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By Les Marsden
Reprinted with permission from the author.
“I have always regarded the California Democratic Council as one of the United States’ most important centers of citizen participation in politics.”
—President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“I’m not a member of any organized political party…. I’m a Democrat. Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they’d be Republicans.”
In 1953 the California Democratic Council (CDC) was a brilliant, brand-new idea: a means for the average-Joe/Jane Democrat to be involved with their political party and, hopefully, to influence it. And there was no organization quite like it-for either party. But what caused its birth?
By 1952, two decades of national dominance by FDR’s New Deal Democrats had unraveled – unsustainable with that charismatic President seven years dead. President Harry S. Truman’s popularity was at an all-time low and his re-election campaign itself died following his defeat by Estes Kefauver in the New Hampshire primary. After HST stepped aside, Adlai Stevenson became our Presidential nominee – a new breed of younger Democrat. Prominent liberal that he was, Stevenson really energized the grassroots of the party and his campaign prompted the creation of countless “Stevenson Clubs” of activists. But national tastes had changed, the country had grown conservative and in that 1952 election the GOP pulled off a complete rout. With Eisenhower’s victory in the White House and the Republicans gaining control of both houses of Congress, the Democrats were suddenly party non grata. And be stunned, in the event you didn’t know this: California – our beloved, bright-blue liberal California – had not only a Republican governor but BOTH senators were ALSO Republicans. Fortunately, the excited, activated liberal and youngish California Democrats, which Stevenson’s candidacy had awakened, were dedicated. They had a place to go when – during brainstorming sessions in 1952 and ’53 at Asilomar and Fresno by Alan Cranston and other similarly – inspired Stevenson supporters – the CDC was born. An over-arching organization to help create, encourage and unite Democratic clubs throughout the state. And in only a brief amount of time the CDC’s success was remarkable, as attested to by JFK.
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It is a great honor to be elected President of the California Democratic Council, an organization I believe can be a powerful force for connection and inclusion. It can bring people together, and strengthen the networks amongst us. Over the past four years, as an officer of the CDC, I have been proud of the work we have done to support and strengthen the Democratic clubs of our state, and I have also seen that our reach has sometimes exceeded our grasp. With our new officers, and our increased success of our fundraising efforts, I believe the CDC will become the powerful force I have always believed it can be.
Please welcome the new officers of the California Democratic Council!
The California Democratic Council held our Annual Meeting and Election of Officers on March 22, 2015, the final day of the Empowerment Summit in Fresno. The election was very high energy, and I am very pleased that our new Officers come from all over California, reflecting our efforts to support clubs from all areas of the state. Thank you to everyone who came out to Fresno to participate in the election.
Our new officers are:
- Executive Vice President Adckinjo Esutoki is Vice Chair of Lake County Democratic Party, as well as Chair of the Lake County Democratic Club. He became involved in Democratic Party politics through his long-time friend, Becky Curry, Chair of the Lake County Democratic Party. Adckinjo formerly served the CDC as Vice President of Finance.
- Secretary Justin Meyers is Chair of the Butte County Democratic Party, as well as Chair of the National Young Democrats Labor Caucus.
- Treasurer Herb Engstrom has been CDC Treasurer for about seven years, he is also Treasurer for the Santa Clara County Democratic Club and their Representative at the Santa Clara County Democratic Party Central Committee.
- Controller James Williams is the President of the San Joaquin Valley Democratic Club, and Parliamentarian of the CDP Progressive Caucus.
- Vice President of Political Action John Comiskey is Co-Chair of the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, frequently consults with newly formed clubs regarding their bylaws, and is an indefatigable precinct walker for the South Bay Labor Council and many local candidates.
- Vice President of Endorsements Craig Athon continues in the position he was elected to in February 2014.
- Vice President of Credentials Holly Andrade Blair teaches English Literature at West Hills College in Coalinga. Holly also serves on the California Young Democrats Latino Caucus Executive Board, and is a founding member of the Kings County Democratic Club.
- Vice President of IT Larry Johnson is a retired airline pilot who is very enthusiastic about helping Democratic clubs create and maintain websites through the CDC.
- Vice President of Communications Jill Blue Keith, a graphic designer and social media consultant, moved from San Jose to Placerville ten years ago. She became politically active in 2012 after the Black Eyed Peas song for Obama made her realize her power to foster change. She is now Chair of the El Dorado County Democratic Party.
- Vice President of Finance Jacquelyn Omotalade is currently transforming the San Francisco waterfront as Director of the Blue Greenway at the San Francisco Parks Alliance. Jackie O also serves as the Advocacy Chair for the Junior League of San Francisco, CDP E-Board Representative for AD17, and Special Advisor on Environmental Justice to Assemblymember David Chiu.
- Central Trustee Les Marsden is a dedicated Democrat, past Chair of the Mariposa County Democratic Party, and is also an accomplished composer! He is the Founding Music Director of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra, and is President of the Mariposa County Arts Council.
- Northern Trustee Mister Phillips member of the Contra Costa County Democratic Party Central Committee, as well as the CDP Finance Committee. Mister is also active in other service oriented organizations, and a proud and dedicated father.
- Historian Barbara Pyle-Rogers has a proud history of starting clubs in many areas of California and in other states. Most recently, she was part of the effort to revive the Fresno College Democrats.
The California Democratic Council would like to thank past officers Michael McQuary, Ray Bishop, Rosemary Reidy, Betty Ball, Webmaster Jerry Griffith and Southern Trustee Monika Broome for their service. Their valuable contributions to the CDC were much appreciated and we wish them well in their future endeavors.