Mayor Luis Molina, Sheree Lustgarten and Antonio Camacho have piled up numerous endorsements from labor groups and Democratic committees, while and Dominic Farinha have gotten the blessing of the Republican Party. Council candidate Dennis McCord and mayoral candidate Troy McComak have yet to receive any endorsements at this point, though 45 days remain until the election.
“I think anybody, whether it’s a group or a person, that says they’re standing with me and my leadership means a great deal,” Molina said.
Council candidate Carlos Fierros said he had secured the endorsement of GROW, a Latino GOP organization, and was awaiting others.
Farinha said he had been interviewed by the GOP but was not invited to any Democratic interviews. He would not say whether he was a member of either party.
McComak and McCord both said they were not interested in seeking endorsements.
Still, everyone except McComak sought the Patterson Firefighters’ Association endorsement, and some are questioning their selection process.
Molina, Lustgarten and Camacho all received the blessing of the local firefighters’ union, to the dismay of at least one other council member.
Smith took to Facebook to register her displeasure at the process Monday.
“You owe every candidate an apology for putting them through an interview process that was already pre-decided,” she wrote, saying Molina was in a bar in San Diego bragging about the group’s endorsements before firefighters interviewed council candidates.
She also accused Lustgarten of mocking firefighter Marty Greunke during a presentation regarding the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, as he spoke of how his sister died from cancer, by rubbing her eyes and mouthing “boo hoo hoo.”
She took issue with Molina for past DUI convictions, time in jail and “years of probation” and implied that Camacho had “nothing more than Teamster experience under his belt.”
The lack of an endorsement was personal, she wrote.
“In effect you are saying rid the council of Smith and Farinha and neutralize (Councilwoman Deborah) Novelli and (Councilman Larry Buehner) from decisions that affect the Fire Department. You lack trust and faith in all of those that have faithfully supported you over the years, in our words and our deeds, and that truly is where the heartache enters into it for me.”
Molina this week took issue with Smith’s accusations.
“Shame on her,” he said. “We respect the process. It’s sad that she says she had a relationship with (firefighters) and then doesn’t respect their process because she doesn’t like the outcome.”
Lustgarten said she never made the gesture Smith accused her of during Greunke’s presentation.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” she said. “That’s not my style. I have complete sympathy for that man and what he’s gone through.”
Farinha took the firefighters’ endorsement in stride.
“While I would’ve enjoyed the endorsement from the Patterson firefighters I accept their decision with professionalism and finality,” he said. “I will continue to support public safety.”
McCord seemed a bit perplexed at not getting the endorsement, as he served as a union representative while working at a hotel and restaurant in college and has experience with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which is now a part of the Service Employees International Union. He said he was told the experience was not recent enough and he was not “union” enough.
“Anytime I’ve asked unions for their support in the past, I’ve always received it,” he said.
Acting Fire Capt. Mike McLaughlin said everyone went through the same process and said that it was fair. He called Smith’s accusations ridiculous.
A committee of three firefighters interviewed candidates, while McLaughlin moderated, he said. The committee then convened and made recommendations to the general membership of the 11-member firefighter union who voted on the final endorsements. He said there was no favoritism.
After the rift on Facebook a press release from the firefighters’ union stated about Molina: “The citizens of Patterson made the right decision last election when they voted Luis Molina Mayor of Patterson,” said Mike McLaughlin, President of Patterson Firefighters Local 4577. “Mayor Molina has proven to be the right person to lead our community.”
“(Lustgarten) realizes ensuring Public Safety is probably the most important task of the Council”, McLaughlin added.
The release went on to say that Camacho had his ear to labor and was a held a strong belief that firefighters must be equipped with the tools and staffing that enables them to adequately protect the community.
n News Reporter Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.