bond package, one of a few Republicans who support the entire package. “I believe this governor is doing the right thing.”

    Preschool initiative nets endorsements May 25, 2006

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    Juliet Williams
    The Associated Press
    May 22, 2006

    SACRAMENTO – As the airwaves heat up with advertisements for a statewide ballot initiative to provide preschool for all California kids, some local officials will get into the act today.

    Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden will join local law enforcement leaders and educators in Indio this afternoon to endorse Prop. 82, the Preschool for All initiative.

    The initiative, which will appear on the June 6 ballot, would provide for statewide preschool through a 1.5 percent tax on people with incomes of $400,000 or more for individual and $800,000 or more for couples.

    Law enforcement leaders scheduled to be in attendance, include the Indio, Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City police chiefs.

    They’ll release a county-level report, “Preventing Crime with Proposition 82: How Preschool for All will cut crime, improve educational outcomes and save taxpayer money in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.”

    Hitting up the media
    Opponents and supporters of the initiative to provide preschool for all 4-year-olds have embarkedon a media blitz as polls showed voters divided over the measure with the election just three weeks away.

    The Yes on 82 campaign began airing an ad featuring Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while a statewide advertising campaign sponsored by the No on 82 committee launched just shortly afterwards.

    Noticeably absent from the supporters’ campaign has been Hollywood director Rob Reiner, a longtime preschool supporter who launched the initiative last year.

    Reiner was forced to step down in March as head of the First 5 coalition, a taxpayer-subsidized statewide early education program, after questions were raised about whether the group violated campaign laws.

    The questions revolved around First 5 commercials supporting the preschool initiative just before the Yes on 82 campaign secured enough signatures for the ballot.

    “It looks like the controversy over the First 5 funding has dramatically changed the way this campaign is being run,” said Dan Schnur, a Republican campaign consultant who is not affiliated with either preschool campaign. “It’s got to be very difficult for (Reiner) to sit this out, particularly after having been so high-profile.”

    The campaign declined a request from The Associated Press to speak with Reiner.

    With their Hollywood insider out, the campaign has sought other big names, such as Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

    Has wide support
    In the most recent poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in April, about 51 percent of likely voters said they support Proposition 82, with 40 percent opposed. The sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. In February, about 55 percent of voters supported the initiative, with 34 percent opposed.

    The initiative would make universal preschool available to all 4-year-olds whose parents want it by raising income taxes 1.7 percent on individual incomes over $400,000 or couples’ incomes over $800,000. It would raise an estimated $2.4 billion a year.

    With limited campaign funding available ahead of the November general election races, both sides may have decided to save their spending until just before the election so it would have more effect, said Kareem Crayton, a professor of law and politics at the University of Southern California law school.

    He said other topics, such as immigration and the war in Iraq, have dominated headlines for months, making it tougher for preschool backers to get their message out.

    “Both of those stories are very difficult to upend, when you’re talking about getting the public’s attention,” Crayton said.

    Ad campaigns
    The Yes on 82 campaign is running three 30-second spots.

    One statewide ad features a teacher of the year who says she can always tell which students have gone to good preschool, because they “read better and learn faster” than their peers.

    The others are virtually the same, one in English and one in Spanish, narrated by Villaraigosa and airing in the Los Angeles market.

    He says all children should have the chance to attend a high-quality preschool with certified teachers.

    The No on 82 commercial begins with ominous music and features an authoritative figure walking down a hallway and parents at a school. Parents complain the initiative would create a costly new bureaucracy and could even include a “parent tax.”

    Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the No on 82 campaign, said that refers to a portion of the measure that would allow legislators to decide what to do if the program ever fell short of funding in the future. One of the options available would be to charge a fee for preschool, she said.

    The initiative also has a built-in fund that would have money funneled to it even before the program launches in 2010.

    Supporters and opponents have offered differing figures on the number of children who would benefit from the program. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, about 62 percent of California 4-year-olds currently attend some kind of preschool program, although some are more akin to day-care centers.

    Both campaigns declined to say how much they are spending on the ad buys.

