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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: OC's Gallery of Ghouls, Part Two!

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Halloween arrives on Saturday as another casualty of the scariest year this century. Whether folks decide to dress up, eat too much candy or watch a good horror film (may I recommend Totally Under Control?) in measured celebration, at least one spooky season tradition lives on by another name in the afterlife: OC's Gallery of Ghouls!

Last week, the Slingshot! blasted its first batch of ghouls, most of whom were Covid creeps. In this concluding installment, the top five remain to be named--and hopefully banished! Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. Send me your complaints in email about who should've made it and I'll include them in reader's choice in next week's newsletter.

Alas, without further ado. Reader beware! You're in for a scare!

5. Don Wagner

Time was the most suspect thing about Don Wagner was his chumminess with former Anaheim mayor and eternal Dark Lord Curt Pringle. The latter celebrated when Wagner ascended to the OC Board of Supervisors by besting Loretta Sanchez in a special election. The former Irvine mayor kept his District Three seat this year by defeating Democrat Ashleigh Aitken.

And then coronavirus pandemic hit just days after the election. Fuck! 

Wagner became vocal in March against a stay-at-home order issued by the county's health department and caused confusion when a revised order emerged. "Don't turn away your business," said the supe, clearly prioritizing profiteers over the pandemic. Instead of providing real leadership, Wagner also decided to tangle with California Governor Gavin Newsom with embarrassingly composed statements from his office that accomplished little else besides grandstanding. 

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that if "Dumb" Wagner's brains were ink, he couldn't dot an i! 

4. Greg Raths 

Dana Rohrabacher, Bob Dornan, James Utt. Orange County used to be infamous for ghoulish GOP congressmen before the Blue Wave in 2018 washed out the last of the bunch. 

Katie Porter is its undeniable star with her whiteboard smack downs of greedy CEOs and no nonsense persona. Will she become like Loretta Sanchez and face a litany of GOP whack job candidates lined up for slaughter? First up to the test is Greg Raths, a Mission Viejo city councilman and wannabe Trump. When fellow Republican congressional hopeful Young Kim criticized the President's racist "Kung Flu" quip, Raths tweeted a defense of his MAGA emperor before deleting it and offering a pathetic backpedal. 

Still, the editorial board of the Orange County Register endorsed his candidacy and expressed hope that a Republican could return to the CA-45 seat. Raths attacked the Register in kind saying the newspaper was a liberal wing of the Democrats and didn't deserve his subscription. His campaign email lambasted "fake news" for not going after a maskless Porter; the photo offered up as proof was pre-pandemic! 

It won't be long before the name "Greg Raths" is wiped off Porter's whiteboard. 

3. Michelle Steel  

OC looked poised to chart a progressive path on public health. But it proved too good to be true, especially with Orange County Board of Supervisors chair Michelle Steel at the helm. Dr. Nichole Quick (remember her?) dragged the county late into a mask order, only to resign amid death threats. Steel became an anti-mask champion amid the acrimony. After mask wearing became merely a suggestion, she likened the previous order to "species discrimination" since, per CDC guidelines, dogs and pets needn't bother with them. 

But the most damning moment came on April 30. She put out a press release that day stating that OC had flattened the curve in arguing for opening beaches. Coronavirus rode the summer surge like a killer wave over Steel's statement, one that should keep her from the CA-48 congressional seat she's seeking.

Operative word: should.

2. Dr. Jeffrey Barke 

Donning a white coat, Dr. Jeffrey Barke started clogging social media feeds with his Covid quackery. He spoke at rallies to reopen schools and businesses while giving interviews uploaded by YouTubers. The Newport Beach family medicine physician's most forehead slapping moment came when doing an interview with anti-masker Peggy Hall. Midway through the video, Barke showed off his handgun. 

"I'd rather see somebody carrying a concealed [weapon] than masking up," said Barke. "I think that’s better for the public than anything." 

What? Does Barke fear being fact-checked in some dark alley in Newport Beach? The stunt earned him a rebuke from Hoag Hospital where he claimed to have admittance privileges.

In addition to medicine, Barke is also board chair of the Orange County Classical Academy charter school in Orange. Its curriculum seems prime for raising future Proud Boys and purports to offer "non-pornographic" sex education. That's rich given Barke's role as a concierge doctor who begged a judge to release Greg Haidl in 2005 during OC's most infamous gang rape trial where Jane Doe's assault had been filmed. 

