Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Sunday, February 26, 2006
PolyBusy Weekend
I said I would blog a bit about my weekend political activities. So, like it or not, here it goes!

First, I went to a reception for Phil Angelides at Noreen Evans home, my local Assemblywoman. I was lucky enough to get an invite having given generously to Noreen's campaign, and having worked in her primary campaign (the one that matters in this Democratic dominated district). I wrote letters, made phone calls and walked precincts in that race in addition to giving money. As I said, the reception was for Phil Angelides. Phil is facing Steve Westley in a Democratic primary for the right to face Ahhhnold. Currently, Phil leads both Westley and The Terminator by rather healthy margins. I'm told by Angelides' daughter that while Ahhhnold had made up some ground from his recent polling lows, he had lost ground in the most recent data that they have (not internal polling).

Every dignitary in Sonoma County was at this event. In fact, of the 50 or so people I was one of the few unelected folks. Phil, who can at times be rather wooden, was greatly improved over his performance the last time I saw him speak. He was animated, funny, relaxed and had some good lines. Clearly his campaigning has seasoned him somewhat, which is going to be incredibly necessary while facing The Terminator's star qualities. Phil spoke briefly and passionately about restoring California's infrastructure and improving the economy, rather than continuing to live off the sacrifices of our parents.

Afterward, I wanted to ask him about the image problem facing a former movie star. Phil said he was intending on expanding on his use of the term, "the anti-Arnold", which he used jokingly to describe himself physically (Phil's somewhat tall, thin and wiry). I also spoke with him, and later his daughter who is campaigning with him, about the recent hiring of former Bush campaign advisors by Ahhhnold. They said they were ready for Rovian tactics and for a dirty campaign, and that they were prepared to respond aggressively if need be. We'll see!

The reception was followed by the annual Democratic crab feed, attended by over 700 people. I didn't go this year but will next. This event is so important to local politics that even the Republicans (in non-partisan offices) go.

On Saturday I attended a candidate training. This is a training put on by a local coalition of progressive organizations with the goal of electing local progressive candidates. Note, I didn't say Democratic coalition or Democratic candidates. The Democratic party has nothing to do with these activities. In fact, since becoming active in Sonoma County politics, I've had zero to do with the Democratic party. Jan has one experience during the Kerry campaign that was ... shall we say ... not positive? In the progressive coalition here, Democrats are seen as "too conservative". While "they" dominate many local offices in Santa Rosa, the progressives have much of the rest of the county.

The goal of this training was to increase the progressive foothold in our county, giving candidates and future potential candidates (no, not me thank you very much) the training, networking, and tools they may need to win now and in the future. I went as the database manager/volunteer for a woman who is running for Santa Rosa City Council.

The most noteworthy thing about the training was this. First, the lack of any involvment of the Democratic party. And next, just how expensive it is to be in politics. Candidates planning to run for Santa Rosa City council (pop. 150,000) need a minimum of $50,000. One candidate for Jr. College Board is also estimating a need of $50,000, for a school board! While smaller community races are significantly less, the cut-off to expense was the point when the community size prevented the candidate from having face to face contact with all of their voters. One exercise we did was to break down the contributions necessary to get to $50K. Think about it. If most people give $25 or $50, you'll need three or four hundred of those (plus a some larger ones, max $500) contributions to run a campaign. Candidates end up spending most of their time dialing for dollars, rather than learning issues and meeting voters all while earning a living. And these elected offices don't pay! Can you imagine what it's like for higher offices? You can see how only the rich, the well financed, or retired can run and how the system is so easily corruptible by special interest money.

All in all, it was a political weekend in preparation for a beehive of activity between now and November. Blogging may at times be sporadic as I get further sucked into the vortex of this campaign. But I'm having fun and hoping to have a candidate win who will vote for things like a living wage, no Wal-Mart (a current issue), slow growth, a quality environment, and other progressive causes.
Blogger Lynne said...
Thanks for posting this. I've often wondered about the activity levels on the ground. If I had the time to do more like that, I would, but full time work plus free-lance work keeps me to busy. I wonder if more and more people are in that mode. Are many of the volunteers/activists retired or non-working people?

Blogger GreyHair said...
I understand from others that the Democratic party activists are primarily retired. I was told I would be among the youngest around at a Democratic meeting, and I'm 52.

In the progressive coalition, ages vary with many more younger/middle-aged folks. Volunteers and Candidates are probably average 45-50, and most work. Most are also very stressed and politics is a passion. As you point out, being active is not easy. But in general, even if you can go to a meeting and give up an hour a week, you are considered a valuable asset to a candidate.

As the old saying goes, showing up is most of the involvement.