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Confessions of a political activist

You never know what you might find when you get involved

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I’ve come out of the closet, at last. I’m not ashamed. In fact, I’m proud to admit that I am politically active.

For most of my life, I hid it. Oh, I admitted I was “interested� in politics, spent hours with political magazines and books, saw every movie and stage play that had a political angle, hung around political places.

But I passed as politically neutral. I had to because I was the editor of the only daily newspaper in town. The newspaper was politically active, taking stands on issues and candidates, but not I. Never signed a petition, never donated to a candidate — never got personal with it. I told myself I just couldn’t offend the readers’ sensibilities; so many of them were devout believers.

It was a lie. I hid behind that shield because, well, going out with it, being politically active, meant getting involved.

That’s where I am now. A couple of weeks ago, I walked Morro Bay Precinct 16, on behalf of the Kerry-Edwards-Boxer-Capps-Pinard-Jenkins campaign. I met people, handed out campaign literature.

It felt great, being who I was, right out in public. And people liked me for it.

On a hot day, I was offered a drink of water by a Republican who had moved into the house that had been vacated by a Democrat.

An 18-year-old Democrat let me register him to vote, as did a 55-year-old Republican. It can get intoxicating, this political activism. It gets you to thinking it’s normal, at least for you.

It is also highly educational. Walking Morro Bay 16 gave me a look at where my neighbors live in what passes for downtown Morro Bay, the area between Morro Bay Boulevard and Surf Street, from Main Street to Quintana.

This is what’s known as “affordable housing.� Not a house younger than 50 years, and not many people younger than that, either. Trailers of an uncertain age parked on asphalt pads, the only unpaved areas being tiny flower beds. Apartments above shops in now-trendy “mixed use,� others hidden away behind single-family houses that put three dwellings on a lot in equally trendy “increased density.�

Some neatly painted, many long neglected, marked by overflowing cans of cigarette butts
on the littered porch, a supersize bag of Budweiser empties, a lawn that saw its
last care generations back.

No one at home because they’re out working one of three jobs to pay the rent.

The dwellings in Morro Bay Precinct 16 make the county’s $598,000 “median� home price a dirty joke. Does anyone collecting housing data talk to the people in Morro Bay Precinct 16?

Who lives there? A 92-year-old woman in her nightgown and robe, a married couple in their 50s, a newly divorced woman and her son, a 43-year-old surfer, an 82-year-old woman with a keen sense of humor, a 66-year-old woman formerly of Chicago where she says she saw her ballot put in a trash box instead of the ballot box.

One person who no longer lives there is being sought by bill collectors, the current occupant told me after I convinced her I wasn’t one.

Morro Bay 16 has transiency and stability. Some of its residents have lived in the same quarters for decades, they told me. Others arrived since the voter list I used was created.

The county Democratic organization provided the list. It carefully excluded registered Republicans. The mission I was on was aimed at getting registered Democrats to vote, and getting voters from the political boutiques to hear about the Democratic slate, especially Peg Pinard and Stew Jenkins.

As it turns out, I spoke with more non-Democrats, many of them registered as Decline to State, and all but one told me they are eager to vote against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

I know the national pollsters have other results. I don’t know what closets they’re in or out of, but in Morro Bay 16, there are lots of people who are politically active.

People just like me.

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