(Published Oct. 1, 2016)
There are aspects of political campaigning that I believed had gone extinct in 2016. In a world where Twitter is ancient tech ready to be bought and reinvigorated, walking neighborhoods and going door to door just seems so…archaic.
And yet, even today, these tactics work. Of course, they have been perfected through data refinement. Neighborhoods are selected based on this data. Which specific addresses have the most potential voters. These potential voters can be categorized by age, ethnicity, party affiliation, etc. etc. All the minutiae that help maximize time and efficiency. And when every single vote actually does matter, time and efficiency come at a premium.
So, it makes all kinds of sense that the California Young Democrats Asian Pacific Islander Caucus (CYD API) and the Korean American Democratic Committee (KADC) — two groups made up of politically focused millennial-aged APIs — co-organized a precinct walk last Saturday in Gardena for Warren Furutani and Al Muratsuchi.
Furutani is running for the 35th District seat of the State Senate and Muratsuchi is running for the 66th District seat of the State Assembly. Gardena is a precinct that is shared by both candidates. So, it made all kinds of sense to combine the walk and maximize their manpower.
“The key thing is getting to the voter,” Furutani told The Rafu Shimpo. There’s only two ways of doing it. Walking, knocking and talking. Phone banking. Those kind of volunteer actions. The other way is through media, whether that’s social, print, or digital. Those cost money. Which means donations are key.”
I got the opportunity to walk with Furutani and his wife Lisa to get a feel and taste for the non-glamorous aspects of campaigning. It was pushing 90+ degrees on Saturday in the South Bay and we got started at 12:30. We parked our cars, pulled out a list with addresses on them, and went for it.
For the next two hours, we covered a few dozen blocks and talked to a handful of people. Many of them were older — Sansei- and Nisei-aged —but there were a few young potential voters as well — including one who would be a first-time voter if he chooses to venture to the polls this November.
The demographics reflected central Gardena: Latino and API. The conversations we had were mostly brief. We were typically met with non-commitment. The idea is that meeting people face-to-face, talking with them, sharing a handshake or a brief hello, plants the seed.
This is the way grassroots works.
“I’ve always been a grassroots candidate,” Furutani told me. “Nontraditional. Grassroots. But successful.”
His track record backs that talk up. Furutani served as a member of the State Assembly from 2008 to 2012. He also served on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. He currently serves as a senior fellow of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. He has been a huge advocate of evolving education and passed legislation that has had lasting impact on our educational system at both the secondary and post-secondary levels.
Within the Japanese and Asian American communities, Furutani initiated the Manzanar Pilgrimage, passed a bill that authorized California universities to confer honorary degrees to internees, and passed another bill that established Fred Korematsu Day.
He is a man that has worked to make change. And, within a national political environment that is hungry for change, for something different — be it the first woman or first billionaire — Furutani’s message could be just what voters are seeking this November.
“I think what people are looking for this cycle are people that are willing to make change,” he said. “I’m definitely not the traditional candidate. I think in this cycle, that is going to be an advantage.”
A man who not only talks the talk, but also — literally and figuratively — walks the walk.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.