In a fiercely competitive campaign year, South Bay volunteers and organizers rely on grassroots volunteers to get their candidates elected. Meet five tireless workers, each with an enthusiastic eye on November.
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The last presidential election created a shift in the political landscape and our general perception of elections. As Tony Hale, director of the Democratic Action Center, explains, “After the campaign of 2008, now all elections are national.”
This may ring especially ironic for Californians. Though we live in the most populous state in the union and thus are awash in a rich supply of electoral votes, we are largely ignored by both political parties when electing a president. Why?
It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since California last elected a Republican to the White House. Our state is considered by all parties involved to be resolutely in the “blue” column. There seems little reason for politicians to bother with spending precious time or money here when elections are truly won in those prized, delegate-rich swing states. Florida, Ohio and Colorado? Yes. California? No.
But be sure, neither party has forgotten entirely about California. Fiscally challenged as our state may be, we remain home to a large chunk of the nation’s wealthiest and most politically engaged residents. California may not be the state in which to spend ad dollars, hold frequent bus tours or patronize local diners, but we’re a treasure trove for big-donor fundraisers.
As David Hadley, president of the Beach Cities Republicans, succinctly describes it, “California has become an ATM.” Candidates fly in, spend an hour or two pressing palms at $25,000-per-plate lunches and dinners, and fly out. Are you starting to feel a bit used?
For many politically-minded Californians, the whole process has become increasingly frustrating. There’s nothing more demoralizing than feeling inconsequential, especially when living in a place that should carry the most—rather than the least—political clout.
Yet there are still reasons to feel inspired, especially in the South Bay. The 2010 census and the newly implemented district map make several races throughout the county viable for either party. Contested races mean an influx of funds and attention that many prior races lacked.
The South Bay is lucky enough to have one of this year’s single most hotly contested races of the November ballot. Democrat Al Muratsuchi and Republican Craig Huey will face off to represent the newly created 66th Assembly district. Normally, Assembly seats—even when contested—garner only marginal attention, but this race promises to be one of the most watched and hardest fought in the state.
With Democrats lingering on the fringe of reaching that coveted two-thirds majority in the Assembly, they are highly motivated to win this and every seat in play. On the flip side, Republicans see a win of this seat as a stop-gap measure, protecting their state party from virtual obsolescence. Winning a seat they haven’t been able to win since the districts were redrawn following the 2000 census would rightfully bolster the party, its brand and its influence in future local, county and statewide elections. The 66th Assembly race actually has more tangible repercussions for the South Bay than even the race for presidential does.
At the heart of winning these elections, whether for an Assembly seat or for president, is the grassroots effort performed on the local level. The presidential elections of 2004 and 2008 are directly linked to the success of the grassroots infrastructure.
Most grassroots initiatives are done by volunteers, who give their time, talent, energy and hard-earned pay to see to it that their candidate wins. They visit phone banks on weekends, calling voters in other states. They walk neighborhoods, speaking to anyone willing to open the door. They attend meetings and rallies and sit for hours in public places working to register voters. They step up and run for offices of local clubs, or even to be delegates to central committees—the entry level of party hierarchy—to ensure their party’s brand is preserved and properly represented.
What makes these unique individuals give so much of themselves, especially in a place like California, where it can seem fruitless to even bother being active? Meet a few South Bay grassroots heroes in action. We want to know what they do, why they do it and why it all matters.