David Sanchez, a long-time Chicano activist and community college professor and now candidate for the 40th Congressional District, visited East Los Angeles College on Monday where he passed out flyers and talked to students in the college’s Free Speech Area.
Sanchez is running against Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, the incumbent who received over 65 percent of the vote in the June primary election. A little over 25,000 of the districts’ 224,000 registered voters cast ballots in the race.
The redrawn 40th District includes unincorporated East Los Angeles, Downey, South Central Los Angeles, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bell Flower, Maywood, Cudahy, Paramount, Huntington Park, Commerce and Florence.
This is Sanchez’s sixth attempt at winning public office and his second time running against Roybal-Allard. He previously tried to unseat LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, receiving 6 percent of the vote.
With the exception of Sanchez, Roybal-Allard and Molina have faced no opposition for reelection.
“I got 8,000 votes, so I figure if I can get 8,000 more I’ll win this race,” Sanchez told EGP about the June Primary where Roybal-Allard received over 16,000 votes.
Sanchez is one of the founders of the Brown Berets, a group of activists heavily involved in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s, as well as the Mexican-American University, which on its website says it is a private “off campus, non-traditional, alternative education university,” where “the programs are completed entirely by correspondence or by e-mail.
Sanchez says he is focused on creating jobs, improving educational opportunities and bringing resources to the district. He also wants to get inflation under control and for the country to shift gears from “war mode” to “peace mode,” with more resources staying in the country to help Americans, he said.
Though Roybal-Allard has political seniority, including a storied family legacy of political participation and serving as a senior member of the House Appropriation’s Committee, Sanchez does not appear intimidated. Instead, he’s banking on her political experience to move his campaign forward.
“20 years with no change is too long. Elect a new congressman!” his campaign mailers say.
It’s been a long, hard nine-months, Sanchez told EGP about his campaign. “I feel that our community needs grass roots representation, somebody who can address some of the issues in our community,” he said, explaining why he is running.
Sanchez says he is pretty much self-funding his campaign, operating with less than $5,000, so unlike races in other areas, there are no TV ads or a never-ending stream of mailers and phone calls supporting Sanchez’s campaign.
“I’m campaigning mainly person to person, we’re going out to talk to the people and letting them know how we feel. And the way I feel personally, there’s a lot of people in political positions that are just in it for the money and we need someone who can strategically give some of the leadership that will bring back jobs and funds for our community,” he said.
Sanchez notes that Roybal-Allard has raised over $500,000 for her campaign, and accuses her of being indebted to her campaign contributors.
“I haven’t done favors for people so if I have a fundraiser, not a lot of people are going to come because I haven’t done favors for them. And there’s something wrong with that whole process, I mean, why should big money control politics?” he said. “I think big campaign contributions are an injustice to democracy.”
Roybal-Allard, meanwhile, has received numerous endorsements for her reelection, including from the Democratic Party and a long list of labor, environmental and women’s groups. Many of the endorsements credit her with bringing funds to improve local infrastructure, including $20 million to restore the Los Angeles River, as well as for authoring legislation such as the DREAM Act, and bills aimed at curbing underage drinking and teen pregnancy.
Sanchez said he’s been standing on the streets talking to voters in the different parts of the district. Having run for office previously has helped him improve his campaign skills and garner supporters, he said.
Sanchez supporter Hector Gascon of Commerce was once Sanchez’s student. Gascon said Sanchez has a wide platform but he likes it.
“He says he will help the community—as all politicians do—and I told him to keep that agenda because as Latinos … many politicians get into office and forget about the community. I said ‘just don’t forget about the community.’ He seemed real about it. Usually everyone sits and waits for the community to serve them and many times, they don’t serve the community,” Gascon told EGP.
ELAC student Melissa Godino, 20 of East Los Angeles, said Sanchez impressed her: “I don’t see the other candidate coming here [to ELAC]. He has my vote,” she told EGP.
Godino said Sanchez’s message about having another university in the area really resounded with her because the fiscal crisis has Cal State LA students coming to ELAC for classes—causing ELAC students difficulty in getting classes.
“If he could help get those grants (educational) it would be beneficial for us. Hope he gets those grants,” she said referring to comments he made in a recent speech.
Alejandro Ponce, 41 also a student, cannot vote for Sanchez because he doesn’t live in the 40th district, but he said he really liked Sanchez’s message because it was brief and to the point.