Gary Horton | The Return of Valladares, Version 2.0

Gary Horton

“In 2022, Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares came within 522 votes of defeating her Democrat opponent despite running in what was by far the most Democrat-leaning seat of any contested race in 2022, a district that Joe Biden won in 2020 by a 17% margin.”

— Suzette Valladares campaign announcement.

Yeah, Suzette lost. By 522 votes. A relative squeaker.  

But she’s baaaack. This time, to ride termed-out Scott Wilk’s coattails to what will be, most likely, a campaign more successful than the one she lost to hyperactive, paper-wasting, meaningless bill writer, Pilar Schiavo. 

Much credit and appreciation to Suzette. Unlike some famous, infamous politicians we know and increasingly dread, Suzette upholds democracy by the simple acknowledgement that she lost. And by only 522 votes. 

Imagine that! Suzette, a Republican, validates that her lost election was clean and sound and no groveling or crying about Venezuelan hacked voting machines or rigged election officials. Not a peep. A giant THANK YOU, Suzette, for at least giving us this much peace of mind in our distraught democracy. Suzette knows how to play by the rules. You win some, you lose some, but don’t fight with the umpire. Suzette, I really appreciate your grace under defeat. Really.  

Local homebuilder magnate, Lance Williams, hosted a coming-out party of sorts for Suzette at his beautiful Valencia world headquarters a few weeks ago. Twenty or so community businessfolk and pooh-bahs were invited to meet Suzette and discuss her upcoming run. How I made the list I still don’t know – but it was certainly fun sneaking into the overwhelmingly well-heeled Republican gathering as somewhat a spy for the opposition. But it turns out I might not be for the opposition… 

I’d first met Suzette also at Williams Homes’ offices, for a Valladares fundraiser when she was running for the Assembly. That, too, was an overwhelmingly Republican crowd, and back then Suzette played her partisan side with badly crafted jabs and digs at all things Democrat. I left unimpressed, given her apparent lack of emotional intelligence that, in our diverse, purple community, surely some to many folks at the gathering might not quite be full-blooded Trumpistas. But that was when Trump fever was still at fever pitch, Suzette played to the moment, while today saner heads seem are slowly emerging. 

Yes, Suzette Valladares lost – and learned from it. What a breath of fresh air! 

Maybe all things will work out for Suzette. Everyone loves Scott Wilk, and the gods of the state Republican party have rather undemocratically (ironic, really) hand-selected Suzette to run in Scott’s honored shoes. Suzette is running on greased rails. She’s yet the only Republican candidate said she wouldn’t be facing a primary challenger. Thus, all the money she piles up now will be targeted at the general election. 

And, by the way, we’re all invited to her gala kick-off, with requested donations starting at just $5,500. (Oh, wouldn’t it be great to get money out of politics, a bit more like most other thriving democracies?) She’ll take less, of course, but money does buy access. It’s how we Americans roll. And then, we’re forever surprised when the big decisions follow the money trail… 

Which is perhaps the best reason to seriously consider Suzette. Like Scott Wilk, Suzette is truly a local. Grew up in our district, educated in our district, and has served in our district. This much is certain, Suzette “gets” Santa Clarita. Indeed, at this Williams Homes gathering, multiple participants raved about our fair city and spoke of their desire to keep us going on the right track, Sacramento influence, included. I believe Suzette genuinely stands with us on this account. 

Understanding the very diverse nature of our Senate District 21, Suzette was much more bipartisan in her talking points this time than last. Starting her address, she straight-up informed our group if they were hoping for a right-wing culture warrior, she’d not be their woman. No abortion bans. No library raids. No election denying. And she’s not a particular Trump fan. Another breath of fresh air: Suzette’s not a political cult member. Instead, she’s interested in governing… 

While in the State Assembly, Suzette was one of the founders of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Plainly, as a Republican in California you’ve got to play nice if you hope to get anything done. She apparently learned that lesson well, and Valladares V2.0 was much more even-keeled in her communication and demeanor. We’re Santa Claritan first, district members first, state citizens first. That was pretty much her thrust: that she represents our diverse yet pragmatic “Santa Clarita values” in a tough audience, Democrat-controlled state government. 

And I can get behind that – yes, even as a blue-blood Democrat. I’ve long supported Scott Wilk because he’s such a local guy who represents our local interests and is so well nailed to the ground. Someone must take his place – and with a state government already lopsided blue with some of them not nailed to the ground, it won’t hurt to keep a few Republicans around as counterweights. But beyond just an “R” for balance, Suzette Valladares seems to be an experienced, balanced legislator who will mind our business and do a workmanlike job in Sacramento. 

An early endorsement? No. Let’s see what the other side brings. But in the meantime, it’s comforting to know we’ve got a solid runner in the opposition camp. Which realization, perhaps, is the reason I was allowed a peak into Suzette’s sneak preview…   

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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