Democratic party heavy hitters came to my 'hood this morning to launch the local subset of the fall California campaign. This doesn't happen a lot. I live in San Francisco's Latino district; the rally site at 16th and Mission is not only day laborer terrain, but also drug dealer crossroads and leftist land. It's much more gritty than pretty. (Note the pigeon in the picture.)
Alerted by Calitics, I charged off at 9:30 to what was billed as a 9:30-11am rally. Not surprisingly, I was more than on time. Just to be clear I should say I'll be voting for Angelides and probably walk a few precincts, but I don't have a huge attachment to this race (my political work this cycle will be outside California.)
The crowd, not counting TV cameras and reporters, was very sparse, about 100 people, mostly from organized labor, SEIU, UFCW, a few UFW, Bricklayers. The only identifiable community organization that had sent folks was ACORN.
My little neighborhood sure got the full alignment of big wigs.
left to right: Cindy Chavez (Democratic candidate for mayor of San Jose), Irma Anderson(mayor of Richmond), Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles)
Phil Angelides, Gavin Newsom (San Francisco), Tom Bates (Berkeley), and Heather Fargo (Sacramento)
Gotta give it to these folks, they all were disciplined enough so that no one droned on. They spoke, endorsed and gave up the mic. Villaraigosa repeated part of his endorsement in Spanish, appropriately given the ethnicity of the few onlookers.
Angelides made a passable speech. Running for governor has taught him to be less of stick than I remember him being. He came off as a decent policy wonk who aims to represent the interests of ordinary Californians better than Gov. Arnold. Not inspiring, but certainly he'd be an improvement.
Some thoughts on the event from my perspective as a political organizer:
- Can we ever build a Democratic party that ordinary people care about by relying on TV coverage? Clearly no on-the-ground organization tried very hard to do turnout for this rather high-powered event. Either relying on the media to report it was acceptable to the campaign or somebody screwed up. That was a lot of big shots to make show up for a 15 second evening news photo op.
- Given the location, this event was presumably designed to attract low income Latino voters. If so, how could I have spent the day yesterday at the immigrant Labor Day march and seen not one flier announcing it? Flyering wouldn't have greatly improved turnout (it seldom does) but it would have signaled to an energized constituency that Phil Angelides wants to speak to them. Labor (not the big wigs -- workers and staffers) did turn out for the immigrant march; they could have made this happen.
- The most effective political animal on the stage was clearly Gavin Newsom (and I have never been a Newsom supporter.) Why? Because he is tall and has a deep voice. In reality, Villaraigosa is probably the future leader of this lot, but he has much to overcome because he's really short. One of Angelides' downsides as candidate is that he's something of a pipsqueak.
- Judging from the stage set up, Angelides is running on the slogan "A Governor We Can Count On." I smell less than artful polling and a cautious consultant there. Who is "we"? Why can we count on this aspiring governor? This slogan probably resonated last year when the unions had tagged Schwarzenegger as a liar who thieved money from the schools. But now that Arnold has remade himself as a "moderate," Angelides has to present himself as more than "not Arnold" or even "not Bush". (There was a vague whiff of this potent message.) If he can't inspire the state, he is not going to trump the star-power of the Terminator.