OC Black Dems Call For Community Involvement
By Dianne Anderson
Local Black Democratic leaders are doing all they can to strengthen their base, to recruit and groom more Black candidates in hopes of laddering up for higher political positions.
Considering the failed Trump coup this time last year, nothing should be left to chance going into the coming election.
Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark said that approaching the midterm election cycle in 2022, the time is right to get viable candidates ready and elected at the local level.
“That’s why candidates of color and particularly Black candidates should consider building the infrastructure now as it relates to funding and volunteers to run strong campaigns this year,” she said.
Organizations like Emerge CA, the Orange County Labor Federation and the Orange County Democratic Party are helping to train candidates with the tools needed to succeed.
“I’ve also committed myself to endorsing and supporting candidates of color who are viable to run, win, and lead as some of us approach our transition out of public office at the local level,” said Mayor Clark, who is a member of the Black Democrats of Orange County.
Eugene Fields said their organization is specifically focused on supporting and electing Black candidates throughout Orange County.
He said that some people might ask why because Blacks make up just one percent of the population in the county, but he said they were also the most targeted minority group in the county in 2020.
“Our voices are desperately needed to be heard. We needed a physical avenue to support Black folks who wanted to run for office, [that] if you’re a Democrat in Orange County, we are here for you,” said Fields, vice-chair of Black Democrats of Orange County.
He also commended their chair, Gabriel Smith for taking up the mantle and getting a head start on the lead-up to the 2020 election.
But Fields said that identifying and getting Blacks to run locally has been a hindrance. In Orange County, there are just a handful of Black elected Democrats in all cities.
“It’s tough because so many of the affluent blacks in Orange County are either No Party Preference or Republican,” he said.
As someone who has run for office and lost, Fields said drumming up donations and finding volunteers to put the time into campaigns are serious commitments. Often, Blacks in the county are busy trying just trying to build a family, or a home that could be better than what their parents or grandparents had.
Still, he is encouraged that about 40 showed up for their recent Black Dems Zoom meeting. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but he expects it to grow as word gets around. The event is held on the last Sunday of each month at 3:00 p.m.
“I believe there are places in Orange County where we can get more Black folk elected. It’s being able to find folks who are willing to step up,” he said.
Opportunity abounds. Between city boards and commissions, there are over 200 seats countywide.
He said that most people think running for office is going after Congress or Senate, but he said that people can run successfully at the state, county and local levels. As a parent of a kindergartner, he said the need for Blacks on school boards is critical.
Orange County is quickly changing.
“By next census, it will be a majority minority county, and between 2030 and 2050, the nation will be majority minority,” he said.
The key is starting small, and that “each one, help one” into potential seats.
“We need that diversity of voices on elected boards. There are water boards, parks and community boards, there’s trash boards, community college trustee boards,” he said.
He said they have the only organization launched exclusively committed to identifying supporting electing Black democrats throughout Orange County.
So far, he said the Black Democrats of Orange County haven’t had a discussion regarding redistricting.
“Regardless of how the lines are drawn, we will continue towards our goal of building political power for Black folks in Orange County,” he said.
In many spaces, he said that he usually finds himself the only Black member seated, and he is the only elected Black member of the Democratic Party of the Orange County Central Committee, the leadership for the local party.
While it’s always great to have allies, he said more Blacks must be at the table to bring up the concerns impacting their community.
“Particularly Black folks don’t need people to speak up for us. We need to be included in issues that concern us,” he said.
To connect with the Black Democrats of Orange County, email email@example.com