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From City Council to District Attorney: The Bumbling Campaigns of Jon Hatami
Exploring the Limits of Political Realities and Campaign Promises
In January 2012, Santa Clarita Valley was gearing up for its City Council campaign cycle, which was still scheduled for mid-April. However, this would soon change with the first California Voters Right Act (CVRA) lawsuit that would move city council elections to November in 2016. The election featured two available seats, with four out of the five candidates being familiar faces. Incumbents Bob Keller, a retired police officer, and Laurie Ender, a PTA mom, were challenged by TimBen Boydston, the Executive Director of the Canyon Theatre Guild, and Ed Colley.
There was also Jon Hatami, who burst onto the scene out of seemingly nowhere, which was both an exciting and confusing development at the time. From the beginning, it was very clear that Mr. Hatami was sincere in his desire to help people but needed to fully understand the scope and duties of a city council member and had a tenet understanding of the political landscape.
Hatami's early mistakes were numerous; to start, he picked two Sheriff's deputies who needed more experience running political campaigns. As a result, the campaign almost immediately ran straight into the buzzsaw that was SCVTalk at the time, making no allies and threatening to sue various regular commentators at certain points. When he was asked what his campaign's biggest mistake was, he bristled a bit and said he had to bring his team together and reset.
SCVTalk was a blog run by all-around good guy Jeff Wilson; at this point in the site's history, Jeff had the site firing on all cylinders; there were multiple contributors, and most posts would receive 75+ comments. It was the digital town square at this point in SCV history.
Two SCVTalk columnists wrote very different posts about Hatami, Tim Meyer, who met with Mr. Hatami and believed that he would lose in 2012 and then come back and win in 2014. Then there was Mike Devlin, who probably wrote the most spot-on post about Hatami that was almost prophetic; that basically said that Jon Hatami's candidacy for City Council in 2012 was interesting because it was a departure from the typical candidate, as he needed to understand a council member's role and political landscape fully. He presented as an outsider who wanted to take on City Hall and focused on a wild anti-crime platform. However, many of his proposals were impossible due to immovable obstacles, and his campaign was built on promises he couldn't deliver.
While it's important to think big, there's a line between populism and pandering, and a candidate shouldn't sell a bill of goods to the average, uninformed resident. Politics is the art of the possible, and candidates should work within their power's limits and do their best with what they have. Despite their policy disagreements, our council and notable challengers understood this over the years; Hatami didn't know the game's rules, nor did he want to learn, which still seemed to be the case today.
Hatami knows his stuff when it comes to criminal justice; he seems like a competent prosecutor. However, his approach to crime prevention policy is more like what Tim Meyers said when all you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail.
In 2012 Hatami was right to blame AB 109 for increased crime overall in the State. The pushback came when he tried to convince people that crime was out of control in Santa Clarita and that Santa Clarita City Council was responsible or could do much to stop it. A contradictory point that Mr. Hatami held was both opposing the idea of the City starting its own police department, which would give the City more control over the policing, but then saying the solution was things that only the County could provide. While Hatami generally seems likable, he remained disciplined to stay on his tough-on-crime talking points no matter how peculiar they were. For example, he insisted that Juggalos were selling drugs at our mall.
Hatami has some pretty glaring weaknesses; first, he tends to awkwardly lean into whatever political party he has chosen to run with; in 2012, he was posing as a Republican when asked what his biggest weakness was at the Canyon Country Advisory Committee (CCAC) candidate forum and responded with "being too conservative." Then at the Lincoln Club endorsement meeting, Hatami made the claims that he was the next most conservative candidate after Bob Keller. The problem is that he had just registered as a Republican on December 20, 2011. 🙈
Now, Mr. Hatami is running as a Democrat? It is clear that Hatami is politically homeless; the issue is that he didn't spend enough time to understand the rules, as Devlin said so many years ago. Mr. Hatami tends to come off as disingenuous regarding this sort of thing and seems to say what he thinks the room wants to hear. Good luck going into the Democrat endorsement meetings; this cycle is dominated by dogma purity culture.
In 2012 Hatami's biggest fail was diving head-first into a situation he needed to gain the experience, instincts, or know-how to navigate. Then, to worsen that situation, he surrounded himself with people with little boots-on-the-ground expertise.
Unfortunately, more than a decade later, his political savviness has not improved much. So rather than seeking out allies and advisors to help set himself up for success, he hired one of the worst possible campaign managers, non-other than the burner of bridges herself, Devon Cormier. 🙈
Wilk Vs. Mckeon
Cameron Smyth was terming out of the State Assembly. Mckeon and company expected everyone to clear the deck for his wife, who had less political acumen than Mr. Hatami did in 2012. College of the Canyon board member Scott Wilk would throw his hat in the ring along with Paul Strickland. It was crystal clear from the get-go that Patricia Mckeon had no business running for any office; at one candidate forum answered, "I have no idea." Then, at some point in the primary, a blog popped up mocking her called "Really Patricia?" The Mckeons were so miffed they tried to pull rank and get the district attorney involved to pull the website down.
Wilk would go on to win the primary to face Edward Headington, to which Devon Cormier, a Mckeonite, would join the Headington campaign and then, of course, make a website that looked very similar to Wilk's 2012 website, which insinuated Wilk was cheating on his wife among other outright lies. Unfortunately for Ms. Cormier, the little website stunt would have no impact, as Scott Wilk would again win in a divisive fashion, winning by almost 14 points.
Now seething for months over the embarrassing loss, Devon decided to make once again a blog called "Bottom of the Rock," in which she childishly took shots at anyone who supported Wilk. This would include Joe Messina, Cameron Smyth, Marsha McClean, Lee Rogers, B.J. Atkins, Dante Acosta, Ken Striplin, and Steve Knight.
She also made jokes about Paul Walker's death and defended Stephen Winkler, who jumped over from the Democrats to get Bob Hauter's seal of approval quickly; gotta defend your people, after all. But, of course, the worst of the worst has to be the mockery of the real-life assault of Nathan Imhoff while he is still in the hospital with seven broken bones to his face.
A terrible look for Hatami when you add up all the pieces, Mr. Hatami presents himself as a pro-victim district attorney candidate. First, his wife worked at the Sheriff's station that brushed the assault under the rug; at the same time, he worked in the District Attorney's office, which should have prosecuted the assault, and now he is hiring the soulless slug that mocks real-life crime victims and a person who died on our streets?
To make matters worse for Hatami, he has the highest-ranking California Republican, Scott Wilk, in his backyard and disrespects him like this, and for what? An emotionally unintelligent campaign manager that goes out of her way to piss off most of the people you need support from. Like it or not, political campaigning is a team sport, and the sad reality is Hatami is not a team player so it is highly unlikely that he will be able to land any major endorsements.
As we have already highlighted, Gascon was once described as a crime fighter and is now described as a pro-criminal DA. Initially, we were optimistic that Hatami might be the guy to take out Gascon. With this latest move, it is pretty clear that Hatami blows in the wind with whatever feels right in the moment. A District Attorney needs political savviness to be effective; the guy who did his job and got on a Netflix documentary only gets you so far when facing professionals at the top of their political games. For these reasons, we will be taking a closer look at Nathan Hochman and John McKinney, as they have a more realistic shot at taking out Gascon.