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The Democratic Party made history Tuesday when it chose Hillary Clinton to be the first woman nominated for president, and many Southern California politicians were invited to speak at the convention or to represent constituents as delegates.
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is scheduled to speak after press time Wednesday evening. Schiff is familiar with conventions as he has attended prior ones in North Carolina, Boston, Denver and Los Angeles. He has also been acquainted with the Clintons since President Bill Clinton left office. His first two weeks as a congressman overlapped with President Clinton’s last two weeks in office.
During Schiff’s orientation week, he remembers going back to his hotel and receiving three voicemails – one saying to call the White House, and two saying to call Air Force One.
When he called Air Force One, he was connected with the President on his way to Vietnam, who wanted to congratulate Schiff on his new job.
Schiff told the outgoing president that he thought his speech at the 2000 convention for Al Gore was “among the most incredible speeches” he had ever heard. Two weeks later, when Schiff returned to Burbank, there was a parcel waiting for him. He opened it and found a signed copy of the former president’s convention speech, with a note from its author.
“To have that kind of attention to detail,” Schiff marveled. “It was the most amazing thing.”
Schiff then worked with Hillary when she was Secretary of State, and recently introduced the former president at a rally for Hillary before the California primary. He said he has always been “enormously impressed” by Hillary.
Schiff said he was selected to speak because of his role as ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“I think that national security has become a central issue in the campaign for both candidates,” he said Friday as news broke about a mass shooting in Munich, Germany. “I’ll be focusing on the national security implications of the election, contrasting where Donald Trump is on some key issues.”
Schiff said there’s an added sense of urgency and that he is “doubly motivated” to help Clinton win the election this week after watching Trump’s “dark and gloomy portrait of America.” Schiff said he was struck by the “xenophobic” and dividing messages Trump delivered.
“I was particularly struck by the contrast from prior candidates for the Republican Party,” Schiff said. “[Trump] wasn’t Ronald Reagan’s ‘shining city upon a hill,’ George H.W. Bush’s ‘a thousand points of light.’ He definitely wasn’t George W. Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism.’ … It’s why I think there’s such division (among the GOP). He’s nothing like other Republican presidents. He doesn’t seem to hold GOP values. If he does, the GOP is in much worse shape that I thought. … And as for compassion, it was hard to find that in Trump’s speech, nor maybe even genuine conservatism.”
During Trump’s speech, he said he would do everything in his power to help LGBTQ overcome from oppression, but Schiff didn’t buy it.
“I found that to be about as credible as when he argues that no one (but Trump) works harder for people to have any chance to succeed,” Schiff said. “I don’t find that the least bit credible.”
Schiff said the Democratic Party will continue to push a message of unity, that the country is stronger together than when it’s pulled apart.
West Hollywood Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath, a member of the Democratic delegation, nearly lost her voice by Tuesday evening with two more days of the convention to go. Horvath and public safety commissioner Estevan Montemayor said they were overcome with emotion in Philadelphia “watching history be made” and women’s stories brought to light.
The two said they were both brought to tears when during the roll call to officially nominate Clinton, when a 102-year-old woman – who was born before women had the right to vote – spoke for Arizona.
Montemayor said it was a reflective time, as it brought up memories of his grandmother.
“She and I were both very passionate Hillary supporters in 2008,” Montemayor said. “I think she’d be incredibly proud, not just that a woman was nominated, but for a qualified woman moving forward on progressive values, bringing us together as a nation, as a people and not dividing us. I was incredibly emotional. The whole place felt that way.”
Horvath said she thought about all the girls watching Clinton overcome adversity and about how important a moment it was for American women.
“When you see it, you can be it,” Horvath said. “[Clinton] has been that person for so many generations. I remember watching her when I was young.”
Montemayor echoed Horvath and said it will do the same for young boys who see a female leader.
The two also described how diverse the California delegation is, filled with LGBT members, minorities, young people, seniors and people of different faiths. Horvath said she was proud to be in a room that “looked like America.”
That was the biggest contrast that they saw from the GOP convention the week before, they said.
“I didn’t see myself represented at the GOP convention,” Montemayor said. “I didn’t see people that looked like me or talked like me. That’s important.”
Horvath and Montemayor also said they noticed a contrast from their experience in the convention hall to what they saw when they went back to their hotels, watched television and heard reports of division within the party. They said the booing is minimal, started by a small fraction of people in attendance and that it has died down.
Schiff said having worked on both winning and losing campaigns before, he knows how hard it is for Sanders supporters to let go, especially after a tough primary.
“But as Senator Sanders said so well himself, his revolution was never about him, or Secretary Clinton, but about the cause of economic fairness and that cause goes on,” Schiff said. “His endorsement of Clinton was powerful, and I can see the ranks already coalescing around our nominee. The delegates have been moved by the talented leaders who have addressed the convention, including Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and President Clinton. We are all proud of the historic nature of nominating the first woman for president, and it gives me great joy to know that my daughter and other girls around our nation can look at Hillary and know that they too can become president of this great country.”
Horvath and Montemayor said many people have been very excited to meet them when they learn they are from West Hollywood because of how the city is leading the way in bringing progressive values to action.
“I’ve always known it was a beacon of hope to a lot of people,” Montemayor said. “But I’m reminded of that this week.”
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