    Oden on the Web, Clute on parade May 24, 2006

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    Cindy Uken
    The Desert Sun
    May 24, 2006

    Steve Clute and Ron Oden, rivals vying to become the Democratic Party’s candidate in the 80th Assembly District race this fall, have run different campaigns leading up to the June 6 primary.

    Clute of Palm Desert has approached his race from a personal, one-on-one perspective since announcing his intentions last August. He has made his presence known at picnics, parades and party functions in Imperial County, where this particular race will be run or lost. Clute calls it a ground campaign and to date has raised about $45,000.

    Oden, mayor of Palm Springs, has relied heavily on bilingual advertising. He has made occasional trips to Imperial County since announcing his candidacy in March. In the latest twist, Oden, who has raised about $78,000, has taken his campaign to the computer. He’s recorded 5- to 7-minute video blogs which appear on his Web site, http://www.OdenForAssembly.com. They are question-and-answer format and are billed as “uncensored and unedited.” Topics range from the personal to the political to the controversial.

    I received several queries recently from suspicious taxpayers, wondering what conference Desert Hot Springs Mayor Alex Bias and Interim Police Chief Walt McKinney were attending, where it was and whether taxpayers were picking up the tab.

    All fair questions, of course.

    The conference was “Restoration 2006: Community and Economic Recovery After a Disaster” in New Orleans.

    Bias, McKinney and Ernest Calderon, emergency services director, all attended the two-day conference at city expense – $5,180.

    “It was money well-spent,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gary Bosworth, reminding taxpayers that the San Andreas Fault Line rips through Desert Hot Springs. “If we do not prepare to become a disaster-resistant city, our residents are shortchanged.”

    Service Employees International Union Local 700, which represents more than 12,000 local government service employees in the Greater Central Valley and is affiliated with 1.8 million members, has endorsed Ron Oden.


    Here’s hoping that what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.

    Indio city leaders are in Las Vegas this week to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers, which runs through today. The mission is to talk with developers of commercial property and bring retail to Indio – not let it stay in Vegas.

    Attending are City Manager Glenn Southard, Mayor Gene Gilbert, Mayor Pro Tem Ben Godfrey, Councilman Michael Wilson, Councilwoman Lupe Watson, and Community Development Director Steve Copenhaver, Development Manager Mariano Aguirre, Economic Development Specialist Karen Hawkesworth, Chief Building Official Tom Hosey, and Community Development Administrative Assistant Carol Emery.

    Desert Mayor Seeks Assembly Seat May 24, 2006

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    From the Los Angeles Times

    Oden with Students 

    Desert Mayor Seeks Assembly Seat
    Palm Springs' Ron Oden, one of the nation's few openly gay black politicians, hopes to replace Republican Bonnie Garcia.

    By Jonathan Abrams
    Times Staff Writer

    May 8, 2006

    The two events are separated by thousands of miles and almost half a century, yet they never stray far from Ron Oden's mind.

    As a child, he remembers hiding beneath a kitchen table when members of the Ku Klux Klan showed up at his grandfather's Alabama home. Decades later, when he was marching in a San Diego gay rights parade, tear gas was tossed into the crowd and sent him scurrying for cover.

    The first incident opened Oden's eyes to discrimination. The second persuaded Oden, by then a Palm Springs councilman, to publicly reveal that he was gay.

    Oden, 56, one of the country's few openly gay black politicians, accepts that some may view his race and sexuality as a double whammy. It is something he has dealt with for years while rising through the ranks of the City Council to become mayor and now embarking on a second run at a higher elected office.

    Oden said the klansmen in Alabama left without incident, probably after they caught a glimpse of his grandfather's shotgun, and in San Diego, neighbors came to his aid to help wash away traces of tear gas. Both incidents still resonate for Oden, who considers equal rights among his top political priorities.

    "Both had a profound impact," Oden said. "When they threw the can [of tear gas] it took me back to the place where people wanted to hurt others for something they had no control over, and that's not right."

    Oden, a longtime Democrat, hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Bonnie Garcia later this year in the 80th Assembly District, an area that stretches from the Coachella Valley across eastern Riverside County and includes all of Imperial County.

    He will first have to beat fellow Democrat Steve Clute, a former member of the Assembly, in the June primary.

