Gary Jeandron is challenging appointed County Supervisor John Benoit in the upcoming June Election.
Jeandron is the President of the Palm Springs Unified School District and the retired police chief of Palm Springs. Jeandron spent three decades as a cop with the Palm Springs Police Department.
John Benoit was appointed by to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors by Governor Schwarzenegger after Benoit voted for the pork-filled $11 billion water bond the Governor was pushing. Benoit filled the spot left vacant by the sudden resignation and death of County Supervisor Roy Wilson.
Wilson's resignation letter, which appears to be a forgery, asked the Governor to appoint Benoit to the job.
As you know, dear readers, this entire process has not set well with a lot of people, including us. Many voters were clamoring for someone like former State Senator Jim Battin to challenge Benoit and take the seat from him. Battin appears to have no interest in the race, but Gary Jeandron is a different story.
The question dear readers is: Can Gary Jeandron unseat John Benoit?
The answer to that question is: Maybe.
Now before you go off and say that anyone "might" be able to win any campaign, let us clarify what we're saying, dear readers.
In any campaign, the natural advantage goes to the incumbent. Although he is appointed, John Benoit is the incumbent. He's been shamefully raising money for months and he's been a very visible politician for almost ten years now.
On top of that, sitting members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors are seldom beat in an election. Yes, Jeff Stone did unseat County Supervisor Jim Venable in 2004, but prior to that the last time a sitting County Supervisor was defeated in Riverside County was 1972!
All that aside, Gary Jeandron has a very good shot at unseating John Benoit in June.
This race could be a nail biter and should be considered a toss up because Gary Jeandron is the most formidable opponent John Benoit has ever faced in an election.
In 2002, Benoit handily defeated lobbyist Patrick O'Reilly's right hand man, Lou Monville in the Republican Primary. Monville who had a resume that looked decent on paper had no real life experience that mattered much to the voters. Benoit on the other hand had 30 years with the California Highway Patrol.
This was the first election after the Al Qeada attacks of September 11, 2001. George W. Bush was beating the drums of war. Safety was first on the minds of voters. So who should they vote for to keep them safe? The questionably disabled CHP Commander beats the PR Executive in that match up no matter what. This was a safe Republican seat, so the General Election was of no consequence.
Forward to 2008 and Assembyman John Benoit faced a more formidable challenger in former Assemblyman Russ Bogh for the California State Senate. They were running to fill Jim Battin's seat, as Senator Battin fell victim of California's term limits. Battin was backing Bogh.
Both Benoit and Bogh could be considered conservative Republicans, although Bogh was more socially conservative, as Benoit frequently provided the necessary votes for the State to approve the legislation that funded Medi-Cal.
Medi-Cal is used to provide family planning services and health care to the poor despite their immigration status. While it is illegal to cut off this funding, conservative Republicans typically vote against these bills as they do provide taxpayer funding for abortions of for health care for undocumented immigrants, which conservative Republicans allegedly oppose. Benoit's votes outed him as a moderate on these issues important to the GOP's Republican base.
What should have been a much closer race, turned into a blow out, as Benoit capitalized on mistakes made by Bogh. Bogh's campaign foolishly started handing out attack flyers months before the Primary Election highlighting Benoit's moderate voting record. Benoit was able to introduce legislation to paint himself as a social conservative to provide him political cover on these issues. Not the best use of taxpayer money by Benoit, but it did turn out to be politically profitable for him.
As the campaign moved on, John Benoit attacked Russ Bogh and his family business for questionable dealings that Bogh failed to adequately respond to. On top of that, the main issue of the time was illegal immigration, which gave Benoit the same advantage that he had in 2002 against Lou Monville.
The question became who should voters trust to kick illegal immigrants out of California, the bald highway patrolman or the youthful businessman? Businessman Bogh never had a chance in that climate. Again, the Senate seat was safely Republican. Even with the Democratic tidal wave of 2008, Benoit was going to the State Senate.
Now John Benoit is going up against Gary Jeandron. There are many similarities between Benoit and Jeandron. Both are long time residents of the Coachella Valley. Both have served on school boards. Both are cops, but that's also where they differ.
While both Gary Jeandron and John Benoit spent 30 years in law enforcement, Benoit's service however pales compared to Jeandron's. In fact when you place their service records side by side, Gary Jeandron makes John Benoit seem like little more than a meter maid.
Gary Jeandron was shot in the line of duty, kept working, and does not take his retirement pay tax free for the injuries he sustained. John Benoit on the other hand gets a portion of his retirement tax free because he got skin cancer on his ear. Questions abound about Benoit's disability, and running against Jeandron won't help him make those questions go away. In fact Gary Jeandron makes John Benoit look like an out-and-out fraud.
But the issue on the minds of the voters today does not appear to be safety. If something happens in the next five months it may but, but as of today it's the economy, stupid. That means the playing field is level for both Jeandron and Benoit, which is why this race is a Toss Up.
However, given the anti-incumbent wave that is sweeping America these days, don't be too surprised if John Benoit is out of a job next January.