Tag: Campaign

Vote for the Panther, then go home

Vote for the Panther, then go home

My team has been working very hard for months. So, to celebrate one team member’s birthday and thank them for showing up every day to help me fight for a better, more inclusive San Diego region we went to see Marvel’s new movie Black Panther. The movie was based on the first African American superhero comic book that made its debut in 1966. There are plenty of pieces online about the importance of positive depictions of Black characters in film and especially in earlier eras of American pop culture, so I won’t cover that ground. I did find a few things particularly noteworthy about the movie and I thought I’d share.

My first observation is about Shuri. She plays the tech-savvy sibling of King T’Challa (the Black Panther).  She isn’t needlessly sexualized nor portrayed as surprisingly bright or unusually gifted – which is to say the story doesn’t make her ability to achieve seem at all out of reach. She is an intelligent, intellectually curious young person who shows how cool it can be to be “into tech.” Shuri was the hero of the first major car chase of the movie and even when the outsider CIA agent was flying a spacecraft to protect the world, he was doing so using the tech she created. Nice job, Team Panther.

The second big nod relates to the first for me. None of the women needed saving, none were scantily clad, and there was nothing particularly out of place about the elders, the general, or Shuri’s character all being women.  There were men in leading roles, to be sure, but the movie didn’t feel to me to be nearly as gender-tilted as these can frequently feel.  I’m a man so probably you should take my perception with a grain of salt, but that’s how it felt to me.

Finally, for those who stayed past the credits to the final scene, we were able to hear two very useful reminders. King T’Challa made the important point that we are generally better off building bridges with one another rather than barriers to separate us. As a San Diego native who is excited about Mexico’s role in our shared culture and heritage, this is something I’m happy to see at our own international border – where we quite literally have built a bridge between California and Mexico. The final note of the movie was something I am always glad to hear people reiterate. Our differences, no matter how deep or strong they feel, are never as deep nor as strong as the ties that bind us.

Many people may recall Queen Bey’s nod to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in her Super Bowl performance a few years ago.  What is far less well known in many circles is the voting rights connection to the Black Panther woven into the title of this post that pre-dated both the Marvel comic and the more well-known efforts led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. In 1966, the same year that Marvel created the Black Panther character, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization was created in Alabama to create for African Americans the opportunity for a voice in political leadership. I am running for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors with the knowledge that my opportunity to represent our region’s most diverse district would not be possible without the sacrifices made in Lowndes County and many other communities.

As someone committed to our region’s youth, I am grateful for a movie that can help them believe it is okay to be excited about science and be excited to see images of humility, grace and strength in the characters of this movie. It was a fun movie with great action scenes and a classic good versus evil plot line, but it was a quite a bit more and I’m glad we took some time out to watch.

Building a strong campaign: Perspiration and persistence

The numbers are in. My campaign connected with over 16,000 individual likely voters between June and December last year. This included nearly 300 1-on-1 in person meetings and 174 community meetings.  To put those numbers in perspective, that’s nearly 7 community meetings per week. For anyone who has attended a planning group or town council or neighborhood meeting, you can appreciate how much time, effort, and time away from family that is.

My team knocked on doors and attended community meetings and made phone calls.  As a candidate, I personally knocked on the doors of thousands of San Diegans.  I went to community picnics, houses of worship, children’s play groups, craft breweries, schools, union general membership meetings, business networking events and any other place people would have me.

Every action I took was based on one fundamental belief: I believe candidates should earn your votes with hard work, substance behind the positions we take, and the courage of real leadership.

Running for office is hard work, especially in today’s climate.  Sandwiched around all of our critical voter outreach work was a daily push to raise the funds necessary to actually run a political campaign for a major office.  That means sitting down and calling friends, colleagues, family and others in our community and asking them to help me be a champion for the 263,000 children under the age of five in San Diego County and the 240,000 seniors who cannot pay their basic necessities of life. I am not a career politician and I still remember making my first political donation. My wife and I really didn’t understand how important the donations were to the campaign process but we knew that there was no guarantee our preferred candidate would win. Now that I am calling and meeting with hundreds of people to have the same conversation, I have to be persistent and keep asking to get the support we need to reach our voter target on June 5th. The money helps us raise name identification, contact voters, and be sure we do all of it while paying campaign staff a legally permissible and livable wage.

With the election just under six months away, we have a ton of work to do and welcome everyone to join our volunteer outreach efforts. Join us in believing that elections aren’t pre-ordained by insiders with political connections. Join us in believing that hard work, passion, and relevant professional experience matter in who we elect. We are fighting for every San Diegan and look forward to continuing to work hard moving forward. Thanks for reading!

The Dirty Little Secret about Campaigns: Many cheat their employees

The Dirty Little Secret about Campaigns: Many cheat their employees

I decided to run for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to fight for children. All children. Actually, all young people from babies to young adulthood.  I also care deeply about senior citizens, in large part because I saw how hard it was for my own 84-year-old mother as she aged.  I am an attorney by training, so I believe in the rule of law, and I have to say I was more than a bit appalled when I learned that many campaigns cheat the people who work for them.

I realized early on that to mount a serious campaign for a race with almost 100,000 people voting I needed professional help and I needed fundraising support.  I retained a consultant and then, owing to some quirks in California law, hired two staff to help with fundraising.  During the interview process, something jumped out at me – basically no one was used to being paid what the law in this state required!  I have heard progressive friends and advocates talk about wage theft but I never imagined what I’d find.  Almost everyone I spoke to said they were used to being “hired” as a 1099 independent contractor – a way to get around paying payroll tax, paid sick leave, and other essential costs. Worse, the few who did get hired as employees were essentially working for far less than minimum wage as misclassified employees rather than hourly ones with overtime and such.

I wondered, given how many people in my race for the Board of Supervisors have run multiple races before, how they paid their campaign staff in current and prior elections.  As a private sector lawyer with business clients in the past who got sued all the time for this kind of stuff, I wondered how widespread this was over the last several election cycles.  Unfortunately, I am not a journalist and I have never seen a local journalist dig into this issue, so we may never know how widespread it is in San Diego.

I do know this, for everyone working on my campaign, if you do work that properly qualified as salaried work, you get paid at least what the law requires ($41,600 in California in 2017).  I found out about a training the local Democratic Party was doing so I asked if they offered any guidance about proper payment of campaign employees.  It turns out they don’t offer this, so I hired an election lawyer to make sure we were on the up and up.

I should add, though, that some campaigns hire consultants who employ their own staff to work on campaigns. This is a perfectly acceptable alternative. It’s probably not okay for a company or trade group to pay its employee and then “loan them out” on company time as a volunteer – but I have heard of all sorts of questionable arrangements that never get actually questioned because campaigns are, by their nature, relatively short-lived.

As far as we can tell, there is NO EXEMPTION for campaign workers!  We are all bound by the same laws that companies and non-profits are.  If you want to pay your employee minimum wage, they’d better be getting overtime.  If you call them salaried, they’d better be making at least the amount above.  Otherwise, like the many past campaigns my interviewees mentioned, you are breaking the law and cheating your workers.