CA-32: Help Send A Community Organizer To Congress

Bumped. I'm proud to be doing blog outreach for Judy Chu For Congress - Todd

(originally posted at calitics)

"Community organizer." "Coalition builder."

These were the words that made me the proudest when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke about me as he endorsed me last week.

It was precisely through community organizing that I got my start. I was inspired to first get active on campus when I joined the movements to stop the Vietnam War, to fight for civil rights, and to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

My activism continued beyond college when in the mid-1980s, a group of longtime residents in Monterey Park scapegoated new immigrants in the city by pushing for English-only signs in the city and English-only books in the library. When they got a resolution passed in the city council saying that only English should be spoken in the city, that was the last straw. I decided to join a multi-ethnic coalition of Latinos, Asian Americans, and whites to defeat the resolution and we were successful. Out of that movement, I ran for a seat on the Monterey Park city council, and won, spending the next 13 years working toward my goal of getting the diverse groups in the community to work together in harmony.

It was around that same time that I first met Hilda Solis. We were both fighting to prevent the political boundaries from being redrawn in such a way that the San Gabriel Valley would be divided. While I was in an Asian American coalition, and she in a Latino coalition, we realized that we would have much more power if we fought together as a united force. So together, we went to Sacramento to testify and as a result, we were the only community group in the state that got what we wanted.  

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Hate Crimes Legislation

I am thrilled to see that the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly today. When the bill first passed the House in 2007 it was met with the threat of a veto by President Bush. I'm happy to see that today we have a president who values the importance of protecting the most vulnerable among us. It is precisely for the passage of bills such as this that Americans overwhelmingly voted for change in November. I'm glad to see that today the House brought us one step closer to making this bill a reality.

Passing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 is important for two key reasons. First, it would expand hate-crime laws to include crimes based on sexual orientation, gender-identity and gender as well as disability. Currently, hate crimes laws are limited to acts of violence motivated by race, religion, color or national origin. Secondly, this bill would allow the federal government to prosecute hate crimes in states where current law is inadequate. Currently, federal prosecutors get involved only if the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity.

I know all about working to strengthen hate crimes laws at the local level. During my time in the California Assembly, I chaired the Select Committee on Hate Crimes where we advanced several bills to strengthen hate crimes legislation and to force accurate reporting and tracking of hate crimes. Sixty years ago, 120,000 Japanese Americans, US citizens by and large, were sent to concentration camps. No case of espionage was found. Yet nobody stood up for them. After 9/11 we saw a raft of attacks in the Sikh, Arab, and Muslim communities in California. I saw it as imperative to author legislation to protect their rights. While California hate crimes legislation was already rather encompassing, I still felt there was room for improvement. My advocacy for hate crimes legislation expanded from there into other Her hate crimes bills improve the prosecution of hate crimes, prohibit the insertion of hate flyers in free publications, and create an anti-bias youth program.

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CA-32: Help Send A Community Organizer To Washington

I think the thing that made me proudest about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's endorsement of me on Wednesday was when he spoke of my record as a "coalition builder" and a "community organizer." Community organizing is precisely how I started out back in college when I got active in campus and community activities and joined the movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. It is precisely that spirit of organizing people to work together to a common goal, to build coalitions of people who may have conflicting interests, that I want to take to Washington, DC.

My activism continued beyond college when in 1985, a powerful bloc in Monterey Park were pushing for English-only signs in the city and English-only books in the library. They even got a resolution passed in the city council saying that only English should be spoken in the city. That was the last straw. So, I joined a multi-ethnic coalition -- made up of Asian-Americans, Latinos and whites -- to defeat the resolution and we were successful. It was out of that movement that I ran for city council.

A couple years later I first met Hilda Solis as we were both fighting to redraw the political boundaries so that the San Gabriel Valley was not divided. I was in an Asian-American coalition, she was in a Latino coalition and we sat down and talked and realized we had much in common that we should fight for together. So we went as a unit up to Sacramento to testify and as a result, we were the only community group that got what we wanted. It just shows the power of what coalitions can do.

