Recognizing their bloc

Three Democratic candidates for governor participate in historic forum, but not frontrunner Gavin Newsom

With frontrunner Gavin Newsom missing from the stage, three Democratic candidates for California governor participated in the only forum to directly address the concerns of African-American female voters.

Held at Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento, the February 13 forum was the first of its kind, say organizers.

The event was sponsored by KCRA 3; the minority-and-female-run public affairs firm Gray, Greer, Shelby & Vaughn; and Black Women Organized for Political Action Training Institute for Leadership Enrichment, whose founder and president Dezie Woods-Jones remarked that the country would be wiser to follow the lead of black female voters. Noting that 93 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election, Woods-Jones referenced the role black female voters played in last year’s Senate defeat of Republican candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore.

“It is somewhat amazing to me that it took a vote in a small region of Alabama for most of this nation to recognize what many of us have known for years—the importance of African-American women’s vote,” she said.

Heeding that message were ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin, all of whom are competing to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown next year. While Lt. Gov. Newsom didn’t participate in the forum, his wife Jennifer Newsom was in the audience, noted emcee Dana Griffin of KCRA.

The point of the “Our Time to Engage, Inform and Vote: 2018 Gubernatorial Issues Forum,” as it was called, was to get the gubernatorial candidates to “address policies that disproportionately impact African American women such as economic security, jobs, housing, health, political empowerment, criminal and social justice,” stated a release from organizers.

For Eastin, that meant underlining her support for a single-payer health-care system.

“That is especially important for poorest Californians, and you know and I know that single women, especially African-American women, are most likely to be near the bottom of the economic ladder,” she told attendees. “So, it is really vital that we have single-payer and that we do get together and figure out how we, in fact, provide health care for each and every Californian.”

Villaraigosa, who trails Newsom in polls, according to UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, spoke of the importance of accessible health care, too. But the former mayor, who has criticized Newsom’s support for single-payer legislation as financially unrealistic, said the next California governor needs to come between President Donald Trump and the Affordable Care Act.

“What do we need to do with respect to health care for black women? One, we need to protect the ACA,” Villaraigosa said. “Trump is proposing to cut 2 to 5 million people from the ACA.”

On health care, Chiang said he showcased an ingenuity for finding and prioritizing taxpayer dollars for California’s 1,200 community clinics as the state’s money-manager.

“As state treasurer, I was able to take $20 million that I found, repurpose it so that we can keep community clinics that serve principally women, people of color and low-income [people] afloat in the state of California,” he said. “We need to make sure that they have access. … So I’m taking the action that is required today in the face of what President Trump is trying to do to Californian women.”

The candidates also shared their stances on health equity, incarceration, gender-based abuse, LGBTQ issues, pipeline development and the role African-American women serve in their campaigns.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell remarked on the importance of the forum.

“We will no longer be invisible,” the African-American Democrat told the audience. “What motivates black women to vote is issues that impact our families, ourselves, our communities, our children—and so when candidates speak our language, when candidates don’t take us for granted, we show up and we show out.”