Familiar showdown possible in Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs voters may see a rematch on this fall’s ballot:

Councilman Russell Betts this week confirmed that he’s mulling another run against Mayor Yvonne Parks.

“I’m not ruling out the option,” Betts told The Desert Sun. “It’s still early in the process.”

Betts tried to unseat Parks in 2009, but she handily won re-election with more than 61 percent of the vote. Their relationship has been rocky ever since.

Parks, for her part, is gearing up early for whoever may challenge her.

She joined Councilwoman Jan Pye and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Matas in a campaign kickoff last week.

They’ll be challenged by at least Joe McKee, who sits on several city committees. McKee formally kicked off his council campaign earlier this month.

Survey: Republicans could gain ground with Latino voters in California

A new political survey states that Republican political candidates could gain ground with California’s Latino voters, but only if they engage the community and earn their trust.

The poll results were released Wednesday by GROW Elect, a political organization, and Moore Information, a polling firm. Both groups are Republican. Together, they polled Latino voters in 10 California districts that are expected to be competitive in the 2014 mid-term elections.

More about the poll:

The groups surveyed voters in congressional districts 3, 7, 10, 16, 21, 24, 26, 31, 36, and 52, according to a news release.

“We found it significant that while the Republican Party is not viewed as a racist party by Latino voters, it is viewed as being out of touch with people of color and that Republicans are seen as not understanding the challenges faced by Latinos – particularly when it comes to Latinos’ economic well-being and standard of living,” said Bob Moore, president of Moore Information, in a news release. “In order to improve the GOP’s share of the Latino vote, Republicans will need to demonstrate and communicate that they are working on behalf of Latinos to positively impact their lives and help them meet their daily challenges. Economic and education issues are central to this, but Republicans also need to show how voters of color are affected personally by Republican efforts.”

Gary Jeandron launches Assembly campaign

Palm Springs Unified school board member Gary Jeandron today officially kicked off his bid for the 42nd Assembly seat.

“I have dedicated my life to the safety and education of our residents,” the Republican said in a news release today.

“In the Assembly, I will continue to work toward improving the business climate in California while ensuring the safety and education of our residents.”

Jeandron, who is Palm Springs’ former police chief, has been laying the groundwork for a campaign for some time.

He already started to create campaign website and had filed initial paperwork with the California Secretary of State.

The 42nd Assembly District — one of two that cover the Coachella Valley — favors Republicans in terms of voter registration.

Two other candidates are also vying for the post: Chris Mann, a Banning Republican who operates a public relations and communications firm, and Chad Mayes, a Yucca Valley Republican who works for San Bernardino County government.

Both of them have previously been elected to municipal government posts.

This will be Jeandron’s third run at a higher office.

In 2008, after Republicans ensured he would have no primary election challengers, Jeandron lost the 80th Assembly race to Democrat V. Manuel Perez. And in 2010, Jeandron unsuccessfully tried to unseat Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit, a fellow Republican.

Barbara Boxer ‘heartbroken’ over gun vote

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer today expressed disappointment that her colleagues rejected a plan to expanded background checks for gun purchases.

“After seeing sensible gun safety measures fail in the Senate, I am heartbroken but I will never stop working to make our children and our country safer,” Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat, said in a statement today.

The proposal that failed Wednesday would have required background checks for transactions beyond licensed gun dealers, including those purchased online or at gun shows.

Desert Sands Unified teacher negotiations invoke comparisons to VP Biden, Boston bombings

The controversy over teacher contract negotiations took an odd turn during a Desert Sands Unified school board meeting on Tuesday night – invoking comparisons to Vice President Joe Biden and the recent terror attacks in Boston.

The Desert Sands Unified School District is still negotiating with the district teachers union to finalize a contract for this school year, which is nearly over. As negotiations have dragged on, criticism of the district and board has been common at school board meetings.

During a board meeting on Tuesday, the criticism was more usual, personal and vitriolic.

One teacher, Gabrielle Jackson, opened her plea for settlement by referencing the recent terror attacks at the Boston Marathon. The bombings have killed three people and injured more than 100 others.

“Someday I dream I will wake up and hear that that people have stopped hurting each other on purpose. Furthermore, (it might be) that teachers will be recognized for having a special gift … Maybe we might be compensated for our efforts and talents as professionals. Please do not scoff at my idealism and say these things are not possible. All it would take to have peace is for each person to decide they would not hurt anyone anymore. And all it would take to settle our contract is for each of you to decide that my colleagues and I are valued and appreciated and settle with our negotiators.”

Several other critics targeted district Superintendent Gary Rutherford, who started the job in February.

David Parsons, a foreign language teacher from Shadow Hills High School in Indio, criticized Rutherford for not sharing in the sacrifice of teachers voluntarily giving back part of his salary, which is “tens of thousands of dollars above what Vice President Joe Biden earns.”

“Sir, you exhibit hubris,” Parson said, gesturing towards Rutherford, who furrowed his brow in surprise.

Desert Sands Unified School District Superintendent Gary Rutherford is photographed at the Desert Sands Unified School District Education Center in La Quinta on December 16, 2012. Photo by Gerry Maceda, Special to The Desert Sun

Rutherford earns a $242,000 salary, plus additional compensation that includes a $1,200 annual stipend for his doctorate degree, $3,000 a year for a tax-sheltered annuity and $9,000 to compensate him for using his vehicle.

