KQED's series "The Long Run" highlights women candidates in California running for local office for the first time.
After the 2016 election, something changed for Betty Valencia. While at a city council meeting, watching her city's leaders vote to oppose California's sanctuary policies, she decided the only thing to do was to run for city council. She looked at the city council that night, and said "you're in my seat."
We asked Betty to keep an audio diary for us while she’s out campaigning in her signature red shoes. The following is an excerpt from her audio diary. She speaks about why she decided to run, canvassing with volunteers, and meeting other candidates who inspire her.
On why she is running for office:
"After the 2016 election, I knew something changed for me. I am an immigrant, I am gay. All of those identities are under attack. if not me, then who?"
On shaking things up in her city:
I think that for a long time people have been afraid in Orange. And I think we're tearing down that fear to say, 'you can be you in Orange.'''
On being vocal about LGBTQ issues:
"At first I was deterred from running because of my identities. I sought out advice from somebody who's in this field. One of the thing they said was 'Don't say anything about LGBTQ rights.' I did exactly the opposite."
On running in a historically conservative city:
"Sometimes I feel like I'm put through the wringer, honestly. But I have to stay honest, stay focused, and repeat my message: I am a qualified candidate and I'm running as I am."
On meeting congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
"We found this common thread that we both came from these stories where the likelihood of having this success isn't necessarily something people expect. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is 28 years old and I'm 47. But we're both willing to work for what we believe in, which is to be included and heard."
On receiving Dolores Huerta's endorsement:
"She asked, 'You're going to have house gatherings?' I said, 'Absolutely I'm going to have house gatherings.' And she says, 'Ok, how are we going to do this?' And when she said the words 'how are we going to do this.' I just about busted up."
On organizing a diverse coalition:
"I know what it feels like to be excluded, one way or the other. So, I bring this new perspective and the amazing power of communication to include people and to be a bridge builder."
On reaching out to undocumented Orange residents who can't vote:
"I'm very well aware that when I knock on the door perhaps they're going to be able to vote and maybe not. But here's what I tell them: 'It's okay if you can't vote for me. Can you walk with me? Can you advocate for me?' I don't exclude anyone."
On the rise of women candidates running for local office:
"If we lose, we're going to land on safety nets of other women. I want to make sure that everyone knows that we're not going to be alone and we're not going to stop this movement."