By Ric Llewellyn
I was surprised when I read that Fran Florez would drop her bid for the 16th Senate District seat.
It wasn't that she would not compete. I was utterly amazed by the REASON she gave for dropping out.
Her comments should be a wakeup call for 16th District residents. And the rest of us too.
I think most of us have sat around musing about the state of politics. Conservative, progressive, or libertarian, it doesn't matter. We have seen a policy implemented or statute enacted and we have shaken our heads. Some of us shake our heads a lot.
With The Californian in hand I have even blurted out, "What was my representative thinking?!" Well it was never clearer to me than when I read the statement by Fran Florez a couple of weeks ago.
The problem is party adoration.
The parties are just organizations composed of a relatively few ideological enthusiasts. They are like community groups. Or maybe fan clubs. Many of us like the "Star Trek" movies, but we would not count ourselves among the Trekkies.
The party organizations -- particularly the major ones driving politics today -- are not made up of people like you and me. We think about issues in a different way. We think in a how-does-this-affect-me way. They think in a how-can-I-advance-my-party way.
I understand that the party represents an idea or philosophy about how government should work. But the constituents have long since been kicked to the curb and the ideas and philosophies have become pre-eminent.
We have unwittingly bought into this corruption of the true model of our government.
I tend to be more Republican than Democrat. But I could never work in the organizations of either. I don't care about the party. I care about how government works for me and, more important, how it will work for my children and grandchildren.
The parties' mission seems to be to maximize its number in whatever partisan body it operates. Focusing on and promoting the party has become paramount.
For a long time I have had the sense that that was true. Since Fran Florez quit the race, I am feeling much more certain.
Florez announced her departure from the race then immediately pointed out that it was the premature support of another candidate by the state Democratic Party -- the Club -- that drove her out. The people of Shafter, Kern County or the 16th District did not make that choice.
She expressed a real frustration with the process. Locally popular and well-known in the region, Florez is a known quantity and proven participant in local government. It was logically her race to win -- at least in these early stages.
Alas, she continued, "the business of politics... often does not follow logic."
She recounted her battle with Pete Parra in the 2010 Democratic primary in Assembly District 30. Although she won a vigorously contested Democratic nomination, Republican David Valadao ultimately won the Assembly seat in the general election.
And that's when the truth comes out.
By withdrawing, Florez hopes to protect the party's control of a single seat in the Legislature. Except for a passing complaint that regular Democrats couldn't decide their candidate for themselves, there is no concern for the effect this election will have on the people of the 16th District. It's all about the party.
If you live in Kings County, this is what that means. Regardless of what you need for your families to live secure and fulfilling lives, it is MOST important to elect a Democrat.
If you live in western Fresno County, including most of the city of Fresno, the issues affecting you don't really matter either. It's the party's success you need to embrace regardless of how sending another Democrat to Sacramento will affect you and your families.
Tulare County does not escape this crass love of party either. Perhaps the rural people in the 16th District can be easily persuaded to vote for a Democrat. Maybe they have no cares in the world but that a Democrat "represents" them.
And for the people of Kern County who live in the 16th District, this party-first mindset has demeaned and diminished the people's role as the REAL power behind our government. It seems it is the party that must be served, not us.
It is not just the Democratic Party that has replaced its constituents' needs with the passions of a few ideologues. Fran Florez just clearly expressed the principle.
The Republican Party is the same sort of ideological fan club imposing its will on the people. They make the same kinds of party-serving candidate choices. Whether it's Sacramento or Washington, D.C., we end up being swept along with that which serves the party but doesn't necessarily serve us in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
When a politician backs out of a fight it should be because she or he is not the right candidate to represent the people. It shouldn't be to protect the party.
We need to snap out of it and start sending people to Sacramento who will represent US. Not a party.
-- Ric Llewellyn is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Llewellyn, not necessarily The Californian. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week: Heather Ijames.