This past election cycle, the Napa Solano Central Labor Council joined forces with a coalition rarely seen in any city. Driven by the negative impacts that municipal bankruptcy has had on the City of Vallejo’s ability to attract businesses or provide for adequate public safety and an image of dysfunctional leadership, the Labor Council partnered with the Chamber of Commerce, police, fire, realtors, building trades, teachers, democrats and conservatives to form JumpStart Vallejo. For the first time, all these very distinctive groups had the chance to come together in order to identify, vet and then come to consensus on four candidates we all felt would be the best to move Vallejo forward.
Following the election of a labor friendly candidate to the County Board of Supervisors, Vallejo had three 4-year seats and one 2-year seat that were filled by appointment. The current council majority was very anti-Labor and anti-Business –which gave all involved the added incentive to come together for a common goal. Making this election even more critical was the fact that also on the ballot was a measure to move our elections in Vallejo to even-numbered years. All the other local elections (including races for School Board and City Councils in Solano County) had already moved to even years, which left the Vallejo City Council and Travis School Board to be decided this November. The passage of this measure would make the stakes of the election even higher, with voters deciding on one 3-year and three 5-year terms for whoever won.
Coming to consensus was not always an easy task, and every group involved in this very broad coalition had to make compromises every step of the way. Everyone at the table had their own opinions on how to proceed; not only in the campaign to take back the City Council but also on how to move forward after Vallejo's devestating bankruptcy. We needed a pro-Business and pro-Labor Council to attract the jobs and good wages that will elevate our community, as well as provide for public safety which is so critical to our city's success. We also felt very confident in the fact that the candidates that we had chosen could also be trusted to represent the needs of real working men and women.
The first thing we did was secure an unprecedented list of elected officials and community leaders to endorse the JumpStart Campaign and used polling information to focus on messaging. The fact that Solano County as a whole was being held back because of the divisiveness of the current majority helped us secure the endorsements of our State Representative, four of five County Supervisors and a majority of County office holders.
Our opposition went very dirty very fast and attacked one of our candidates, spreading salacious lies about him. They also attempted to bully our elected officials and community allies (including the Democratic Party) into rescinding their endorsements. But this behavior was the reason it was so easy to get the coalition together in the first place! And to their credit, everyone in our coalition held fast and continued to support our slate of candidates.
But in the end, it was just a good old-fashioned butts-in-the-seats and boots-on-the-ground field campaign that pushed us over the top. We had an army of volunteers from across the coalition spectrum that came together to work for a positive change in Vallejo. For ten weeks, we held dozens of phone banks and developed a flexible walk program that allowed us to cover almost every precinct in Vallejo, gaining momentum and support for our candidates each day.
On election night, we saw all our efforts pay off. Three out of our four candidates were elected, and the measure to change the election to even-numbered years also passed. A fresh majority on the Vallejo Council — who will have an extra year to boot — is a sweet reward. But the true measure of success still lies in the future.
We are going to continue the JumpStart brand and use the momentum and network that we have built to assist our new Council majority and continue to bring the community together. We will take advantage of our success by continuing to work with this incredible coalition which should equate to the ultimate victory, a better City of Vallejo.