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Byline: Tony Castro

Staff Writer

Once a bastion of old guard conservatism, the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley

Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills.
 has become a hotbed hotbed, low, glass-covered frame structure for starting tender plants. It differs from a cold frame only in that the soil is heated—either artificially as by underground electric wiring or steampipes, or naturally with partially fermented stable manure, which  of progressive activism that appears to be re-energizing the Democratic Party base in the county and state for the 2008 presidential campaign year.

Activists have already moved into positions in the party's important county and state central committees, which have traditionally been the seats of power from where old guard leaders have controlled money and volunteers for political campaigns.

"A lot of new blood got involved in 2004," says Democratic activist Chad Jones of Granada Hills, an executive board member of Valley Grassroots for Democracy. "We're not old guard. We don't have a history. We don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 how things are supposed to be.

"We go our own way and not how the old guard does things, but what works for us."

Last year, that new blood of progressive activists in the Valley might even have scored its biggest coup to date -- helping lift Democrat Debra Bowen Debra Bowen (born October 27, 1955) is a California politician from the Democratic Party. She has been California Secretary of State since January 8 2007. Prior to becoming Secretary of State, she was a member of the California State Legislature from 1992 to 2006.  to victory in the race for secretary of state.

Operations on behalf of statewide office candidates by the progressive- controlled Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley -- an umbrella for about 25 Democratic clubs -- logged in more precinct A constable's or police district. A small geographical unit of government. An election district created for convenient localization of polling places. A county or municipal subdivision for casting and counting votes in elections.

 walking, more phone banking and more campaign activities than any other party organization.

Volunteers manning Valley phone banks made more than 100,000 phone calls to voters alone.

Bowen and party leaders credited the Valley activists and their work for her 448,203-vote advantage in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850.  County -- more than her margin of victory in a tight race she won by 3 percent, the closest race statewide.

In the Valley, a sampling of voter precincts found Bowen consistently running ahead of other members of the Democratic statewide slate.

"We like to take credit for getting Debra Bowen elected," says Damian Carroll of Lake Balboa, recording secretary of the DPSFV and past president of the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats. "It was Los Angeles County that took her over the top in the entire state. We take a lot of pride in that."

In the upcoming presidential election, Valley activists are hoping to duplicate their yeoman yeoman (yō`mən), class in English society. The term has always been ill-defined, but generally it means a freeholder of a lower status than gentleman who cultivates his own land.  campaigning by taking their message on the road, where they hope to influence the vote in politically pivotal states.

"I'm sure we'll also have (volunteers) going to Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S). , swing states where you can drive and be here in a few hours," Jones says. "We had buses going in 2004 to Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, and we had people on their own going as far away as Florida."

Generational change Generational change is radical change that occurs in an organisation or a population as a result of its members being replaced over time by other individuals with different values or other characteristics.  

Overall, political observers think the progressive activism in the Valley might be a reflection of the demographic, sociological changes that have taken place over the past generation: an influx of younger, moderate voters; the aging of the Valley youth of the 1980s; and the outward migration of some older constituency together with the continuing growth of the Latino vote.

"In many ways, the changes that the San Fernando Valley has undergone in the last generation is a microcosm mi·cro·cosm  
A small, representative system having analogies to a larger system in constitution, configuration, or development: "He sees the auto industry as a microcosm of the U.S.
 of America," political consultant Bill Orozco says. "And if you're involved in politics, it's impossible not to take note of activism among younger Democrats in the Valley.

"They've become a model for what progressive Democrats The Progressive Democrats (Irish An Páirtí Daonlathach, lit.: The Democratic Party), commonly called the PD's, are a free market liberal party in the Republic of Ireland. Founded in 1985, it adopts liberal positions on economic issues.  are trying to do in other parts of Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region,  and the rest of the state."

In recent years, a slew of increasingly active Democratic political groups have emerged in the Valley, with the Valley Grassroots for Democracy -- which was created out of John Kerry's 2004 presidential defeat -- leading the push for progressive change within the party.

In July, Democratic Party State Chairman Art Torres joined Bowman in personally thanking Valley activists for their work in 2006 at an awards dinner honoring volunteers from all the Valley Democratic groups.

"The party is listening," Jones says. "We've managed to get ourselves into the party. We learned the secret handshake A secret handshake is a series of hand gestures that indicate loyalty to a club, clique, or subculture. The purpose of the secret handshake is to identify exclusive group members, and consequently to prevent inclusion of outsiders. . Once you've figured that out, then it's easy getting elected to the central committees or to get on committees by appointment or into caucuses. Once in on those, then you're voting."

