In blue California, Trump supporters focus on other states
on September 27, 2016
The U.S. presidential election is less than two months away, but the campaigns of Republicans and Democrats in Oakland and California couldn’t be more different.
According to the website Open Secrets, which tracks campaign contributions, so far donors in Oakland have given $4,629,987 to Democrat Hillary Clinton, compared to only $203,357 for Republican Donald Trump and $18,462 for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Statewide, so far in 2016, the former Secretary of State has raised $63,707,471, which is almost 10 times as much as Donald Trump raised in California, $6,172,794 according to the Federal Election Commission.
“If you want to focus on California, you are wasting resources at this point in time,” said Dave Erlich, chairman of the Alameda County Republican Party (ACRP) and a supporter of Trump.
Erlich believes that his ACRP members should be focusing on swing states instead of California. “There is a guy in the Trump Tower and he is micro- focusing the call list,” he said. “They are going to be hitting Pennsylvania, Virginia, possibly making calls in Colorado.”
According to Erlich, Alameda County Trump supporters will also be making phone calls to people in those swing states, instead of focusing on California. “We are going to start a phone bank this Sunday, and if we can do every night that would be cool, but, you know, it normally works out to three or four days a week,” Erlich said, speaking earlier in September.
Robin Torello, chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party, said their members are also working hard around the county to reach out to voters, and they are in total support of Clinton’s presidential campaign. “We are sending volunteers to Reno, Nevada, to make sure that we are successful in both California and Nevada as well,” she said. “We are looking forward to see her become our very first [female] president.”
Torello said she is not surprised that Republicans are not campaigning for Trump in California, because it is a heavily Democratic state. However, there are pockets where the Republicans do well. “The coast is blue, but the rest is red. But a lot of it starts to turn blue as well in the Central Valley,” she said. “[In] Orange County, we have gone in the past 16 years to do heavy [voter] registration and putting Democrats in office.”
Democrats are setting up campaign headquarters for Clinton and to support all Democratic candidates around the county. Torello said they already have offices open in the Tri Valley area, Fremont and Hayward, and they are hoping to open ones in Berkeley and Oakland soon.
“We are hoping to increase our voter registration and let people know about local election and measures on the ballots in November,” Torello said. “There are many important measures like the BART bond, and AC Transit’s renewal of the parcel tax and the affordable housing bond, to name a few, because they are important for how people live, how they get to work, and … to help low-income people to stay and live in Alameda County.”
Green Party supporters are actively campaigning in Alameda County, too. Greg Jan, a Green Party County Council member, said that the party campaigns every election year, more so in November than June. They publish a voter guide that covers everything from the president or governor down to county and city offices, and distribute it around the Bay Area through cafes, bookstores and email. “The voter guide is not only for Green Party members, but for those who are interested in our opinions and our recommendations for the election, and you also can see it on our website,” Jan said. “In Alameda County alone, we have between 6,000 to 7,000 members.”
According to him, the Green Party is seeing an increase in the number of people joining their party this election cycle. “The last primary, it was fairly close between Clinton and [Bernie] Sanders,” he said. “A lot of people who supported Sanders are expressing their support for Jill Stein, and some are actively volunteering with us. We have gotten a significant increase in the support for our presidential candidate than previous years.”
He said Greens plan to phone bank for Stein as well as local candidates and ballot measures. “The voters are upset and disgusted even with the existing Democrat and Republican parties, and that is why they are so interested in looking for alternatives. That is why people were voting for Sanders during the primary,” Jan said. “That is why other parties like ours and Jill Stein are getting increasing attention this election cycle, and we hope that this would translate to votes.”
Trump does have supporters in a place that might surprise some election-watchers: at UC Berkeley. Aaron Tolt, a philosophy major in his junior year, just joined the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR). “Trump is the guy who is not going to play by the rules, frankly, and I’m kind of OK with that,” Tolt said. “So I think he is necessary and I enjoy how he is sort of mucking things up for the political establishment. He is bringing things out that they just don’t want to hear and presents it in a method that forces you to address what he has to say.”
One thing Tolt likes about Trump is that he self-funded some of his campaign. Trump has accepted $125.2 million from his supporters and individual donors during the campaign in 2016. That is less than Clinton—she received $315.4 million according to the Federal Election Commission.
Jose Diaz, president of BCR, said that they have not officially engaged in collective efforts to support the campaign for Trump. “We have members within our club that participate in campaign efforts, individually, on their own accord,” he said. “We are a diverse club. We have people who support Trump and others who don’t.”
“There are many Republicans here at Berkeley, but they are not outspoken about it,” he continued. “I call them ‘closet Republicans.’” On the other hand, the Cal Berkeley Democrats club is actively campaigning for Clinton.
Caiden Nason, a fourth year political science major and vice president of membership for club, said, “We are planning on doing weekly phone banking. We are going to be calling out to southern states.”
In addition to supporting Clinton, Nason and his club members are going to be helping out local candidates. “We are also hoping to plan a trip to Nevada to one of the swing counties so we can help turn that state blue,” Nason said.
Experts say it’s not surprising that most Californians support the Democrats. According to Ethan Rarick, the associate director of governmental studies at UC Berkeley, a Democrat has carried the state every presidential election for many years. The last time a Republican president won the electoral vote in California was in 1988, when George H. W. Bush carried the state. However, the Democrats have won ever since. “There is no reason to think that this would change this cycle,” Rarick said.
Rarick characterizes Trump as a very unusual candidate and points out that Trump disagrees with the Republican Party on certain issues: He is very critical of free trade, he is critical of public sector spending on things like Social Security, and he is much more isolationist and much less internationalist than many other party leaders. “Trump [has] never been elected to public office, and that is extremely unusual for a major party nominee,” Rarick said. “That occasionally happens with war hero, but almost no one else. That is very unusual.”
Trump is not only an unusual in terms of his lack of previous public or military service, but he also speaks his mind in a way that is unlike many other presidential nominees who came before him. It is also unique that his own party members publicly criticize him or say that they won’t support him. “Mitt Romney, who was the nominee in 2012, and the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, have said that they support Trump but have been openly critical of him,” Rarick said. “That just reflects the fact that Trump is a very unusual candidate and he is not going to draw the kind of uniform party support that a more traditional candidate would.”
Roger Cason, an Alameda city resident and manger at an insurance company in San Francisco, who identifies himself as an independent voter, is not shy about expressing his admiration for Trump’s message. “I like that Trump wants to build a wall, and protect us from illegal immigration,” Cason said. “If we allow all the people who want to come to this country, we will have 5 billion people here within a year. I’m in favor of limiting illegal immigration to the country. Regular immigration is fine, as long as we set up quotas and have criteria to come in.”
Cason donated $650 for Trump’s campaign during the primary election. “I wanted to make sure that he will win the nomination, because I prefer him over Ted Cruz,” he said. “Now that Trump got the primary nomination, he has the Republican Party’s support.”
Cason believes that it will be hard for Trump to win California, and that is why the candidate has not spent much time or money in the state. “I know he won’t win California. That is why my vote for him will be wasted,” Cason said. “You know, because of the electoral system he won’t get any delegates.”
Cason would like to see Trump act more professionally, less spontaneously and be more stately in order for him to win the presidential election. “Trump is going to be the top diplomat in our country, so he needs to learn or practice,” he said. “I know he is intelligent enough to do this—how to deal with people on a professional basis, not reacting like he is on a reality TV show.”
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.