Honoree Estela Montaño and Javier Almzan | Credit: Gail Arnold

On July 31, CAUSE Action Fund (CAF) hosted its annual Leadership Awards Reception in the Lobero Theatre Courtyard. The event celebrated CAF’s recent electoral work and honored grassroots organizers Estela Montaño and Casey Mata along with Oxnard City Councilmember Gabby Basua.

Operating in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, the grassroots nonprofit CAUSE Action Fund empowers working families, immigrants, and young people to help get candidates who will represent their interests elected. It is affiliated with the nonprofit CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy).

After a reception hour, where the more than 100 guests mingled and enjoyed an assortment of Mexican food from El Zarape, guests were seated for the program and welcomed by emcee and longtime supporter Monique Limón. 

Policy and Communications Director Lucas Zucker shared how CAF has been hard at work in the past year, having one-on-one conversations with more than 10,000 voters. For last September’s recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom, CAF’s grassroots organizers educated and mobilized voters to oppose the recall. Zucker noted how this election was purposely held in a special election when historically there is lower voter turnout among communities of color, working families, and young people.

CAF next turned to local races. For Santa Barbara City Council, CAF supported Meagan Harmon and Kristen Sneddon, who have been champions for the rights of renters — a group that makes up 60 percent of the city’s residents. Both candidates won by a landslide, Zucker noted, despite facing opponents who were well-funded by the real estate industry. Zucker then summarized CAF’s significant work on campaigns in Ventura County.

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CAF also was quite active in the redistricting process. Zucker provided some historical context, noting that 10 years ago, when the first California Citizens Redistricting Commission was created, CAF worked hard to end the racial gerrymandering that had left the large Latino communities in Oxnard and Santa Maria with anti-immigrant politicians at the state and federal level. Success came with the reshaping of the Congressional and Senate districts, but not with the State Assembly: Oxnard was split in two, and Santa Maria was left lumped in with San Luis Obispo County. 

Last year, CAF mobilized community members to speak out at the California Redistricting Commission’s hearings. This time around, in Ventura County, a district with a majority of voters of color was created for the first time ever. In Santa Barbara County, northern communities, including Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Lompoc, were joined with the rest of the County in a more diverse and progressive newly created seat.

At the county level, a first-ever Citizen’s Commission was tasked with drawing lines. CAF recognized, according to Zucker, the importance of awakening “the sleeping giant” — the massive, rapidly growing Latino population of North County. CAF fought tirelessly and successfully to build a new supermajority Latino district uniting the farmworker, immigrant neighborhoods of western Santa Maria and Guadalupe. In Ventura County, CAF successfully worked to create a majority Latino district to help represent the large Latino communities there. Zucker emphasized the importance of redistricting: “These political lines will define our representation for the next 10 years.”

Awards were presented to Oxnard Councilmember Gabby Basua and to grassroots organizers Estela Montaño and Casey Mata. For more info about CAF, go to causeactionfund.org; for more info about CAUSE, go to causenow.org.

For coverage of other events, go to independent.com/society.

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Policy and Communications Director Lucas Zucker with Honoree Oxnard Councilmember Gabby Basua | Credit: Gail Arnold
CAUSE Board President Jeremy Meyer and former CAUSE boardmember Danny Carrillo | Credit: Gail Arnold
CAUSE Boardmember Gabe Escobedo, CAUSE Boardmember Scott Fina, and Dennis Apel | Credit: Gail Arnold
SB Adult Organizer Wendy Santamaria, Policy Advocate Frank Rodriguez, and Santa Maria Youth Organizer Daniel Segura | Credit: Gail Arnold


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