The previous superintendent, Sharon McGehee, who spent five years with the district, would have received salary of $279,884 if she had worked the full year. The average salary for superintendents in districts with more than 20,000 students is about $223,000. Desert Sands has about 29,000 students.

Vice President Biden earns $230,700 per year, but he is also provided a mansion and other uncommon benefits by the federal government.

This is what the mansion looks like, by the way. Photo from WhiteHouseMuseum.org

Ironically, much like Rutherford, Biden has been criticized recently for not giving back part of his salary. Although sequestration has prompted President Obama and many White House cabinet members to forfeit about five percent of their salaries, Biden has made no such gesture, according to a recent report by CBS News. Biden is less wealthy than most of the other cabinet members, who were independently wealthy before they assumed their posts, according to the CBS News report.

Connie Mack follows wife’s lead

Following in his wife’s footsteps, former Florida Rep. Connie Mack has landed a job with a Washington-based lobbying firm.

Mack, a Florida Republican who lost his U.S. Senate bid in November, joined Liberty Partners Group as a partner and senior policy advisor, the firm announced this week.

Mack is the husband of former Rep. Mary Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican who lost her re-election campaign last year. She started working as a senior vice president for FaegreBD Consulting last month.

Since losing their respective House seats, the Macks have made several joint appearances on national TV news shows.

And now it seems the couple could carpool too: The Center for Responsive Politics noted that the two firms are located in the same K Street building.

Raul Ruiz fundraising: Nearly $345,000 in first quarter

Dr. Raul Ruiz, Democratic candidate for Congress, addresses a large crowd  at his Indio campaign office during an Oct. 10, 2012 rally.  (Wade Byars, The Desert Sun)

In this October 2012 photo, Dr. Raul Ruiz addresses a large crowd during a rally at his Indio campaign office. The Palm Desert Democrat raised $344,824.88 in the first quarter of this year. (Wade Byars, The Desert Sun)

Rep. Raul Ruiz raised $344,824.88 from Jan. 1-March 31 of this year, according to his campaign aides.

The Palm Desert Democrat also had $295,261.17 in cash at the end of the first quarter of this year, those aides said in providing an advance look at the two most important fundraising numbers.

Members of Congress must file their first-quarter campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission by midnight tonight. More details about Ruiz’s fundraising activities will be available after the FEC posts the data on its web site.

— Raju Chebium, Desert Sun Washington Bureau

Raul Ruiz appearances in Palm Springs area announced

Rep. Raul Ruiz speaks in favor of gay marriage at a rally for marriage equality  Tuesday, March 26, 2013, across the street from the Palm Springs City Hall. (Richard Lui, The Desert Sun)

Rep. Raul Ruiz speaks in favor of gay marriage at a March 26 rally in Palm Springs. (Richard Lui, The Desert Sun)

Rep. Raul Ruiz, the Coachella Valley’s congressman, will be making stops across the valley in the coming days.

We last saw Ruiz speaking in favor of gay marriage at a Palm Springs rally held between the U.S. Supreme Court’s two days of arguments on same-sex marriage cases.

City News Service has details on the Palm Desert Democrat’s upcoming appearances:

PALM SPRINGS — Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, will make four public appearances in the Coachella Valley over the next several days, starting Wednesday.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, Ruiz will visit the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center in Palm Springs to commemorate National Community Development Week.

On Thursday at 10 a.m., Ruiz will visit the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage. At 11:45 a.m., he will speak at the La Quinta Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Lunch at the La Quinta Resort.

On Friday starting at 2 p.m., Ruiz, who is a doctor, will work a two-hour shift at Remote Area Medical’s free health clinic at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio.

Video: Tina Fey brings back Sarah Palin impression

Ever wonder what Sarah Palin thinks about “Dancing With the Stars” audience members and what fashion advice she’d give her admirers?

Tina Fey brought back her impression of the former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee — or, as Fey’s Palin prefers, “half-governor or … maverick-at-large” — to talk on those topics with “Inside the Actors Studio” host James Lipton, who Mediaite notes often asks questions of actors and their characters:

If you’re jonesing for the real Sarah Palin instead, here’s a clip from her recent appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington:

Election Day on Tuesday: Vote for State Senator in District 40

Sample ballot for State Senator

Sample ballot for State Senator (via California Secretary of State).

Tuesday marks the special primary election for a seat in the State Senate.

Voters will eventually replace Juan Vargas, who resigned from District 40 after winning a seat in the U.S. House.

Hector Raul Gastelum, Xanthi Gionis, Anna Nevenic and Ben Hueso are on the ballot.

This election includes voters in parts or all of Blythe, Cathedral City, Coachella, Indio, Mecca and Thousand Palms.

Nearly 45,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been issued in Riverside County. More than 9,500 — or 21.5 percent of those — have been returned, the Registrar of Voters said Monday.

Voters will be able to cast ballots at 21 polling places.

To find your assigned polling place, visit the Registrar of Voters office website at or call (951) 486-7200.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. through 8 p.m. Tuesday.