Election message to GOP:’Don’t mess with California!’

BY:Evelina Alarcon| September 26, 2001

Report given to the National Committee

These are exciting and challenging times. Jarvis’s report captured that.
Last Saturday in Los Angeles close to 2,000 people came out to the Federal
Building to demand that every vote be counted. Today another demonstration
will be held. Our District held an emergency meeting to get everyone involved
in moving our unions, organizations, friends and family into this fight
for democracy.

I like the spirit of what Jarvis said in his report, that the people’s
forces have only begun to fight. I believe that this battle for democracy
will carry over and overlap into every arena of struggle from now on.

California election

In California, we feel that we did our part to stop Bush and the extreme
right. Republican governors ruled California for sixteen years and they
gave working families, racial minorities, women, seniors and youth hell.
Eleven days ago, at the polls, Californians gave it back to them.

Governor Bush loved to say, don’t mess with Texas. Well, on election
day, Californians said back to him, you son of a Bush, don’t mess with
California. What occurred in our state was even at a higher level than
the labor defeat of Proposition 226, the paycheck deception measure in
1998. Everything moved up notches electorally with organizing and coalition
building that outdid even the electoral work to elect Democrat Governor
Gray Davis. All the millions that Bush put into advertising didn’t work.
Working families led the way. Gore beat Bush by 12 points, 53.5% to 41.7%.
In LosAngeles, Gore won 65% of the vote.

As the Florida battle began, Bush and Republicans pointed to the 1.2million
absentee ballots still left to be counted in California. They said that
Gore’s winning of the popular vote was very likely temporary because those
absentees would be conservative voters. Well 753,000 of those 1.2 million
ballots have been counted now and Gore’s lead is still climbing.

Defeating the Extreme Right

The day after the election a headline on the front page of the Los Angeles
Times said, ‘California Elections Profile: Shift toward the Left takes
firm hold.’ It is understandable why they said that. Because down the
line, the people of California kicked the extreme right Republicans up
one side of their face and down the other. From the presidential race,
to the US Senate, to the Congress, to the State legislature, to the Propositions,
California voters put the hurt to the extreme right. A page three headline
of the LA Times this week read, ‘State Republicans find waking up is hard
to do.’ The article leads off saying, ‘TheRepublican Party has gotten
many wake up calls from California voters in recent elections, but last
week’s should have bounced it out of bed. Out of bed with the religious
right, the gun worshipers and the polluters.’ The article describes how
exit polls showed that California voters in this election rejected Republicans
because they rejected extreme right policies.

The fight to take back the Congress

In the battle for Congress, Southern California had more labor targeted
seats than anywhere in the country. Out of four targeted Congressional
races for defeating Republican incumbents, labor/community efforts succeeded
in defeating three. GOP representatives: Rogan, Kuykendahl in Los Angeles,
and Brian Bilbray in San Diego bit the dust. Two of the three victors
are women now heading to the Congress. I don’t have to tell you what kind
of an effort that represented . You know how hard it is just to defeat
one Republican incumbent.

Congressman James Rogan was one of the vicious extreme right prosecutors
of President Clinton. More money was spent in this race than anywhere
in the country. It was an all out battle to take away a seat in a longstanding
Republican district who’s demographics have now changed with more racial
minorities. Rogan couldn’t believe what hit him on election night. He
refused to concede that night even though he had lost to Democrat Adam
Schiff by 9 points, 53% to 44 %.

Congressman Brian Bilbray’s defeat by Assemblywoman Susan Davis in conservative
San Diego was also a tremendous victory unexpected by most. The primary
had indicated that Bilbray was vulnerable but only a tremendous outpouring
of mobilization could topple this well-entrenched Republican. This marks
a real turning point for the San Diego labor movement in electoral struggle.

Democrat Jane Harmon’s narrow victory in the Los Angeles harbor was
a cliffhanger but once again labor power made the difference. On election
day, the President and Executive Secretary Treasurer of the State Federation
of Labor, the top leaders of the LA County Federation and a huge mobilization
of local labor leaders and members were in this district because this
was so close. These efforts pushed her over the top with the election
not declared until the next day.