In the world of behind-the- scenes political operations, the state and county central committees operate those organizations -- being responsible for recruiting, training, helping to finance, and delivering volunteers for campaigns for political offices.

Many of those committees also assist in organizing their county for federal, state and local office campaigns.

Jones himself has been elected to the Democratic Party's State Central Committee and also sits on the executive board of the state party. Parker is on both the state and county central committees.

Carroll, a state Assembly field representative, has also been a delegate to the L.A. County Democratic Central Committee and Democratic State Central Committee.

Carroll, for one, thinks the rise of progressive activism in the Valley might even predate the 2004 presidential campaign.

"I think, in a way, 9-11 woke up the desire in a lot of people to get involved in a more meaningful way," he says. "What has crystallized crys·tal·lize also crys·tal·ize  
v. crys·tal·lized also crys·tal·ized, crys·tal·liz·ing also crys·tal·iz·ing, crys·tal·liz·es also crys·tal·iz·es
 in lot of folks who are upset with (President) Bush is that they could do more than just turn out and vote every two years -- that between elections they could work as volunteers, work on campaigns, spread the word on the Internet and on the ground and maybe become candidates themselves someday."

Labor protests

That activism has also gone beyond traditional political involvement and into labor protests, once an arm-in-arm staple of the Democratic Party.

Earlier this year, the San Fernando Valley Young Democrats promoted a boycott of all Circuit City stores over the layoff of 3,400 workers. Valley Democrats have also been involved in Habitat for Humanity Habitat for Humanity, nonprofit ecumenical Christian organization that enables low-income people to own affordable, livable housing. Headquartered in Americus, Ga., it was founded in 1976 by businessman Millard Fuller and his wife.  homebuilding projects and packaging gift bags for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Although some of the activists are individually members of the Progressive Democrats of America The Progressive Democrats of America is a progressive political organization and grassroots Political Action Committee operating inside the Democratic Party. History  that formed after the 2004 Democratic National Convention, their activism as part of political groups in the Valley is not directly connected to the Progressive Democrats or the Progressive Caucus in the state party.

Nevertheless, local activists insist their work is raising eyebrows nationally.

"The epicenter for the progressive movement is right here in the San Fernando Valley," says Brad Parker of Sherman Oaks, chairman of the Valley Democrats United. "It was born out of a certain frustration with elected officials, and what we're doing here is spreading across the country."

Divided loyalties

The upcoming Feb. 5 primary, though, brings with it an awkward pause for most of these activists. Their loyalties are split among several Democratic candidates, and most of the Valley clubs have a moratorium on endorsing anyone in a primary with the richest prize in the land.

In the primary, 370 of the state's 441 national delegates are at stake -- and the party's nomination will still be up for grabs.

The remaining 71 delegates are members of Congress or party members who will be officially unpledged when they arrive at the national convention in Denver in August.

Activists say they do not want to lost sight of their ultimate goal -- a Democrat becoming president -- by risking division through an internecine in·ter·nec·ine  
1. Of or relating to struggle within a nation, organization, or group.

2. Mutually destructive; ruinous or fatal to both sides.

3. Characterized by bloodshed or carnage.
 primary fight.

Agi Kessler of Woodland Hills, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, says it was that kind of unity after the 2004 primaries that helped propel the Valley's progressive activism four years ago.

A supporter of onetime frontrunner Howard Dean Howard Brush Dean III (born November 17, 1948) is an American politician and physician from the U.S. state of Vermont, and currently the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the central organ of the Democratic Party at the national level.  in the 2004 primary, Kessler found herself in early meetings with supporters of other candidates -- and ultimately laying down a mantra mantra (măn`trə, mŭn–), in Hinduism and Buddhism, mystic words used in ritual and meditation. A mantra is believed to be the sound form of reality, having the power to bring into being the reality it represents.  they all agreed upon Adj. 1. agreed upon - constituted or contracted by stipulation or agreement; "stipulatory obligations"

noncontroversial, uncontroversial - not likely to arouse controversy
. "I said, 'The most important thing for us to do is to get a Democrat elected president,'" she recalls. "We can either go our separate ways or we can unite behind the nominee."

Out of that campaign sprung the Valley Grassroots for Democracy, of which Kessler became president.

"That was only the start," Kessler says. "We now have another challenge ahead of us."


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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 26, 2007

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