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Latinos in Fallbrook Evaluate Ammar Campa-Najjar, Push for Representation

November 1, 2018

By Marielena Castellanos

Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego

Hope for political representation was felt loudly at a recent forum in Fallbrook by a group of residents who waved American flags and cheered with strong enthusiasm when Ammar Campa-Najjar entered a room at the Fallbrook library.

A small number of Latinos were also in the room, some of them wondering if Ammar Campa-Najjar’s election can help them. They are part of a larger Latino population in the North County for decades participating at all levels in the Fallbrook community, which has faced many challenges, including decades-long aggression and racism still being experienced today.

Fallbrook has historically been a conservative stronghold in San Diego politics, with Republicans in power in this area for decades and many Latinos feeling challenges they face have also been long ignored.

Campa-Najjar spoke to the Fallbrook residents hoping to secure their help to swing this election to a Democrat.

Some of the Latinos who attended left unsure about what Campa-Najjar’s election would mean for them.
Stephanie Ortiz, a resident of Fallbrook, went to the forum with her parents and her sister Jasmine Ortiz. Her father runs Aguilas Del Desierto a volunteer organization which looks for migrants who go missing. Her mother and sister work on a number of community projects including organizing health fairs for people who are uninsured, mobile food trucks and other projects.

“I feel like there is room for better dialogue among the Fallbrook community and creating space on topics essential and important to us. We came as a family to hear and listen to what he has to offer. Being an unincorporated area, it’s important that our voice is heard, considering we have two options either him or Duncan Hunter. Without considering the full impact of the topics he was discussing, it wasn’t a full conversation,” Stephanie stated.

“Some of those topics relate to immigration and the way it’s not being considered holistically, immigration reform is not enough, it doesn’t address the impact of moving and migrating, we’re talking about economic security, food, health, housing security. Those are issues we care about too.”

Stephanie also said there are other issues she could not speak on, “My voice only represents a small fraction. I think it would include a multitude of people from Fallbrook sitting down and dialoguing. Talking about what the history of this town is, like the representation in the room wasn’t sufficient to have a comfortable conversation,” she added.

Also in the room was Noemi Jara, a Fallbrook resident who works with the non-profit, InterTribal Youth, as a youth mentor, who has been following Campa-Najjar and plans to support him. Jara described the population in the community, “Fallbrook has a huge population of Mexican indigenous Oaxaquenos, Mixtecos, Zapotecos, Purépechas, Triqui, a huge Mayan community. We are on tribal land. This is Luiseño territory. Pala, Pauma, Rincon, all of those reservations, Fallbrook serves those students.”

“My elders built and sustain the avocado economy, the agriculture economy. A lot of our parents immigrated in the early 1950s and built the huge avocado, citrus economy here. We have big industries still sustained by our elders still working, still with no fixed papers, forty plus years of contributing to this economy. My family has been here for five generations, I wished we would have seen our elders represented in the forum. We have an important history that I think Ammar and his followers need to recognize and study this,” Noemi added.

Twentyone-year-old Jasmine Ortiz, sister of Stephanie, said she feels the Fallbrook Democratic Club is not representative of Latino community in her area.

“I didn’t know about them until they got involved in the Camp Pendleton issue. They said they are going to be allies to us. It had to take that to see people suffering to know we exist,” Jasmine said referring the proposal earlier this year to house immigrants caught crossing the border at the military base.

For Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Mexican-Palestinian who worked for the Obama administration, these are the final days to convince voters to support his candidacy with their vote.

In the 50th Congressional District, Republicans outnumber Democrats. A recent report from the County Registrar of Voters shows 59,490 registered voters in the district are Latinos so their vote can play a critical role in the election.

Campa-Najjar is running against Duncan Hunter who was recently indicted for allegedly using money from his campaign for personal use. In recent weeks Hunter has launched attacks against Campa-Najjar running misleading ads which falsely accuse Campa-Najjar of being a “radical Muslim trying to infiltrate the U.S. government,” even though he is Christian.

Nick Singer, Campa-Najjar’s Director of Communications said Campa-Najjar has been to Fallbrook several times and has actively attended meetings with different constituency’s in the district at least three times a day throughout the entire campaign. He also said Campa-Najjar is strongly committed to issues affecting marginalized communities. He said most of his staff is of Latino descent and that Campa-Najjar has been working openly with Tribal leaders to bring jobs to the reservations.

Diana Fink, co-founder of Indivisible Fallbrook, a coalition of grassroots progressive groups which formed last year, said she wants to connect with the women and was also disappointed there wasn’t a larger turnout of Latinos.

Fink said Campa-Najjar won her support at a forum some time ago. She said an older Latina woman walked into a meeting with him asking for help with her ballot. She said when the event was over and most of the crowd had moved on she saw Ammar helping the woman sitting by themselves. She appreciated he helped someone when no one was looking.

