Griping about the sad state of governance in this country is easy. Doing something positive to effect change… that requires hard work, dedication, and optimism, three qualities of Laura Gordon, a leading progressive activist from Valley Center.
Gordon believes it important for people to get involved in politics and in their own community. “Thomas Mann’s quote, ‘Everything is Politics,’ rings true,” Gordon said. “From the air we breathe, to the water we use to bathe with and irrigate our lands, to the curriculum taught in our schools, to our public libraries, to the roads we drive on, to local fire prevention and law enforcement to our military protecting us locally and overseas, politics affects almost every aspect of our lives. Get involved because it affects you or someone you care about. At the very least, inform yourself about the candidates and the issues, then vote!”
Indeed, Gordon is actively involved and informed. She is vice-president of the Valley Center Democratic Club, a member of North San Diego County and Valley Center Indivisible, and the vice-president of the completely apolitical Valley Center Western Days organization, a nonprofit which was formed just last year to put on the parade in Valley Center each Memorial Day Weekend.
As a criminal defense attorney working for the state, Gordon represents indigent clients on court appointed appeals. She is also on the board of California Appellate Defense Counsel, a state-wide professional organization for court-appointed attorneys, the membership chair, and its local chapter leader. She just became a member of the North County Latino Democrats and is on their Political Action subcommittee.
Big issues concern her
Many issues, both national and local, motivate Gordon. “For selfish reasons, I’m very concerned about affordable health care,” she said. “I have a pre-existing condition (Multiple Sclerosis), and without insurance, my medication would cost over $3,500 per month. I am also very concerned about the existence, still, of racism, sexism, and trans- and homophobia in our society. I really have a hard time understanding why people judge others on any basis other than who they are as individuals.
“I’d also love to get the influence of money out of politics. I don’t know how, but if we could do that, I think so many issues would be resolved. And, while I understand the need to address San Diego’s housing crisis, I’m in favor of smart growth and very much against developments that want to throw away San Diego’s General Plan and squeeze large housing developments into high risk fire areas zoned for exponentially lower densities.”
Gordon is very familiar with Lilac Hills Ranch and proud to have played a small part in the bi-partisan effort to defeat Prop. B last year. “Why did we spend 10 years and millions of taxpayer dollars on a General Plan if we were going to let big developers buy their way around its requirements?” she said.
The proposed privatization of Escondido’s public library alarms Gordon. “I have happy memories of visiting our local public library with my mom starting when I was probably three years old,” she said. “I use our Valley Center branch library and the Escondido Public Library all the time. I cannot imagine why any city would seek to privatize their library.”
Gordon would like to increase voter registration and voter participation. Specifically, she wants to empower the youth vote, the Native vote, the Latino vote and “any who continue to think their vote doesn’t matter or that both parties are the same,” she said. “We would also love for our members to run for local office. From everything I’ve heard, Valley Center is about to experience a time of rapid growth and change over the next five to ten years, and we need reasonable, rational, compassionate voices ensuring that environmentally smart methods are used and the rural feel of our community is preserved.”
Singing the Trump Blues
If you get Gordon going on Trump, you had better be prepared for an earful. “I get somewhat tongue-tied when I have to list the things that disturb me about our current president,” she said. “The fact that he bullied, scapegoated, and mocked his way to the Republican nomination, and that there is a certain segment of our population that voted for him, not in spite of, but because of that, really disturbs me.
I’ve said a number of times, I don’t know if I would be out in the streets protesting if John Kasich had won the Presidency.
“From what I’ve seen, the current administration wants to dismantle everything President Obama achieved, from seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a suitable replacement, to advocating a ban on transgender individuals from serving in our military, to wavering in its stance on DACA. And, of course, there’s our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord; his attacks on the media and specific reporters; his attacks on our judicial system and a specific local judge due to his Mexican heritage, and his attempts to curtail women’s reproductive rights. There really is just too much to list.”
