Western most of the “three valleys” of CA-25 (Santa Clarita and Antelope are to the north and east), Simi’s largely residential community has long been Republican ground. It’s the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and site of the 1992 Rodney King beating trial, whose infamous not-guilty verdict provoked fiery, bloody rioting throughout the L.A. basin. Less well known, in the aftermath of the riot, Simi residents collected food and clothes for victims.
Simi is also home to the Simi Valley Democratic Club and its indefatigable leader, John Casselberry, Jr. Along with a group of Sea Change volunteers, I joined them on a neighborhood canvas on a warm Saturday morning last week.
About 50 of us rode north in vans from the Sea Change office in West Los Angeles, crossing through the weirdly Martian rock formations of the Santa Susana pass into the valley’s broad expanse. Club members welcomed us with water, snacks, and canvassing packs. Little time was wasted. Casselberry spoke briefly, we sorted ourselves into small groups, and off we went. Registration instruction was provided for first-timers, who followed soon after.
My canvassing partner Louise and I found a friendly reception as we followed our list door to door. We were there to take the pulse of the community by asking a series of questions, to invite folks to the club’s monthly meeting, and, when opportunity presented, to register voters.
There is little love among Simi Democrats for reality TV host Donald Trump. There is also fear, especially among the elders, about their economic future. We met some who were out of work and barely hanging on financially. Where were the jobs? What is the Democratic Party doing to help?
Many folks didn’t know they were in district 25, or what it was, and had never heard of Steve Knight, or Katie Hill.
Our most interesting encounter came at a house where the registered Democrat, a middle aged housewife, was not home. Her Republican husband was in the garage, repairing motorcycles.
“I wish you’d leave Trump alone and let him do his job,” he said. “I don’t give a damn about Russia.”
We didn’t argue.
“I spent my life in the military. The system is completely broken. Washington is broken. They don’t care about you.”
Was he happy with his medical care?
“I’ve been waiting three months at the VA to get this shoulder repaired.”
“That’s not right,” I said.
Over our three hour walk, we had perhaps 20 conversations, leaving flyers at the doors when no one answered.
After the canvas, everyone gathered for pizza, tired but energized. Of course, politics was in the air.
“We’ve never had this level of involvement a year before an election,” Casselberry said.
Republican or Democrat, people are people, and they all have the same concerns–health, education, work, money, aging. We talked civics, registered a few, maybe gained a recruit or two. What mattered more, I think, was that we went, said “we’re here,” and listened.