By Donald H. Harrison
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber easily won re-election Tuesday night, but at downtown’s Golden Hall she was more focused on a fellow Democrat’s race.
Hillary Clinton was winning California — plus her party’s nomination for president.
“There are a lot of great things happening,” Weber said. “It’s unique in one’s lifetime to experience such groundbreaking changes. Eight years ago, seeing that we were going to possibly elect the first African-American president and nobody ever thought they would see that, and then to be in a position to also see the first woman to get the nomination of the Democratic party is an amazing experience.
“Women, all people, should be rejoicing that we have come so far.”
San Diego’s Election Central — where results were posted and candidates and sign-toting supporters paraded from broadcast interview to interview — was buzzing after Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders.
Having a woman win the nomination of a major party was a historic moment. Also momentous was the Democratic turnout which boosted the party’s candidates and causes lower on the ballot.
Ashley Gardner, executive director of the Women’s Museum of California, held up a sign that proclaimed: “Finally An American Woman Gets to Lead: 96 Years in the Making!”
For girls growing up today, she said, Hillary Clinton’s nomination — and possible election as president in November – will make a major difference.
“When has a father ever turned to his daughter and said ‘Someday you can be president of the United States’? Probably not very often. So now that is a real possibility, and I think we have to celebrate that, because history is turning. It takes a long time to change things, so this is one of those big changes whether she wins or doesn’t win. She is now the leader of a major political party in the United States.”
Someday, Weber ventured, there might even be two women on a presidential ticket, but she does not expect Hillary Clinton to nominate another woman as a running mate.
“The first person has to break ground and make everyone feel comfortable that a good job can be done, and I think she will try to balance the ticket with a male. I’d be very surprised if she put a woman on the ticket – not that I’d be unhappy, I’d be shouting and happy, but just knowing the politics, you’d want to balance it.”
For girls growing up, she said, “It will mean the opportunity to do anything that you want to do. It’s really about images. Kids see images and they say,’Oh, I can do that.’ They see the possibilities for themselves as a result of what they see—that is very important.”
Weber, who is African-American, said as a result of her success first as a member of the San Diego Unified School District board, and later as a member of the Assembly, other African-American women have stepped forward to run for office.
Laurie Black, a former member of the San Diego Unified Port Commission, said that when she was a student at San Diego State, with a minor in women’s studies, “I couldn’t have imagined that with all the history that I learned, we were actually someday going to have a woman at least as the nominee.
“Last night, my young 20-year-old daughter called me and said ‘I have two finals and I can’t vote,’ and I said: ‘Are you kidding me? We stand on the shoulders of people like Hillary Clinton. Take your finals, Uber down, and so I voted with my daughter together on this historic day.”
Black, who is Jewish, added that her mother was a woman of the 1950s.
“She left college, and got married, and in 1968 after reading Betty Friedan’s book [“The Feminine Mystique”] and Gloria Steinem, my mom went back to school, got her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree… Today, nobody would be laughing at my mother, nobody would be.
“I remember Geraldine Ferraro (vice presidential nominee); I cried when (Democratic presidential candidate Walter) Mondale did that in 1984. This day; I haven’t been crying; I just have chills all over.”
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a Jewish Republican and the first woman to become San Diego County’s chief prosecutor, said notwithstanding her party differences with Clinton, “I think it always is a good thing when people break ceilings.”
She added that she has been troubled by the discourse in the presidential election.
“I am pretty concerned about people going after judges,” she said — a reference to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attacking U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of San Diego as being unfair to him in the Trump University civil case, and unable to be objective because of his Mexican heritage and Trump’s widely publicized call for a wall to be built between the United States and Mexico.
“I know Judge Curiel; he is a well-respected jurist,” Dumanis said. “For somebody to take on a sitting federal judge because of his heritage is over the top and probably a tipping point.”
Larry Remer, a longtime political consultant who worked on the Proposition I campaign to boost the city’s minimum wage, suggested that Democratic candidates did well in this election because of the excitement over the Clinton-Sanders race, and because Republicans, either disheartened by Donald Trump or realizing that the GOP race already was settled, did not turn out in expected numbers.
Either way, he said, there would have been a successful outcome for Proposition I, which will raise the minimum wage in San Diego to $10.50 an hour once the voting results are certified, and again to $11.50 an hour on January 1.
“Our polling showed that even if there were not a Democratic surge or Republican vote suppression, it would have passed,” he said.
Remer said the combination of Democratic enthusiasm and low Republican turnout definitely helped Barbara Bry, a Democratic candidate for an open City Council seat against Republican Ray Ellis.
The race featuring Bry, who is Jewish, was of special interest to retiring state Sen. Marty Block, who chairs the Legislative Jewish Caucus in Sacramento.
“Democrats are doing very well,” he said as returns were being posted. “Barbara Bry may end up winning in the primary which nobody expected.” (She fell just short, but will face Ray Ellis in a November runoff.)
Councilmen David Alvarez and Todd Gloria expressed similar sentiments.
“I am so excited about Barbara Bry,” Alvarez said. “She would be a great addition to the council.”
In Bry, he said, fellow Democrats would have an ally for progressive policies, such as increasing the minimum wage.
Gloria, who meanwhile easily won the 78th District Assembly seat, said he wasn’t surprised that Bry topped the District 1 field, because he had been knocking on voters’ doors with her.
“I am really impressed by the quality of candidate she is; she is working hard,” he said.
Bry, interviewed by KGTV-Channel 10, credited her strong showing to “building a great team. I have been a high-tech entrepreneur and the founder of companies like ProFlowers and you can never do anything alone. And even though we were way outspent by Mr. Ellis and the special interests supporting him, we had hundreds of volunteers who knocked on doors. We had over 40 neighborhood coffees.
“I knocked on the doors of over 5,000 voters myself. I was knocking on doors until 7:45 p.m. tonight (15 minutes before the polls closed.)”
Another San Diego City Council candidate who won outright in the primary was Chris Ward, who had been a member of Marty Block’s staff. He defeated Anthony Bernal, a fellow Democrat, who had been a member of Gloria’s staff, to become councilman-elect in the 3rd District.
“It has been an amazing primary for progressives,” Ward said. “Historically, we have not done as well as Republicans in primary elections, but the energy that has surrounded the Democratic race for president really resulted in a lot of down-ticket impacts.”
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World, where a version of this story first appeared.