Off the mat
Bullish despite previous Election Day disappointments, local Democrats gear up for November
Running as a Democrat in a district dominated by Republicans, congressional challenger Jim Reed has grown accustomed to uphill battles. But after losing to Wally Herger in 2010 and Doug LaMalfa in 2012, he says there’s a different slope in 2016.
“Four years ago, when I’d talk to somebody and they’d appreciate my point of view, they’d say, ‘But I can’t vote for you, gotta vote for Doug LaMalfa, because I had this problem when he was in the Assembly and his office took care of it for me,’” Reed said Saturday morning (Aug. 27) at the ribbon-cutting dedication of the Butte County Democratic Party’s campaign headquarters in Chico.
“Now it’s just the opposite.”
Up and down District 1, from his hometown of Redding to Yuba City, Reed says he’s getting a better reception. In Assembly District 3, covering some of the same territory, fellow Democrat Ed Ritchie also sees encouraging signs in his bid to oust incumbent James Gallagher.
In those races and locally, Democrats feel more bullish this year—a mood reflected by the participants and crowd Saturday.
The hour-plus event drew seven candidates, two TV news crews and around 115 attendees. Though Chico Democrats picketed the grand opening of the GOP’s Chico campaign center on the previous Saturday, Republicans did not return the favor. There were no protests, no restrictions on the media, no ejection of reporters.
The Democrats’ affair matched its low-key setting: an office built as a house in a quintessential Chico neighborhood on Rio Lindo Avenue. The group that assembled in the front yard kept a cordial tone, apart from a few momentary bursts of exultation.
“The Republican Party gave us a gift,” Reed told the audience. “Are we going to take advantage of this gift?”
“Yeah!” came the reply. “Yeah!”
Reed was referring to presidential nominee Donald Trump, who looms large over GOP politics and has the support of LaMalfa.
City Councilwoman Ann Schwab was present, along with the other Democrat-endorsed council candidates: fellow incumbents Tami Ritter and Randall Stone, and challenger Karl Ory. Running for her fourth term, Schwab anticipates that interest in the presidential election will spill over to her race, she told the CN&R.
“I get a strong feeling people do not want to have Trump in office … so I see a lot of motivation for people to get out and vote,” Schwab said. “A strong turnout for president helps all those on the ballot, and having voters know they can really make a difference in Chico helps the voter turnout for the City Council.”
Candidates at the ribbon-cutting—Ory, Reed, Ritchie, Ritter, Schwab, Stone and Mike Worley, a Chico Area Recreation and Park District board incumbent—all received endorsements from the Butte County Democratic Party and the two affiliated local groups participating, Chico Democrats and the Democratic Action Club of Chico.
Reed and Ritchie came to pay respects to a city and county where each fared well in the June 7 primary. Reed beat LaMalfa in Butte County (34 percent to 33.3 percent) while Ritchie came within 7 percent of Gallagher countywide (53 percent to 46.7 percent).
Ritchie is a first-time Assembly candidate who serves on Yuba County levees and fair boards. He visited Butte County repeatedly before the primary and now is concentrating efforts elsewhere.
“We exceeded our goals in the primary,” he told the CN&R, “did better than past Democrats.”
The council contenders also came to support the groups that support them, but Stone explained that the candidates have no formal campaign connection to the party—nor to each other (i.e., a slate).
“I definitely have admiration and affection for my colleagues that are running in the election; that’s all of it, really,” he said. “This isn’t about collaboration. We’re excited to be endorsed by the Democratic Party, so that’s great for us, but we’re all independent candidates.”
If not officially aligned, the four are ideologically aligned, and for that reason Ritter encouraged voting for all four after Stone noted the 4-to-3 conservative majority doesn’t allow them “to get done what you want to get done.” As an example, Ritter pointed to the city’s Climate Action Plan—policies to implement for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Ritter also highlighted one of the laurels claimed by conservatives, balancing the city budget, as an accomplishment attributable to progressives—namely the 5-to-2 majority during her first two years on the council (2013-14). Asked afterward for elaboration on policies, she cited hiring City Manager Mark Orme, reorganizing City Hall to cut operating expenses and paying down the deficit.
Ory, a former mayor (1983-85) who served eight years on the council, has remained active in Chico politics by championing local causes such as keeping the Saturday farmers’ market at its current location and moving Chico Scrap Metal from its current location. He mentioned both issues at the ribbon-cutting but focused his speech on his father, a union worker, whose symbolic hammer he displayed.
“I’ll take my turn with the dishes,” Ory said, pledging to work hard for Democrats/progressives. As the event drew to a close, he told the CN&R: “I don’t think we can stand two more years of tea party conservative control of the council…. It’s not the Chico I know.”