Party Loyalty Questions Surface For Elk Grove-Based Democratic Candidates


| Elk Grove City Councilman Darren Suen told fellow Democratic Party 
members he could endorse a non-Democratic candidate in a non-partisan race. | 

September 18, 2016 |

For those who have lived or familiar with the Elk Grove political scene in the last 25 or so years are keenly aware how the landscape has changed.

From at least the early 1990s, and most likely well before that, Elk Grove, with its agricultural heritage was a conservative and Republican stronghold. In the last several years, the area has gone from red, to purple to what now many would argue is at least light blue.

The tipping point in local politics came in 2006 with the election of Democratic City Council candidate, Gary Davis. Before Davis' election, the only Democrat on the original five member Elk Grove City Council was Jim Cooper.

Currently, the Elk Grove City Council has three Democrats and two Republicans. Additionally, Elk Grove is represented in Sacramento by Democrats Don Nottoli on the County Board of Supervisors, Jim Cooper in the Assembly and Dr. Richard Pan in the Senate. And even though he has won by the narrowest of margins in the last two elections, the City, which is a large part of our Congressional District, has been represented by Democratic Congressman Dr. Ami Bera, who coincidentally resides in Elk Grove.

Now that they have the upper hand in controlling local politics, there is a shift within elements of the Elk Grove Democratic Party under way. It has gone from 'We're just glad to be here' to a 'We're in control now, and we are demanding purity.'

This was on view at last week's Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club monthly meeting. At that meeting, club members voted on endorsements for various Elk Grove-based Democratic candidates.

Although it was subtle and no direct accusations were made, it appeared as though Elk Grove City Councilman Darren Suen drew the ire of a handful of Democratic Party faithful.

Suen's sin - failure to commit exclusively to Democratic Club members running for Elk Grove-based non-partisan offices.
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Although Suen has only one challenger for his seat on the City Council and was unchallenged for the club's endorsement, there were six club members out of 27 who voted "no endorsement" which is like a no-confidence vote. By comparison, Maureen Craft, who is running for the Elk Grove City Council District race against incumbent Steve Detrick, received  24 of 27 votes over her fellow Democratic challenger for the endorsement, Vincent Neuburger.

Beyond the numbers, there were loyalty comments seemingly aimed at Suen.

During his brief presentation, Suen was asked about endorsing fellow Democratic party members. While Suen affirmed his party loyalty, he qualified that by saying in non-partisan races, such as the Elk Grove City Council, a candidate's qualifications would trump party affiliation.

During her presentation, Craft was asked by club members Joe Debbs, who is a senior staff member of Democratic California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, about party loyalty.

Unlike Suen, Craft affirmed that she would put party loyalty first in her endorsement of candidates, regardless if the elections were partisan or non-partisan.

In the audio below you can hear Suen's comments in the first 1:24, followed by Debbs, and Craft starting at the 3:21 mark.

Though it is impossible to gauge exactly what is going on, it appears Suen was targeted for his comments regarding the endorsement of non-Democratic candidates in non-partisan elections, like the Elk Grove City Council races. Of course, this squabble was probably festering before this, and the meeting was a convenient forum to air the grievances for all to see.

Could Suen, who works in close collaboration with, and votes similarly to his Republican City Council colleagues Detrick and Pat Hume, be getting squeezed by his fellow Democrats for his silence on Elk Grove City Council endorsements?

As the City Council races inches toward election day, it is worth monitoring Suen's endorsements in the Elk Grove District 3 race. If Suen is neutral or endorses Detrick, Debbs may well bring the matter back to the next Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club meeting, and in his words, "denounce them out loud."   





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