Local Candidates Introduce Themselves

While much media attention is focused on national politics and Congressional races, it is important to remember that good governance and rising political stars begin at the local level. While we rail at our dysfunction in Congress over immigration and gun control, issues such as social justice are paramount to members of the San Diego community. Policies impacting prison privatization, treatment of prisoners, mental health programs, poverty and homelessness are directly the result of the candidates we elect in the local positions controlling these concerns.

To familiarize club members with the Democratic candidates currently running in these critical non-partisan positions (which means you will NOT see any party affiliation listed on the ballots for these positions) we invited all Democratic candidates running for County Sheriff, District Attorney, County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, Superior Court Judge, and County Board of Supervisors to speak with us at the February monthly meeting. This meeting also served as an endorsement meeting for these positions.

A few things should be highlighted:

  • these positions will be voted on in the JUNE 5th 2018 primary. If any candidate gets 50% + 1 vote they will be the winner automatically and will NOT proceed to a runoff in the November election.
  • as of this writing, the Democratic candidate for Sheriff (Dave Myers), District Attorney (Geneviéve Jones-Wright) and County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk (Matt Strabone) are the only Democrat running in their respective race;
  • two Democratic candidates are running for the same Superior Court Judge seat (see more below);
  • these Democratic candidates do have Republican candidates running against them so they are not running unopposed.

Upon completion of all presentations the candidates were asked to leave the room while club members voted on whom to endorse. The candidates below who have an ** after their name were endorsed by our club.

Esther Sanchez, who was running for County Board of Supervisors was invited and graciously came to speak with us. She explained that she has had to withdraw from the race due to caring for her mom during her fight with cancer. Esther remains committed however, to getting out the vote and will be an active participant in the upcoming election.

County Sheriff, Dave Myers **

Dave Myers, candidate for County Sheriff, 2018

Dave Myers has been with the Sheriff’s Department for 32 years and he had once contemplated retiring. “I’ve been at the table but not on the menu for decades,” he explained. “When I look around that table it’s 20 white guys. There is no representation of our diversity in the command structure.” He went on to explain that especially during this time under Trump, hate crimes have increased threefold in the county. “The current sheriff, Bill Gore, was doing commercials for Darrell Issa and he escorted Jeff Sessions to the border wall.” And there hasn’t been a Democrat running in the Sheriff’s race for 60 years! During times like these he felt he can’t yet retire.

Dave feels strongly that it’s time to put some common sense into our justice system. Homelessness and mental health crises need to be decriminalized and we need to stop using the county jail system to hold them. As a recent example of the injustices in our current prison system, he cited the recent example of how U-T reporter Kelly Davis was harassed and served with an order that the courts ultimately struck down, to turn over her notes related to her reporting on the unusually high number of deaths and suicides in our county prisons.

“I am running because I have a true understanding of what goes on in the community. I will listen and change the dynamics of transparency, including use of body cams and release of those recordings within the largest department in the county,” he promised.

Dave has already received the endorsement of the San Diego County Democratic Party. He noted that his Republican opponent and current incumbent Bill Gore, has not gotten the Republican party endorsement. You can read more, donate or sign up to volunteer for his campaign on his website.

District Attorney, Geneviéve Jones-Wright **

Candidate Geneviéve Jones-Wright running for District Attorney 2018.

“Incarceration is a health crisis” Geneviéve Jones-Wright declared in her opening comments. “The status quo isn’t working.” She spoke passionately about the need to represent the real needs of our veteran, homeless and addicted populations. She went on to describe San Diego’s prison system, over 6,000 inmates strong, as the largest mental health facility in the county.

“We need a District Attorney who will give help, not handcuffs” she explained. “How much can you help someone with mental health issues as a prison staffer?” she asked. Since our prisons are privately funded, there is an incentive to “keep the beds full. How can you profit off the incarcerated?” she queried.

The office Geneviéve is hoping to win was once held by former District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, who resigned the post in 2017 to run for County Board of Supervisors (but not in our district). Summer Stephan, a Republican, was appointed interim District Attorney and is now running for the role permanently, against Geneviéve.

Dumanis’ legacy is dubious according to Jones-Wright. Although Dumanis claimed to be a national expert in Human Trafficking, in 2016 she opposed a bill that would vacate the conviction of a victim solely because they were a victim. “When your only focus is on conviction,” she explained, “you can’t focus on justice and fairness.” Dumanis has also left behind a backlog of 2,873 untested rape kits.

