I have worked around politics for more than 40 years. But I haven’t volunteered for a candidate in nearly 30 years. When I read about Luis Lopez, running to represent me in Northeast Los Angeles, I was pleased to find such a committed, progressive candidate here in my district.
When I actually met Luis, I was moved to devote my time and get involved with his campaign. I haven't been this committed to a candidate since I worked here in Los Angeles County for Myrlie Evers Williams, the NAACP activist who went on to become the organization’s board chair, and later in San Francisco for Harvey Milk, the small businessman and activist who showed that gay people could build coalitions and win elections in California.
I see in Luis the qualities I trust and want most in good leaders.
First of all, he has shown courage. It’s not just his personal background, the fact that he persevered through the loss of his mom when he was 8 and many sacrifices growing up to get a good education. It’s also that he has taken on this race for Assembly with no one paving the way for him. Luis is big enough to believe he can contribute to improving our state and make sure his constituents benefit in the process. And he has been bold enough to stake his entire campaign on the value of small-dollar contributors, instead of checks from corporations and lobbyists, and the power of his neighbors and our networks here in the community to win against machine politics as usual. When up against candidates backed by party bosses, local leaders with strong ties to their home communities, including Harvey Milk, have often had to run and win campaigns using the same recipe that Luis has.
In Luis, I also see honesty and integrity. These are hard times for California, and it bothers me to hear other candidates talking as if it’s still the go-go 90’s, or even 2006, for that matter. Luis doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that lawmakers in the next sessions in Sacramento are going to have to make cuts. Even if we pass Prop 30 and even if the Democrats achieve a two-thirds majority to approve new revenue, he is adamant about bringing real discipline to state budgeting, restoring voters’ faith in lawmakers, and putting a priority on our long-term investments, like schools and campuses and our public health system, rather than jails or tunnels or flashy projects promoted by powerful interest groups. No lobbyists have their claws into Luis, counting on him to shift money their way or shield them from pain. He is his own person. And when he talks about being able to put the interests of the voters first, not campaign sponsors or machine politics, it rings true.
And Luis has vision. It’s not often these days that I hear anyone talk with passion about the unfinished work at the state level to provide all people access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. But Luis does. And he makes the connection to long-term cost savings and to the fact that better care and access to it both allow and create incentives for better educational outcomes for kids and young adults. Californians don’t learn best when we’re hungry, working three jobs, carrying huge debt, or all of the above. Luis also connects healthcare, a fast-growing sector in Los Angeles, with job growth here and our need to train and retain a high-skilled workforce that includes the caring professions.
Luis foresees a California where we develop more clean energy and stop ransoming our ground water to hydraulic fracking, and where oil companies pay their fair share for extracting wealth from our land. Luis articulates the need for full equality under law as part of the California Dream, whose key ingredients are personal responsibility, smart public investment in the pathways of opportunity, and an active commitment by business, labor, faith groups, and government to a social contract. It’s been years since I’ve heard a state-level candidate describe a moral and political compass as compelling as what’s clearly guiding Luis.
Having trustworthy and capable leaders really matters to me. And it’s partly because I have grown so accustomed to making allowances and compromises in this area that I am so impressed by Luis Lopez. He is an exceptional and special candidate. His campaign has really struck a chord with me. Luis is ready to achieve big things for us. With the renewal of my own and many other volunteers’ faith in the leadership that our own neighborhoods are producing, he has already achieved something significant.