That spirit of coalition building continued during my time in the state assembly when there were several bills where I really had to build consensus in order to get passed. One such bill that I carried was AB805, the Heat Illness Prevention Act, which imposes minimum workplace standards on employers to prevent heat-induced illness for workers who work outside in the summer. To make my point about the importance of such legislation, the coalition supporting the bill, chich included the United Farmworkers and the AFL-CIO, and I held a meeting with the governors office in the central valley in 100+ degree weather for over 2 hours. We made our point and that bill was passed and signed into law later that year.

Even now, as I run to replace my friend, my mentor and the greatest community organizer I know, Hilda Solis, in Congress, I am using my community organizing skills to build support for my candidacy. We knew from the outset that winning the California Democratic Party endorsement was a crucial step toward winning this seat and we also knew a sitting state senator would prove difficult to beat in an endorsement race, so what did we do? Organize organize organize. We got our folks out in force the day of the endorsement meeting, providing a lunch for delegates prior to the meeting where over 400 people showed up. The lunch turned into a grassroots rally and we had stand-by proxy voters waiting up to 3 hours just to see if I would need them to vote for me or not. It was a truly "people powered" campaign. In the end, Senator Cedillo saw he'd been out maneuvered and so pulled his voters at the last minute, preferring to get zero votes.

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CA-32: I'm Proud To Be Running For Congress

From the diaries. Please welcome Judy Chu who's running for Congress in CA-32. Disclosure: I am proud to be working for Judy as her netroots coordinator - Todd

(cross-posted from Calitics)

It was December 18th when I first heard the news that President-elect Obama had chosen Hilda Solis as his nominee for Secretary of Labor. I was so thrilled because Hilda Solis is a person of such integrity, a true progressive champion who has left an amazing legacy as my representative in the 32nd district of California. After the initial excitement I felt upon hearing the news, it occurred to me: the congressional seat would be open; this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to help President Obama bring change to America and to continue the work Hilda Solis began in CA-32. I knew I had to run for this seat.

I have represented parts of the 32nd congressional district since 1985 when I was elected to the Garvey School Board in Rosemead. Having gained notoriety fighting an English only ordinance in Monterey Park -- and winning that fight -- I was elected to the Monterey Park City Council in 1988 and served three terms as Mayor. In 2001 I was elected to the state Assembly and was proud to win a seat on the California Board of Equalization in 2006 where I currently serve as Vice-Chair. The 32nd district has been my home for 24 years and I have voted for Hilda Solis as my representative ever since she first won the seat in 2000. Now, in 2009, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to succeed her and carry on her fight for progressive values in Washington.

Hilda and I actually go back 20 years when we worked together on a re-districting initiative that brought both the Asian-American and Latino communities together. Too often our communities are at odds but our re-districting fight proved that all of our interests could be served if we work together. Our friendship and partnership continued for years and in 2001, as I ran a difficult race for the California Assembly, it was Hilda Solis's endorsement that put me over the top. Now in 2009, as a member of the administration, Hilda must stay out of the political fray, but I am proud and humbled to have the support of the Solis family to continue the fight that Hilda started in Congress. If I am lucky enough to be sent to Washington by the voters of CD 32, I intend to follow Hilda's example by joining the progressive caucus and fighting for workers who have been under assault for the past decade.

I have been a fierce advocate for workers throughout my career. I've been a proud member of the American Federation of Teachers for 20 years; as Mayor of Monterey Park, I supported SEIU 535 in their efforts to organize nurses at Garfield Hospital and joined with the Teamsters to fight the expansion of WalMart; in the Assembly I sponsored AB 805, the Heat Illness Standards bill that provides minimal standards to protect workers from excessive heat on the job, such as shade, water and rest breaks; and as a member of the US Congress I will be proud to add my name to the list of co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act. President Obama supports it because he knows that empowering workers to unionize is key to rebuilding the middle class and I agree. My fight for workers has won me a 100% lifetime voting record from the California Federation of Labor and I'm proud to have received the endorsement of the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the Service Employees International Union in addition to several locals including the Amalgamated Transit Union California Conference Board, Teamsters Joint Council 42 and Teamsters Local 911.

