Editor’s note: Between now and April 21, more than 3,000 delegates to the California Democratic Party will have the chance to vote by mail on their party’s chair for the next four years. This is the candidate essay of CDP Chair candidate Delaine Eastin. The essay by her opponent, Rusty Hicks, can be read here.
One of my earliest political memories is when I was five years old and my mom was encouraging my dad, a Navy Chief Petty Officer, to give people a ride to get to the polls. She said she would babysit the children. In the end, my dad did the babysitting and my mom provided the rides. And so began my engagement in Democratic politics.
I owe the opportunities I have had to my parents, yes, but also to the public education I was privileged to receive in California – from elementary through graduate school. My formative experiences as an adult were aided by the Democratic Party and my time in public service. I was first elected to serve on the Union City Council, followed by four terms in the state legislature and then two terms as a state constitutional officer, the first and only woman to be Superintendent of Public Instruction.
I know the winds I feel. I felt them when I was first elected statewide in the Republican wave when we lost the Assembly and Republicans held five of the eight constitutional offices. The Republicans are feeling empowered after taking four congressional seats from Democrats this past November and defeating propositions that Democrats supported. Those were Congressional seats we had won in a non-presidential year, which is usually a good year for Republicans. The latest Republican attempt at a baseless gubernatorial recall is gathering steam, and they are making plans for 2022. We do not have any time to waste. The California Democratic Party needs my inclusive, experienced leadership to lead us forward. And, yes, we will defeat the recall and win back the seats we lost. And more.
I have run and won, and I know how to win. And I know how to lead. As State Superintendent, I had a staff of over 3,300, oversaw for over 40% of the state budget and was responsible for the education of more than 6 million children each year. I previously served as an accounting manager and corporate planner in the private sector, and I bring that financial and planning expertise to this role.
I am also concerned about the Democratic Party in general. I have friends whose children are registering as No Party Preference. They do not know what we stand for. People tell me they are disengaging as Democrats because they do not see us as aggressively championing the issues we profess to care about, be it Medicare for All, education or the environment. We believe we elect legislators to fight for our platform, yet year after year on all these issues little progress is made even as our majorities grow.
We must never forget that we are a party of, by, and for the people – and that the legislation we pass as well as the donors who support us should reflect this.
My top six priorities include organizing to defeat the recall should it qualify, winning back the seats we lost and more, implementing much better systems for our internal elections and appointments, democratizing the party, increasing diversity and committing to campaign finance reform.
The Party I lead will reflect our democratic values not only in its platform, but in the ways we raise money to fund our work, and in the way decisions are made. We will engage everyone in California who shares our values and is inspired to help translate those values into action. I commit to building a Party where courage is fashionable, where vision is palpable, and compassion and caring are the norm. Join us, and let’s have some fun turning California bluer than blue.