Sumner students get dose of state’s political process

Sixth graders at Sumner Elementary School got a taste of the political process on Wednesday when Donna Lowe—a Republican candidate for the newly-redistricted 41st Assembly District—stopped by to share her take on state government, running for office and the challenges facing Californians.

“I know you’re probably very fidgety and want to get out to the playground,” Ms. Lowe said to the 102 kids who trooped into the cafeteria for her mid-morning presentation. Nonetheless, she emphasized that political education is crucial to democracy.

“It’s really sad. The majority of voters don’t understand how our government works,” Ms. Lowe said. 

She began with a brief review of the intricacies of state government, asking the children, for instance, to name the 3 branches of government—legislative, judicial and executive. She then went on to describe the job she’s aiming for.

The 80 members of the California State Assembly create bills that help people, she said. In order to discover how best to do that, representatives “walk precincts and make phone calls every day.” It’s a job that involves some sacrifices, especially in terms of time, said Ms. Lowe, who has a 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. A recent assembly session she sat in on stretched past 2 a.m., she noted.

Ms. Lowe is pitted against Democrat Chris Holden, who will appear at Sumner next week, in the November 6 election. With Mr. Holden receiving 29.4 percent of the vote and Ms. Lowe nabbing 23.8 it’s one of the tighter contests in the California primary election.

Campaigning involves what Ms. Lowe said is her least favorite part of politics, fundraising. Though she dislikes asking for money, Ms. Lowe said if you want to get the word out about your policies, you need to advertise, investing in radio airtime, social media and print materials. She then held up a printed brochure that’s been handed out on the campaign trail.

“Why am I running? Why would I do something so crazy?” Ms. Lowe posed.

Her motive, which she says is “kind of selfish,” is to improve California so her children will want to stay here when they get older. With the why established, she moved onto the how, sharing her views on how to fix the economically beleaguered state.

Ms. Lowe, founder of the Claremont Conservatives Tea Party and Spokesperson for Claremont Taxpayers for Common Sense, said it’s time to smooth the way for those who want to do business in California by easing up on what she views as an overabundance of regulations, stemming from agencies like the Air Quality Management District, and the California Air Resources Board and legislation like the California Global Warming Solutions Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

“California is currently ranked 50th in the nation in business-friendliness. We actually have the worst business climate in the whole United States of America,” she said.

While she loves the environment, Ms. Lowe said, pointing out that she bought one of the first hybrid cars in 2000, she still focuses on industry. “We’ve got to balance regulations with business. Keep our environmental agencies, but de-duplicate some of the regulations. Lessen regulations a little, but still keep the environment in our thoughts.”

Ms. Lowe asked students to remind their parents to vote and ended on a non-partisan note. It is possible for a Democrat to reach across party lines and vote for a Republican, she asserted, citing a local organization called Democrats for Donna Lowe. Likewise, it is possible for a Republican to vote for a Democrat, she said.

On hearing that Mr. Holden would also likely be speaking to Sumner sixth graders in the next few days, she gave the students a heads-up that, along with being “a very nice man,” he is “very tall.”

After Ms. Lowe’s presentation, several kids took the opportunity to ask Ms. Lowe questions they had prepared about her views and goals and about government in general.

One student asked Ms. Lowe how she came to be a candidate for the state Assembly. Her journey started 4 years ago, she related, when she felt so strongly about an issue, was compelled to go out and do something about it. Ms. Lowe set up a coffee table at the Claremont Farmer’s Market, where she could talk to local voters about her cause.

While she was there, a member of the local Republican club invited her to join the club’s ranks. Ms. Lowe, who has taken a leave of absence from her job as an IT professional specializing in data encryption in order to focus on her candidacy, got involved with the Mountain View Republican Club, eventually serving on the board.

Ms. Lowe then began to participate in local governance, serving on the Claremont Community Services Commission and as an alternate on the 59th Assembly District Committee. She says she caught the attention of current assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who told her, “I need you to run for assembly in this newly-drawn district.”

Another student asked Ms. Lowe what it meant to be a Republican.

“What being a Republican means to me is being responsible to yourself. Every action, you have to be held accountable for,” she said. “We’re also very business-oriented.”

Two students received the same answer to their questions. One asked how Ms. Lowe plans to help the state of education in California—which Ms. Lowe described as “really kind of low”—and another student asked how the candidate plans to help people like her father, who recently experienced a period of unemployment.

The state needs to increase revenue and employment opportunities by luring businesses to California, Ms. Lowe reiterated. “We’re just not competitive in the job market. It goes back to the overregulation of businesses and industry.” With less roadblocks to businesses, there will be more jobs “for people like your father,” Ms. Lowe said.

“It took courage for [the student] to ask that question. I really admire her for doing that,” Mr. Tonan said of the girl who talked about her father being laid off. “I think that’s something she’s going to remember for years and years to come—that she was able to ask a candidate that question.”

While it was a lot for the students to take in, Mr. Tonan, a 6th grade teacher who organized the event to complement the government component of the students’ curriculum, was pleased with Ms. Lowe’s presentation.

“I think she did a good job of trying not to be partisan about issues and making it personal in terms of how she got here and what she values in government,” he said.

Eleven-year-old Abdul Fejleh agreed. He said he hears about politics quite often because his dad is a regular viewer of CNN. One lesson he has taken away from the exposure is that, “The state really needs help.”

When it comes to Ms. Lowe’s statement that people can vote across party lines, Abdul said, “I actually do agree with her.”

The idea of lessening partisanship resonates with him, he said, “Because when I listen to the news, it sounds like everyone is fighting.”

—Sarah Torribio




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