That brown field in the foreground is where the rest of the south Tracy housing development where I canvassed on Saturday would have been built if the housing boom had continued. I believe I canvassed this same area in 2006 when it was only half constructed and newly occupied, but that could have been could have been one adjacent. Nonetheless, I'd been "here" before.
Read "part one" of this canvassing story here.
Our canvass aimed to speak with union voters. Our lists of union houses specified past voter behavior (for example, the voter turned out in 2008 and 2006, but skipped the 2005 special election), party registration and what labor union they were members of. We were to identify how they planned to vote on Democrats Jerry Brown for Governor, Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate and Jerry McNerney for Congress. And we were to talk and listen.
- It is common to visualize suburbs as islands of white people, but that is far from true in California. In addition to white residents, I met Filipinos, South Asians, African-Americans, Latinos, and lots of people whose less than obvious ethnic origins made them what I think of as "Californians."
- In sharp contrast to 2006, there were no signs for the state or federal candidates in the neighborhood. The most common lawn signs were for a school bond and a local pension funding measure. Perhaps people are not looking around broadly at the political context? Or campaigns aren't getting out there?
- In this development, union workers were from the construction trades, from health care workers, from government and teachers. Come to think of it, that's who has a labor union these days.
- The union members I talked with were horribly anxious about their lives and prospects. "Look, my buddies -- guys I've worked with forever -- have been laid off, they've lost their houses, they've lost their marriages ..."
- They weren't eager to turn out for Democrats. "We elect these people over and over, but things don't get better."
- Jerry Brown was a known quantity. "We had him before, a long time ago." "A lot of bad stuff got started then."
- These union voters were well informed. They understand that California has annual budget stalemates because it takes 2/3s of the legislators to pass anything, so the Republican minority gums up the works every year. Probably many get it because they are state employees; would that the rest of Californians understood that we've created a dysfunctional legislative process!
- Members of teachers' unions were the most ready to say they'd vote for Jerry Brown. "Meg Whitman would get rid of our pensions!"
- Many others were less eager to state their preferences. They understood that Whitman was trying to buy the election with her millions, but many weren't ready to throw down with Brown.
For those trends to stay on course, the voters I talked with will have to come around to voting a Democratic ticket. My sense is that most of the current undecideds will hold their noses and do just that. If they do, Congressman McNerney will probably pull through, maybe even beating Brown's totals in the district. If not, we'll have to live with yet more Republican destruction of good government and our state's future prospects.