Congresswoman Barbara Lee visited Watsonville Monday evening as part of her campaign to gain the seat of outgoing U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
After an introduction by Supervisor Felipe Hernandez, Lee took to the podium at Jalisco’s restaurant where more than 100 people welcomed her.
Representing California’s 12th District since 1998, Lee is the highest-ranking Black woman appointed to Democratic Leadership.
Lee, who described herself as an activist, started out by asking for a moment of silence to respect the victims that have been killed “by these horrific gun violence acts in Orange County, Jacksonville and all over the country.”
“I am happy to come here to Watsonville,” she said. “I am running for the United States Senate and I would love your endorsement. I am a Democrat from my heart and my soul and I have always fought to try to make the Democratic Party more inclusive and more representative and more democratic. I helped start the Poverty Caucus, the Peace Caucus, the Progressive Caucus and I’m at all the meetings; I do my resolutions…This is the most progressive party we’ve ever had.”
Lee was born into segregated El Paso, Texas. Lee said she found her political strength when she was a 15-year-old student at San Fernando High School in southern California.
‘’I really wanted to be a cheerleader, but I didn’t make the criteria of what a cheerleader should look like because I was Black,'” Lee said. After taking her concerns to the NAACP, she said she was able to organize the student body and a handful of administration staff and “we were able to change that system of selection to an election.”
Only then did Lee become a cheerleader.
Now, as a California legislator, Lee has authored 67 bills and resolutions that were signed into law covering such issues as public safety, education, healthcare, and environmental protections. In the legislature, Lee was an early supporter of LGBT issues and authored the 1995 California Schools Hate Crimes Reduction Act.
“I have to dismantle and disrupt systems that are discriminatory,” she said.
Lee also touched on the climate crisis, pollution, environmental justice, cost of living, and the 20 million people in California that are living one check away from poverty.
“Wages have not kept up with the cost of living in the golden state of California,” Lee said.
She explored minimum wage and “a living wage for everybody,” housing and people living on the street, unsheltered people.
“Since 1789 there have been two African American women elected to the U.S. Senate. In the Senate, representation does matter,” she told the crowd. “Whenever there is injustice, you don’t tinker around the edges: You have to go in there and you have to shake things up and you have to build something new that is just and fair. And that’s who I am. I’m doing this not for Barbara Lee, but for you.”