Only one of the candidates for Trustee Area 5 in this year's election for the Rio Hondo Board of Trustees responded to emails requesting a response to the questions we were posing.
Incumbent Oscar Valladares did not provide a response to any of the questions and was actually out of town according to his own Facebook page. As with past elections, both candidates will be afforded an opportunity for response to the information contained in this article. Any responses, if recieved, will be published in full in order to afford the candidates the best opportunity to state their case to the voters.
FIrst we started by asking each candidate why they were running and what they hoped to accomplish if elected/reelected.
There was no response from Mr. Valladares. Emma Narvaez, the campaign manager for Vanessa Tyson, responded on behalf of that campaign. In her response she said that Vanessa's priorities were increasing student resources available through the Office of Basic Needs to better address the realities of food insecurity and housing insecurity among the student body, encouraging and promoting ethical leadership practices and professional development opportunities for everyone at Rio Hondo College, and expanding mental health resources for the student body.
The next thing we asked about was campaign finance and level of support within the district. According to the campaign finance papers filed by both campaigns with the LA County Registrar's Office, both candidates have raised nearly $20,000 a peice.
First we looked at Tyson's campaign report. We found that 8.5% of the funds or $1,617 were from out of state with 91.5% or 17,412 coming from in state sources. Locally the documents, dated to September, showed that local contributions made up 2% of the in state total but only about 1.86% of the entire total. Of the local funds the paper shows $103 coming from Whittier and $250 from Santa Fe Springs. Her largest contributor was a Carol Leif who lives in the City of Los Angeles and contributed a sum of $5,000. In her response, Narvaez noted the reports were a couple months old. Unfortunately they are also the most recent records available.
Given this information we had questions about the level of in district support for Ms. Tyson given she was raised in Whittier and deep roots and strong connections to the community. Something about the paper made no sense. Ms. Tyson had attended Granada Middle School and La Serna High School and was the first in her family to graduate from college. Plus she has been endorsed by one of the most conservative Republicans on the Whittier City Council, Cathy Warner. So with these strong connections to Whittier we wanted to know what was happening with her local support.
According to Ms. Narvaez, "Vanessa was approached to run for the seat less than 48 hours before the filing deadline (roughly 2.5 months ago) and began fundraising on September 4th." The campaign finance report was stamped as having been submitted on September 28th. She also stated, "Since then she has received numerous campaign contributions--many of them from residents of Area 5 of the Rio Hondo Community College District." But only two donations that are possibly from Area 5 are reflected in the paper work. However, it is possible that Tyson recieved additional contributions from Area 5 residents after the report was filed and won't be reflected until in the paperwork until post election forms are published.
When we asked about her level of in district support, as in the amount of support from the Trustee Area she is seeking to represent, Tyson's Campaign Manager Narvaez said, "The level of support for Vanessa has been incredibly exciting to witness! The employees of Rio Hondo and the members of the Area 5 community have been so gracious and excited to hear from her. Her enthusiasm is contagious and people are truly excited to support her. Many employees from the college are canvassing for her because they firmly believe Vanessa will be the best board member for Rio Hondo. "
We also looked at incumbent Oscar Valladares campaign finances. He raised about $20,000 according to the reports. The reports shows that most of Valladares campaign funds came from within district but that a majority of it was money, $11,000, that Mr. Valladares gave or loaned to his own campaign. The next largest amount was $2,000 from the out of district PAC called Building A Stronger California which is sponsored by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. The PAC donated the same sum to Rio Hondo's other incumbent, Anais Medina. When we checked the PAC's website, it was just a blank webpage. Further investigation found it to have strong Democratic Party leanings and that it has spent over $1,321,000 to influence the 2022 elections. It's FPPC number 870169 and the Carpenter's Union which funded it says they have 60,000 members in 6 states and has been financing candidates in all 6.
In addition he recieved a $1,000 from an attorney in Downey by the name of Arnold Alvarez-Glassman.
$1,050 of Valladares campaign funds were from outside the district he is running to represent.
The final issue we had to ask about was about the sexual harassment allegations that were made against Mr. Valladares last year by a local Whittier residents.
We asked Ms. Tyson if that played any role in her decision to run for the seat.
Providing the Tyson campaign's response, Ms. Narvaez said, "Vanessa's opponent faces serious sexual harassment allegations. Yes, that fact played a significant role in her decision to run. She not only walks the walk, she talks the talk. Elected officials must be called out and suffer consequences for their gross misconduct. Children learn that actions have consequences. This principle must ring true for adults as well. "
At the time the accusations were made, the Board of Trustees had ordered an investigation into the allegations against Mr. Valladares. We have no information as to the outcome of the investigation nor whether it is still ongoing.
Mr. Valladares did not respond to our questions about this or the campaign finance issues. But considering he has been out of state for the last few days we will afford him an opportunity to respond when he returns and decides to do so.