“We have a chance to bring humanity and compassion back and break the back of recidivism by focusing on root causes,” she stated. That is the focus of her campaign. Her goal? “Compassion, not handcuffs” she said.

You can read more about her native San Diegan background on her website.

County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, Matt Strabone **

Matt Strabone, 2018 candidate for County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk

Matt Strabone introduced himself to club members, describing himself as a “first time candidate and non-profit and ethics attorney”. This seemingly obscure position is responsible for deciding on amount of property taxes, issuing licenses and birth certificates, and takes care of all county records.

This may seem unimportant or boring, but “public records belong to all of us and should be available, for free and online” he said. His opponent, incumbent Ernie Dronenberg, charges $2 per page and you have to go downtown to retrieve them. “Marriage licenses should be a no brainer” he exclaimed. Dronenberg had resisted issuing licenses to gay applicants, and says he will go back to that stance should Trump change the law. The County Assessor’s office is also the only office that can audit businesses.

This election will be decided in the June primary because Strabone and Dronenberg are the only two candidates running. “This is a not a partisan position, nor should it be” Matt explained, “but it’s too bad my opponent injected ideology into his role and he sought all the Republican and Lincoln Club endorsements that turned this into a political race.”

Read more about Matt’s campaign on his website.

Superior Court Judge, Matt Brower **

Matt Brower, Superior Court Judge candidate 2018

Remember fringe candidate birther Gary Kreep who became Superior Court Judge in 2012? Kreep made a name for himself by launching an unsuccessful ballot initiative to keep President Obama’s name off the California ballot unless he produced his long form birth certificate. Kreep’s six year term on the bench has been riddled with scandals resulting in censure for violating a number of ethics rules. Due to his discriminatory treatment of women, minorities and litigators he was transferred to traffic court and now has been relegated to only resolving landlord/tenant disputes. Matt Brower feels we can do better.

Matt has both a legal and military background. He is still in the Marine Corp Reserves after having spent 8 years on active duty, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served as both a Deputy District Attorney and and Marine Judge Advocate. He is concerned about how we can support our European allies in the face of the Russian threat. He is adamant that substance abuse should first be viewed as a mental health issue.

He has been endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party and has a great deal of support from within the law enforcement community. Read more about his campaign here.

Superior Court Judge, Tim Nader

Tim is the other Democrat running for the same seat as Brower above. Tim was not able to attend our meeting but he did send a representative from his campaign. Nader feels he is the best candidate to replace Kreep because he has the most name recognition from his time as Chula Vista Mayor and on City Council in the 90’s. He has served on the Board of Southwestern College since 2010 and says he “knows how to win an election”. He has served as Deputy Attorney General in the Business & Tax Section of the California Attorney General’s office (handling advanced civil litigation in business regulation and tax), since 2008 to the present. Read more on his website.

Jessica Hayes Provides San Diego County Democratic Party Update

“The primary purpose for governmental law is the distribution of wealth. If we want to be part of a society that shares wealth we have to protect the least among us.” Jessica Hayes, San Diego County Democratic Party chairwoman, opened her talk to club members in January by recalling this most relevant proclamation from a class she took 40 years ago.

In particular, Jessica explained it in terms of the current issue of homelessness in the San Diego area. Although the hotel tax initiative shaping up in the city is not something North County voters will vote on, it is still an example of how Republicans seem to “want their cut” before homelessness is dealt with. This proposition revolves around the raising of a hotel tax to be used for the Convention Center expansion and for helping the homeless at the same time. “Why does homelessness have to be tied to the Convention Center expansion,” she asked? “They forget that it’s us who gave them water, sewage and prime space so they can make money.”

Jessica used this example “as a stark reminder of who they are,” reminding all of us that we are the soldiers on the front who have to talk to our friends and family and knock on doors to ensure that we can replace candidates and electeds who support Trump’s policies. Another example of the profit first policies is expansion of the privatization of prisons. This has already been an out of control use of taxpayer dollars. “Our money should be spent on what what we want it spent on,” she said. “We have to stop responding and start making war!”

