Lee makes election pit stop in Alameda

Lee makes election pit stop in Alameda

Michele Ellson

Democrats will leap some high hurdles in their quest for national office this fall, Congresswoman Barbara Lee told a rapt audience at the Alameda Democratic Club on Wednesday, but she’s optimistic they’ll succeed in clearing them.

“The election is going to be very tight all over the country,” Lee, who has been active in the Democratic National Committee’s campaign efforts, told an overflow crowd at the club’s meeting at Alameda Hospital. During a half-hour talk and question-and-answer session, Lee cited voter registration laws passed in dozens of Republican-led states and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which let corporations anonymously contribute millions of dollars to causes and candidates, as being major problems the party must confront.

Lee, who is part of the committee setting the Democratic Party’s national platform, said that scenarios the committee has run on the presidential race are “too close for comfort.”

“But he wins,” Lee said of President Barack Obama. “He wins them all.”

She said Democrats will need to gain 25 seats in the House of Representatives to regain control – numbers she is hopeful Democrats can reach, even as Tea Party Republicans displace their more moderate counterparts in other states.

“Everywhere I go, people are ready for a change, again,” Lee said.

Lee is also running for re-election, to a newly configured district that includes Alameda. Lee said that her original Congressional district included Alameda for the first of her seven terms in the House.

She is running against independent Marilyn Singleton, one of two candidates she topped in the June 5 primary after capturing more than 83 percent of the vote.

Participants in Wednesday’s meeting asked Lee what she plans to do to help finalize toxic cleanup at Alameda Point and how often she will be back in the East Bay (Lee’s parents were in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting). But mostly, they wanted to know about the electoral challenges Democrats will face in the fall and what the party is doing to meet them.

Lee said the party has activated efforts to help voters obtain identification so that they have the opportunity to cast ballots in states that have enacted voter ID laws (California isn’t one of them). She cast the laws as a Republican effort to suppress the Democrats’ vote.

“A lot of African-American seniors don’t have birth certificates,” Lee said. “To require them to get a government ID to vote is another form of a poll tax. And it’s not good.”

She said Democrats are also working on a Constitutional amendment that would limit campaign spending and on efforts to enact public financing of elections.
But another challenge facing Democrats is mobilizing young voters, who they see as having been instrumental in President Obama’s 2008 victory.

“A lot of polls show that young people – they think they did their job. They voted, that’s it,” despite efforts she said President Obama has made to improve access to a college education.

Lee talked about the frustration she experiences with the lack of movement on immigration reform and other issues raised by participants in Wednesday’s meeting. But one issue Lee said she has gained some traction with the Tea Party on is her ongoing effort to end the war in Afghanistan.

“When you look at some of the funding issues – they’re not going to fund anything, so we have an opening there,” Lee said to laughter and applause. “I’ll take what I can get.”