Above the “Teamsters Local 952 Orange County and Vicinity” logo on the wall behind the speaker’s podium at the Orange union hall on Marks Way is the image of two horse heads. Instead of suggesting that represents the calling card of some syndicates that have been known to associate with labor, let us instead point out that those should have been donkey heads on Friday as Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and the local labor movement joined forces to shore up the “down slate” candidates on the Barack Obama ticket.
“This is a very important election,” Patrick Kelly, Local 952’s secretary-treasurer, said at a press conference before a small but boisterous rally for the candidates. “This is a defining moment for many people. All you have to do is look at the value of your house and the value of your retirement to know this is a defining moment.”
The event brought a familiar face back to Orange County. Tim Carpenter, a longtime Orange County progressive and parochial school teacher moved a few years ago to Massachusetts to work for PDA, which was formed in 2004 to “remake” the Democratic Party, if by remake you mean make it remember its liberal roots.
“I wasn’t able to move out of California until we defeated Bob Dornan,” Carpenter said to foreshadow Loretta Sanchez’s appearance a few minutes later. He is back home to lend the PDA's support to candidates who actually have a shot at overtaking long-held Republican seats and to trumpet PDA's call for “Healthcare not Warfare”: single-payer healthcare and the removal of troops from Iraq.
“I am proud to stand here,” Carpenter said. “I am confident we will take back the White House and send George Bush back to the ranch.”
Looking like one without a care in the world, because she hasn't one with no serious election threat in the 47th Congressional District race, Sanchez said working people know how important the election is, and to make sure it swings the Democrats’ way she urged everyone to hit the streets this weekend registering new voters.
“I believe people want to vote in this election,” she said. “I believe people want to be introduced to all these candidates. Because if people are registered to vote, we will get all these candidates elected and we will make a change for Orange County and that is very important.”
Bill Hendrick, who is seeking the 44th Congressional District seat that Republican Ken Calvert intends on keeping, incredulously asked, “We had plenty of money to bail out Wall Street, but nothing for healthcare?” He also criticized the “extremely expensive deployment in Iraq.”
“ It is time to take that off the backs of taxpayers. Barack Obama is a candidate who can do it,” said Hendrick, who added the issue is personal to him because he has immediately family members who will have completed six tours of Iraq by next year.
Christina Avalos, who is running in the 40th Congressional District race, called for a review of the campaign contributions business interests have made to incumbent Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), who has consistently advocated deregulation as the senior member of congressional committees and subcommittees that have oversight of the mortgage industry.
Tim Prince, who is running against longtime Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis in the 41st Congressional District, brought “a little interest and hope from the east.” He said Riverside and San Bernardino counties have been red counties for some time, but Democrats are now making gains in Riverside, and “San Bernardino and its 2 million people are now blue.”
“People want change,” Prince said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Congressional candidates Steve Young and Debbie Cook, who are running against incumbent Republicans John Campbell and Dana Rohrabacher in the 48th and 46th districts respectively, were absent from the press conference, but did attend a rally that began about an hour later in the hall.
With Orange County being “ground zero” for opportunistic attacks politicians make on police officers, nurses, firefighters, teachers and public employees, Kelly concluded by calling on all labor unions and employee associations to come together to support one another.
“These guys are out of work while our infrastructure suffers,” said Paul Lucas, a candidate for the city council in Garden Grove, which he boasted has the highest concentration of union members in the county. “They are hurting. We need to put people back to work.”