In the surprisingly contentious Yolo County District Attorney’s race, many were stunned when the Davis Police Officers Association dumped in over $16,000 to attempt to reelect incumbent Jeff Reisig. But not gaining as much attention are the efforts of Maria Grijalva, who has donated over $25,000 to Dean Johansson.
But this isn’t a deep pocketed donor trying to influence the race through big money. Instead, this is a woman of modest means, who lives in a working class neighborhood in Broderick, West Sacramento, who is hoping to make some change.
“I gave money because money is required to run a campaign,” she told the Vanguard. “Especially, to start momentum. The campaign had no money.”
She explained, “I had been waiting for almost 10 years for someone to run against Reisig. This was/is a rare window of opportunity.”
The Dean Johansson campaign is grassroots to the core, with a small and dedicated group committed to getting him elected. What they may lack in campaign experience, they make up in resolve and dedication. The movement has grown, but one thing that it lacked was resources.
Maria Grijalva explained, “I figured pouring money was the solution, hoping community & volunteer momentum would gather…. I wasn’t going to let the campaign lose, trip themselves up, so I provided resources (signs, flyers, billboard, TV, commercial, money, etc.) to the campaign before they anticipated the need.”
When I first met Maria Grijalva it was in Broderick two years ago, and she had families who sons were being prosecuted as adults in trumped-up gang cases that allowed the DA to direct file them as adults. Ultimately, most ended up back in the juvenile system, but not after time in custody, over six months, and pending charges.
She then ran for West Sacramento City Council, taking on the Cabaldon machine, but not faring well at the polls.
She put away some money through shred investment in real estate. Prior to the 2008 crash, she had five rental properties, but lost it all during the crash including her own home. She had to start anew in 2009, purchasing her West Sacramento home. She paid it off completely in 2017 by renting out the bedrooms.
“I got a loan against my house and purchased an outdated house in Rancho Cordova with the loan. I updated the house and flipped it,” she said.
She pulled aside $30,000, wanting to run for County Board of Education. But she decided that “getting rid of Reisig and keeping kids out of jails (was) more important.” With the emergence of Dean Johansson, she explained, “My campaign for County Board of Education suddenly was not important.”
Ms. Grijalva explained, “I donated (this money) because I witnessed Reisig manipulate bureaucratic paperwork (paper tiger) to imprison innocent adolescent boys who were only guilty of petty infractions.”
She continued, “I saw them face million dollar bails for petty infractions and sit in jail for over a year waiting for a trial (I watched hearings get postponed over and over), boys facing strikes, life sentences. I saw these boys age while in jail from a young boy with baby fat still on their cheeks, I saw them grow in height, and also saw the baby fat leave their face as I saw a young angry man evolve.”
Maria Grijalva believes that Jeff Reisig “has used his seat for political gain starting with the gang injunction.”
She says he has a history of being corrupt. She cites the way the first gang injunction was handled. They served a single member of the alleged gang under the theory that he would let the other members of the gang know.
The ACLU challenged the injunction as unconstitutional because the individuals covered under the gang injunction weren’t given notice that the DA was seeking to impose it.
Judge Thomas Warriner, a Yolo County judge at the time in 2005, refused to allow the ACLU’s suit to go forward because their clients denied gang affiliation, thus he ruled they had no right to challenge the injunction in court.
That ruling was overturned by the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007. They ruled, “To say appellants have no standing to attack the injunction unless they incriminate themselves by admitting that they are gang members is not reasonable.”
Like many, when she purchased her home in the gang injunction zone on Michigan Blvd., she had never heard of the gang injunction and the real estate agent never mentioned it.
It is not just about the gang injunction – although that has clearly inspired a lot of her advocacy and activism. She sees Jeff Reisig as a “bully.”
She said, “There is a lot of information out there but the community does not know about his corrupt ways; by spending on Dean it is my hope the public becomes informed of what is happening to their neighbors. All families are subject to his tyranny. Reisig is not a public servant. He refuses to speak to the public. He refused our invitations to debate and discuss his policies in an opening setting by the WS & Davis LWV [League of Women Voters], except for the Woodland League (controlled) forum.
“He finds joy in charging adolescent boys as an adults. He doesn’t have any sons, so he has no empathy as a father. His policies are not in sync with the voters. He ignores data and statistics.”
Mr. Reisig’s policies have had a devastating impact on her neighborhood.
She said, “There are no teenagers in my neighborhood.” She said, “Our boys are locked up before they get a chance to become young men. You don’t see adolescent boys playing in a park around here, or riding bikes because it is/was illegal for three or more boys to congregate. We are not allowed to wear 49er T-shirts because it contains red. We are not allowed to wear any amount of red in our clothing because we are subject to a Stop & Search under the gang injunction order. Our civil rights have been violated constantly under Reisig’s gang injunction.”
She said, “The impact is that these kids walk out of prison angry men, ready to let off their anger on a white person. It’s a vicious cycle.”
It’s one in which she is doing her part, in hopes that it will end.
—David M. Greenwald reporting