POSTED BY VPO
My Spanish is not very good, but if I was one of the Democratic candidates, I would be taking a crash course en Español right about now. Why? Because the Latinos are very angry with Pombo for voting for HR 4437, a bill that defines the phrase "draconian measure" when it comes to immigration policy.
Latino groups held a march attended by thousands last Saturday and a candlelight vigil that attracted hundreds Tuesday night. Both of these were in downtown Stockton, the heart of the 11th District. There were chants against Pombo, speeches denoucing him, signs against him, a man dressed in an el Diablo suit with the words "Hitler Republican" written on it, in reference to Pombo. I mean, these people are NOT HAPPY with him.
People there included Steve Gutierrez, 1st District Supervisor for San Joaquin County. As a Dem candidate, he is someone you mostly definitely want on your side. See his bio. Many other Hispanic leaders were there. Also, Margee Ensign, Dean from the University of the Pacific who was considering challenging Pombo back in November. On the Republican side, Pombo challenger Pete McCloskey, his wife, Helen, and volunteers (including Amanda Matthews, daughter of Tracy Press editor Cheri Matthews) showed up at both the march and vigil. McCloskey gave a speech and was busy registering and re-registering as voters Decline to State.
But where were the Dems? Only AJ Carrillo, McNerney's campaign manager showed up, and that was just for the march on Saturday. I give him credit for that, at least.
However, no sign of any Filson or Thomas supporters. I looked on Filson's calendar and he was busy with fund-raisers on Saturday and trying to get the South County Dem Club endorsement (which went to McNerney). But no one from his campaign showed up in any official capacity at either the march or the vigil, and he has several paid staffers, including Robert Kellar, his campaign manager who is from Stockton.
Here was a chance to show solidarity and to make a strong connection with an active political bloc strongly opposed to Pombo. Maybe someone should tell Filson that, while it is important to have money in the bank, voters vote. And there were many voters there at the rallies, who I am sure noticed who was standing with them and who was not. And it goes beyond that, since the march organizers are also influential in their communities and could pull in a lot of support and energy for a campaign the supports them.
McCloskey played it perfectly, attending both events, speaking to the crowd, setting up tables to distribute information. He also garnered press interviews, such as one on ABC last night, and other coverage of his campaign. I have said this before, but my take is that McCloskey does these things not so much for political gain as much he sees it as the right thing to do, to support people against an oppressive and wrong bill. People sense his passion and drive and warm up to what he has to say. He is not there as a cold political calculus, solely trying to gain votes.
Think about this -- a person running for office, at least the way I see it, should want to help people have better lives. There needs to be a compassion and empathy towards your fellow citizens that is conveyed in your speeches and actions. There needs to be an honesty and integrity and sense that you will do what is right and good for the people.
Of course, nowadays, we are all cynical and know that most pols are on the take, and only looking to get more money and enhance their power. The system in DC corrupts even the best of them. (Pombo was on the take right from the start, with the infamous Monsanto bribe in 1994.) But for our new candidates, especially when running as a Democrat, we want to see some passion and idealism and community action on the people's behalf. Yea, maybe if you get elected, after a few years, you will be feeding at the trough with everyone else, but we don't want to elect you that way.
The Dem candidates made a serious misstep by not showing up at either event. I know there are demands of travel and other events, but consider that McCloskey had a debate in San Ramon Tuesday afternoon, but still made it to the vigil in Stockton that night. Also, on Saturday, there was a Defeat Pombo 06 meeting that very afternoon a few miles away in Stockton, which the candidates as well as Dem activists attended. The march was at 9 am, and the meeting at 1 pm, so people already planning on being in Stockton could have made it there a bit earlier to be in the march. I intend that comment more for the candidates and their campaigns, to show up there "officially", like McCloskey did. Like I say, at least McNerney's campaign manager was there at the march, but how much this was noticed or appreciated it is hard to say, since he did not give a speech, and people generally want to see the "real deal" at an important event like this, not a surrogate.
I hope the Dems can overcome this misstep and make a connection with the Hispanic community. Otherwise, they will be seen as another bunch of East Bay gringos, coming hat in hand for their votes, but not standing with them at their time of need.