By Michael Feinstein. Inside/Outside. June 13, 2016
The presidential primary election season in the United States is a long one — longer than in any other nation in the world. Yet all good things (sic) must come to an end. This year, the end came via the June 7 California primary — and in particular in Santa Monica. As the polls closed later in California than in any other primary contest that day, Santa Monica’s role was both functional and symbolic:
o Symbolic, because MSNBC’s wall-to-wall election coverage and punditry was hosted outdoors on the Santa Monica Pier, literally at the edge of the country, signifying the close of a primary process that had crossed coast-to-coast; and
o Functional, because despite the delegate math, until Bernie Sanders gave his election night speech late that night at Santa Monica’s iconic Barker Hanger, no one knew how long the fight on the Democratic side would continue.
Local pols support different presidential campaigns
One of the measures of support for high level political campaigns are which local elected officials get behind them — and who supports them speaks much about the campaigns. In Santa Monica many local elected officials were divided between support in the Democratic primary for Sanders or for Hillary Clinton.
At the same time, one of the themes of this year’s election – as well as in 2008 and 2012 under the ‘Obama coalition’ – are the changing demographics of the nation’s electorate, including the rise of the Latino vote. In Santa Monica, five of the 21 members of the City Council, School Board and College Board are Latinas or Latinos. Two of them were particularly visible in their support for different Democratic presidential candidates.
College Boardmember Margaret Franco and Hillary Clinton
On the Saturday before the June primary, Santa Monica College Boardmember Margaret Franco was invited to “A Conversation on Immigration” with Hillary Clinton, at Los Angeles Mission College in Sylmar (where her husband Monte Perez is president.)
Clinton spoke to a small group of students and elected officials regarding her support for ‘Dreamers’ – students named after the DREAM Act, a bill introduced in Congress (but not yet passed) that would give permanent residency to undocumented students. (Some of those students are currently able to apply for temporary work permits, Social Security numbers and protection from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created by President Obama after the DREAM Act failed in Congress.)
“It was a honor to be in the presence of Secretary Clinton, but more importantly I trust she will address the issues of Latinos, immigration, and disadvantaged others. I felt proud to see a woman who may become our next president,” said Franco.
Joining Franco at the event to show their support for Clinton were U.S. Congressmember Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) – who is rumored to be on Clinton’s short list for Vice President, California State Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin DeLeon, three Los Angeles Community College District Trustees and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
School Boardmember Oscar de la Torre and Bernie Sanders
Back in Santa Monica on Monday May 23, Sanders held “A Future to Believe In” rally at Santa Monica High School (Samohi), where current Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board member Oscar de la Torre was student class president in 1989-1990.
The Sanders campaign chose De la Torre as one of the introductory speakers before Sanders that night – on the very athletic field where De la Torre played linebacker and tailback as captain of the Samohi football team – because they viewed his personal story of growing up in Santa Monica’s underprivileged Pico Neighborhood and his rising to the role of a local elected official, as a victory of education over incarceration. Two weeks later, De la Torre penned an opinion piece in the LA Weekly “Why, as a Latino Progressive, I’m Voting for Bernie Sanders.”
“I am inspired by the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign in engaging both Latinos and an overwhelming number of youth,” wrote de la Torre. “Latino voters working in a multicultural and multigenerational coalition can become the most influential group in the most powerful progressive voting block ever assembled in California’s political history…we have a rare moment to support a candidate like Sanders, who has taken a principled stand on the issues that our families care most about, including immigration, higher education, and income inequality reform.”
Joining De la Torre at the Samohi rally was Javier Gonzalez, Southwest Regional Coordinator for the Sanders campaign, who was also born and raised in Santa Monica. The two met in first grade at Santa Monica’s Madison School. Now they were playing big roles in a presidential campaign, at the very high school from which they both graduated.
State Assemblymember Richard Bloom and Bill Clinton
On the Friday evening before the June primary, Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station hosted a Hillary Clinton campaign “Get out the vote with President Bill Clinton” event. Santa Monica’s State Assemblymember (and former Santa Monica Mayor and City Councilmember) Richard Bloom was there. “It was a real thrill to unexpectedly receive a call from the Clinton campaign, asking if my wife Robbie Black and I would be interested in joining former Los Angeles Controller and City Councilmember Wendy Gruel to “greet” former President Clinton before his speech that night,” recounted Bloom to me afterwards.
“We were ushered into a room in Bill Turner’s gallery (which currently features an outstanding retrospective “Moses @ 90” of Los Angeles artist and painter Ed Moses) and then The President arrived. The four of us had a very relaxed conversation that had very little to do with politics. He told stories from the past, and I was able to tell him a little about the great art that surrounded us. The encounter lasted about 15 minutes, but the memory will last a lifetime.”
Bloom and family first met then President Clinton in 1993 — long before Bloom contemplated even running for the City Council — when Clinton gave a speech at Santa Monica College.
“Robbie and I waited outside with our sons Emmet and Zac, who were then about 5 and 6, and held hand-scrawled ‘Welcome to Sunset Park, Mr. President’ signs,” he said. “We hoped to get a glimpse of Clinton as he exited the event. In fact, he ended up spending a good deal of time shaking hands, and shook each of the boys hands and said ‘hello.’”
Now more than 20 years later, Bloom’s rise from Sunset Park neighborhood activist to California’s state legislature led him to a private audience with our nation’s 41st president. Which Santa Monica neighborhood activist today might have that same experience, meeting an ex-president twenty years from now?
Two part series on Santa Monica and the 2016 presidential election:
Secret Service comes to Santa Monica. June 14, 2016
Local elected officials divided in Democratic presidential primary, June 13, 2016
Michael Feinstein is a former Santa Monica Mayor (2000-2002) and City Councilmember (1996-2004) . He can be reached via Twitter @mikefeinstein
‘Inside/Outside‘ is a periodic column about civic affairs Feinstein writes for the Daily Press, that takes advantage of his experience inside and outside of government.