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Political roundup: Senior protester in Trump’s tweet has O.C. connection; Shawn Steel reelected to national GOP gig

A prominent Orange County Republican just got re-elected to a role with the national GOP, while a protester who was the subject of a presidential tweet after Buffalo, N.Y. police knocked him down has OC ties.

And while the coronavirus pandemic continues, a local state senate candidate has found a new use for his campaign ice cream truck while the county GOP plans a virtual rally.

These are some of the news bites generating buzz from Orange County’s political scene.

Shawn Steel wins GOP role

First up, Shawn Steel of Seal Beach was just reelected to a four-year term as one of three California representatives on the Republican National Committee.

Steel, who chaired the California Republican Party that in 2003 helped oust Gov. Gray Davis, will now serve his fourth term as California National Committeeman with the RNC. The other California representatives are state party chair Jessica Millan Patterson and Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney who is representing the California GOP in a lawsuit over mail-in ballots.

As a representative with the RNC, Steel will bring California concerns to the national party and share information from the national party with state and local chapters. He’ll also help elect RNC leadership and set party policies.

Steel is husband to Michelle Steel, who’s chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and challenging Rep. Harley Rouda for the 48th District seat.

Buffalo protester was arrested in OC

There’s an Orange County connection to the 75-year-old man who’s drawn national attention, including from President Donald Trump, after video showed police in Buffalo, New York knocking him down and causing a heard injury during a protest against police brutality.

Martin Gugino is a retired computer scientist who friends say has volunteered with Catholic groups and protested for peace, the environment and other causes for decades.

On June 4, Gugino was at a Black Lives Matter protest in Buffalo when video shows he walked up to a line of approaching police officers. Two of the officers shoved him, causing him to fall back and hit his head on the sidewalk so hard that he laid motionless, with blood coming from one ear. He’s expected to recover but as of June 10 he remained hospitalized.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a suggestion, without evidence, that Gugino staged the fall while acting as a member of an anti-facist movement. Conservative media reports prompted the theory, using the fact that Gugino had been arrested in the past to paint him as an agitator.

Gugino’s own website states he was arrested in Orange County 11 years ago. Friends have said that arrest plus three others in Washington, D.C. were likely for protesting torture, since Gugino has long spoken out against treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

“Martin was part of a community that routinely practiced non-violent civil disobedience,” said Jeremy Varon, a friend of Gugino’s who works with him at the organization Witness Against Torture. “In our community, it is absolutely common for people to have 2, 3, 5, 10, 20 or more trespassing charges.”

A similar arrest record can be seen with many frequent protesters, from actress Jane Fonda to OC Democratic party chair Ada Briceño, since such charges can come up anytime demonstrators refuse to leave when police ask them to disperse.

On the day Gugino said he was arrested in OC, John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer who wrote memos justifying waterboarding and other coercive interrogation tactics, was speaking at Chapman University in Orange. The event drew protesters from across the country.

“The way it works is that one or two groups put out a call and various activists from various groups show up,” Varon said.

While county court records show Gugino faced a misdemeanor trespassing charge in spring 2009, other details weren’t available because the charge was dropped and the record destroyed. Gugino’s website states his other arrests were also dismissed. But if Gugino was indeed arrested on that date in Orange County, Varon said he’s nearly certain it would have been tied to Yoo’s appearance.

When asked to comment from his hospital bed on Trump’s accusations about his record and affiliations, another of Gugino’s friends told CNN that the 75-year-old said “Black Lives Matter.”

New mission for Newman’s ice cream truck

Democratic State Senate candidate Josh Newman has found a new way to use his campaign’s ice cream truck, which has been temporarily parked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Newman is a former state senator who’s hoping to win the 29th Senate District seat back this year from Republican Sen. Ling Ling Chang. To connect with voters in the district, which includes northeast Orange County plus portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, Newman bought an ice cream truck last year on Craigslist, painted it to promote his campaign, and started handing out ice cream sandwiches. He had a goal to give 80,000 frozen treats away by November. Then came the coronavirus.

Now, Newman is using the truck for a program he’s calling Takeout4Good.

He picks a restaurant or two in his district that can use some business and publicity. Next, he finds a local group of frontline workers or an organization that’s working to help people during the pandemic. He then collects donations from the public and uses that money to buy meals from the restaurant to feed the workers. And he delivers the meals, plus some ice cream sandwiches, in his blue ice cream truck.

So far, Newman’s campaign has raised $4,000 to deliver 740 free meals to eight groups. That includes breakfast for the La Palma Police Department, lunch for workers at the Buena Park Stater Bros, and food for humans and animals at Priceless Pet Rescue in Chino Hills.

OCGOP hosts virtual rally

The Republican Party of Orange County is holding a virtual “Take Back the House” rally on Saturday.

“The path towards taking back the House of Representatives in November runs through Orange County where we have four targeted pick-up opportunities,” the invitation states.

More than 300 people have already signed up to tune in, the party said. They’ll hear speeches from state party chair Patterson along with Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Fred Whitaker, plus the GOP candidates for four targeted House seats that flipped to Democrats in 2018. That includes CA-39 candidate Young Kim, CA-45 candidate Greg Raths, CA-48 candidate Michelle Steel and CA-49 candidate Brian Maryott.

The online event starts at 11 a.m. and will serve as a kickoff for the OCGOP’s “Summer of Engagement,” planned to drum up support heading into November.

Despite ongoing federal guidelines against large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trump announced Wednesday that he’ll start holding in-person rallies again next week in Oklahoma after a three-month hiatus.

Staff writer Sean Emery contributed to this report.

Source: Orange County Register

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