Patterson dinner increases
local Democrats’ coffers
By John Saiz
July 26, 2006
Central Valley Democrats hosted a $100-a-plate dinner Wednesday at the Diablo Grande Resort to help promote their party in local politics, with Tony
Coelho, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as the main attraction. Coelho represented Patterson and surrounding areas from 1978 to 1989 and acted as house majority whip. He resigned in 1989 amidst questions about his financial dealings, though no charges were ever placed against him.
“I’ve never been ashamed to call myself a liberal,” he said, “because I’m a liberal for the right reasons.” During his speech to about 100 people, Coelho focused on fiscal responsibility, immigration and the failings of the current administration. He referred to the state of foreign policy as “cowboy diplomacy” and said the United States is no longer held in esteem in many parts of the world. He said the leaders of the United States try to force democracy on the world and, in doing so, alienate other countries. As an example, he described the diplomatic situation with Venezuela — the world’s No. 2 supplier of crude oil. The United States tried to assassinate President Hugo Chavez, Coelho said, and then wondered why Venezuela didn’t like the U.S. In Iraq, he said, the United States went in to “kill the queen bee,” dictator Saddam Hussein, but has since spent $700 billion on a mismanaged war. “Foreign policy everywhere in the world is the worst it’s been in years,” he said.
On the topic of immigration, Coelho said his grandfather was an illegal immigrant who stowed away on a boat.“(The United States) is the only country in the world where people are fighting and dying to get in,” he said. He also told a story about the Hmong forces that helped U.S. troops during the Vietnam conflict. Many moved to the United States once the U.S. occupation in Vietnam ended. Coelho recalled later meeting with a mayor of Merced, who described the problems he’d had with the Hmong immigrants who came to live in his city. The cultural divide between the recent arrivals and some longtime Merced residents had led to unfair judgments of the newcomers. He went around the room and told the people of Merced that he was surprised to see them there, because he remembered how upset each of their predecessors had been when their communities were degraded — be they Italian, Dominican or black.
Locally, the organizers of Wednesday’s event hoped it would generate funds to help in the Central Valley. Neil Hudson, president of the Central Valley Democratic Club, said his party is interested in improving health care and public education, conserving farmland, stopping global warming and reducing oil consumption. The money raised at the event will go to the Central Valley Democratic Club, but it was the Democratic Westside Committee that spearheaded the evening. Patterson resident and Westside Committee member Gordon Barbosa said his organization hoped to raise at least $3,000 from the event. “Our goal is to get Democrats elected, but also to create more harmony between both parties,” he said.