SANTA ANA — A Democratic candidate in the 69th Assembly District race filed a complaint Wednesday with the Orange County district attorney's office and the grand jury, claiming that one of his opponents in the June primary tried to force him out of the race through bribery and intimidation.
During a news conference at the county Hall of Administration, candidate Zeke Hernandez alleged that Santa Ana Councilman Ted R. Moreno told a third party that he had "a group of attorneys that would raise $10,000" for Hernandez to run for the Santa Ana City Council instead of the Assembly seat being vacated by Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove).
Hernandez said he was filing the complaint because he did not believe "politics as usual" should be tolerated.
"When somebody does something like that, it does not matter if he or she is Latino or Anglo or African American. Something like this shouldn't occur," Hernandez said.
In a later interview, Moreno said he never offered Hernandez, or any intermediary, campaign funds to get Hernandez out of the Assembly race.
"If I had attorneys that would give $10,000, don't you think I am going to use it for my campaign?" Moreno said.
Pointing to Hernandez's four previously unsuccessful City Council campaigns, Moreno said he would never offer Hernandez's campaign financial support "because he is a weak candidate. . . . I would lose credibility in the community by endorsing him."
Hernandez identified the third party as political activist Arturo Montez, who later confirmed that Moreno had approached him with the offer.
County prosecutors could not be reached for comment.
Orange County Democratic Party Chairwoman Dorianne Garcia said that if Hernandez has evidence to substantiate his charge, then he has the right to file a complaint.
"I am hoping that this was all a misunderstanding between Zeke and Ted," she added.
In addition to Hernandez and Moreno, the Democratic field in the 69th Assembly District race includes Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce President Michael Metzler and Santa Ana contractor John Patterson.
Hernandez also released a tape recording of a Feb. 14 telephone conversation between himself and Moreno, two days before the campaign funds were allegedly offered to the intermediary.
Moreno is heard on the tape urging Hernandez to do "what's best for the (Latino) community" and let Moreno be the Latino candidate in the June 7 primary.
If both Latinos stay in the race, Moreno argues on the tape, a white candidate will be guaranteed victory in the heavily minority district that includes Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana.
Moreno, who said he did not know the telephone conversation was being tape-recorded, described it as a "heart-to-heart" talk. "If Zeke cannot handle running with the big boys, then he should get out of the race," he said.