On the first Saturday morning that has felt like summer in Richmond, a group of volunteers hit the city’s neighborhoods to knock on doors and talk with people. Their mission: Get Mayor Gale McLaughlin reelected in November.
This was the first precinct walk for McLaughlin’s re-election campaign. About 40 volunteers gathered at the office of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a non-partisan liberal group that supports both Mayor McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles, a Democrat who is running for City Council, and who shares many political ideas with the Green Party mayor. The volunteers were of all ages and backgrounds. Their goal was to talk with as many Richmond residents as they could.
“This is not a ‘me’ campaign, this is going to be a ‘we’ campaign,” Beckles told the volunteers. “We have to come together to become one Richmond,” she said, and the volunteers cheered.
“We are here today because we will not be pushed back,” said the mayor, who spoke about her accomplishments over the last four years as well as about future campaigning challenges. “Just as Chevron has spent thousands of dollars in the past to defeat our efforts, we expect it to happen again,” she said.
Since both candidates are proud to say that they don’t receive corporate donations, a grassroots campaign is key for them to win the election this coming November. McLaughlin said that their campaigns will only take donations from ordinary people, progressive organizations and unions. “We support responsible corporations but don’t take their donations,” she said.
According to the mayor, there were hundreds of people involved in her campaign during the last election in 2006. “We expect to have more because we see it as a continuation of our previous efforts,” said McLaughlin.
On Saturday, the mayor had other city council obligations and couldn’t join the precinct walk, but Beckles did. She started in the Richmond Heights neighborhood, where she lives. Whether they had met her before or not, the neighbors were receptive. They listened attentively and took the handouts with information that were given to them by Beckles. She made notes about who agreed to post window and/or garden signs for her and McLaughlin’s campaigns.
Beckles made sure to mention how she and McLaughlin stand for the same principles of “community empowerment” and that they aren’t taking corporate donations. “You know what happens when corporations have way to much power over politicians. It doesn’t usually works out in the best interests of the community,” Beckles told a neighbor who responded, “It’s not going to stop in Washington, is it?” They broke into laughter, then began to discuss the need to start change at a local level.
Silvia Hopkins, a member of Communities for a Better Environment, a non-profit organization with a focus on environmental health and justice, walked precincts to campaign for McLaughlin in the 2006 election and is doing it again this year. “She is known for representing the interests of the people in this city,” said Hopkins before going out to campaign door to door.
Is not clear yet who will be officially running for mayor in November’s election —the hopefuls have until July 12 to officially declare their candidacy — but both Beckles and McLaughlin feel optimistic about winning. Beckles ran for City Council for the first time in 2008. “It was a very close election, I lost for something like 400 votes,” she said. She added that at that time not many people in the community knew her, but now more people do so she expects to have a better outcome.
McLaughlin is California’s first elected Green Party mayor. She said she’s gotten support because in Richmond people had struggled for decades and they didn’t see any progress. She thinks that’s why she was elected and will be re-elected. “People had been ready and are now actively and vocally ready for change,” she said.