1. Peggy Hall

Peggy Hall's self-proclaimed origin story goes a little something like this.

When the pandemic hit, Hall was informed by her public employers to stay home as she was a nonessential contract worker. The educational instructor at Saddleback College posted a Facebook status update reading "Life is cancelled until further notice." But her anti-mask crusade just began. She started appearing at Board of Supervisor meetings, threatening lawsuits against the mask order. Hall hosted the anti-mask "Healthy American" website and readily furnished meaningless exemption cards for Karens to take into businesses with face covering policies. 

Looking very much like the spawn of the late, hate Barbara Coe, Hall is still hawking religious freedom exemption cards for $12. How do they work? Say Gelson's refuses to allow you to grocery shop without a mask. Just show them the card and recite Genesis 2:7 where it is written, "God breathed into man and he became a living soul." A mask gets in the way of that AND your religious freedom! In another video, Hall explains that face coverings are a submissive practice in Islam. "Veiling your face is not for Christians," she says. Of course, Hall went there! 

The world would be better off by Hall just putting on a damn mask, if for nothing else than for covering up that slasher smile! 

- Gabriel San Román

Like what you're reading so far? This independent newsletter in OC depends on readers like YOU! To keep the Slingshot! flinging the truth Venmo: @Gabriel-SanRoman-2.

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muckraker

When it comes to Anaheim elections, Disney drops top dollar but doesn't do dirty politics--or does it? 

Attack mailers in the city's District One, Four and Five races aren't coming from the Support Our Anaheim Resort PAC, the Mouse House's favored war chest for election spending. To preserve Disney's corporate image, the work of gutter politics is assigned to proxies. 

One of the prime drivers of junk mail is the Anaheim/Orange County Hotel & Lodging Association PAC. It recently sent a hit piece promoting District Five incumbent councilman Steve Faessel while portraying his opponents Sabrina Quezada and Kenneth Batiste as pandemic pendejos. Documented funders to this date include the Saunders family partnership, Manufactured Housing Education Trust PAC and somebody named Simon Frank.

But how far removed is Disney from the Anaheim/OC Hotel & Lodging Association PAC? 

To draw connections, it's important to return to 2018, when the PAC formed to support Harry Sidhu for mayor. According to documents filed with the city, some familiar names appear. Ashlee Titus and Thomas Hiltachk are right-wing attorneys listed as treasurers; both work for the same Sacramento law firm that has received payments in the past from SOAR PAC for professional services. Jerry Amante is listed as the principal officer of the Hotel & Lodging Association PAC and is the executive director of the nonprofit. He's also senior vice president and counsel for Core Strategic Group, a lobbying firm headed by Jeff Flint that's done business with Disney in the past. 

Another Disney connection emerges through Tony Bruno, an additional officer listed in the PAC's founding document. He previously served as the vice president of Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney. Bruno held the position during Unite Here Local 11's agonizing four-year long contract campaign that reached a settlement agreement in 2011. 

While a direct line can't be drawn between Disney and negative mailers, the Mouse tracks aren't too hard to follow. So far, the attack ads have been consequential on two fronts. Not only do they advance a narrative no matter how true or false, but opposition candidates have reacted by forfeiting crucial time to address the claims in defense of themselves. 

But as the Resort Elite knows, the best defense is a good offense so long as proxies, not candidates or the Mouse House, do the dirty work. 

By the Byline

Miss my long form OC histories? 

Fret not. Thanks to all that donated tacos to Gustavo Arellano's weekly newsletter over the months, he spent the past week publishing all original pieces on his site, including my deep-dive on Ole Hanson

Never heard of Ole? He's the stuff of local legend in San Clemente, the so-called "Spanish Village by the Sea." That was Ole's vision. And it came after a surprising life that saw him run Seattle as mayor during the 1918 influenza pandemic and the 1919 general strike. 

Ole emerged from the strike and began nationwide barnstorming lecture tours ahead of publishing "Americanism Versus Bolshevism" a century ago. 

But I'm not here to pen a Hanson hagiography. City fathers are rarely saints. Instead, my story delivers a more critical view from Seattle to San Clemente. 

Besides, where else are you going to get a flu pandemic, Wobblies, anarchist mail bombs, street car scandals and a planned community with racially restrictive covenants all in one story?

Lead photo: By Jaroslav Mitiska, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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