Now that the West Side Democratic Committee has opened its headquarters, Democrats have a place of their own in Patterson. They celebrated with a housewarming party of sorts on Friday.
There was no shortage of hot dogs, apple pie and images of presidential hopeful Barack Obama during the festivities at the headquarters at 214 N. El Circulo.
This is the first time sine Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 that Democrats have opened a headquarters in Patterson, organizers said. Back then, organizers felt isolated in Stanislaus County, a traditional Republican stronghold.
“There have to be more Democrats in Patterson,” organizer Donna Miller recalled thinking.
In the presidential election four years ago, Republicans were the dominant party in Stanislaus County — 93,273 people registered GOP, while 90,490 were registered Democrat. Republican nominee George W. Bush beat Democratic nominee John Kerry among county voters by 19 percent.
Now, the tables have tuned. As of September’s count, there are 4,805 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Stanislaus County, according to the county clerk-recorder.
The Democratic gains over the Republicans have all came since the start of 2008 — as recently as January, there were still 1,690 more registered Republicans than Democrats.
That dramatic shift did not go unnoticed by members of the West Side Democratic Committee.
“There are other Democrats here, and you shouldn’t be afraid to say so,” organizer Peter La Torre said.
The décor for the evening was geared toward the presidential election. A life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama dutifully took pictures with numerous attendees. Posters of his image hung in the office’s window, and his face served as the wallpaper for a desktop computer.
But national politics wasn’t the only item up for discussion. Signs supporting Measure V, a local school bond initiative, were being distributed, and 26th Assembly District candidate John Eisenhut was also on hand.
Eisenhut said he attends lots of events like Friday’s and enjoys the casual atmosphere. After one woman heard that he was vying for an Assembly seat, she drilled him for his position on needle exchanges for drug users. She was upset that the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors shot down a needle exchange program last week.
Eisenhut didn’t back down from the controversial topic. He said if he were a supervisor, it would have been something he supported.
The West Side Democratic Committee serves under the Central Valley Democratic Club. It primarily helps with local organizing and fundraising efforts. The money the committee raises is funneled back to the Central Valley chapter.
“Our goal is to get Democrats elected,” La Torre said.
Organizers said stepping up campaign efforts was especially important this year.
“There’s so much frustration with the way Republicans are running the country,” La Torre said. “We’re in a war we should never have gotten into.”
The Bush administration’s policies were a consistent topic of conversation.
“The biggest thing is, we’re not Republicans,” La Torre said.
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