Virginia Gurrola was confident and charged up after receiving the news back in June that her campaign will be moving forward against incumbent Mike Ennis for 5th District representative on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. To win in November she knew in June that she needed to “up her game” to deal with this Goliath of an incumbent. She turned to her husband and campaign manager, Sal Gurrola, and together began working in constructing an effort that would deliver a victory.
Sal’s mission was simple. Build a campaign that people can embrace and be heard and represented via their participation in the democratic process; a learning experience and environment that can be successful against a non-engaging yet well-financed incumbent.
The campaign quickly blossomed like no other grassroots campaign in recent history in Porterville. Former students have come by to sign up with the campaign as well as many from her professional career at the college. Under Sal’s direction, the campaign opened an office in Downtown Porterville, a block away from City Hall, put up billboards, and assembled a team of local advisers providing expertise in local politics, media, community relations and general grassroots campaigning.
This is a completely different campaign from the primary election effort where meetings were held at a local pizzeria in Porterville with supporters and friends and headquarters was basically the kitchen table at the Gurrola home. The core of the Gurrola campaign is still filled with volunteers who want change, a voice and positive effects for the district that is usually under the shadow of the Visalia/Tulare area.
“What Sal and Virginia Gurrola have accomplished with this campaign is in itself a victory. It is a classroom for what a grassroots campaign should do. If you are going against a longtime incumbent you have to pull out all the stops. This also demonstrates how Virginia works with others to tackle an issue: observation, discussion, plan of action, focus and implementation,” said Ruben Macareno, one of the advisers on the Gurrola team.
Macareno said not many grassroots campaigns are as organized as this campaign is turning out to be. But then again he says Sal, the architect of the campaign, had previously run Virginia’s three successful city council campaigns and her one-time bid for the state assembly. “He knows what he is doing. His experience from throughout the years has guided them to where they need to go to find substantial grassroots support, to build the machine that would overcome the influence of incumbency and a well-financed opposition,’ said Macareno.
The campaign is hopeful that the elements put into this effort including the large billboards towering over Highway 65 and any array of local campaign activities will be enough. But the real source of eventual success lies within the candidate and Sal, supporters and volunteers know this.
Virginia’s 37 years mentoring and helping students at Porterville College has benefited the campaign. Her years on the council have been a plus as well. Many of her key staffers are from relationships built from throughout the years. Even NFL player James Sanders, a former student of Virginia’s, came out to a fundraiser and auctioned away some of his items in support of the campaign.
“The Gurrola campaign is truly a grassroots effort. Everyone working for Virginia are long time supporters and friends,” said Macareno. “It is inspiring to me to hear her campaign workers talk about how Virginia was there for them. How she fought for them and now it times for them to fight for themselves with Virginia leading the way.
Election day is Tuesday, November 4.