This campaign season highlights one thing that California — and Hillary Clinton — does better than anyone else.
The past few months have been a celebrity fundraising whirlwind in the state of the biggest names in movies, sports and the recording industry who have raised millions of dollars to propel Clinton toward the presidency. Californians like Magic Johnson, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Christina Aguilera and Cher have contributed to the effort, just to name a few.
We don’t have a grand total for the celebrity haul because the Clinton campaign would not return numerous phone calls and emails seeking comment. Clinton’s national campaign has raised $445 million.
As undecided voters average at about 12 percent, the Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns will be slugging it out to the finish line in what has been the most bruising and rancorous presidential election in history. Most polls show Clinton leading by single digits, and pundits say the final tally could be close.
But if you ask Clinton’s large contingent of California volunteers, the former Secretary of State should have no problem handily defeating Trump in this Democratic stronghold and throughout the nation. Hillary and Bill Clinton have frequently visited California over the years, where they enjoy immense support from Los Angeles to
“California’s Hillary supporters are having a significant impact on the national political scene … when it comes to voter mobilization, we could be the largest group of supporters,” said state Assemblymember and former San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu, who often speaks on behalf of Clinton at fundraising events.
“Historically, California has been viewed as a giant ATM machine for replenishing campaign coffers,” he said. “But we are [also] able to engage in true grassroots contact to convince people on the ground and on the phone that they need to vote for the first woman president of the United States.”
By saying “we,” Chiu is referring to the state’s volunteers — with both the campaign and the California Democratic Party — who are so confident that Clinton will carry California that they have diverted their time to visiting and calling voters in swing states like Nevada and Arizona.
“San Francisco is really making a difference because we have planned trips — busloads of Hillary supporters going to Reno and Las Vegas — to help swing a state where Trump was up a few points just a few weeks ago,” Chiu said.
To that end, the California campaign has placed nearly two million phone calls across the nation encouraging people to vote Clinton, he said.
California has a statewide slate of Democratic candidates who are up by an historic average of 18 points, so the main priority is helping other states, agreed Michael Soller, communications director for the California Democratic Party.
“Republicans haven’t won a presidential race in California since 1988,” he said. “There are parts of California that still vote Republican in congressional races, that’s where we are working hard to pick up those seats.”
Perhaps no one exemplifies Clinton’s core message of inclusion more than campaign volunteer Liza Shi, 26, who is on a student visa from China. She recently finished her master’s degree at the University of San Francisco and hopes to eventually become a citizen and work in the government.
Back home, her father worked for the Chinese government. The U.S. presidential race makes headline news in China, and Shi’s friends can live vicariously through her reports.
“My friends say it’s so dramatic here, they cannot imagine how such a candidate like Trump can be nominated,” she said. “Hillary is very experienced, but why Donald Trump? My experience of knowing Donald Trump is when a professor showed us the TV show ‘The Apprentice.’”
Shi says she supports Clinton because she is a powerful woman and the most experienced candidate.
“The political issue I’m concerned with is immigration policy,” she said. “[Clinton] is really open-minded to import more intelligent or skilled foreign workers to the country and give them a fast path to a green card. She announced her policy to give the fast path to the STEM students — science, tech, energy and mathematics majors. I don’t think she is just going to open the border.”
To help her candidate, Shi uses her tech skills to research likely voters, data entry and navigating volunteers to the best canvassing areas.
One of Clinton’s biggest organizers is Alec Bash, 70, a retired San Francisco city planner. He is co-leader of San Francisco for Hillary, a group that he started putting together a year ago. It now has 1,500 members that were mobilized in California during the primary but are now focusing on swing states. Jumping off that success, Bash started another group called NorCal for Hillary, which has 524 members. On Sept. 17, the group traveled to Reno.
Clinton has 35 other grassroots groups throughout the state, according to Facebook.
“Every bone in her body is about public service both inside and outside government; she has always cared about people and helping people succeed,” Bash said. “I first heard Hillary Clinton speak and met her in ’92. I thought, ‘That is the person I want to see in the White House. I will vote for Bill Clinton and hope for a twofer.’”
This election has had a number of firsts, including a large bloc that will be lodging protest votes against a certain candidate, namely Trump.
One of those is Ed Marquez, 45, a successful toy manufacturer in Orange County. The lifelong Republican campaigns for Clinton via Twitter and by talking to people in his vast orbit. Like millions of Americans, his vote is a protest against the opposing candidate. Marquez decided to go with Clinton after the Republican convention.
“A lot of things bother me about Hillary,” Marquez admitted. “This is the second time that I am going to vote Democrat. I don’t like a lot of things Hillary has done, but I respect hard work, and she has a track record of doing good. She’s made some mistakes. But at the end of the day, I think the country would be in better hands all the way around with Hillary than with Donald Trump.”
To that end, Marquez constantly tweets out the billionaire’s foibles — refusing to give up in his quest to turn Trump supporters toward Clinton.
“I am a Mexican-American first generation, my parents came here legally from Mexico in the ’70s,” he said. “If Trump said today, ‘All Mexican Americans who are 45 never have to pay taxes,’ I still wouldn’t vote for him. The presidency is not an internship — we cannot afford to let Trump learn on the job.”
Next week: A look inside the campaigns of Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in California.