With her passionate opening remarks the audience was indeed all ears! Jessica continued by reviewing Democrats key successes in 2017. Democrats have registered over 6,000 new voters with 75% of them under the age of 25. Chartered Democratic Clubs increased from 38 to 51 throughout the county. The email list increased by 15% while the social media following increased by 20%. 6 candidate trainings were held with over 200 attendees. The “Neighbors in Action” program, where residents door knock in neighborhoods to familiarize voters with the key issues and upcoming election information, trained over 300 volunteers.

For the upcoming June 5th primary election there are a number of great Democratic candidates running for various positions, some unopposed. Already the County Party has endorsed Genevieve Jones-Wright for District Attorney, Dave Myers for County Sheriff, Matt Strabone for Assessor-Recorder-Clerk, Nathan Fletcher for Board of Supervisors District #4 and Esther Sanchez for Board of Supervisors District #5.

San Marcos, like many other cities this year, has moved from candidates running city-wide “at large” to a district system, where you will vote on one city council candidate in the district where you live. The county party is in the process of analyzing the data, demographics by district, to prepare for the canvassing and campaigning to come as well as to recruit candidates for the new districts.

Jessica also reviewed the new laws affecting elections that recently went into effect. The “Motor Voter” law that provides automatic voter registration though the DMV is now in place and voters who don’t select a party preference will be marked as “Unknown” rather than “No Party Preference”. Political canvassing will now be allowed in condo associations. Canvassers will now be able to pick up mail ballots from voters and turn them in for them. And conditional voter registration will be allowed up to election day but only at the Registrar of Voters office.

Jessica also highlighted some key upcoming dates and events. There will be a countywide walk on January 27 “to engage new and occasional voters leading up to the Primary Election” on June 5. Voter turnout will be critical in the primary election in June because if a candidate wins 50% plus 1 vote over their opposition that race is over and does not need to proceed to the November General Election.

Over 3,000 electeds, candidates and delegates will gather at the County Convention in San Diego Feb. 23-25. Official Party endorsements will be considered for all state and federal races (70% vote required). More convention information can be found at www.cadem.org/convention.

Another exciting event to watch is a Gubernatorial Debate to be held in San Diego on February 22. This is a great opportunity to get out and hear for yourselves how the various and very similar candidates differentiate themselves.

The annual Roosevelt Dinner will be held at the Bayfront Hilton on April 7 with a discounted price of $115 for Democratic Club members and GO team members. This is the main fundraiser for the year so please consider attending. Tickets will go on sale online soon.

Lastly, and most importantly, mail ballots will be mailed on May 7th for the June Primary, a month before the actual election day of June 5. We hope all Democrats are as impassioned and committed as Jessica so that we can help the “Blue Wave” continue to wash over California!

See the details of Jessica’s presentation here.


Strengthening Labor and Democratic Party Partnerships

Club Members had the pleasure of hearing a talk by Nate Fairman, President of the San Diego Labor Democratic Club, at our monthly club meeting. Nate, Business Manager of the IBEW Local 465 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and a journeyman lineman by trade, has made it his mission to build bridges and strengthen partnerships within the party and between party and labor members. Given some recent diversion of goals between the two groups this is a welcome mission.

As Republicans in particular over the last decades have taken aim squarely at Labor Unions, it is worth examining the question, “Why do we need unions today?” If one examines the data it is obvious to see the correlation between union membership, or density, and economic inequality and the disappearance of the middle class. In 1983, 20.1% of the workforce was unionized compared to only 11% today, and of that only 6% of the private sector is now unionized. Politicians have made it easier to ship jobs overseas and the result of lower union density has been an increase in lower paying jobs, contributing to widening inequality. “How does something like a Hepatitis A outbreak occur in one of the U.S.’ largest cities?” Nate asked. The result is that today a startling 4 in 10 San Diegans can’t make ends meet!

“With organized labor weakened, our ability to get the wealth we produce is weakened,” Nate explained. One need only look at the chart below, correlating income with union membership, to see that lower union membership has resulted in a huge prosperity gap, propelled particularly by President Reagan’s attacks on the air traffic controllers union in 1983. And this is precisely why both labor and the Democratic Party need and want to organize the same group of people. We have common goals and we are connected. Having no middle class is bad for us all.