Despite Gordon’s antipathy to Trump, she knows how to consider all sides with compassion, according to Judy Dobrotin, president of the Valley Center Democratic Club. “She is so open minded and willing to listen and addresses issues without being confrontational or in a hostile manner which has been so helpful for our Club,” Dobrotin said.
Another Democratic Club board member, Carolyn McGraw, agrees. “Laura has the ability to speak with people with whom she disagrees without edging into rancor,” McGraw said. “She can state her position clearly and factually without making the other person feel diminished. This is why Laura’s friendships are so wide and so deep. As a political activist Laura is inspiring. Laura cares.”
Being blue in a red region
Gordon may live in a blue state, but for local politics, red has traditionally prevailed. Rather than being a deterrence, the lack of democratic success in local races inspires her. “First off, this is where I live, so it’s what matters to me most,” she said. “Second, you would be amazed at how many wonderful people I have met just being involved in rallies, marches, town halls, and meetings, and just knowing there are so many others who share the same world view who live in this area – that’s empowering.
“Third, there actually are Democrats elected and serving on some of our local boards; however, they are nonpartisan positions so their political affiliation may not be known. Finally, as development continues, the demographics change, and the higher the density, the more Democratic places tend to be. But, as I said before, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of plopping big residential developments in rural, high risk fire zones.”
Gordon says her main goal as an activist has been to demonstrate that there is significant opposition to certain policies, to draw the public’s attention to those issues, and hopefully to draw out others who feel the same way but have been reluctant to speak out or were unaware of the many opportunities that exist to get involved.
For the Valley Center Democratic Club, Gordon aims to be a voice for those who align with liberal/progressive/Democratic values. “We are constantly striving to increase our visibility,” she said. “Every year we meet people who learn about our club who say they’ve lived here 10, 20, 30 years and thought they were the ONLY Democrats in Valley Center! And if you’re hearing of VC Dems for the first time right now and are interested, please visit our website http://vcdemos.org/ or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ValleyCenterDemocrats/.”
Becoming an Activist
Gordon says that she has always been interested in politics, but when she lived in Chula Vista, she didn’t do much more than vote. “We moved to Valley Center when George W. Bush was running for reelection, and I was opposed to many of his policies, leading me to pay more attention,” she said. “When my son started school and I interacted with other parents, I realized how conservative the area was and felt pretty isolated. Luckily, I learned about the Valley Center Democratic Club from the wife of my son’s Cub Scout den leader back in 2007-08. They have a ‘mixed marriage’ — he is conservative, and she is liberal.”
Gordon grew up in Connecticut, and moved to San Diego in 1990. She moved from Chula Vista to Valley Center in 2004. She got a B.A. in English from Syracuse University, then her J.D. from University of Connecticut School of Law. Her husband and she have one son in high school. Her husband is from Mexico City and owns Dobson’s, a restaurant in downtown San Diego.
Politics, career and family are not everything to Gordon. She plays soccer on two women’s over 40s teams; she loves reading and is in two book clubs. One meets at the Valley Center library and is very diligent about reading and discussing the books; the other meets at members’ homes and is mostly about the wine. “Oh, and I spend far too much time on Facebook,” she added.
Dobrotin cites Gordon’s many strengths. “Laura is such an amazing woman and a great friend; her personality shines before you ever even see her,” Dobrotin said. “She is extremely smart, friendly to everyone and everyone loves Laura; she is the first one to offer to help in so many situations.”
McGraw admires Gordon’s many strengths. “She is one of the most compassionate and empathetic people I have ever known,” McGraw said. “Laura is someone who brings people together and is inclusive in her relationships. She listens carefully, she understands. Laura has the unique ability to place herself, not only in someone else”s shoes, but in another person’s state of mind. This makes her empathy stronger than most.”
Gordon’s personal qualities set her apart, according to McGraw. “In the long run I think it is less about our professional accomplishments and more about how we touch others that really matters,” McGraw said. “Laura does both.
Every project she takes on is done in a collaborative, competent manner. However, I see her biggest strength as her kindness, compassion and understanding of others.”