Saying it is “time for some fresh faces and perspectives to lead our state,” Amanda Rentería officially launched her bid for governor with a press release at 10 a.m. Tuesday (Feb. 20).
“We can no longer do politics like we’ve done it in the past. We need leaders who can inspire a new generation of public servants, bring new voices to the table, and do it with a sense of joy and optimism,” said Rentería, who also also launched her website www.amandarenteria.com.
The former chief of operations at the California Department of Justice jumps into a crowded race that includes Democratic frontrunners Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Ángeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“As a long-time public servant working at the local, state, and federal level, I believe we need to change the culture of our politics. Elected office isn’t supposed to be bought, and it’s not supposed to be used for your own gain,” said Rentería, who served as a policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“Public service is about celebrating the courage of our fellow citizens, and putting your head down to do the work. It’s not flashy or boastful. It’s about the power of connecting with others and making their stories heard.”
Rentería lost a 2014 Congressional race against Republican David Valadeo in a heavily Latino district.
“I hope that all Californians will join our movement to make politics about people again.”
Her website, which includes a Facebook and Twitter link, does not provide links to policy on issues.
Reaction from Valley Latinos subdued
As the mysterious, gubernatorial candidacy of Amanda Rentería – whose opponents will include someone who endorsed her in a failed 2014 Congressional run – enters its second week, her Feb. 15 announcement has generated far more questions than answers.
That is probably due to the news blackout the Woodlake native has imposed after The Sacramento Bee reported she had filed the paperwork to run for governor. Rentería announced last Thursday that Feb. 14 was her last day as chief of operations for the California Department of Justice, a job she took less than a year ago.
Since then, there have been no campaign announcements, no rallies, no video, no social media information.
Last Saturday, the 43-year-old Rentería hinted on Twitter that she would reveal more information this week.
“I will be communicating more next week. But, in the meantime, I’ve always been motivated by making a positive difference and that hasn’t changed. Look forward to sharing more soon,” she wrote.
The reaction for many Latinos in the San Joaquín Valley who have looked at her to represent regional issues at the state Capitol has been of shock and resentment, with little all-out support.
They don’t question her ability, but think she is running as a spoiler against former Los Ángeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by splitting the Latino vote. The path to a victory against Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has been campaigning since February 2015.
A recent Public Politic Institute of California poll shows Newsom and Villaraigosa in a virtual tie ahead of the June primary.
We have viable candidates with Gavin (Newsom) and Villaraigosa (Antonio). I think, probably, she should hold off, maybe work with one of them and learn to work on statewide campaigns.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of qualification – I think she has them – but it’s a little late. Most of us are committed already,” said Visalia resident Lali Moheno, a one-time Tulare County supervisor and a politically active Democrat.
Moheno and her husband, Víctor Moheno, were on their way to the Democratic National Convention in San Diego.
“We have viable candidates with Gavin (Newsom) and Villaraigosa (Antonio). I think, probably, she should hold off, maybe work with one of them and learn to work on statewide campaigns, but I know she has national experience with Hillary (Clinton),” said Moheno, speaking via cellphone while she and her husband, Víctor Moheno, headed early to this weekend’s Democratic National Convention in San Diego.
“I don’t know her motivation,” added Moheno. “Maybe there’s a reason, but I don’t really know, why now? There’s something behind this.”
Moheno said Rentería would have problems raising money, and other unnamed factors involved in the race.
Lali is backing Villaraigosa and Delaine Eastin.
Her husband, an attorney, is backing Newsom.
“She (Rentería) might want to wait for the U.S. Senate, but work with people who are already running. I think she’s awesome. She’s serious. I’ve seen some of this (late entry) come back and hurt other candidates in the past, but she’s young and has an excellent background. She’s very qualified.”
Other Latinos have been harsher.
“I’m shocked and trying to understand the implication of her jumping in this late in the game,” said Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria, who is a Tulare County native like Rentería. “I was disappointed, personally.”
“If she was serious, then why didn’t she do her homework? She should have reached out to all of us. This only hurts the Central Valley, Latinos and women,” added Soria.
If she was serious, then why didn’t she do her homework? She should have reached out to all of us. This only hurts the Central Valley, Latinos and women.
Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria
Running for a statewide campaign in California with its 40 million residents and geographic/demographic divides “is not an easy feat,” said Soria.
“I started working a year-and-a-half prior for (Fresno) city council,” said Soria, who has many questions. “What is her motivation? Her issues?”
Soria said she understands the need for women to run for office, “but we have (former state superintendent) Delaine Eastin, if that is her motive.”
Former Assemblymember Sarah Reyes was equally perplexed.
“To me, it is just disappointing. I thought Amanda was smarter than that. That she was dedicated to working alongside agriculture and be a voice for the Central Valley,” said Reyes, who has endorsed Villaraigosa.
“She won’t have the support. We have good, qualified candidates who have been speaking on issues, talking to voters out there, and we’re well informed,” said Reyes. “To step in at the last minute and not do the work is just wrong.”
Now, she’s playing coy. Being coy is not the kind of governor that I want. I want a governor that will be transparent and tell me where they stand.
Former Assemblymember Sarah Reyes
Rentería’s silence, said Reyes, is bad.
“Now, she’s playing coy. Being coy is not the kind of governor that I want. I want a governor that will be transparent and tell me where they stand.”
Reyes said that without an explanation from Rentería, people are left to speculate about her reason for running.
“Her candidacy will do harm to Antonio because it will potentially split the Latino vote,” said Reyes, “and then the women vote, and then the Central Valley.”
Reyes questions Rentería’s motives.
“I wonder what’s the motivation from a person who has lost in big numbers in a local Congressional race, who was part of a failed presidential campaign, and who has not run a larger organization like being the CEO of an organization, a city or a state,” said Reyes. “And now, she believes she can be governor of California?”
Reyes said filing at the last minute without a major announcement “allows people to speculate.”
“To jump in at the last minute leads to speculation she is convinced to be a spoiler in this campaign,” said Reyes.
Reyes hopes Rentería makes an announcement soon.
“I look forward to those answers,” she said.
Euler Torres, a Tulare musician, said he was “very excited” about Rentería announcement.
“It hasn’t been confirmed by her yet,” he said last Thursday. “If she’s running, whatever we can do to support her we’ll do.”
Torres worked with Rentería during the Hillary Clinton campaign to get Los Tigres del Norte to endorse the Democratic presidential candidate.
“She’s a very, very nice person,” said Torres. “She’s very educated and bien (very) noble. I only have nice things to say about her.”
In the meantime, Torres is working on organizing a May 9 gubernatorial debate in Visalia. He welcomes Rentería’s participation.
Rentería won’t have a speaking slot at this weekend’s state Democratice convention in San Diego, said organizers.
She is scheduled as a guest speaker at the March 3 Women’s Issues and Education Breakfast in Flint, Michigan.
This story will be updated.