Trade unionist Gerrie Schipske in the Long Beach area lost her race
to defeat Republican Congressman Steve Horn by only 1% of the vote, a
little over 1200 votes. Had the Democratic Party not pulled out of this
race, she certainly would have won. It was Labor and Latino mobilization
in this district that worked a miracle in nearly winning this seat as

When you add to the three Congressional victories in Southern California
the taking away of a Republican Congressional seat in San Jose by trade
unionist State Senator Mike Honda, four out of five targeted Republican
incumbents in California went down in flames by labor/community efforts.

Democrat U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein also squashed her opponent GOP
Congressman Tom Campbell.

Republicans lost in the state legislature. They gained four seats in
the State Assembly and now lead the GOP with 33 seats to 19. In the State
Senate, one seat was gained by Democrats, just one vote shy of a supermajority
which can override a Governor’s veto. This means that Democrats call the
shots on reapportionment in the state with the largest Congressional delegation.

On the propositions, school vouchers were defeated by 71%. A measure
to make it possible to vote for bonds for schools by majority vote rather
than by a 2/3 vote passed. And very significant is that Proposition 36,
a measure to provide non violent drug offenders with drug treatment and
probation rather than prison, passed by 61%.

In the city of Santa Monica, a labor/community coalition led the defeat
of a so called living wage measure which in reality would have restricted
the living wage ordinance to sixty workers and prevented the majority
of low income workers from getting the living wage. The coalition took
on the big hotels of Santa Monica and big business and won overwhelmingly
laying the foundation for an effort to win a minimum wage.

The election champions

Labor, Latinos, African Americans and women were the real champions
of the California victory. Where the Democratic Party did not fill it’s
role–labor, racial minorities and women did. Women voted for Gore in
California by an 18% margin. In the three targeted congressional districts
in Los Angeles, Latino GOTV organizations had a parallel operation to
what the labor movement was doing to turn out the union household vote.
African American organizations had special GOTV efforts in the inner city
and in other African American communities in the county.

Los Angeles coalition

The monumental victories which are occurring in Los Angeles electorally
and in the workplace are because of the coalition building that the labor
movement is doing with the Latino and African American community. In Los
Angeles, the Labor Federation not only targeted three congressional districts
but it had organized 250 volunteers to help State Senator Hilda Solis
win her Congressional seat by turning out the union household and Latino

SEIU built a labor/community coalition targeting 36,000 Latino immigrant
voters. They also built a civil rights/labor coalition to turn out the
African American vote. The teachers unions worked day and night to defeat
the voucher measure including involving parents and the community.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor really gets it that the Latino
and African American communities are working class communities and they
are working it. They have coalesced with faith based leaders and organizations,
with civil rights and immigrant rights group. They produced over 20,000
people at a rally for amnesty for undocumented workers. The result of
labor’s coalition efforts is that Gore won Los Ang eles County with 65%
of the vote. Vouchers bit the dust in LA by 73%. Labor did this while
thousands of workers were holding strikes and engaged in contract battles.
The transit strike, Screen Actors Guild strike and ,earlier, the janitors
strike built coalitions. County workers were conducting rolling work stoppages
for a week all over Los Angeles in their negotiations. Hotel and restaurant
workers fought downtown and in Santa Monica.

And in the midst of all of this, an official state holiday was won for
farm worker leader Cesar Chavez. While California cannot rest on its laurels,
because we too must join the fight for democracy to stop Bush from stealing
the election, the labor and people’s movement can certainly celebrate
a stupendous job well done in our state.

We in the Party can also be proud because our members were involved
in all the targeted electoral efforts, in strike support and in winning
the holiday. Our experience in coalition building has grown tremendously.
Today, there is no greater mission for us than to participate in building
these coalitions across the country to pressure the extreme right, to
win on the issues, to fight for democracy. There is lots of room to move
to the offensive. We’ve only begun to fight.


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