by Rebecca Band
Ever since California instituted the “top two” primary system four years ago, the state’s Primary Elections have become more exciting, unusual and important than ever. Unfortunately, many of California’s voters don’t realize how essential these primaries are, and turnout is traditionally quite low, which means some races are won or lost by just a handful of votes.
IBEW 1245 understands the importance of getting out the vote for labor-friendly candidates, and last month the union dispatched 13 organizing stewards to various high-priority campaigns across California.
- Kevin Krummes worked on the successful race for Bill Dodd in Assembly District 4. In what turned out to be the closest election in the state, Dodd came in just one vote shy of GOP candidate Charlie Schaupp , which means Dodd and Schaupp will face off in the general election in November. Krummes, a seasoned election volunteer, looked at the total voter breakdown and projects that Dodd will be “a shoo-in in November.”
Nilda Garcia and seasoned staff organizer Jammi Juarez travelled to southern California to get out the vote for Connie Leyva in State Senate District 20. Leyva, head of UFCW local 1428 and President of the California Labor Federation, defeated corporate Democrat Al Sanchez and earned enough votes to advance to the general election. “I was honored and happy to be out there,” said Garcia, who had never worked on an election before this year. “Canvassing was hard, long hours, but it definitely was worth it because we won! Connie is an amazing and inspiring person, and I’m just glad I got the opportunity [to support her].” Garcia also brought her teenage daughters, who were on vacation visiting relatives in the area, out to help on Election Day. “They were troopers, they begged to come out and help” Garcia said of her daughters. “And now [after this experience] they want to start a program to get their high school friends involved in learning about the labor movement and what we do.”
- Donchele Soper, Lupe Johnson and Jason Preston dedicated themselves to labor activist Ali Cooper’s campaign for Sacramento City Council District 5. Nilda Garcia, who lives in the district, also worked the first two weeks for the Cooper campaign, walking her own neighborhood and talking to her friends and neighbors, often with her children in tow. Unfortunately, Cooper’s campaign fell short and he was defeated by incumbent Jay Schenirer, but the organizing stewards still took a lot away from the experience. “We convinced a lot of people at the doors. Door knocking, especially in smaller communities, is super-important,” said Soper. “Everyone has a story, and you can always find a way to relate to somebody … but it takes time, and you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone.”
Kristen Rasmussen, Tina Jones and Anthony Seemster worked tirelessly for Tim Sbranti in Assembly District 16, largely considered to be one of Labor’s top electoral priorities in 2014. Despite initial reports to the contrary and erroneous data on the Secretary of State’s website on Election Night, Sbranti secured a decisive victory over anti-union Democrat Steve Glazer and will face off against the GOP candidate Catherine Baker in November. “Sbranti’s opponent ran on the issue of BART transit workers not being able to strike… it was just dirty,” Jones explained, noting that volunteers from dozens of unions got involved in the campaign to boost up Sbranti and keep Glazer off the ticket in November. “Glazer also tried to smear Sbranti. But Sbranti had a strong campaign, and he won.”
- PJ Saenz, Rey Mendoza, Melissa Becerril and Lupe Flores worked to elect Magdalena Gomez to the Fresno Board of Supervisors in District 4. Unfortunately, Gomez failed to secure enough votes to come out victorious. “We got to meet her, and then we really got behind her. I was honored to be able to support her … [the experience] was really eye-opening,” said Lupe. First-time election volunteer Melissa Becerril agreed. “Magdalena felt like a family member to us [by the end]. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t win, but hopefully next time!” Saenz underscored that Gomez is “young and vibrant and a real advocate for labor. I feel like she can still effect change in the future.”
Organizing Stewards and activists are already looking forward to increasing their participation in the general election this fall. To get involved with a political campaign, contact Jammi Juarez firstname.lastname@example.org.