    "It's a natural transition," said Oden, who was trounced by Republican Mary Bono, the popular widow of singer Sonny Bono, in a bid for a congressional seat six years ago. "I think I'll bring a measure of hope to people in the district."

    Oden, on the Palm Springs City Council since 1995, said that the local level has heard enough of his voice, but he believes he can still aid the region. His campaign will focus on improving education, on economic and health issues and on promoting equality.

    He refrains from using words like trailblazer or pioneer when describing his tenure as mayor.

    "I carry a tremendous weight that I didn't bargain for, but I understand the reality of it," Oden said.

    Ken Reeves, mayor of Cambridge, Mass., and believed to be the country's first openly gay, black mayor, said he could empathize with Oden.

    "Success in politics has a lot to do with choosing the right race," Reeves said. "He's been mayor for a while and done a good job and I'm sure he'll be running on that."

    Oden is well-liked in Palm Springs. The city is a popular vacation destination and internationally known gay tourist mecca. Gays are estimated to make up more than a third of the city's nearly 50,000 residents.

    "Ron has brought together different communities, gay and straight," said John Williams, owner of a Palm Springs hotel that caters to gays.

    But there have been difficulties during his tenure as well.

    A recent attempt to turn the O'Donnell Golf Club into a public course brought a strong outcry from club members, including fellow Councilman Chris Mills. The issue has yet to be resolved.

    Local labor organizers also criticize Oden for his support of a Wal-Mart Supercenter two years ago, and his disapproval of attempts to unionize workers at the city's Spa Resort Casino.

    Joseph Duffle, a labor union representative, called Oden a liar, saying he turned his back on labor issues when he voted for the supercenter.

    But Hal Ball, Oden's campaign manager, said Oden had been misunderstood and that the mayor never said he would vote against the Wal-Mart.

    "Ron represents all the city and not just one person," Ball said. "Joe decided to go against Ron and he's done that."

    Including meetings, charitable work and public appearances, a typical Oden day is a 12-hour tour through the city and surrounding area.

    The mayor's position is part time, but Oden, living on savings, treats it as a full-time job.

    "There's no way I can be at all the places people want me to be," Oden said. "Not even if they had cloning perfected."

    Oden, born in Detroit but reared in Southern California, holds degrees in sociology, history and theology. He is a Seventh-Day Adventist minister, but stepped away from the church shortly before entering politics.

    In 1989, with his marriage of 12 years fraying as he struggled with his sexuality, he accompanied his brother, George, on a vacation to Palm Springs.

    He says he experienced an epiphany as he entered the city. He ran from the car in tears feeling that he was home.

    The account sounds surreal and corny at points, but Oden swears by it.

    "It was as though something was speaking to me or drawing me," he said.

    He moved to the city a couple of months later, first teaching at the College of the Desert and then making what he calls a seamless transition into politics.

    City residents are caught more off guard by his race than his sexual orientation, Oden said. It has led to some awkward moments at public functions.

    "They'll announce my name and I'll walk up to a podium and people will still be looking for the mayor," Oden said. "That's where you have to have a sense of humor about life."

    That same good-natured attitude also helps him cope with what could have been a difficult family situation. His former wife had her New Orleans home damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and she and Oden's two daughters relocated to Palm Springs.

    "She's the mother of my children," Oden said. "The fact that she needs my assistance is no problem whatsoever."

    His oldest daughter has since moved to Upland with her husband.

    If his bid for the Assembly seat is successful, Oden believes his political career could skyrocket.

    "This is America," he said. "The sky is the limit, and there are no barriers or limitations."


    Advocate, The: Making gay black history: Ron Oden was no stranger to success when his historic election as Palm Springs mayor made international headlines May 1, 2006

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    Advocate, The: Making gay black history: Ron Oden was no stranger to success when his historic election as Palm Springs mayor made international headlines

    thedesertsun.com | Ron Oden to run for Assembly April 1, 2006

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    thedesertsun.com | Ron Oden to run for Assembly

     Ron Oden to run for Assembly
    Popular mayor sets sights on seat held by Republican Garcia



    Ron Oden was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 2000. The popular Mary Bono defeated him – garnering 113,667 votes to Oden's 73,203.


