By Herman Sillas
Well, this year is coming to an end. It was an exciting year on many levels. Our Pier was given some much-needed improvements, and fishermen no longer have the Pier’s maintenance as an excuse for not catching fish. They have to find other excuses. Politics can become the topic among fishermen when fish aren’t biting.
The Declaration of Independence established this nation back in 1776. It was made by our male forefathers. No women were present nor signatories to the document. The women’s role was to be at home taking care of the children. That’s the way it was for millennia. The men knew their roles and women knew theirs. Politics was not for women. They supported their husbands but had no vote.
But that changed in this century when women got the right to vote. In reality, it was that they could vote for men. The idea that a woman could be a candidate was unthinkable. I ran for office in California twice, once in 1970 for state controller. I lost in the primary. In 1974, I ran for secretary of state. I lost in the primary again. My opponents included two female candidates. March Fong Eu, a woman, was the winner and elected the secretary of the state. That was my experience with women candidates. Later, when I was DMV director, I worked with Secretary Eu. We printed driver manuals in different languages for non-English-speaking drivers. Thereafter, there were other women candidates here in California for political offices at the state, city and county levels.
But this year, there appears to have been more female candidates running for office than before. They filed for offices never filled before by women. I met one who ran for an assembly office this year. She is Michelle Duman. She had helped other candidates run for offices in the past. She had a framing business and had served as a board member for a nonprofit corporation. She became more active in the local Democratic groups and had attended the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She participated in the discussions and let her opinions be known. The more she participated, the braver she became.
She had been involved in politics in Santa Ana for many years, gave money and her opinions to the candidates. She never felt she could become a candidate. She had a fear of being a candidate. But she looked around and women began running for political offices. They faced the same things that she did. But these other women ran. These women stood up in spite of being told not to run. “Now is the time to run,” Michelle concluded.
The movements for women’s rights that began in early 2017 took the fear away. It was then she decided to run for District 68 of the California Assembly. “Me too!” she said.
She began to prepare herself by reviewing the topics people were concerned about. Duman contacted friends, seeking campaign donations, and began getting them. She sought help from experienced advisors to no avail; they were busy with other campaigns. There were deadlines she was unaware of for her name to appear on the ballots. She made the deadline on the last day. Dolores Huerta’s grandson and a handful of supporters walked for her a couple of times. She raised a total of $60,000. Emilio Hernandez and his friends walked some of the precincts. She received 46.4 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Republican Steven Choi, obtained 53.6 percent.
Michelle lost but undoubtedly learned a lot. She has tasted what it is like when you get near to the power of voters. It is the power that brings about change that people seek. Women have tasted power this year in larger numbers than ever before. More female candidates have been elected this year than ever before. The political arena is now open to men and women. Educated women fill the ranks of professionals and experienced political advisors. No longer will women hesitate to run for an office because of their gender. That day is gone.
That’s the view from the Pier.
Herman Sillas is an author and resident of San Clemente and a former U.S District Attorney. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.