Why it’s too early to say moderates won big in 2016 legislative races

Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, takes the oath of office on Dec. 5, 2016.
Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, takes the oath of office on Dec. 5, 2016. Associated Press

Wishful thinking isn’t fact. So take the Dan Walters column about moderate Democrats in the Legislature (“ Mod squad’ growth offsets Democratic supermajorities,” Nov. 30) with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of political reality.

It’s far too early to jump to the conclusion that “moderates” were the ultimate victors in the 2016 legislative races, or to tell how closely they will align with corporate interest groups who influenced their campaigns.

There are at least as many early signs that progressives gained ground as there are of an expansion in the “moderate” caucus. Environmental, labor and consumer advocates teamed up to help elect the more progressive candidate in two of the three Democrat-on-Democrat races in which they dedicated considerable monetary and human resources.

In the Inland Empire, grocery workers and home health care workers went door to door alongside environmental and health advocates to defeat Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, dubbed “Chevron Cheryl” because of her votes in support of the oil industry, which spent millions backing her re-election.

The same coalition that sent Brown packing and Eloise Reyes to the Capitol also delivered a victory for Assemblyman Ash Kalra over the corporate-backed Madison Nguyen in the Silicon Valley.

Walters rushed to count the Chamber of Commerce’s chickens, but it’s too soon to label some new members, including Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa, “business Democrats.” Dodd boasted 29 labor endorsements, and the workers who volunteered, made phone calls and donated hard-earned dollars will surely be counting on his continued support of worker, environmental and civil rights protections.

The new class of legislators has barely received keys to their Capitol offices, much less taken their new political power out for a spin. As the session ramps up, labor and environmental organizations will be pushing hard to ensure that California values of opportunity, fairness and resource protection – not corporate dollars – shape the legislative landscape.

Jim Araby is executive director of United Food and Commercial Workers, Western States Council. He can be contacted at