Friday, September 23, 2005



A few months ago a friend of mine, Armen, a really savvy guy I met at an early Howard Dean planning session, invited me to an intimate reception he was co-hosting for California Comptroller (and soon to be gubernatorial candidate) Steve Westley. Armen's originally from Armenia and he's very politically active in the large Armenian community in L.A. and Glendale and the Westley shindig was basically for Armenian-Americans (+ me and a Chinese guy). Aside from learning our state's Comptroller is really dull and totally devoid of charisma, I also learned, first-hand, about the art of pandering. Westley could be declared an honorary panda bear. From his speech one would have certainly believed that he had entered politics to devote himself solely to the agenda of the Armenian community. Frankly I was stunned. And when I later heard he had decided to run for Governor-- once Arnold's approval ratings started following Bush's into the toilet-- I was mortified.

Ironically, another person who was at that same Dean meeting where I had first met Armen-- someone who Dean had told me to trust and work with, Rick-- invited me to his house to meet the Speaker of the California State Assembly. I was a little wary because of how turned off I was to Westley's pandering and I suspected that the get-together at Rick's might also lend itself to this kind of approach from a politician since it was looking like it would be a houseful of well-off gay people. But Rick's great and I know he always has good catering, so I said sure and... tonight was the night. The Speaker of the Assembly is Fabian Núñez and you probably know about as much about him as I do-- or as I did. He represents a district that covers downtown L.A., Pico-Union, East Los Angeles, Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park... lot of poverty, lot of immigrants, lot of urban woes.

Núñez is 38 but I would have guessed closer to 30. Before being elected to the Assembly in 2002 he had been the political director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and then the government affairs director for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He was elected Speaker of the Assembly last year and has effectively confronted Schwarzenegger's reactionary agenda and pushed forward the Democrats' progressive ideas at the same time. One of the things I most appreciated about him tonight was that he gave a speech that he could easily have given to any group of Californians. He talked about the issues that mean the most to him, particularly strengthening public education, rather than grandstanding about gay issues. Rick and some others aside, I had the impression that Núñez was a bit more progressive than the room (I mean this was Beverly Hills, not Silver Lake or even West Hollywood). He seemed like a fighter without being a rabble-rouser, someone who espouses cutting edge ideas-- but in a non-threatening, even moderate manner. But I think what I liked best about his little speech was when he talked about how important it is for progressive politicians to be themselves with voters and not to try to guess what voters want to hear and offer that up. That's the kind of thinking that can take the Democrats back to majority status in the rest of the country. Fabian Núñez is a good antidote not just to Steve Westley but to finger-to-the-wind Democrats like Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton.


At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nunez is a great representative.. whitty and charistmatic. A stronger leader for LA.


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