John Mendoza (California Board of Equalization)
John Mendoza is a Democratic politician who has run unsuccessfully for elected office in California twice over the past decade. He first campaigned for a position on a local school board back in 2013 before setting his sights on statewide office in 2022. However, Mendoza came up short both times, failing to advance past the primaries in his latest bid for the powerful California State Board of Equalization.
Mendoza’s repeated losses illustrate the difficulties facing newcomers trying to break into politics without strong name recognition, fundraising networks, or party backing. As we’ll explore in this article, Mendoza’s lack of resources and endorsements likely stunted his campaigns from the start. His story highlights the competitiveness of elections even for relatively low-profile offices like school boards. It also demonstrates how much of a leap it is to transition directly from local to statewide races.
Before analyzing Mendoza’s specific campaigns, it’s helpful to understand his personal background. John Mendoza is a long-time resident of Pomona, a city in Los Angeles County. He graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Professionally, Mendoza has experience working in education. He taught social studies and history classes at Pomona High School for several years. He also coached varsity football and other sports. This background in the local schools gave him some name recognition in the community.
In 2013, Mendoza made his first foray into politics by running for the Pomona Unified School District Board of Trustees. This marked the beginning of his active involvement in civic life and elections.
The 2022 State Board of Equalization Primary
Mendoza set his sights higher in the 2022 election cycle, vying for a seat on the powerful California State Board of Equalization (BOE). The BOE is responsible for tax administration and fee collection, making it highly influential, especially for businesses.
The District 3 seat Mendoza pursued represents areas of southern California including San Bernardino County and portions of Los Angeles County. It was held by Democratic incumbent Tony Vazquez, who was first elected in 2018.
California uses a nonpartisan blanket primary system, so all candidates compete on the same ballot, regardless of party. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
When the primary results came in on June 7, 2022, Vazquez led with 66.5% of the vote. Challenger Y. Marie Manvel took second place with 21.6%. Mendoza landed in third with just 11.3%, eliminating him from contention.
The third major candidate, G. Rick Marshall, got less than 1% as a Republican write-in. With over 1.2 million total votes cast, the final tally cemented Mendoza’s defeat. Vazquez went on to easily win reelection in November.
The 2013 School Board General Election
A decade prior, Mendoza set his sights on a seat with the Pomona Unified School District Board of Trustees. This five-member board oversees the policies and operations for dozens of schools serving tens of thousands of students.
Mendoza ran for one of the at-large positions in the November 5, 2013 general election. Three incumbents – Roberta Perlman, Adrienne Konigar-Macklin, and Andrew Wong – also ran for the open seats.
Despite his background as an educator, Mendoza came in last place with just 11% of the vote out of nearly 11,000 ballots cast. The incumbents each received between 27-34% to retain their positions.
This marked Mendoza’s first electoral loss despite running for a relatively low-profile office. It illustrated the challenges of unseating entrenched local board members.
Fundraising and Endorsements
Two key factors likely contributed to Mendoza’s defeat in both elections – lack of campaign funds and lack of endorsements.
For his 2013 school board race, Mendoza did not report any fundraising activities or donations to the county. The incumbents likely leveraged their existing relationships and name recognition to solicit contributions. With no war chest, Mendoza failed to get his message out to enough voters.
Likewise, Mendoza did not seem to pick up any major endorsements from community leaders, unions, or other influential groups. This made it harder for him to drum up support.
Jumping to state office in 2022, fundraising and endorsements proved critical once again. BOE District 3 envelops several major population centers and suburbs. Reaching voters across such a vast area takes considerable financial resources.
Yet Mendoza does not appear to have filed any campaign finance disclosures for his 2022 run either. His opponents touted endorsements from prominent Democrats, while Mendoza remained overlooked.
Implications of Mendoza’s Repeated Losses
John Mendoza’s two campaign losses over the past decade reveal some cautionary tales for novice candidates. First and foremost, they demonstrate the inherent challenges in running with little name recognition, fundraising apparatus, or institutional backing.
Well-funded incumbents and establishment-aligned challengers held massive advantages over Mendoza out of the gate. Breaking into politics at the local and state level without these resources proved extraordinarily difficult for an outsider.
Moreover, transitioning directly from a local school board race to a statewide contest seems to have been too great a leap. Building on smaller successes as an elected official likely would have better positioned Mendoza to compete at the highest levels.
Overall, Mendoza’s repeated defeats illustrate how factors like money, visibility, and connections shape outcomes even in very low-turnout races. Those advantages allow candidates to reach more voters effectively and consolidate support. Without them, unknown challengers stand little chance.
Understanding the California Board of Equalization
To appreciate the significance of Mendoza’s failed 2022 BOE bid, it helps to understand the Board’s powerful role.
The five-member Board oversees many major tax functions including:
- Sales and use tax administration
- Property tax assessment appeals
- Tax audits and refunds
- Oversight of local assessment practices
- Collection of alcohol, tobacco, and other excise taxes
This authority makes the BOE highly influential, especially for businesses operating in the state. Decisions made by the Board can impact state revenues and companies’ tax liabilities.
Board members serve four-year terms representing one of four districts. Seats are nonpartisan but effectively controlled by Democrats given the party’s dominance in California.
Had Mendoza succeeded in joining the BOE, he would have obtained a prominent platform to impact fiscal policies. However, his lack of recognition and resources closed that door in 2022.
What’s Next for Mendoza?
Looking ahead, will Mendoza take another stab at elected office? If so, what might he do differently?
On one hand, enduring two straight losses could discourage Mendoza from running again soon. Building sufficient name ID, fundraising ability, and connections to compete viably may take years.
On the other hand, at just 43 years old currently, Mendoza has plenty of time to learn from his defeats and try an alternative path forward.
Rather than immediately jump to a partisan, high-level statewide race again, Mendoza may fare better returning to nonpartisan, local office first. He could retrace his steps and attempt another school board run.
Alternatively, he might pursue a city council or county board seat to gain actual governing experience. From there, he could work his way up the food chain slowly, bolstering his network and resources over time.
John Mendoza’s repeated electoral losses offer valuable insights about the realities of running for office as an unknown outsider. Beyond just Mendoza himself, his story highlights the institutional advantages commonly held by incumbents and establishment-aligned candidates in even low-level races.
Breaking into the political scene without inherent name recognition, donor connections, organizational support or prior officeholding experience appears extraordinarily difficult. Yet perhaps with greater preparation and a more strategic approach, Mendoza and others like him could still make their marks.
Q: How many campaigns has John Mendoza run in?
A: Mendoza has run in two campaigns – for Pomona Unified School District Board in 2013 and California State Board of Equalization District 3 in 2022.
Q: What offices did Mendoza run for?
A: In 2013, Mendoza ran for an at-large seat on the Pomona Unified School District Board of Trustees. In 2022, he ran for California’s State Board of Equalization District 3.
Q: What were the results of Mendoza’s campaigns?
A: Mendoza lost both races – he came in last place in the 2013 school board election and third place (out of four candidates) in the 2022 Board of Equalization primary.
Q: Why did Mendoza likely lose his elections?
A: Key factors were his lack of name recognition, fundraising, and endorsements compared to his opponents who were incumbents or establishment-backed candidates.
Q: Could Mendoza run successfully for office in the future?
A: He may have a better chance by starting with lower-level local offices, building connections, gaining experience, and slowly working his way up before trying a major statewide race again.