Back in August, the Vanguard ran a story featuring then Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida and candidates Cindy Pickett (DJUSD School Board) and Melissa Moreno (Yolo County Board of Education) as three potential women of color winning in Davis.
At that point Gloria Partida had already run for city council and finished first in a crowded field of nine candidates.
In acknowledging the “historic moment for the city of Davis,” she said upon being sworn in: ““Why does that matter? It matters because democracy is about representation. Everybody here on the dais brings their experiences and their realities into this space. They are voices for the community. The voices of women and color belong in this room.”
She added, “I think that my being elected says more about our community than it says about me. We have always been innovative, we always pushed the envelope, we’ve always been creative, we’ve been a little quirky, but it’s who we are. I’m really glad to be part of this process.”
As it turned out – this was just the tip of the iceberg.
The DJUSD race overall was not competitive. There were three legitimate candidates and then there was Chris Legal, a quasi-homeless individual who had been arrested a week prior to the election. He garnered just 8 percent of the vote and 2500 votes.
However, Cindy Pickett impressively dominated even considering that her election was virtually assured when only four candidates sought election for three seats. Still, she finished a commanding first, ahead of Joe DiNunzio and Tom Adams (the incumbent). She earned nearly 21,000 votes and was listed on 65.9 percent of the ballots.
While Cindy Pickett did well, the victory by Melissa Moreno was less expected and just as overwhelming. On paper, David Murphy, a retired but longtime former Superintendent at DJUSD would be a formidable opponent for Ms. Moreno, a relatively unknown professor in the community.
But with a strong organization she not only won, she absolutely dominated the field with 66.1 percent of the vote, nearly winning by a 2 to 1 margin in a contested race.
Back in August, Gloria Partida noting the field of women of color told the Vanguard, “This is a reflection of this being a big year for women.”
Indeed it was nationally. Nationally, the midterm elections welcomed record-breaking numbers of women with 84 percent of those being women of color.
Most notably was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, 29, the youngest woman elected to Congress in US History. But guess what, Abby Finkenauer won in November and the Iowa Democrat is also 29.
Then was Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar who became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Ilhan Omar becamse the first Somali-American woman in Congress.
This local reflection of a national trend might be considered a bit surprising.
“The minorities, having been under attack from our current president, have really risen up,” Gloria Partida said. “Not just in Davis in particular, but nationwide.”
At the same time, she sees this as a reflection that people of color are reaching a critical mass in our area – so there is a lot more representation.
Our recent look at the census bears that out. In 2000, whites represented about 70 percent of the population in Davis. By 2010, that number fell to 65 percent and, by 2020, some expect it to be as low as 60 percent. The biggest increases are to the Asian and Latino populations.
Nevertheless, Gloria Partida is mindful that the Latino population in Davis remains small. “It does say a lot of about Davis,” she said, echoing comments from June when she was sworn it. “I said when I was elected, it says more about our community than it said about me. I wasn’t going to get elected with 12 percent of the population.”
In August, Melissa Moreno noted, “What I hope it means, I hope it means that people have come to realize that women of color have a history of tending, responding to issues of inequality and the attacks that whites and non-whites are feeling in this historical time period.”
She said, “People are feeling attacked and it’s across groups. The way that we respond is to create and strengthen community bonds to try to create stronger safety nets for everybody. If you tend to the most marginalized folks that ends up benefiting everybody.
“I hope it means that people who may think of women of color as a monolithic group are reading that there’s diversity even within that category,” she said.
Cindy Pickett explained, “For me it’s about being the voice for families and communities that don’t typically feel that they have a voice.”
For her, “This is not about diversity for diversity’s sake.” She added, “Being diverse doesn’t make you any less good or competent in evaluating a budget.” But there are issues which she believes need to be raised that benefit from a different perspective.
We have already had a chance to see Gloria Partida in action for six months now, seeing what Cindy Pickett and Melissa Moreno bring to their boards will be something that the Vanguard watches in 2019.
—David M. Greenwald reporting