A local election from the inside*
Thomas Wong, 25, won a seat on the San Gabriel Valley Water District board of directors, beating more than 20-year incumbent JC Reichenberger by 17 percent. On election day morning Reporter Corps member Albert Lu shared an inside story of the young team that helped propel Wong to victory.
Originally Posted 11.06.2012
The lawn signs are out, the speeches made, and all the mailers have been stuffed into mailboxes. Tonight, while the rest of the city is asleep, the local campaigns will be awake until midnight or later to find out the results of the Presidential, Congressional, and our hotly contested State Assembly races. But don’t forget, there are local races as well.
Around the end of this past summer, I began working as the Chief of Staff for my friend Thomas Wong, who decided to run for the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Division 3, which covers parts of Monterey Park. Thomas, who just turned 25, had been on the environmental commission and was frustrated with the lack of concern from community leaders. In the midst of a Masters in Public Administration program at USC, he decided to take action.
When I got on board with the campaign, I pretty much said goodbye to all my weekends and a few weekdays. I was, how Ryan Gosling said in his movie "Ides of March", “married to the campaign.”
Right from the beginning, we knew we would face challenges. Even if residents vote for the national election, not that many go all the way down to the bottom of the ballot — and the water district.
(Ok, to be honest, before this summer, I had never heard of the water district.) After being involved and educating myself, I learned that a lot happens to get water into our homes. But the truth of the matter is, nobody cares until the water comes out of the faucet brown or it starts to cost too much. We hope to change that.
The very first day of campaigning, in the heat of summer, I followed Thomas as he walked door to door around his neighborhood, introducing himself. I saw that the face-to-face interaction was very important; many voters liked that Thomas took the time to meet with them personally.
Talking to the voters has been one of my most memorable experiences throughout the whole campaigning season. It was not just about getting Thomas elected, but really it was a chance to talk and listen to voters about local environmental and water issues that they wanted to be addressed.
Along with knocking door to door, like many of the larger campaigns, we made calls every weekend. The campaign purchased political data sheets with lists of registered voters in the area. Being a small campaign, we were limited to using our own cell phones to call voters. There are about 20,000 registered voters in our district so we did our best to try to enlist the help of our supporters. The problem was, many people were out volunteering for the State Assembly campaigns. Thomas and I pushed to try to get as many friends out as possible. I was able to enlist help from students that I know from my old high school. It helped that they were very enthusiastic and curious about the political campaigning process. Lucky for us, a friend was kind enough to donate an office for us to call our headquarters.
So much time, effort, and money has been put into this small local office campaign. All I can do now is sit back and wait for the results. And that will probably be the hardest part of the entire campaigning process.
*Alhambra Source does not endorse political candidates. Wong has attended Alhambra Source community contributor meetings and events.