    The 80th Assembly District includes parts of the Coachella Valley and all of Imperial Country.


    Ron Oden will announce during two news conferences Thursday in Palm Springs and El Centro that he plans to run for the 80th Assembly District. He has been mayor of Palm Springs since 2003 and has served on the City Council since 1994.He will have to defeat fellow Democrat Steve Clute, a Palm Desert resident and former member of the California Assembly, in the June primary.The winner of that primary will then face off against the Republican incumbent Bonnie Garcia in November. Assemblywoman since 2002, Garcia has introduced legislation to increase the nutritional value of school lunches, strengthen sex offender registration, extend teacher probation periods and raise awareness of AIDS among women.

    Stefanie Frith and Cindy Uken
    The Desert Sun
    March 8, 2006 March 8, 2006

    PALM SPRINGS – Mayor Ron Oden will run for the 80th State Assembly District seat now held by Republican Bonnie Garcia but will not step down as mayor unless he wins the election.Oden, a Democrat, paid a filing fee and received nomination papers from the Riverside County Registrar of Voters office on Tuesday.

    He needs to collect 40 signatures by Friday.

    As first reported Tuesday on thedesertsun.com, he called each of the Palm Springs council members around noon Tuesday to tell them of his decision.

    Oden did not return several calls for comment Tuesday and will not speak publicly until he makes his formal announcement during two news conferences Thursday, said Hal Ball, Oden's political consultant and adviser.

    "This certainly addresses the issue of the rumor of him resigning," Ball said. "He will continue to fulfill his duties and responsibilities as the mayor of Palm Springs. There is no truth whatsoever to the rumor."

    Councilman Chris Mills said Oden was clear that he would not leave the mayor's office unless he wins the seat in November. He must first face off against Democrat Steve Clute in June. The primary winner will then go up against Garcia for the 80th Assembly District, which oversees much of the Coachella Valley and Imperial Country.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Clute was out gathering signatures and said he was eager for the primary.

    "I go into this thing regardless of who the primary opponent may be," he said. "I go into it believing that I'm going to be the candidate who has the best opportunity to win in November. That's just the way I approach it."


    Garcia said she welcomes Oden in the race and also alluded to the anticipated June primary."I'm very pleased that they are going to have a food fight," she said.

    She went on to say that she believes she has done a good job representing the people of her district.

    "I believe that I will have the support of the constituency again," Garcia said. "Isn't it a great country? Anybody can run for office?"

    Mills, who in November won a second term, said Oden will have his hands full as both mayor and an Assembly candidate.

    "Running for office is a very time-consuming job," Mills said. "Having just done it for a local office, I can't imagine what it would be like on a state level."

    This isn't the first time Oden has run for a major office. Oden made an unsuccessful bid against Rep. Mary Bono in the 1990s.

    But since then, the charismatic Oden, who was elected mayor in 2003, becoming one of the first openly gay black mayors in the country, has become somewhat of a celebrity in his own right. He has been recognized nationally and internationally by gay and civil rights groups and said last summer he was being courted by elected leaders throughout California to run for state office.

    Mills said Oden, 55, will have a much better shot at an Assembly seat now, especially since the district lines were redrawn to be more Coachella Valley-centric.

    "I think he has more name recognition this time," Mills said. "The district is more concentrated. That's a big advantage to when he ran before. It's a good thing he's young."

    John Williams, owner of INNduldge, a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, said Tuesday he was supported of Oden's bid for office and that Oden has done a lot for the communities in Palm Springs. He contends that Oden would make a great candidate against Garcia.

    "As a gay man, I (used to feel) there was a lot of tension," said Williams, who ran for City Council in November. "But he has brought the communities together. This is exciting news."

    Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat said she hadn't had time to let Oden's decision "digest" after receiving a call from the mayor around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

    "He has political aspirations," she said. "So it's up to him."

    If Oden wins the primary against Clute and the election against Garcia, then the mayor will step down. In that case, the City Council will need to pick an interim mayor, Foat said.

    Then an election will need to take place to pick a new mayor, she said.

    "More power to him," said Mills. "I wish him the best of luck."