Starting down the road to November

Two rival political parties, two headquarters openings, two celebrations.

On September 6, Malibu’s Democrats and Republicans alike enjoyed celebratory launches to their quests to elect President Barack Obama and candidate Mitt Romney on Nov. 6. While both were enthusiastic pushes for their parties and candidates, the styles at these parties varied somewhat.

“I want to welcome you to DemocratiMonica,” Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom announced at the Dems’ new headquarters on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where “every member of the City Council is a Democrat!”

About 250 people packed the Democrats’ headquarters on Thursday night to watch the president officially accept his candidacy for re-election, as well as listen to local politicians stump for their party. They cheered as politicians riled up the crowd with party-line platitudes, and the cheers continued throughout the evening, culminating when Obama, broadcast on large plasmas, accepted his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention. The third-floor office space, currently rented out by Pacific Palisades Democratic Club, may also include Malibu’s contingent, although Malibu’s club is currently deliberating whether to rent an office closer to home.

The club has been led since 2007 by president Jean T. Goodman, a Malibu resident of 15 years.

“The Malibu Democratic Club will be supporting phone banking and will have ads in the local papers supporting our candidates,” Goodman said.

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Ted Vaill, vice president of the Malibu Democratic Club, said the club would be “making sure that the voters in Malibu will vote, registering at stations all over town. We also have to educate voters on 10 propositions on the ballot. The Democratic party has already come out with their positions.”

However, as Vaill explained, this year is crucial for his party, despite a perceived score for Obama in California come November. The Dems await debate parties in October, a “Get Out the Vote” push, and calls to Nevada and Colorado, not to mention the contest for 25 congressional seats “to get the House back,” Vaill said. These seats include important demographic areas currently represented by U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman and State Senator Fran Pavley, plus a seat Assemblywoman Julia Brownley is vying for.

Festively decorated with colorful balloons–and a pizza party and beverage bar in adjoining rooms–the Dems’ event was not unlike a high school pep rally. Only the ‘cheerleaders’ here were Waxman, mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Gruehl and Mike Bonin, the absent Bill Rosendahl’s chief of staff, who galvanized the crowd.

Playa del Rey resident Marsha Hanscom, a former Malibuite (1994-2004) who has been enmeshed in the Malibu Lagoon battle, insisted Democrats were better environmental protectors than “missing in action” Republicans. Yet not all Dems are trustworthy, she added: “This democracy is not easy. It takes constant vigilance.”

Up Pacific Coast Highway near Las Flores Canyon at GOP central, the atmosphere had a more low-key feel as 50-60 people followed up an outdoor wine and cheese reception at La Costa Mission. Attendees later gathered inside a Spanish-flavored office space and listened to speeches by California State Senate Candidate Todd Zink and Republican Party of L.A. County First Vice Chairman Gary Aminoff.

Following his talking points, Aminoff introduced Keith McCowen, a GOP candidate for the 54th Assembly District. McCowen shared an anecdote about winning over Compton residents skeptical of his party affiliation as an African-American Republican. While attendees photographed themselves with cardboard cutouts of Romney and Ryan, Malibu’s Repub Club acknowledged that liberal California would in all likelihood go to Obama, and urged volunteers to work the phone banks hard to swing neighboring states.

“California State Assembly is in trouble morally, spiritually and financially,” said McCowen. “Poverty is spreading westward.” He said he observed “couches on the streets” driving through West L.A. and Malibu. “That’s not normal for the Westside. It’s on the rise!”

Naturally, those in the group (which absorbed its Bel-Air sister branch) felt very disappointed with President Barack Obama. Freshly returned from Florida’s Republican convention, HRL Laboratories technician Wen Chien felt it was imperative to be there. “I don’t understand what he’s doing to our country,” she said. “He can not perform his job.” She cited as her example how “the federal budget did not get passed. He didn’t show leadership.”

Jim Adams, president of Chaminade College Preparatory School in Northridge, said he attended out of concern of “the solvency of California.” He sees work going out of state to Texas, New York and other states offering incentives.

“We need someone experienced to be our leader,” Chien added. “Because the future is always unpredictable.”

“He failed us as a leader,” said Natali Koplin, MRC’s membership coordinator and a devout Catholic with conservative views from Bel-Air. “He is not delivering on what he promised.”

“I grew up in a Communist country and I don’t want to see this great country fall under any socialist ideals,” said Malibu Republican Club President Susanne Reyto, a native of Hungary.

“People who grew up under freedom do not appreciate what they have,” continued Reyto, who does not want to see Americans slide into dependence on our government. “We need to take personal responsibility.”

A message both sides of the aisle will take to heart entering election booths November 6.

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