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Dem Party Candidates Use Misleading Job Titles on Ballot

Registrar of Voters
Author: La Prensa
Created: 21 December, 2023
Updated: 22 December, 2023
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4 min read

Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

Several local candidates running for the Democratic Party Central Committee on the March 5th election ballot have used misleading job titles like "Volunteer", "Advocate", and even "Deputy Chief" to obscure their political connections, including several tied to an indicted political consultant who has worked for years to control the Party’s governing board and endorsements. 

California Elections Code Section 13107(a)(3) requires that candidate’s ballot designation be “either the current principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate, or the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents” to ensure voters are not mislead. 

A review of the San Diego County Registrar of Voters official candidates filings show several candidates for the Democratic Central Committee used generic titles when they have full-time jobs that should have been used as their ballot designation but would have revealed their connections to politicians, labor unions, and even to Grassroots Resources, a controversial local political consulting firm run by Jesus Cardenas.

Cardenas was indicted in October along with his sister, Chula Vista Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas, on 12 felony counts for fraudulently applying for a COVID-era federal government loan and has been involved in

The current Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, Rebecca Taylor, who listed herself as “Gerontologist/Veterans Advocate,” is a full-time Sales and Marketing Specialist at Political Data Inc, a vendor that provides voter data information to campaigns and political parties, including to the local Party.

Taylor previously worked as Director of Advocacy for Grassroots Resources from 2016 to 2020. 

Another candidate, Ryan Darsey, listed himself as “Community Volunteer” although he is the Director of Community Engagement for San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn. 

Darsey worked for Whitburn during the time when Jesus Cardenas was serving as Whitburn’s Chief of Staff, and also worked as a Campaign Manager for Whitburn’s 2020 election which Cardenas managed.

Whitburn himself is also running for the Democratic Party Central Committee at the same time he is running for re-election to the City Council. Whitburn used the ballot title of “City Councilman, City of San Diego” for his run for the Party position. 

Dallin Young, another candidate for Central Committee, listed himself as “Child Disability Advocate” while he is actually a full-time Public Affairs Manager for SDGE. 

Young previously worked directly as Chief Strategist for Grassroots Resources, then headed the Association of Cannabis Professionals, an industry group run by Jesus Cardenas that was funded by marijuana businesses he also helped apply for cannabis retail licenses. 

In 2021, Young was a lobbyist for cannabis clients when he lobbied Cardenas in Whitburn’s office to propose an amendment to relax the City’s marijuana control ordinance. 

Other candidates for Democratic Central Committee are also using innocuous titles to obscure their political connections. 

Matthew Yagyagan, listed as “Deputy Policy Director”, serves as Deputy Director of Policy and Council Affairs for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. 

Another candidate is Jason Bercovitch, listed as “Immigrant Rights Advocate”, is the District Director for San Diego Congressman Scott Peters. Peters, like all local members of Congress, is automatically an ex-Oficio member of the Central Committee by virtue of being the Party’s nominee in his congressional district.

But one of the most confusing ballot titles used by a Democratic Party candidate is Nick Serrano’s listing as “Deputy Chief”, an obscure reference to his position was Deputy Chief of Staff to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. A Chief of Staff manages the employees of an office like that of an elected official.

An online search for “Deputy Chief” results in definitions such as “an official in a police or fire department usually second in command” or “the rank of a deputy chief.” Before serving in his current position, Serrano was the campaign manager for Gloria’s campaign, and also worked as Communications Director for Gloria when he served in the California State Assembly.

Todd Gloria is also running for Central Committee while he is running for re-election. Gloria listed himself as “Mayor of San Diego.”

Brian Polejes, listed as “Community Advocate”, is actually a Senior Union Organizer for the Service Employees International Union for more than 17 years.

Rick Bates, Political Coordinator for UNITE HERE Local 30, the San Diego union for hotel and restaurant workers, is listed as “Environmentalist/Political Coordinator”.

The local Party's current Vice-Chair for the South Region of the County, Sara Ochoa, is listed as "Party Vice Chair/Mother" although she owns a consulting firm and is a registered lobbyist with the City of San Diego where she represents developers seeking permit approvals as well as the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, a local non-profit advocacy group.

Ochoa's husband, Ricardo Ochoa, is a union lawyer who currently also serves on the Democratic Party's Central Committee.

La Prensa San Diego reviewed online business listings and results to research each person’s background in an attempt to confirm their alternate ballot titles.