Posted by rflacks on:
I'm increasingly perplexed by some evident divisions in the ranks of Democratic Party leaders in our region. The most obvious division is the race for state senate in the 19th district. Hannah Beth Jackson, who established a record of principle and outspokenness on behalf of gender equality, environmental values and resistance to corporate control as a member of the assembly, is running for the senate seat in the newly redrawn district. HBJ lost a race in the old, preponderantly Republican district by a few hundred votes.
So the perplexing thing is that she has a Democratic Party opponent named Jason Hodge, a onetime firefighter, and operative for the Ventura fire fighters union. Jason has every right to run, of course, but we might want to know why he’s doing it. The main answer one can find in his campaign ads: He says he’s the “Democrat who doesn’t think you need higher taxes” As a cheap campaign slogan against Hannah Beth, this makes sense: When she ran against Tony Strickland, he called her “Taxin’ Jackson”, making use of earlier SB New-Press efforts to define (and demean) her.They were branding her this way simply because she voted with her fellow Democrats in the Assembly for certain budgetary measures. Presumably making the link between Jackson and taxin’ might give Jason an edge among independent and conservative voters (an important strategic goal should the two Democrats both survive the June primary). But it’s terrible politics for a
Democratic candidate for the legislature, given the tax raising referendum that Jerry Brown, labor and the Democratic state party are mounting—a referendum that has to pass to save the education budgets but, like all proposals to raise taxes, its fate is precarious.
Jason has already garnered support for his candidacy from a PAC called Senior Advocates League whose primary funder is the Republican Party of California and an outfit called JOBSPAC which is funded by leading oil, tobacco and other big corporations. So, based on all the above, we can assume that Jason Hodge is a corporate or ‘blue dog’ Democrat, trying to block the election of an outspoken progressive.
What’s perplexing is that the story is a bit more complicated. Incredibly, Hodge is endorsed by the Tricounty Labor Council—even though Jackson has a stellar record of supporting labor issues.
The plot thickens: a few months before announcing his candidacy, Jason Hodge
married Fiona Ma, currently speaker pro tempore of the assembly and a decidedly ambitious Bay Area politician. Fiona has been actively lining up endorsements for Jason, calling in the many political chips she’s distributed over the years.
Maybe a measure of her ambition (and ruthlessness?) is that she pushed hard to get Republican Mike Stoker appointed to the State Air Resource’s Board. Stoker, a perennial local GOP candidate, is running for the senate against Hodge and Jackson; his appointment to the ARB would have taken him out of the equation. That appointment was blocked at the last minute when various influentials got wind of the possibility that Gov. Brown would be naming a pro-business Republican to this environmentally important body. Apparently Jason’s electoral game made such a deal worthwhile to Fiona Ma.
Progressive Democratic activists in Ventura have been much troubled by the behavior of the Labor Council. According to David Atkins, former chair of the Ventura County Democratic Party, the Labor Council has fielded an opposition slate that seeks to take over control of the Party’ Central Committee there. Atkins says that their candidates include: “folks who were previously kicked off long ago for endorsing Republicans, folks
who worked with local Tea Party members to oppose local progressive positions, and various others in that general line. And they will be using their considerable resources to do whatever it takes to defeat me and my allies in June, in order prevent the local Party from doing what is needed to win races for progressive Democrats across the county.”http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/10/1073184/-Meet-Democrat-Jason-Hodge-?showAll=yes)
That Labor Council doesn’t speak for a lot of major unions. Indeed, in the current campaign, Jackson has been endorsed by very politically significant unions, including SEIU, teachers, nurses, farmworkers, etc.
The effort by progressive Democrats in Ventura to create a coherent Party organization that can work effectively in local elections (including non-partisan ones) is similar to the process that has been evolving here in Santa Barbara County. Historically, Democratic Party organizations in California have tended to be largely passive, with very little grassroots participation in governance and policy making, coming to some life during election seasons but otherwise remaining dormant. Here in Santa Barbara, a contingent of young activists has been successful in remaking the County Central Committee into an activist structure. The elements of their effort include:formulating a party platform, endorsing and working for candidates and ballot initiatives that are nominally non-partisan, and trying to establish a degree of organizational discipline by expecting that the elected member s of the Central Committee will publicly abide by DCC endorsements and not work publicly for candidates or ballot positions opposed to the Committee’s endorsements.
