On Monday, you had a chance to take a sneak peek inside the Ed Chau for Congress campaign in our debut to our summer-long “Inside the Campaigns” series. Today, I want to let you look inside the other campaign in the 42nd Congressional District: the Ron Shepston for Congress campaign. Now that you know how hard the Chau campaign is working to turn the 42nd District blue, I want to
share with you what I saw of the hard work being done by the Shepston campaign to do the same. Some of the answers I found to my questions about the Shepston campaign will come as a surprise to many of you.
To give you some background info, Ron Shepston was the first Democrat to announce his intention to run for Congress in the summer of 2007. Early on, there was plenty of excitement about Shepston, as news of GOP incumbent Gary Miller’s corruption was spreading along with
plenty of buzz on how Shepston was amassing large support from the progressive blogosphere. Unfortunately for Ron Shepston, he had to put his own Congressional campaign on hold as his own home in Silverado was being threatened by the massive wildfires burning much of the region. While others evacuated, Shepston stayed behind with a few others to fight the fire and protect Silverado.
But while Shepston disappeared from the scene temporarily, another candidate was fast emerging in the 42nd. And while Ron Shepston was eventually able to get back to restructuring his campaign early this year, Ed Chau was already beginning to pick up big endorsements from area labor unions as he was raising money and walking precincts. But even though some would now say Ed Chau’s the favorite to win next Tuesday’s Democratic primary in CA-42, the Ron Shepston campaign would beg to differ.
At 6:00 PM Tuesday evening, I arrived at the Shepston campaign office in Mission Viejo. As soon as I walked through the door, I noticed two volunteers busily making campaign calls on the campaign’s nifty hi-tech predictive dialing system. But I couldn’t admire the awesome dialing system for too long, as Ron Shepston could quickly recognize my voice. And at that instant, the Democratic candidate himself summoned me to the back of the the office so that he himself could answer my questions.
Around 6:15, the question and answer period had begun (just as Ron Shepston’s wife, Belinda, had arrived to help out at the office… Campaign manager Erik Zeil was also present, though mostly busy managing the campaign.). I first asked about the now infamous question asked at the recent OCYD endorsment forum about how many doors knocked, how many calls made, and how much money raised. Shepston answered by stating that walking precincts isn’t effective now with the limited time available until the primary. He said that the campaign is busy making phone calls to as may voters as possible while it also sends mailers and (of course) raises money. And speaking of money, Shepston told me that the campaign has had a recent change of fortunes thanks to the tapping into a new network of Southern California Democratic donors and the recent succeeds of event like the Joe Wilson appearances. He assured me that his campaign is on track to be truly financially competitive against Gary
Miller this fall.
Shortly before 6:30, we were briefly interrupted. Erik Zeil got a call from the person handling the Diamond Bar campaign office. Apparently, there was an overflow of volunteers at that office. They actually had to be sent home with call lists due to the high demand for call lists. Later on, I was able to listen in on part of a conference call that Erik was officiating for all the out-of-district volunteers (they were everywhere from Ventura to Austin). From what I saw and heard, it looked like the Shepston campaign was serious about getting out the vote for next Tuesday.
And on that note, I began “grilling” Ron Shepston once more. I asked him why he thinks he’s
best suited to run against Gary Miller this fall. Shepston answered, “My experience suits the district. My friends are Republicans. I know how they think. They know I’m a problem solver. Its the way I approach problems.”
Shepston then told me about his GOP co-workers, and how they’re actually changing their registration so they can vote for him. Ron Shepston is convinced that his experience as a
miltary veteran, an athlete, an avionics engineer, and a former Independent who became involved in Democratic politics because of Bush-Cheney extremism resonates with more voters in this heavily Republican district. He told me that voters in the 42nd District are tired of Gary Miller’s corruption and adherence to the George Bush party line, and they’re ready for change and for someone who’s not a corrupt career politician to serve them.
This led me to my next question. I knew it was coming, so I just had to ask: Why then does the campaign think that Ed Chau is not prepared for a general election match against Gary Miller? Basically, Ron Shepston told me that he sees Chau as another “career politician” running in a year when voters want real change. He’s sure that the issue of the poorly performing Montebello schools (where Chau’s on the school board) along with the matter of Chau living outside the district will be used against Chau in the fall. Shepston even told me that some Democrats in the district tell the volunteer callers that they refuse to support Chau should he prevail next Thursday. Shepston summed up the case against Chau by describing his campaign as “politics as usual”, while he provides a more real alternative to voters looking for a fresh start.
Moving on to something more positive, I then asked Shepston what his plan is to help grow the Democratic presence in North County and Inland South County. He told me he already had plans to team up with Bill Hedrick (CA-44) and Russ Warner (CA-26) to do “joint campaigning” against the whole slew of corrupt GOP incumbents in the SoCal region. He also said he’ll be ready to use his campaign as a starting point to build a “farm team” of Democrats to run for and win local offices. Shepston was glad to tell me about all the Democrats who tell him they’re thrilled to see a viable candidate run to defeat Miller.
Shortly after 7:00, Erik chimed in to tell me about one of their “superstar volunteers” who recently made 600 phone calls in a single day. Apparently, he enjoys phone banking and be just requested more call lists to call. And speaking of Erik, he soon shared with me some more details of the camapaign. After doing work on several campaigns in the East Coast, Erik recently came to work to Shepston. And now, he’s in constant contact with folks from the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and other big DC Democrats who are genuinely excited about the 42nd. He told me that all it will take is for Gary Miller to be caught once more in another horrifying scandal (which is very well possible), and we may very well see a Democrat win this seat this year. The candidate then spoke again, telling me the they can’t just talk everyone into believing they have a shot. They’re proving to everyone that Ron Shepston really has what it takes to win.
And on that note, the conversation winded down. I was able to see more phone bankers at work in the front of the office. I had a nice chat with Belinda Shepston, the candidate’s wife. And some time after 8:00, I moseyed my way out of Mission Viejo and back to my home in the city.
All in all, I was surprised by the openness of the Shepston campaign to invite me to the their office so they can answer my questions in person. And really, I was amazed to see they have a more serious operation than some give them credit for. So will Shepston beat Chau next Tuesday? I honestly don’t know. Both campaigns are running quite strong. I’ll just leave you with a few more photos from the Shepston office, and I’ll let you judge for yourself who you think is the stronger Democrat in CA-42.