So what is a union and what benefits does it provide workers? Historically, unions are the only ones to represent workers. “Concepts such as ‘the weekend’, overtime pay, child labor laws, paid leave and apprenticeships didn’t just come out of the air,” Nate said. “People died for these rights,” he explained. Moreover there is an added benefit not usually realized – since unions represent ALL workers regardless of political ideology, union membership serves to expose all workers to more progressive values that some conservative workers may not have had the opportunity to previously experience.

The right to unionize was established in 1935 via the Wagner Act, better known as the National Labor Relations Act. From this, collective bargaining was born. By 1953 31% of the workforce was organized. Today, there are over 200,000 union families in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Moreover, unions play a much larger role in society than we tend to realize. “The labor movement is arguably the largest women’s rights, racial justice, immigration rights, and civil rights movement in the country,” Nate explained. Unions represent six and a half million women and they promote equality. Union contracts apply to all and do not understand or recognize gender or race. Since all members of the union vote on all issues, democracy is foundational to the union.

But with Reagan’s busting of the air traffic controllers’ union it sent the message that “it’s time to go after unions”. The result was stark. Ever since that time wages have stagnated and all new income has gone to the top 1%. “We are more productive than ever before yet wages are stagnant. If wages kept pace with productivity the minimum wage would now be $21.36,” Nate declared.

Unions make a difference in quality of life as well. If you are a maid cleaning hotel rooms in San Diego, would you rather clean 15 rooms a day (the union rule in a union hotel) or 32 rooms a day (as at the non-unionized Hyatt downtown)? “We are asking for a better quality of life for all, not just for special interests,” Nate said. On average, union wages are 30% higher than non-union. “Want more money?” Nate asked. “Join a Union!”

So how can we, the average non-union member citizen, help out? For starters, don’t use the rhetoric of the right to denigrate unions, such as using the term “Union bosses” or “Union thugs”. “They like to pit members against each other but unions are for all, don’t let them divide us,” Nate implored. Buy union labeled products, and made in America products whenever possible. Do not ever cross picket lines. Resist the Trump anti-worker agenda and challenge every effort to privatize social services. And don’t ever shop at WalMart!

If you’d like to attend the San Diego Labor Democratic Club meetings, they meet the first Sunday of every month at 2:00pm. Meetings are at 541 E. 24th St, National City, CA. If you have any questions for the club, you can reach out to them at [email protected]

Here is Nates’ presentation.

Intro to Labor 11-11-2017

Holiday Party December 9!

Celebrating the end of the year together with other Democrats is always a delightful celebration but this year will be even more so as we’ve survived slogging through a year of Trump. See friends and make new ones at our annual holiday party. There will be door prizes and entertainment as well as delicious food. We’re limited to 100 people and our membership has grown to over 250 members so don’t delay.

This year’s party will again be at the Old Spaghetti Factory in San Marcos on December 9th, at noon. It will be a seated luncheon with choice of three entrees. The cost is $25.00 per person. Please send the form found at the below link to Peggi Chute at the address listed on the reservation form.

Save your space and sign up today! We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

holiday flyer

Jodie Grenier Explains the Mission of Foundation for Women Warriors

When we think about the military and especially our military veterans we rarely think of them as women. Yet today, 16.8% of our armed forces are women, and it’s increasing every day. Today, there are 1.85 million women veterans among us! These statistics, and much more eye opening information was shared with our club members by Jodie Grenier, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Women Warriors.

Jodie herself served in the 1st Marine Division of the US Marine Corps. She joined the Marines out of high school prior to 9/11. She participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was enlisted from 2000-2005. She served as an Intelligence Officer and a Watch Chief over those years, and received the Navy Commendation Medal for her service. She was ultimately promoted to Staff Sergeant. Her re-entry into the civilian world made her realize how difficult that transition can be for many vets, men and women alike.

In California this is a particularly difficult domain because California has 163,000 women vets, second only to Texas. And women face tougher circumstances in many instances because they have a lower median income than males and many live below the poverty line. There is much housing instability so a big need is to provide emergency housing, help with utilities and child care. As Jodie described, “The four biggest issues we deal with during transition, and its increasing every day, are employment, child care, education and housing.” She went on to explain that because women have not been seen as equal partners and given their fewer numbers there aren’t as many peers they can turn to for mentoring and guidance.

