November 3, 2006

An inclusive candidate for the 78th. District

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

If elected to the State Assembly, Democratic candidate Maxine Sherard said she would represent the interests of all ethnic groups in the 78th. District.

“This campaign isn’t really about Maxine Sherard,” she said. “It’s really about voters getting good representation. Voters have expressed their desire to have someone who they can trust, someone who won’t represent special interests, but the interests of the residents of the 78th District.”

That district is as diverse as they get, with no majority ethnic group. It has a population of about 39% White, 28% Latino, 16% Asian, and 13% African-American.

It includes areas such as south east San Diego, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, Bonita, and eastern Chula Vista.

This is the third time Sherard, 66, has run for this district, and she said this has been her strongest campaign.

Facing Republican incumbent Shirley Horton, the controversies have aroused, especially after the San Diego Union-Tribune’s political columnist and political science professor Carl Luna claimed in one of his columns that Horton was using race as a factor to win votes from White voters.

Luna said Horton’s sent mailers to areas of the district with higher White population. Those mailers include several pictures of Sherard, who is African-American, Luna said, to try to emphasize racial differences between the two candidates.

“My big question is are these targeted mailers going to specific households in the 78th, targeting, say Spring Valley more than south east San Diego?” Luna wrote. “And is Horton really so desperate to win reelection that she would allow even the slightest whiff of race to taint her race in a racially diverse district?”

Mateo Camarillo, who has endorsed Sherard, included this in an article published in the California Progress Report website:

“Shirley Horton, who pretends to be a Democrat at election time, already had been engaging in the far right’s anti-immigrant hate campaign – complete with mail pieces to white voters on immigration and driver’s license for undocumented workers — prior to her race-baiting mail literature. Now she is ratcheting it up further by making a ‘black and white’ contrast to certain voters.”

For Sherard, this just shows that Horton doesn’t represent the interests of all ethnic groups in the district.

“Race is the issue. But I will not indulge in Horton’s personal attacks. I’m sure she’s a good person, but she’s a terrible legislator. She hasn’t been able to bring the resources the 78th District needs,” Sherard said.

But Horton’s campaign has denied the accusations.

Duane DiChiara, a political consultant for Shirley Horton’s campaign, said this is just Sherard’s “last effort to play the race card.”

He said that campaigns use pictures of other candidates all the time.

“If we use pictures of White candidates, does that means we’re racists against White people?” said DiChiara.

Horton’s website includes a series of points Sherard supports, such driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and education and health care for all individuals, regardless of their immigration status.

Although Horton tries to put these points against her and picture her as “too liberal,” Sherard said that she’s just in favor of human rights.

“I am very strong in human rights. People have to live with dignity,” she said.

Sherard shares the same views as the majority of Latinos in major issues.

She said that three of the most important issues she will focus on will be quality education, health benefits, and affordable housing.

“With the current representative, this hasn’t happened in the district,” she said.

Being a retired college and university math and science professor, she said she values education.

She’s particularly interested in more Latino and black representation in higher education.

“I think that it needs to be dealt with soon. We need to get more minority students to graduate from high schools and make it their priority to go to college.”

She said she will try to improve the quality of language and math programs in public education in the state.

Teresa Valladolid, Southwestern Community College Board member, said that she endorses Sherard.

“Beyond being Democrats, she’s the most representative of our issues [as Latinos]. She’s very inclusive and she plans that her staff is representative of the community.”

Sherard is also endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Latino Caucus.

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