Following the 2016 election, we reported on efforts by local residents to mobilize grassroots action to preserve the Affordable Care Act, flip the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections, and resist what to many felt like a regressive era ushered in by the election of Donald Trump.
Over the past two years, hundreds of residents in Hancock Park, Windsor Square, Brookside, Windsor Village and other neighborhoods have hosted events, knocked on doors for candidates in Orange County, registered voters, texted voters, written postcards, held fundraisers and worked on other grassroots political efforts to make sure their voice is part of the national political conversation. Those efforts paid off in November when the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives and virtually all the Congressional candidates they backed were installed in January as part of the 116th Congress, which has been reported as one of the most diverse in our nation’s history, with both the House and Senate setting records for female representation. The House has 102 women, comprising 23 percent of the chamber’s voting members. The Senate has 25 women, the greatest female representation in Senate history. The 116th Congress also has the largest number of Blacks (55), Hispanics/Latin Americans (44), Asians/Pacific Islanders (15), and Native Americans (4), making up 22 percent of Congress. And there are 10 members of Congress who openly identify as LGBTQ. The 116th Congress is slightly more religiously diverse than the 115th Congress. Four hundred and seventy-one members identify as Christian, 34 as Jewish, three as Muslim, three as Hindu, two as Buddhist, two as Unitarian Universalist, one as unaffiliated, and 18 declined to specify a religious affiliation when polled by Pew Research Center, according to Ballotpedia.com
Now local activists are turning their efforts to working with their newly elected representatives, the 2020 Presidential elections and pressing statewide issues, like housing, gun control, and education.
At the end of January, newly elected Congresswoman Katie Porter, who won her Orange County seat by just 257 votes, spoke to a large gathering of residents in Windsor Square. Many of those in attendance had canvassed for Porter and were anxious to hear about her first weeks in Congress.
Porter, whose race was not settled until a week later, told the group she made it to Washington D.C. in time to make the 116th Congressional Class photo. She described the amazing energy of her class.
“We may not change things overnight, but boy, we are going to change things,” Porter told the excited crowd. “There has been a lot of focus on the number of women and that is very noticeable and palpable. But to be honest with you, it’s the number of moms that is making a real difference. Working moms think differently about time!”
Porter said her first few weeks in Washington were particularly interesting, since Congress’ first order of business was to re-open the federal government. Porter said it was heart breaking to speak with TSA officers who were struggling to make ends meet during the shutdown. Porter drew loud applause when she told the group she did not waver on the issue of the border wall. However, she said there were legitimate border security issues that need to be addressed. She cited the need for more immigration judges to process cases. She said there were too many unfilled positions for border patrol and the US could allocate more resources to keep track of people come into the country legally and who overstay their visas.
“There are just a host of things we could work on that are not going to waste our money and send the absolute wrong signal to the rest of the world by building a concrete wall,” said Porter to the delight of the crowd. But she assured the group that Democrats understood what they needed to do to avoid another shutdown, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did a wonderful job holding the Democrats together.
Porter stayed for another hour and answered questions from the group about a range of issues including gun violence, climate change, the Green New Deal. She was candid about the politics she is facing as a newly elected Democrat in Orange County and the work she hoped to do on the Financial Services committee.
More recently, on Monday evening this week, more than seventy-five residents gathered at a home in Windsor Square to meet Presidential hopeful Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, who also served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration. The event was not a fundraiser, but a “meet and greet” so people could get to know him better as he begins his presidential run.
Castro told the group how he thought he could win the nomination and defeat President Trump in the general election. He said California would be an important state in the 2020 election because the state primary has been moved up to March, part of Super Tuesday, instead of falling near the end of the primary season in June, as it has in the past.
Castro took questions from the audience about issues and the challenges facing presidential candidates. Castro believes he is uniquely qualified to serve as because as a mayor, he had to get things done by working with diverse constituencies. When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, also a Windsor Square resident, stopped by to visit, Castro told the group, the best news he got this week was Garcetti’s announcement that he wasn’t running for president!
There’s lots of activism going on in the neighborhood with various groups collecting volunteers to work on issues like gun control and registering voters in Congressional districts in other states.
Locally, candidates for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council will be speaking tonight at the council’s monthly board meeting. Residents will be asked to vote for their council representatives on March 31. Tonight’s meeting is great way to get involved in local issues that effect our neighborhoods. The GWNC candidate forum begins at 6:00 tonight, with the regular board meeting following at 7 pm, both at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.