So when Jodie took over the organization, she set about to change its name and brand away from “Military Women in Need”, which didn’t “sit well with her”, to its current name. “Our goal is to highlight women’s achievements” she explained. PTSD rates within the veteran population is no greater than across the general population so “it’s important to not generalize a population” she said.

Jodie described her time in the military and it was easy to see her passion, commitment and pride in her military career. After boot camp she went to Intelligence School in Dam Neck, Virginia, then served with her unit, which consisted of 400 men and 3 women, at Camp Pendleton. Some of us on “the outside” might find that a terrifying thought, but Jodie said, “I still did not consider myself different. I became a sister to the men in my unit,” she explained. At the age of 20 she deployed to Iraq where she was responsible for tasking out drones, working under General Mattis. She deployed a second time to Iraq where she worked on analyzing human intelligence (HUMINT).

“My time in the military was fantastic” she exclaimed. She attributed her success to how she was nurtured by her mom, a single mother. Her mom taught her that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. Her upbringing prepared her for dealing with life today. After she exited the military, she returned to her home in Connecticut but she didn’t have any access to mentoring or assistance in making decisions outside of her very small circle. “World War II Vets came home and built this country,” she said. “Now we come home, we don’t have a college education, no one knows much about what you did in the service and you basically have to start all over, just like new immigrants.”

Jodie also covered a few other topics of interest as well that arise when one considers the issues women may encounter in the military. She explained that sexual assault is not isolated to the military (as evidenced by what has been in the news recently). It is prevalent across society and has to be tackled starting with how we raise our kids. She was not ever assaulted or heckled during her service. “We need to raise up and honor women’s service” she said, “not that of victimhood. We have to talk about them as trailblazers.”

She felt that being part of an all volunteer force was wonderful and when asked if she thought we should bring back the draft she disagreed. “Understand that during the draft, some who don’t want to be there aren’t committed to the cause,” and this can cause a multitude of problems in the unit.

When asked how ordinary civilians on the outside could help, her two main suggestions were to go to women’s military events or volunteer to become a mentor. A mentor can help in a myriad of ways, from mentoring regarding employment in a particular industry to just taking a phone call or meeting to have coffee. And of course, donations are always welcome. To read more about the organization or to volunteer, go to their website.

Meet Mike Levin, Opposing Darrell Issa in 2018

Even though many club members live in Congressional District 50 and will not be able to vote for anyone running to unseat Congressman Darrell Issa, Mike Levin stopped by the monthly club meeting to spread the word about who he is and what he stands for as he seeks to win the district come November, 2018.

Mike went to Stanford University, then received his law degree from Duke School of Law, focused on environmental law and energy regulation issues. He hails from Orange County where he was the Executive Director of the Orange County Democratic Party in 2006 and 2007. “This experience,” he says, “taught me how to persuade Republicans.”

He serves on the Board of the Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego and is passionate about clean energy. “We need to get the U.S. to 100% renewable energy by 2050” he explained. He was very content doing this work until Trump started seriously considering a run for President. He decided, with great insistence from his wife, not to run in 2014 because they had just had a baby and with two small children timing was not good. Today, that has changed.

He believes this moment defines us and whomever steps up to confront what we face today. “What will history say,” he asked? He recounted his family’s story, with Jewish grandparents who emigrated from Eastern Europe and faced the harsh realities of anti-semitism in our own New York City. His grandfather started a business that he named “Dean Interiors”, after James Dean, because he knew in the environment of the day he could not call it “Levin Interiors”. “Someone who fought and served couldn’t use their own name” for a business he explained. “I won’t ever let that happen again.” His mother’s side hails from Mexico. His mom was the first female toy designer for Mattel Toys.

Watching the environment under President Trump grow darker by the day he announced his run for Congress on March 8, 2017. He is endorsed by numerous Democrats, including Adam Schiff, and the National Organization for Women. He has raised almost $1 million in less than 7 months. He accepts no corporate PAC money, and all donations have come from over 9,000 small donors across the United States. The key issues he intends to focus on are Medicare for All, a living wage, and education.

“Anger and frustration isn’t enough to win” he explained, “but our thinking behind that is we can win, but we all have to come together.” Although he certainly hopes to win the primary he indicated that he will support whomever wins to ensure that Darrell Issa is sent home next November.