“Sonoma County is ground zero for counter-Trump,” Sonoma State University political science Professor David McCuan proclaimed at the biannual “Blue-Green Eggs & Ham” post-election wrap-up that took place last Saturday at Santa Rosa’s Odd Fellows Hall. McCuan added, “We’re in the middle of a big shift that will literally change the face of the electorate and the whole political picture.”
Organizers for the event borrowed the name from the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham. The true-blue standing-room-only crowd included environmentalists, trade unionists and progressives, all proud of Democratic Party victories last November, and itching to take on Trump in 2020. No one complained that the breakfast meeting didn’t include eggs or ham.
Unlike California’s up-and-coming demographic, which is young and ethnically diverse, the Odd Fellows crowd was mostly white and over the age of 50, with a smattering of students and people of color. As several speakers noted, Sonoma County has grown whiter, wealthier and older ever since the wildfires of October 2017.
On the second of two panels, McCuan rubbed shoulders with Maddy Hirshfield, the political director of the North Bay Labor Council (NBLC), and Daisy Pistey-Lyhne, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA).
Pistey-Lyhne looked back at the 2018 campaign and noted that, “Progressive had spectacular wins.” Then, she peered into the future and added, “We don’t have enough money to be consistently successful. That takes people power.”
That kind of power helped elect more Latinas to public office in Sonoma County than ever before, including Windsor councilwoman Esther Lemus, Santa Rosa councilwoman Victoria Fleming and Cloverdale councilwoman Marta Cruz. Lemus said, “I ran because I felt that the voices of minorities and women, especially working mothers, were absent from the political process.”
The event began with the big politicos: Eco-focused U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and Blue Dog centrist Mike Thompson; State Sen. Mike McGuire, the freshly-minted assistant Senate majority leader; and Assemblyman Jim Wood. “Nobody did more or better than North Coast people last fall,” the conservative Democrat Thompson said. “In Orange County, I ran into Sonoma County people canvassing for Democrats down there. We pushed the wheel forward and we’re just getting going.” Numerous GOP districts in Orange County flipped blue this year.
Thompson was recently out-front and center as Nancy Pelosi’s point-person on renewed Democratic efforts on gun control.
McGuire sounded a defiantly anti-Trumpian note. “We’re standing up for California values, fighting for health care for all, and protecting the DACA students,” he said. Jim Wood boasted that there were more women now in the California State Assembly than ever before and insisted that “some Republican members of Congress have to go,” a list which would likely include Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes. He added, “Let’s make California the bluest state in the world.”
Let’s pay our blue state comrades a living wage, added Greg Sarris, the Tribal Chair of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. He gave the keynote address and told his popular carrot story. “There are three reasons to grow carrots,” he said. “One, to make money, two, to feed people and three, to share a vision, not just to make money and feed people, but to take care of the workers so that they can afford to eat.” He stressed that the unionized Graton Casino offers a model for the county to follow when it comes to wage equity.
“We pay employees $15 an hour and everyone gets full medical coverage through Kaiser,” he said. A recent report, The State of Working Sonoma, prepared by Jesús Guzmán for North Bay Jobs and Justice, shows that “Forty percent of Latinos belong to a family that works and lives in poverty,” and that “The rent-to-income gap has widened as household incomes have increased by only nine percent while rents have increased a whopping 24 percent from 2000 to 2016.”
The panelists agreed that local campaigning was more toxic than ever before in a divided country—and county? Petaluma mayor Teresa Barrett, who also serves on Bay Area Air Quality Management District talked about how nearly $80,000 in oil-industry money was poured into the race, though the effort backfired, she said. “People saw through it.” Sonoma Mayor Rachel Hundley recounted her fight against a barrage of “anonymous hate-mail” and a bogus website that called her a slut. McCuan offered his campaign wisdom for Democrats in 2020. “Don’t talk about Democracy,” he said. “That’s too abstract. Talk about corruption and greed.”