Politics & Policy

Xavier Becerra Is a Ruthless Partisan. I Should Know

Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during his confirmation hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2021. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters Pool)
This is the story of how the would-be HHS secretary helped ruin my reputation over a tweet.

One tweet changed my life. Last October, my image was splashed across the news and social media with false accusations of ballot tampering and election fraud. The ensuing online harassment included death threats, and the ordeal stained my reputation.

Xavier Becerra — California’s attorney general and President Biden’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary — played a key role in this scurrilous campaign against me. Despite no criminal wrongdoing, military service, and a clean record, I’m still working to clean up the damage from this reputational assault. That Becerra could soon be confirmed to a Cabinet position makes the sting of my experience all the more painful.

First, a recap of how we got to this point:

In 2016, California Democrats legalized ballot harvesting. The state GOP opposed this practice, fought it in court, and lost. We then opted not to harvest ballots in the 2018 elections. The result? Seven U.S. House seats down the drain.

In 2020, California Republicans had no choice but to adopt this practice. Rather than disarm unilaterally, the CAGOP deployed ballot receptacles at grassroots Republican offices. Each box was assigned to and manned by a staffer. When voters dropped off their ballots, they knew exactly who accepted them. A GOP worker handed each voter a receipt to check his ballot status. The operation was vetted by CAGOP attorneys and strictly obeyed California’s ballot-harvesting law, as flawed as that law is.

As a low-level CAGOP operative, a small part of my job was to promote our candidates and opportunities to get out the vote. I posted on Twitter a photo to support then-U.S. House candidate Michelle Steel, showing me with a box in the background labeled, “Official Ballot Drop Off Box,” and encouraging people to message me for locations to drop off theirs.

The tweet that landed Jordan Tygh in trouble.

What followed was unreal. My tweet went viral — for all the wrong reasons. Democratic operatives, activists, and politicians began tweeting and called me a craven criminal engaged in election fraud. Remember, California Democrats pioneered this practice two years earlier. Opponents falsely claimed I was setting up these receptacles on street corners or attempting to mislead people to think these were official county ballot boxes. This was completely inaccurate. The receptacles were staffed and merely a way to safely harvest ballots from voters. The “official” sign is what made it misleading, but I did not put it on there. My interpretation, as well as the interpretation of my colleagues when we received it, was that it was meant for official ballots, not to imply the box itself was official.

The anti-GOP group Meidas Touch tweeted, “This is a fake ballot box. This is attempted voter fraud and voter suppression. Jordan should expect a visit from the FBI and get used to life as a felon.”

The View’s Ana Navarro tweeted, “It’s amazing to the lengths some people are going to suppress the vote. This is ILLEGAL. Lock them up! Lock them up!” with a finger emoji pointed down at a picture of me.

Within days, Becerra and then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla came out swinging, implying what I did in my photo was illicit. In a tweet that included my picture, Padilla declared, “DON’T BECOME A VICTIM: Unauthorized ballot drop boxes are illegal.” Becerra tweeted, “Anyone who tampers with the vote is tampering with a free and fair election. Not on my watch.” He included a link to a New York Times article that had my name in it. Neither of those men reached out to me or the CAGOP beforehand. Their response fueled the brush fire.

The next day, Padilla went on TV and bragged that he would work with local authorities to prosecute anyone involved in what proved to be a legal CAGOP ballot-harvesting operation. Although I was the “poster boy” for this effort, Padilla’s threat would have targeted the majority of the CAGOP. Alex Padilla attempted to normalize such abuse of power in California, and Xavier Becerra was right there with him.

After negotiations with the state government, Sacramento deemed GOP ballot receptacles legal, though the party agreed not to label them as “Official” going forward. Despite this, Becerra continued to use his government office to harass the Republicans who installed them, continuing an investigation into the GOP. He sued the CAGOP and demanded it hand over all the data on the ballots that Republicans had collected. For better or worse, not only is there no legal requirement to surrender this information, there’s no legal requirement even to collect it.

Even more troubling, then-Congressman Harley Rouda, our Democratic opponent who would eventually lose to Steel, had a similar ballot-harvesting program. It was called the Harley Neighborhood Ballot Hub. The program asked voters to visit volunteers’ private residences and submit their ballots. However, in this case, Becerra did not sue Rouda’s campaign or demand data on voters who gave his volunteers their ballots. Fortunately, local Judge David Brown denied Becerra’s request for an emergency subpoena, saying the attorney general’s office had not shown “immediate harm or irreparable injury on the facts presented.” The judge even brought up the double standard concerning the Rouda Neighborhood Ballot Hub.

Three weeks after the November election, Attorney General Becerra quietly dropped his lawsuit against the CAGOP and stated, “We are confident that this election was safe and secure in California – as it was across the country.”

In short, Becerra and Padilla wielded their offices to score cheap political points in an incredibly close election.

The partisan actions hurt me as an individual more than anyone else. My tweet became a catalyst for a manufactured media circus. The CAGOP did not admit to owning the boxes until the day after my tweet went viral. Consequently, the initial story twisted around me like a tornado. Becerra’s comments and actions gave credibility to the false allegations that filled these initial articles.

Today, if you Google my name, accusations of voter fraud, felonious behavior, and ballot tampering pop up instantly. The media barely covered the GOP’s subsequent legal wins and Becerra’s post-election exoneration of our campaign tactics. The result? The complete destruction of my reputation. Since my contract with the CAGOP ended, I have not been able to secure a job. Before all of this happened, the sky was the limit for my career. Now, my future seems bleak.

Despite being a low-level operative who had nothing to do with creating or planning CAGOP’s ballot-harvesting strategy, my life was ruined because Becerra and Padilla abused their power in order to concoct anti-GOP talking points. Unfortunately, Democratic governor Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’s U.S. Senate seat, and Becerra is on the verge of becoming the next HHS secretary. This demonstrates that the more ruthless, unethical, and dishonest you are, the higher you will rise in the Democratic party.

Democrats talk plenty about unity. If any Democratic senators truly want an ethical government that brings Americans together, they must show courage and defeat the nomination of Xavier Becerra.

Jordan Tygh is a former CAGOP regional field director and U.S. Coast Guard veteran. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Southern California.


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