Progressive candidates for governor have a hard time amplifying their calls for economic justice
But these days, Sheehan has found it tougher to recapture the media spotlight she once enjoyed, causing her to sometimes bristle with frustration and a sense of entitlement, as she did with us at the Guardian for failing to help her amplify her message before now.
"Who came in 2nd against Pelosi? Who received well into 'double digits?' The campaign can't get steam if 'lefties' put the same criteria as the [San Francisco] Chronicle for example for coverage. If I were truly in this for my 'ego' I would have quit a long time ago. You write, I campaign all over the world for the things I care about," Sheehan wrote in a testy April 3 email exchange with me after a supporter seeking our coverage sent her a message in which I questioned the prospects of her campaign.
But getting progressive support in a race against Pelosi in San Francisco clearly isn't the same thing as having a progressive campaign gain traction with a statewide audience, particularly because Sheehan doesn't have many prominent endorsers or organizational allies.
By contrast, Rodriguez seems to be outhustling Sheehan, racing up and the down the state to promote his candidacy and work on rebuilding the progressive movement, with an emphasis on reaching communities of color who feel estranged from politics.
"People like me and others on the left need to step up if we're not going to just accept the control of the two-party system. We have to fight for that democratic reality, we have to make it real," Rodriguez told us. "You can't just say vote, vote, vote. You have to give them something to vote for."
ON THE ISSUES
Rodriguez is the author of 15 books, including poetry, journalism, novels, and a controversial memoir on gang life, Always Running, winning major writing awards for his work. He lives in the Los Angeles area, where he's been active in community-building in both the arts and political realms.
Rodriguez is running on a platform that brings together environmental, social justice, and anti-poverty issues, areas addressed separately by progressive groups who have made only halting progress on each, "which is why we need to make them inseparable."
While he said Brown has improved the "terrible situation he inherited from Schwarzenegger," Rodriguez said that the fortunes of the average Californian haven't turned around.
"People are hurting in the state of California. I think Brown has to answer for that," Rodriguez said, noting that people are frustrated with the economic system and looking for solutions. "I don't think Gov. Brown has a plan for it. In fact, I think he's making it worse."
Sheehan is critical of Brown for his opposition to full marijuana legalization, his resistance to prison reform, for allowing fracking, and for doing little to challenge the consolidation of wealth.
"My main issue is always, of course, peace and justice. But a corollary of that is for the resources of this state to be more fairly distributed to help people's lives," Sheehan said, calling that economic justice stand an outgrowth of her anti-war activism. "Since my son was killed, I've been starting to connect the dots about the empire we live under."
When she studied California history at UCLA, Sheehan said, "I was inspired by Upton Sinclair and his End Poverty In California campaign in the '30s." She reminisces about the California of her childhood, when college education was free and the social safety net was intact, keeping people from economic desperation.
"It's been done before and we can do it again," Sheehan said. "I love this state, I love its potential, and I miss the way it was when I was growing up."
OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME
Money is a challenge for statewide candidates given the size of California, which has at least a half-dozen major media markets that all need to be tapped repeatedly to reach voters throughout the state.