[City of Palmdale] – Despite attempts from plaintiff’s attorneys Kevin Shenkman and Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris to halt Palmdale’s municipal election through a voting rights lawsuit, voters headed to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and re-elected Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford and Councilman Tom Lackey, as well as selecting new Councilman Frederic Thompson.
“Although they caused immeasurable confusion and angst among our residents, the plaintiffs were unsuccessful in court in their attempt to stop Palmdale’s election and our residents had their say at the polls,” said Palmdale’s Communications Manager John Mlynar. “The next step in the process is for the Court of Appeals to handle the Certification of the election, which will most likely happen in December or January.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of our citizens’ determination to make their voices heard despite multiple attempts by plaintiff’s attorneys to stifle their right to vote,” said Ledford. “They not only went to the polls, but they elected a member of a ‘protected class’ to the City Council not because of the color of his skin, but because of the quality and merits of the candidate. This is exactly what Dr. King envisioned when he boldly proclaimed, ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’
“Our residents deserve the right to vote and I vow as Mayor to ensure their rights are protected,” added Ledford.
Thompson, a retired community college dean who formerly served on the Palmdale Planning Commission and Palmdale School District board, became the first African-American to win a City Council seat but not the first minority candidate to win a Citywide election.
“Fred Thompson’s victory spits in the face of the plaintiff’s ridiculous argument that a minority candidate cannot win a Citywide election in Palmdale,” Ledford said. “He is the latest in a long list of minority candidates who have won citywide elections in Palmdale, including school and water boards.”
“The citizens of Palmdale didn’t vote for me because of or, in spite of, the color of my skin – or theirs,” Thompson said. “They voted for me on Tuesday for the same reasons they voted for me over thirty years ago: I understood the voters’ issues, I made myself known in the community, I had the support of other community leaders, I put the work in to get my message to the voters, and I ran an effective campaign. What part of that formula is this lawsuit trying to ‘fix?’”
“I understand the impulse to explain elections based on a single factor, in this case race, but you can’t do that in Palmdale,” added Thompson. “You certainly can’t explain Tuesday’s elections in Palmdale using race. In the race for Palmdale School District you had white candidates both win and lose, you had Hispanic candidates both win and lose. You had African-Americans elected to both the City Council and the Palmdale School Board.”
“The voting rights lawsuit gives the impression this is a racist community, and it is not. There isn’t a neighborhood in Palmdale that you can drive into that isn’t integrated,” Thompson said.
Meanwhile, the City is awaiting the decision of the Superior Court judge as to the remedy for the original ruling in the voting rights case. “Undoubtedly we will appeal that decision as well,” Ditzhazy said. “We believe our residents – all of them – are best served by an election process in which the voters have full say over all the candidates, rather than in a district situation where voters have their say over one candidate, while 4 other council members have power over them.”
“I’ve been asked if there is a racist motive behind plaintiffs’ efforts to prevent an African-American from being seated on our council,” said Palmdale City Attorney Ditzhazy said. “I don’t think so. I think they need to prevent Mr. Thompson from being seated on the council because it undermines their pretext for bringing this suit. This case isn’t about bringing diversity to the City Council – it’s about plaintiffs’ attorneys leveraging a poorly drafted statute for political power and easy money. Everyone in this state should be paying attention to what is going on here, because eventually it’s coming to your town and it’s going to cost the tax payer plenty.”
“Californians finally woke up about the abuse of the American with Disabilities Act, where attorneys were taking advantage of laws designed to ensure access to all Americans,” said Palmdale’s Deputy City Attorney Noel Doran. “Well, now these plaintiffs’ attorneys have traded in their tape measure for a statistician who will testify that there is ‘racially polarized voting’ in your town. In our case, the plaintiffs’ statistician testified that he hadn’t seen an American election without ‘racially polarized voting since the 1800’s,” Doran stated.
“It’s clearer now more than ever that the plaintiff’s concern isn’t about black, brown or white – it’s about green,” said Ledford. “These interlopers who do not live in our city have come here to rob our citizens of their hard earned tax dollars through a frivolous lawsuit that has no merit.”
“In addition to the money grab, you have to wonder why Parris doesn’t push for districts in his own city like he is pushing for them in Palmdale,” Ditzhazy said. “If he’s such a big believer in having 5 districts with the mayor’s position annually rotating amongst the council – like he’s proposing for Palmdale – why not do it in Lancaster for the April 2014 election? It’s just further proof that this lawsuit has nothing to do with the rights of minorities. People are seeing through this charade and quite frankly, they’re fed up with Parris and his ‘do as I say, not as I do’ behavior.”