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My daughter got home from work a short time ago. She brought in the mail and gave it to my wife, who gave me an unusual looking package from an address in Anaheim, near Little Arabia.
I opened it. It was filled with 40 postcards, filled out with the names of voters or, if not registered voters, then surely people in need. The postcards were mostly addressed to me, but some were also addressed to Bob Huff — a not uncommon sort of mistake in following instructions.
This was their message to me as a candidate for office:
Support Homes and Jobs for Californians
Our families face a rental housing crisis. Will you invest in affordable housing solutions that create jobs?
We are California’s hardworking families, homeless individuals, seniors on fixed incomes, people with disabilities, foster youth and veterans. As your constituents, we ned your leadership for affordable homes and good jobs now.
[X] I support affordable homes and I commit to vote November 6th.
Well, I know that some out there call people like me “boohoos,” but I stopped short of tearing up. (My wife, when she read them, did get goosebumps, though.) I was touched, and so I went to their Facebook page, gave them a like — which you can do too; the name is in the picture just below — and then wrote a response.
Dear California Homes and Jobs Act members,
I just received 40 postcards from you, combined in a mailing envelope, addressed to me and in some cases also to Bob Huff, my opponent in the upcoming election to the 29th State Senate District. I want to let you know that they arrived safety. I was moved by them; I hope that my opponent Sen. Huff feels the same way.
If elected, I will do what I can to honor your righteous request for greater focus on affordable rental housing. (I’ll try to do so even if I am not elected, but of course then I wouldn’t be able to do as much.) I am hoping that you will do your part to help me, and others similarly disposed, to do so.
Meeting the needs you express will be much easier if our state votes YES ON PROP 30 and NO ON PROP 32. PROP 30 will give us some critical room to maneuver within our state budget. PROP 32 will prevent a virtual takeover of our political process by the sorts of people who oppose the needs you express.
The Presidential election is very important. The election of members of Congress like Jay Chen, Loretta Sanchez, and Alan Lowenthal is important. The election of state legislators like Sharon Quirk-Silva and myself is important. But the most important votes that you can cast in California, to get what you ask for in these cards, are YES ON PROP 30 and NO ON PROP 32.
Voters need to go all the way down to the propositions this year and vote the right way to protect our state. I’m telling people to do that as much as I can. But there are many of you there and just one of me. I ask for your help in spreading the word, YES ON 30 and NO ON 32, over this final week — and thus in helping those voters help sympathetic political representatives to help you.
I thank you for caring enough to do this project and to those at the California Homes and Jobs Project for helping to arrange it. If I am fortunate enough to be elected next week, I look forward to hearing from you often. Meanwhile, I wish you the best.
Candidate for State Senate
Some people have wondered aloud (loudly aloud) why I ran for State Senate when — I suppose it’s time to admit it — I knew from the start that as a fledgling solo practitioner there was only a slim chance that I’d have the time to devote the tremendous amount of effort to it that I see Jay Chen, Sharon Quirk-Silva, Alan Lowenthal, and others put into their campaigns. (Essentially, I would have had been able to raise as much money as they have, pawn off my existing cases, and possibly pay myself a salary. I couldn’t do the first, didn’t want to do the second, and I didn’t feel right about doing the third unless I could match my opponent in funding.)
Well, if being a candidate for state legislature doesn’t necessarily impress those “in the know,” it still impresses a lot of those who aren’t in the know. (That statement will surely strike some uncharitable types who read this as egotistical, but for the most part I find it embarrassing when I’m treated like anything special just because I won an uncontested primary.) Is it good for business? I don’t know — maybe, so long as no one publishes a fanciful drawing of me blogging naked or something, but that’s not the point.
What I like about being a candidate for state legislature is that it makes me, in the eyes of those who don’t “know better,” a kind of representative of the political system overall. And that identification gives me the power to do one thing with greater force than I otherwise might:
I can treat those who write me, seeking my help, with respect and generosity and dignity.
That, and not the opportunity to meet President Clinton or shake hands with powerful civic leaders, is what I do find satisfying. In a world of people who are trying to suppress and to ignore, can be kinder than that — and maybe, somehow, that will do some good. And that is why one of the nicest moments I have had as a candidate this year was receiving that package of postcards — and having the opportunity to give those who wrote them the thanks, for participating in the political process, that they deserve — and maybe thus to encourage them to do so again.
As much as anything else, that is what has motivated me to run for office — and why no matter what happens at the polls I feel that on Tuesday night I will be able to lay claim to a victory.