Claremont Democrats host candidate meet and greet

Lydia Hernandez asks how renters can become homeowners during the June 2 candidate meet and greet hosted by the Democratic Club of Claremont. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

By Andrew Alonzo |

The Democratic Club of Claremont hosted a June 2 meet and greet fundraiser for four candidates running in the November 5 general election. The event at the home of Jim Bawek and Yolanda Moses featured United States Representative Judy Chu, who faces Republican candidate April Verlato in the race for California’s 28th Congressional District; John Harabedian, who is squaring off with Republican Michelle Del Rosario Martinez in the race for California’s 41st Assembly District; Rachel Forester, who is running against incumbent Mayor pro tem Corey Calaycayfor Claremont City Council’s District 1 seat; and Cheryl Fiello, who is vying for the Claremont Unified School DistrictBoard of Education Trustee Area 5 seat currently held by President Bob Fass.

Sunday’s forum served as an opportunity for Forester and Fiello to plead their cases for DCC endorsement. Chu and Harabedian have already been endorsed by the club.

Following introductions, the candidates — save Chu who left shortly after — fielded questions from residents on issues ranging from sleep hygiene for school-aged children, how they’re reaching Republican voters, helping renters transition to buying a home, and Proposition 13.

John Harabedian, who is running in California’s 41st Assembly District, at the June 2 Democratic Club of Claremont’s candidate meet and greet. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Former Claremont Mayor Opanyi Nasiali asked Forester about reaching Republican voters. She said it’s more important now than ever to speak with those you disagree with.

Harabedian was asked how he plans to address renters’ concerns with buying a home. He responded by saying the answer was to try and build more affordable housing, which is a priority of his campaign.

Forester and Harabedian shared their stances on Prop 13, a 1978 state constitutional amendment that restricts increases on property taxes and limits property owners’ general levy tax to 1% of its assessed fair market value.

Harabedian said it was a divisive issue, adding the state needs to be more focused on generating revenue, cutting costs, and becoming more efficient in order to address its billion-dollar budget deficit. He’s also said California lawmakers need to think about crafting “a true billionaires tax.”

Forester touched on recent efforts to increase revenue. She said community support was key, citing two 2020 amendments to Prop 13, Proposition 15 and Proposition 19, a proposed 2019 sales tax increase, Measure CR, and a 2010 school bond measure, Measure CL, all of which failed due to a lack of support. Measure G, a follow-up school bond measure, which passed in 2016, was a success due to extensive community outreach, she said.

Cheryl Fiello, who is vying for Claremont Unified School District Board of Education’s Trustee Area 5 seat, speaks at Sunday’s Democratic Club of Claremont candidate meet and greet. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

In an April Gallup poll, Republicans and Democrats both said they were less enthusiastic about voting in 2024 compared to 2020. The Courier asked the candidates how they would solve this problem.

Harabedian said he will be in Claremont ahead of November to speak on issues such as economics, schools, and healthcare, and hopes to emphasize the stakes of the election at the national level and how it trickles down to local races.

Forester said she’s going to remind voters of the importance of local elections, which she said are decided by hundreds to thousands of votes versus hundreds of thousands for national contests.

“Part of running for City Council is understanding what the city wants and needs,” Forester said. “Part of serving on City Council is understanding the community. I always ask people ‘What do you care about?’ And I’m going to tell you why it applies to a local or a county level, because so many of the things that impact us on a day-to-day basis are things that are not handled by Joe Biden.”

Despite polls indicating lower voter engagement in the November 5 general election, Fiello said she expects voters to turn out in large numbers for her nonpartisan race.

Harabedian stressed the importance of representing everyone in his district.

“I think it’s important to make sure that you’re connecting with the communities that you represent,” Harabedian said. “Claremont is a very important city in this district for lots of reasons. I grew up in Sierra Madre, grew up in the district, and I’m really looking forward to representing Claremont. And part of the representation really is just learning more about every community, every pocket of the district, and Claremont is a place that I’ll be very familiar with and spend a lot of time here. This [event] is just part of that.”

Claremont resident Mel Boynton asks a question at Sunday’s Democratic Club of Claremont candidate meet and greet. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

The event was well attended and featured a host of pointed questions for the candidates.

“Even though I like to think I follow what’s happening in all kinds of politics, the opportunity to see people in person and to hear from them in person I think is really valuable,” said Fiello’s campaign co-chair Krista Elhai.

Two other candidates were invited but did not attend: Sasha Renée Pérez, who is running against Elizabeth Wong Ahlers to represent California State Senate District 25; and Kathy Archer, who is up for reelection for the CUSD Board of Education Trustee Area 2 seat. A representative for LA County District Attorney candidate George Gascón was also unable to attend.

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