I hope you'll join my campaign as well.

Please visit, sign up to be a volunteer and donate what you can to our campaign to carry on Hilda Solis's legacy. The primary is on May 19th; this is going to be a quick campaign but I know will be a tough one and I'd appreciate your support.

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CA-32: Introducing Judy Chu For Congress

(disclaimer: I am doing blog outreach for the Judy Chu for Congress campaign)

On Tuesday, May 19, as all Californians go back to the polls to vote on a series of ballot initiatives, voters in the 32nd district (which stretches throughout the San Gabriel Valley from east of downtown Los Angeles all the way to Covina), will be voting in the primary to fill the latest vacancy in the House left over from the Obama transition, that of Barack Obama's new Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis.

Monday was the deadline for candidates to file and the field is now set at 12 including 8 Democrats and 3 Republicans. All candidates will be on the same ballot and any voter, regardless of party ID, may vote for any one of them. If a candidate gets 50%+, he or she wins the seat outright; if not, then the top vote-getters from each party face off in the general election on July 14. Because of the make-up of the district, the general election is really more of a formality. CA-32 chose Barack Obama over John McCain in November 68%-29% and Democrats have a more than 2 to 1 registration advantage over Republicans there. The May 19th Democratic primary is the election.

Out of the field of 8 Democrats, just two are considered truly viable: Board of Equalization member Judy Chu and State Senator Gil Cedillo. I am supporting and have proudly joined the campaign of Judy Chu because her 23 year record of public service gives me confidence that she will serve as a faithful partner to help carry out Barack Obama's agenda and continue Hilda Solis's progressive legacy in Washington, DC.

So, is there a frontrunner? Well, considering the dynamics of the race, it's difficult to argue that it is anything but a toss-up although in one significant respect Judy Chu is considered by many to be the underdog. Conventional wisdom is that it will be difficult for a Chinese-American to win a majority hispanic district (the district is 60% hispanic and 20% Asian-American.) But there are three things going for her that can help Judy Chu overcome this hurdle:

  • Judy is the only Democrat in the race with a voting base within the district. Beginning in 1985 when Judy won a seat on the Garvey School Board in Rosemead, she has been elected and re-elected by CA-32 voters to city council, the Assembly and the Board of Equalization where she currently sits as Vice Chair. Gil Cedillo on the other hand has never represented a single precinct within the district.

  • Judy has been endorsed by Hilda Solis's family. While Hilda is staying out of electoral politics as a member of the new administration, the friendship between Hilda Solis and Judy Chu goes back two decades. When Secretary Solis's sister Irma recently publicly endorsed Judy on behalf of her entire family, it was seen as a tacit endorsement by Hilda and a passing of the torch. The endorsement of the Solis's is a very real reminder of Judy's reputation in the district of bringing all communities throughout the district together. It's no accident that Judy has also won the endorsement of all three members of the Assembly that cover the district: Ed Hernandez, Kevin DeLeon and Mike Eng (who, I should note, is Judy's husband.)

  • Judy has won the lion's share of labor endorsements including SEIU and the Los Angeles County Labor Federation. In a low turnout election as this is expected to be, the army of boots on the ground these endorsements afford Judy's campaign should prove to be a huge boost. In the 32nd district alone there are 40,000 union member households whose doors faithful union activists will knock on and whose phone numbers they will call.

This certainly already has been and will continue to be an interesting race. I look forward to writing a lot more about Judy between now and May 19th. You can learn more about Judy at and contribute to her campaign over at ActBlue.

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