Progressives Organize in the Central Valley

Progressives Organize in the Central Valley
Judy Hess, shown here introducing Rep. John Conyers, (D– Mich.), is the founder of the Central Valley–Sierra Progressives, a local chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.

Enthusiastic progressives in the Central Valley gathered on January 26 to form the local chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), which will be called the Central Valley–Sierra Progressives.

Membership in PDA is not restricted to registered Democrats, but PDA nationally works closely with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. PDA’s “inside-outside strategy” finds registered “Dems” reforming the Democratic Party from the inside, and all members moving the nation to progressive legislation, partially by lobbying, demonstrating and partnering with other progressive groups.

With major events upcoming, the local chapter hit the ground running.

The following issue organizing teams (IOTs) and action groups were formed at the inaugural meeting: End the Occupations (and redirect funding to human needs) led by Bev Fitzpatrick, with an action group on Israel Palestine led by Dan Yaseen (both of Peace Fresno); Stop Global Warming/Environmental Issues led by Chip Ashley; Health Care for All led by Donna Macris; Economic and Social Justice led by Lloyd Kim; Clean Fair Transparent Elections led by Bill Turini; and Ending Corporate Personhood led by Billie Jelks-Hood. A working group within the Economic and Social Justice IOT for immigration issues is planned.

IOT point persons participate and report to the chapter on monthly national conference calls. The End the Occupations and Israel Palestine calls were especially noteworthy this month, featuring a report from Medea Benjamin, Code Pink chair and a member of PDA’s National Advisory Board, who had just returned from Cairo’s Liberation Square.

Lobby training was organized. On February 8, 18 dedicated progressives trained at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence. Lobby teams from the IOTs will begin the crucial process of persuasion for progressive legislation with our Congressional members.

PDA’s inside strategy includes members running for delegate positions at Democratic conventions and for Congressional seats. Even before the chapter’s launch, in January, “Progressive Slate” candidates organized and won 17 of the 24 Democratic State Central Committee delegate seats in Assembly Districts 29 and 31. Progressive delegate voting has had a major impact on the California Democratic Party’s platform, including planks for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and advocating single-payer healthcare. PDA delegates in Denver helped the 2008 national convention endorse single-payer healthcare.

Activities include obtaining party endorsements and electing PDA-endorsed candidates. Author Norman Solomon, PDA’s National Healthcare Not Warfare co-chair, has launched an exploratory committee to run for California’s District 6 Congressional seat. PDA is closely involved with that campaign. A major announcement about related events locally is pending.

Marcy Winograd, co-chair of PDA’s Los Angeles chapter, has waged primary campaigns against powerful U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (Congressional District 36), gaining 41% of the vote in 2010. Harman’s recent resignation means Winograd must decide whether to enter the special election to replace Harman. If Winograd runs, our chapter will work for her.

On February 23, the Central Valley–Sierra chapter met with Karen Bernal, chair of the Progressive Caucus (the largest) of the California Democratic Party and PDA’s Caucus liaison, as the featured speaker. Bernal spoke on “PDA, the Progressive Caucus and the Progressive Slate.”

The Central Valley–Sierra Progressives will next meet on March 23 at 6 p.m. at the Denny’s Restaurant at 1110 E. Shaw Ave.

Learn more about PDA at


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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