Elena Czarnowski who is of Mexican and German descent, is one of Indivisible Fallbrook’s newest members and joined six months ago and joined hoping to stop the separation of children from their parents at the border. She organized the forum in two weeks and personally spoke with a number of Latinos asking them to come.

She recalled when she first met Campa-Najjar, “When I saw him, I saw someone tangible, he blew me away. I saw a person who was humble. I thought he had good ideas. I saw parallels with my own life.”

“I want Fallbrook to be rich and connected. Latinos were officially invited. I canvassed neighborhoods where many Latinos live. But now that this happened, there are so many ways to connect. I hope this is a beginning,” Czarnowski said.

Ricardo Favela, with the Fallbrook Human Rights Committee and who was born and raised in Fallbrook said “Right now there is an attack on Latinos.”

He said the forum was the first time he heard of Campa-Najjar in Fallbrook “It’s difficult to build momentum for someone who shows up two weeks before an election.

Favela acknowledged groups like Indivisible Fallbrook have been knocking on people’s doors, but more Latinos need to get involved to turn out Latinos.

He also said voters should compare the records of both candidates adding he has some concerns with some of Campa-Najjar’s positions, but that Hunter has an extreme anti-Latino, anti-immigrant record.

Stephanie explained what is at stake for her, “It’s not just an event. This is our livelihood. This is our reality. This is not a transient thing. This is not Ammar’s campaign. This is our life. He has this going for him in his career, but these things will continue and the work is not going to stop for us, for our journey. The length of his campaign has a timeline. Ours doesn’t.”added.

Jara added, “Ammar acknowledged our community’s voice has been left out of forums like this, but there’s so many other voices that have been left out of these forums.”

Twentyone-year-old Jasmine Ortiz, sister of Stephanie, said she feels the Fallbrook Democratic Club is not representative of Latino community in her area.

“I didn’t know about them until they got involved in the Camp Pendleton issue. They said they are going to be allies to us. It had to take that to see people suffering to know we exist,” Jasmine said referring the proposal earlier this year to house immigrants caught crossing the border at the military base.

For Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Mexican-Palestinian who worked for the Obama administration, these are the final days to convince voters to support his candidacy with their vote.

In the 50th Congressional District, Republicans outnumber Democrats. A recent report from the County Registrar of Voters shows 59,490 registered voters in the district are Latinos so their vote can play a critical role in the election.

Campa-Najjar is running against Duncan Hunter who was recently indicted for allegedly using money from his campaign for personal use. In recent weeks Hunter has launched attacks against Campa-Najjar running misleading ads which falsely accuse Campa-Najjar of being a “radical Muslim trying to infiltrate the U.S. government,” even though he is Christian.

Nick Singer, Campa-Najjar’s Director of Communications said Campa-Najjar has been to Fallbrook several times and has actively attended meetings with different constituency’s in the district at least three times a day throughout the entire campaign. He also said Campa-Najjar is strongly committed to issues affecting marginalized communities. He said most of his staff is of Latino descent and that Campa-Najjar has been working openly with Tribal leaders to bring jobs to the reservations.

Diana Fink, co-founder of Indivisible Fallbrook, a coalition of grassroots progressive groups which formed last year, said she wants to connect with the women and was also disappointed there wasn’t a larger turnout of Latinos.

Fink said Campa-Najjar won her support at a forum some time ago. She said an older Latina woman walked into a meeting with him asking for help with her ballot. She said when the event was over and most of the crowd had moved on she saw Ammar helping the woman sitting by themselves. She appreciated he helped someone when no one was looking.

Elena Czarnowski who is of Mexican and German descent, is one of Indivisible Fallbrook’s newest members and joined six months ago and joined hoping to stop the separation of children from their parents at the border. She organized the forum in two weeks and personally spoke with a number of Latinos asking them to come.

She recalled when she first met Campa-Najjar, “When I saw him, I saw someone tangible, he blew me away. I saw a person who was humble. I thought he had good ideas. I saw parallels with my own life.”

“I want Fallbrook to be rich and connected. Latinos were officially invited. I canvassed neighborhoods where many Latinos live. But now that this happened, there are so many ways to connect. I hope this is a beginning,” Czarnowski said.

Ricardo Favela, with the Fallbrook Human Rights Committee and who was born and raised in Fallbrook said “Right now there is an attack on Latinos.”

He said the forum was the first time he heard of Campa-Najjar in Fallbrook “It’s difficult to build momentum for someone who shows up two weeks before an election.

Favela acknowledged groups like Indivisible Fallbrook have been knocking on people’s doors, but more Latinos need to get involved to turn out Latinos.

He also said voters should compare the records of both candidates adding he has some concerns with some of Campa-Najjar’s positions, but that Hunter has an extreme anti-Latino, anti-immigrant record.

Stephanie explained what is at stake for her, “It’s not just an event. This is our livelihood. This is our reality. This is not a transient thing. This is not Ammar’s campaign. This is our life. He has this going for him in his career, but these things will continue and the work is not going to stop for us, for our journey. The length of his campaign has a timeline. Ours doesn’t.”

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