Democrats rally at 2019 Fred Davis Dinner

California State Controller Betty Yee speaks at the 2019 Fred Davis Dinner in Visalia. Jessica Macias Mercado/Valley Voice

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected from the version in the March 21 Voice,specifically the “Phelps Plans to Run” section.

On March 17th, The Tulare County Democratic Central Committee (TCDCC) held the 2019 Fred Davis Dinner in honor of newly elected Democratic mayors Greg Gomez of Farmersville, Jose Sigala of Tulare, and Martha Flores of Porterville.

Supporters from all over the state gathered at Visalia’s Lamp Liter Inn to celebrate the blue victories in Tulare County and showcase new candidates in the running. California’s State Controller, Betty Yee, was the keynote speaker. She emphasized the importance of their leadership at a local level and a national level in the coming 2020 election.

The night started off in a celebratory fashion with drinks and food in honor of the mayors. But from the first speaker to the last, a call to action was the common undertone.

Ruth McKee, TCDCC Chair , said it best, “Eat and be merry because tomorrow we fight.”

The outspoken Malia Cohen from the California State Board of Equalization in San Francisco, made it very clear who that fight was against.

“Our service increases diversity and stands as a sharp rebuke of our current president, who quite frankly wants to eliminate democracy.”

Although this attitude was common among most speakers, they also did not forget about local issues.

Yee expressed how the Central Valley was the heart of the state, and that taking care of the heart meant addressing Valley issues like caring for its aging population and supporting farmers by embracing technology. Yee also touched on the “underfunded” and “understaffed” census she claimed was critical to the future of the democratic party’s success and fighting voter suppression.

Rusty Hicks, President of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, is running for Chair of the California Democratic Party and believes that fighting is not enough.

“I think we have to be united in 2020. We have to move from resisting Trump, because I think we’ve got pretty good at resisting Trump. And we have to get better at replacing Trump.”

Hicks explained to the audience that even though Democrats have the house, that they need to hit the gas while they’re ahead. That means doubling down on blue wins like in Porterville, Farmersville, and Tulare. It means replacing more Republicans in California and in our own backyard–Republicans like longtime California State Assemblyman Devon Mathis.


Phelps Plans to Run

Drew Phelps, 24, is a project manager for Granville Homes. He also worked in Sacramento as a policy analyst former State Senator Andy Vidak. The curly haired contender is motivated, he said, to replace Mathis for his lack of action during the mismanagement of the Tulare Hospital.

“I began my run for this seat when my opponent Devon Mathis failed in grand fashion to secure $22 million in state funding for the hospital. In fact, and this is what really gets me, Mathis was partly responsible for the bankruptcy in the first place.”

Phelps explained that Mathis had the opportunity to ask for an audit of the hospital’s finances in 2015 and see some of the misdeeds, but opted out, Phelps said, because he owed the former hospital manager, Dr. Benny Benzeevi, a favor. It’s for this reason that Phelps intends to replace the assemblyman.

Phelps has experience removing and replacing people in power. He was a part of the leadership in the Citizens for Hospital Accountability group that filed suit against mismanagement at the hospital.

“The hospital is what got me into the race. But I want to also put my background to work in fixing the water, healthcare and jobs issues that face our district,” said Phelps.


The Impact of Fred Davis

But the night at the Lamp Liter was not all just political hoopla. There was also a touching tribute to the founder of the dinner. Louie Campos, 2016 Democratic candidate for California’s 22nd Congressional District, expressed his gratitude toward Fred Davis by detailing the impact Davis had on his own life.

“He was always urging me to go to school, to go to colIege. I had been going through some trials at that time…And I come from a town where nobody went to college…Still, he kept pushing me. Ultimately, I decided to put my toe in the water and I went to COS to get my paralegal certificate. Two years later, I ended up going to UC Berkeley.”

Unfortunately, Davis passed away before he could witness Campos transfer to Berkeley. But Davis had so much faith in his friend that he set aside money in his will for Campos’ first year of university.

It was in this sentiment that the Democrats called for action, to support local leadership in solving local issues, retake the bid in 2020, and turn the county blue.

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