Some people’s feelings have been hurt in this process because they’ve not abided by endorsement policies, or because they have been displaced from positions of control that they long felt entitled to have. As a result there’s been a good deal of tension within the Central Committee. A focus of the distress has been on Daraka Larimore Hall. Daraka is chair of the CCentral Committee and a prime mover of the remaking process I’m alluding to. On your primary election ballot, if you live in the first supervisorial district, you’ll find Daraka running for re-election to the Democratic Party Central Committee. There are five open seats in the district, and seven candidates—so this rather obscure slot is now a site
of the Democrat teapot tempest.. Feeding the flames has been the activity of former State Assemblymember Pedro Nava, whose wife Susan Jordan, ran for his seat after Nava termed out. Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams decided to oppose Jordan and eventually won the seat. Rather than do the normal (and graceful) thing, Jordan and Nava refused to endorse Das, and have continued to try to work against “official” Party endorsements. They’ve been vociferous in supporting Jason Hodge—in part at least because Hannah Beth Jackson is close with Das Williams.
Now, Susan Jordan on her Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/susan.jordan.94) has taken to attacking Daraka Larimore Hall and urging people not to vote for him. Her posting has drawn out several other people who have grievances against Daraka.
I’m a close friend of Daraka Larimore Hall. I chair his doctoral committee (he’s a PhD student in sociology at UCSB). We talk a lot about politics big and small. So I’m biased in his favor, of course. But I think I can say with confidence these things: Daraka is an exceptionally talented political activist. Everyone knows that he is one of the best public
speakers they’ve ever seen. But his speaking effectiveness isn’t just about style, it’s about his thoughtfulness about the issues and how to define them that also stands out. I know from direct experience that these qualities carry over to the classrooms where he works. Along with his talents for public expression is his capacity for creative political vision. His experience in Scandinavia as a young activist and his extensive study of American party politics is the basis for his leadership of the local party. He hopes, and he’s persuaded other party activists to hope, for a party organization that can be a political force. Being a political force means being locally engaged and effective—taking stands and working for issues important for the shared values of local Democrats. It means being able to hold politicians accountable, understanding that electing good people to office is only the beginning of the story. It means, hopefully, that the party organization can attract previously unengaged people, not only to volunteer for particular campaigns, but to become active citizens. It means, in short, trying to sustain a party organization that is alive and real all year round –and that can make a difference in the ongoing politics of the county,
It’s not a simple matter to try making this vision work for it challenges established habits of veteran party regulars. California historically is a state where party organization has tended to be weak especially on the local level, and where local government elections are nominally non-partisan. Still, the County Democratic Committee that Daraka has been chairing has successfully put a good deal of the vision to work.
Now we have the spectacle that some folks who disagree with this vision are trying to unseat Daraka by urging that he not be re-elected to the Central Committee in the upcoming election.And the afore mentioned Labour Council has endorsed all the candidates for the 2st district seats except Daraka (who served as vice chair of the CLC for several years, and has worked as a union organizer). Instead of debating policies that they don’t like, they’ve constructed a story about Daraka’s personal style—he’s dictatorial, creates conflict, arrogant. Like anyone with strong commitment and drive, I’m
sure Daraka has disturbed some people and made some enemies. The fact that Daraka is exceptionally gifted, and represents the emerging young generation in local politics, should be seen as very promising for progressive politics. I think most folks who are engaged with the Party here share this view.
The turn toward punishing Daraka
personally is ugly and it’s suspect. Note that a similar process of opposition
to a reforming progressive party leadership has been happening in Ventura
County, led by the very same folk who are backing Jason Hodge. In Santa
Barbara, the ugliest public moves largely have been made by Susan Jordan, who
can’t seem to get past her loss to Das Williams.
We’re in a national struggle against really dark reactionary political forces. We’re facing a global economic crisis. It’s perplexing that in that context some folks around here have nothing better to do than divide the activist community, driven, not by principle, but by spite
And while I'm at it. You may want to consider voting and working for these progressives on the June Ballot:
Hannah Beth Jackson for state senate hannah-beth2012.com
Joyce Howerton for 4th district supervisor www.joycehowerton.org
Doreen Farr for 3rd district supervisor doreenfarrforsupervisor.com
Lois Capps for congress www.cappsforcongress.com
These are candidates who are in problematic races so if you want to consider a contributionm or otherwise help, go to their websites lsited above.