A descendant of Mexican immigrants, Ray Morquecho grew up on social assistance but also cut his teeth in politics as a young Republican. He dares you to paint him into a corner.
The 35-year-old small business owner says that he broke with both parties because he couldn’t come to terms with being all or nothing. He’s for social welfare programs, because he was once the beneficiary of one, but against rent control. He’s for LGBTQ rights and legalized cannabis, but believes that government functions best when it’s smaller and taxing less.
“It’s either you’re all or you’re nothing. You’re evil or you’re good,” Morquecho said. “Most people are purple. They’re looking for the best solutions from either side. They don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, they care about if your parking solution is going to work or the pothole is going to get filled.”
His number one goal in his bid to win the 1st District seat is to restore a sense of trust in local government that he says has steadily eroded. A symbol of that mistrust he said is Measure A, the 10-year sales tax increase that incumbents sold to constituents as a one-time measure to help bolster the city’s police, fire and infrastructure needs.
Measure A was approved by over 60% of voters in 2016 under the premise that it would sunset in 2027, but earlier this year the City Council voted to put the measure back on the ballot. This time, the city is asking the city’s residents to approve it indefinitely.
Morquecho opposed the original effort to pass Measure A, but supports the current attempt to extend it because potential regional and countywide measures would keep the city’s sales tax rate the same, but distribute the revenue to the county rather than to the city. He just disagrees with the messaging.
“What I don’t like in politics is that I don’t like fear-based campaigning,” he said. “I feel like sales taxes and raises in revenue are always attributed to ‘Do you want more police officers, or better response times, or if you want a hospital…’, it’s never do you want a community pool? They polled; they’re not stupid, and they know fear drives that.”
Morquecho has lived in the city for 13 years, and in the district for almost two years. He works as a sales manager at a car customization shop and and co-owns a surf school in Huntington Beach. He graduated with a degree in political science from the University of California Irvine, so running for office was more of a when than a why.
He spent his early years in Long Beach working in bars, helping to open the now-shuttered Mai Tai Bar and heading up the rooftop bar atop The Breakers building before its closure.
He said his time in the bar industry has made him a better communicator, listener and decision maker. One of the things that is lacking in politics, both local and national, is that people feel they’re not being heard, he said.
His pragmatism could be why he’s viewed as one of the more serious challengers to the perceived front-runner in this race, and a threat to the establishment if he were to win. When former Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez vacated her seat to head to the state Senate, the City Council lost what was a swing vote in some of its more ideological decisions.
Gonzalez tended to vote more liberally than Morquecho’s policy stances. He strongly opposes the tenant relocation ordinance that Gonzalez helped pass before leaving, for example.
That’s something that Morquecho says is valuable, though.
“I don’t think good governing is 9-0 votes,” Morquecho said. “I think good governing is 4-5 votes, 6-3 votes. You have to have discussion, you have to have opposing views because when you don’t you have, whether it’s right or left, you have people being steamrolled and that’s not what this city is. This city is diverse, it is eclectic and it has so many voices.”
This would not be his first entrance into politics. He previously worked under Michelle Steel who was elected to the State Board of Equalization in 2006 and has worked or volunteered on a number of campaigns for City Council in Long Beach. By his count, this would be his “fourth rodeo.”
Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, who Morquecho volunteered for during her 2014 campaign, said he’s collegial, smart and is willing to put in long hours and was always the first one at the campaign office.
“He cares about policy,” Mungo said. “He’s very practical, pragmatic and reasonable.”
Morquecho said that sometimes government has to be the “bad guy” and that the city needs leadership that’s willing to “face the fire” of making tough policy decisions and not let re-election or the dreams of higher office stand in the way.
He pledged to not be the bad guy in one very specific instance: He wouldn’t vacate this seat if he were to win, creating a tax-payer funded waste of money in the form of a special election, like the one he’s currently trying to win on Nov. 5. Instead, he wants to anchor down into the 1st District office and work hard and long for his constituents.
“What about 14 years of unbroken leadership that has a plan for the budget, discretionary funds that can be used to get rid of backlogs?” Morquecho said “What if you used that opportunity to actually make a difference and then use that 14 years as your resume for higher office if you end up wanting to do it?”
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