Mrytle Cole First African-American Woman Elected to San Diego City Council, School Board Member Richard Barrera to Head Labor Council
By Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press
The results are in for the last of a series of elections triggered by Bob Filner’s decision to run for Mayor of San Diego. Labor leader Lorena Gonzalez displayed her mastery of the political process, pulling together a massive canvassing campaign that gave her an overwhelming 70% of the vote and a seat in the State Assembly.
For those of you keeping track, Filner moved from the US House of Representatives to Mayor of San Diego, Juan Vargas moved from State Senate to fill Filner’s seat, Ben Hueso moved from State Assembly to State Senate.
In the slime-filled race for San Diego’s 4th District City Council seat, Myrtle Cole triumphed over Dwayne Crenshaw with 53% of the vote. Although both Cole & Crenshaw were both Democrats and similar in outlook, the contest turned into a shadow boxing match, with the organized labor and downtown business interests funding increasingly nasty direct mail campaigns.
The really big news coming out of last night’s contests was the disclosure that San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Richard Barrera will be taking over the helm at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The Labor Council is a coalition of 135 local unions representing more than 200,000 working families in the area that has played an ever increasing role in local politics.
Many observers credit their aggressive door-to-door efforts in recent elections with providing the margin of victory needed to win by Democratic candidates in closely contested elections locally. And it is certainly true that organized labor has played a more prominent role in local politics, moving from being a behind-the-scenes player to exhibiting a willingness to involve their resources in efforts outside the normal realm of unions.
Based on my observations over the past few years, Lorena Gonzalez deserves a lot of the credit for giving what been cast as a stereotypically stodgy organization a literal and figurative facelift. In almost any other situation I’d be looking at last night’s election results with some degree of sadness, knowing that progressives in San Diego were losing a valuable ally.
Richard Barrera’s ascension to the top spot in local labor, however, points to more, not less, activism from organized labor. His work as an organizer for the Nurse’s union isn’t as well known as his role as a defender of quality public education, but it should be.
I had Barrera as an instructor for a college mediation class and worked with him on education issues as a parent involved with the Educate for the Future group, so yes, I’m biased. He has a solid grasp of the Big Picture in US politics and a predisposition to being supportive of progressive activism.