On August 1, CAUSE Action Fund virtually hosted its annual Leadership Awards Reception, with Senator and longtime supporter Monique Limón as emcee. The event celebrated CAF’s recent accomplishments and honored progressive champion Daraka Larimore-Hall and four grassroots leaders.
Operating in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, the nonprofit CAUSE Action Fund (CAF) empowers working families, immigrant communities, and young people to vote for and otherwise help elect candidates who will represent their interests. It develops leaders, advocates, and campaigns. CAF is affiliated with the nonprofit CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy).
In presenting Larimore-Hall with the Corazón Award, Executive Director Maricela Morales praised him for his support from the early days of PUEBLO (which merged with then Ventura County–based CAUSE), his support for progressive policies, his reshaping of the CA Democratic Party (including as Party Vice Chair), his work in helping the political left thrive, and a host of other achievements.
Larimore-Hall began by declaring he was “over the moon” about receiving this honor and that CAF and CAUSE will always be at the center of his heart. He lauded the organizations for empowering Latinos who had previously been frozen out of power, pointing to the phalanx of progressive Latinas recently elected, who would not have been without PUEBLO and CAUSE.
He reflected on the different meaning “relationship” has to groups such as CAF and to professional politicians. For CAF, it’s about bringing different groups of people together to form coalitions and about bringing people with decision-making power into contact with the people they are elected to represent. By contrast, “relationships,” as used by professional politicians, refers to scratching one another’s backs. He praised CAF for disrupting those relationships and otherwise holding elected officials accountable.
Policy and Communications Director Lucas Zucker highlighted CAF’s remarkable work in last year’s election. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic for outreach and for voting, the voters CAF targeted turned out in record numbers — 87 percent of CAF supporters cast ballots. In fact, the voters CAF targeted had a higher voter turnout than the countywide voter averages. Given that CAF targets Latino, low-income, and young voters — all segments with historically lower voter turnout — this is an astonishing and commendable feat.
Through phone calls (22,000+), texts, videos (45,000 views), and voter guides, CAF staff and volunteers educated and encouraged its supporters. Zucker reflected on recent, local council elections where a candidate has won with a margin of 10 or fewer votes, driving home the importance of every vote.
Zucker spoke proudly of coming within a razor’s edge of passing Prop 15 and declared, “We’ll be back.” He pointed to the beating back of forces against ethnic studies, sex education, and bilingual education in our schools, successfully reelecting to the S.B. Unified School District Board Wendy Sims-Moten and electing Virginia Alvarez to the same.
In Santa Maria, Zucker pointed to the election of school boardmember Ricardo Valencia, a graduate of CAF’s Justice Leadership Institute’s training program and recounted the multitude of successes in Ventura County elections.
Looking ahead, Zucker shared that CAF is working on representing its communities in the redistricting process, defeating the Newsom recall effort, mobilizing voters in the Santa Barbara city election to counter big real estate money seeking to displace its communities, and fighting for renters’ rights and affordable housing at City Hall.
Organizing Director Hazel Davalos, in presenting the Dolores Huerta Civic Leadership Awards, remarked on how the most important metric of successful organizing is not the end result but how many leaders are developed in the process — how many people learned about their local government, learned how to canvass or work a phone bank, or learned how to make their voice count, even if they cannot vote. Davalos noted that CAF’s work goes beyond elections, involving continuous movement building. This includes both the day-to-day work it does with grassroots leaders and its Justice Leadership Institute.
The award recipients — Adriana Excorcia, Amancio de la Cruz, Sandra Alvarado Lemus, and Maya Espinoza — were recognized for building grassroots electoral power. In a particularly touching acceptance speech, Excorcia lauded CAF for its important electoral work. She confided that she never imagined a farmworker like herself could volunteer to interview candidates and expressed her pride in being able to help with CAUSE’s valuable work.
For coverage of other events, go to independent.com/society.