Newsom Appoints Pair To California Horse Racing Board, Including Union-Backed Official

by | 09.12.2019 | 10:08am
California Gov. Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom made two appointments to the California Horse Racing Board on Tuesday, Sept. 10: Oscar Gonzales, 51, of Davis; and Wendy Mitchell, 48, of Los Angeles.

Gonzales has been vice president of government and community relations at Aura Financial Corporation since 2017. He was a consultant for the Cal State Los Angeles Dreamers Resource Center in 2017. Gonzales served in several positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2009 to 2017, including state executive director at the Farm Service Agency, deputy chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary, deputy assistant secretary for administration and deputy director of intergovernmental affairs. He was associate director of the United Farm Workers Foundation from 2007 to 2009. Gonzales is a cofounder and member of Rural Forward.  Gonzales is a Democrat.

Mitchell has been principal of WM Consulting Inc. since 2006. She served on the California Coastal Commission from 2011 to 2016 and the Los Angeles South Valley Area Planning Commission from 2009 to 2011. Mitchell was vice president of public policy at the National Association of Women Business Owners from 2008 to 2010 and a member of the Board of Directors of the California League of Conservation Voters from 2007 to 2018 and the Women's Political Committee in 2018. She was chief of staff in the Office of California State Senator Denise Ducheny from 2003 to 2005. Mitchell earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Southern California. Mitchell is a Democrat.

While on the Coastal Commission, Mitchell supported the controversial ouster of the agency's executive director, who had been with the commission for more than two decades.

Both positions requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The term of Chuck Winner, who has served on the CHRB since 2012 and as chairman since 2013, has expired.

The Service Employees International Union of California, whose Local 280, The Pari-Mutuel Employees Guild, represents nearly 2,000 employees statewide, voiced its approval for the appointment of Gonzales.

John Valenzuela, president of SEIU Local 280 and Board member of SEIU California, issued the following statement:

“SEIU California applauds Governor Newsom's appointment of Oscar Gonzales, Jr. to the California Horse Racing Board. Recent events at Santa Anita have put a spotlight on the safety of horses and workers in California's racing industry. These events have made it even more important for the Board to listen carefully to the working people who are the face of the industry to racing fans and who are strong advocates for the safety of the beloved animals who make racing possible.

“As a senior official in President Obama's USDA, Gonzales advised on federal policies that benefited farmworkers and served as a representative on the labor-management task force. Currently, his work focuses on expanding access to capital for immigrant households. Gonzales clearly understands the concerns facing rank-and-file workers. We look forward to Gonzales' service on the California Horse Racing Board and are confident he will be a voice for dignity and respect for workers and horses alike.”

Statewide, SEIU local unions represent over 700,000 workers in a variety of professions.

The CHRB is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 19 at Los Alamitos racecourse in Cypress, Calif.

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