Mark Gonzalez, chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, has been fighting injustice since he first became aware of it while in school. He worked hard and, in adult life, has risen quickly through the ranks of the party.
As chair, he’s got a job on his hands right now, preparing for the midterm elections in November. He knows that there are a number of seats in California that can change the national outcome, and there are seven seats that are flippable.
“That’s why California’s preaching the big blue wave,” Gonzalez says. “Those on that level are so significant for that change, but in California we have to maintain our supermajority within the Assembly. The downticket is going to be a big deal because you’re not just talking about these big national races. California is going to be leading the way and changing the national conversation as well.”
California is firmly blue, and here in L.A. it can be easy to feel as if we’re living in a glorious, liberal bubble. That can lead to apathy when it comes to voting, however, and Gonzalez has to fight through that.
“At the end of the day, I think the number is 27 counties in California [out of 58] went red for Donald Trump in the 2016 election,” he says. “We can’t forget that there are still a number of those counties that exist. We live in the bubble of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles city, you’ve got Long Beach, San Francisco — those are blue areas. But there’s also Central California as well, that we can’t forget. Making sure we keep those areas blue is what’s gonna maintain us and keep California that leading defense against the Trump administration.”
As chair, Gonzalez is responsible for helping to raise the funds that will ensure the party can promote and endorse candidates. Eighty-eight cities and more than 150 races — it’s one hell of a task, but he’s up to it.
“It’s making sure that our Democratic endorsed candidates at the local level from school board to water board get elected,” Gonzalez says. “We have 2.7 million Democrats throughout L.A. County. We’re one-third of the voting base in the state. If we really all turned out, we can make that significant impact. As the party leaders, we have to make sure that we’re getting out the vote. For me, being that face of the Latino community, to say this is why it’s important for us to turn out, is actually key. Making sure that we use digital media and other languages to get our vote out. Whether that’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, other means of communications where the digital media really plays, that’s what we’re working with as well. If you get pop-up messages through Instagram or ads of political candidates, Pandora or Spotify even — those are other new ways of communication that we in the Democratic Party are using.”
It’s notoriously difficult to get people fired up for midterms. They lack the glamour of the presidential elections or even the primaries, when we have “our candidate,” and we know who the perceived bad guy is. Gonzalez says that the recent Supreme Court justice confirmation process, though, has certainly fired people up, and for good reason.
“So much happened during the Kavanaugh situation, so much has happened to our health care system, women’s rights, a number of issues that the Trump administration has done nationally,” he says. “I think this has been a motivator for our base in California to say, ‘Let’s come out now because we need to flip the House, and then we need to flip the White House in 2020.’ We want to make sure that in 2019 we really make that change and get new citizens to vote, making sure they’re loyal to the Democratic Party and reminding them why.”
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If the Democrats are going to be successful, Gonzalez knows that they need to address mistakes made in the recent past.
“I will be the first to admit that I think, on a national level, there are some instances where we forgot to speak to people,” he says. “We spoke to people in the room but we forgot to speak to people in their living rooms. We forgot about some of the main objectives. People care about jobs. People care about economics — making sure they can put food on the table, clothes on their back, making sure the kids have a good education. Sometimes we forgot that. Our goal as a party is to move forward and hopefully get a candidate that will win so we don’t find ourselves in this predicament in 2020. There’s no doubt that we’re going to have a significant amount of Democratic candidates. We know that. There are rumor mills about who it’s going to be. But outside of that, our first job is to motivate our base for Nov. 6.”
Ultimately, the message from Gonzalez is: Get out and vote. We’ve all watched the Kavanaugh hearings with horror, but this is every citizen’s chance to make a real difference.
“It’s about feeling empowered, but it’s about reminding them that the person in that position of power basically got a Republican Senate to pass through somebody who has a term for the rest of their life,” Gonzalez says. “When you think, look at what not voting has done by allowing people to stay in that position of power, to allow folks like Kavanaugh to now remain in power for the rest of their life because you didn’t want to vote that day. This Nov. 6 election is what’s going to determine our election in 2020 to take back the House. No excuses. Let’s do it together.”