David Secor says the hardest job he ever had was picking oranges with the Braceros in Riverside County in 1964.
“I was among two or three gringos,” he says. “We made $2 an hour or 33 cents a crate. Living in broken-down barracks, 20 cots on each side, with an inch and a half mattress and one wool blanket. It was like 40 degrees at night. And then it would get like 115 in the daytime. We’d get up at 4:30 in the morning.”
Now 64, and retired after 19 years as a clerk in San Diego Superior Court, Secor is tackling perhaps an even harder job: running for Congress as a Democrat against the second-term Republican incumbent.
“I left the court in July specifically to run against Duncan Hunter,” he said.
Secor, wearing a flag tie, introduced himself to an audience of 90 Wednesday night at the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club, whose featured speaker handicapped state and federal races in 2012 in light of redistricting.
Jess Durfee, the county Democratic Party chairman, said the new 50th Congressional District—Hunter’s old 52nd District—heavily leans right, with a GOP registration edge growing as a result of left-leaning La Mesa moving into the 53rd District.
Despite the handicap, Secor says he’ll reject corporate, union and PAC funding, and “I’ll take no contribution over $100—because I am not for sale.”
That’s meant to contrast with Hunter, whom Secor said got two-thirds of his contributions last year from defense contractors.
“He’s owned by the defense industry,” Secor says of Hunter.
“The other thing I’ve got going for me is I know what I’m talking about. … And Duncan Hunter signed the Grover Norquist [no tax-increase] pledge. It was suicide, because most Republicans are 99 percenters, too, and they know we have to increase revenues.”
Without deep pockets of his own—although he vows to give 20% of his $176,000 congressional salary to “nonprofits and education”—Secor says he’ll rely on Internet campaigning and social media to take on Hunter. His website is davidsecorforcongress.com.
“I’m going to be very strong on the Internet—Facebook, YouTube, Twitter,” he said after the Democratic Club meeting at the La Mesa Community Center. “These videos that I’m making have the chance, some of them, possibly of going viral. … I’m working very hard to be very sharp-edged.”
Secor (pronounced SEA-core) noted the hunger strike in 2010 by Democratic candidate Ray Lutz, undertaken to push Hunter into more debates.
A resident of Crest with his wife of four years, Patty (they knew each other in junior high and at Morse High School and met again at a reunion), Secor vowed: “I am going to make news,” but is still deciding exactly how.
He said the reason Hunter resisted debating Lutz “was because [Lutz] didn’t make Hunter bleed. I’m going to make Hunter bleed, so that he will be forced to deal with me.”
Secor also is relying on a fashion statement to get attention. He’s wearing a hat for the first time—a bowler, or derby—“so people will say: That’s the guy running for Congress. That’s what’s going to start happening.”
“If I don’t make myself known, then I don’t have any chance whatsoever,” he said.
Another strategy for Secor—converting the religious right.
“If I can’t reach those people [who oppose abortion], we can’t win,” he said. “Part of my campaign will be based on the Parables of Jesus.
“I am a firm and absolute believer in the separation of church and state. I believe what Jesus said: Render unto Caeser the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s. The reason the evangelical community has backed Republican people for 30 years is because the Republicans say they are wholly opposed to abortion. ‘We hate homosexuals, and we want prayer in schools.’
“So they vote Republican against their own interests on these social issues. Without these social issues, any clear-thinking evangelical would look at what these people are trying to do to each of them and realize you have to be insane.”
Secor recalled the Bible phrase “By their fruit you shall know them.”
“There’s this big shiny apple in the tree,” he said. “It’s the abortion issue…. Meanwhile, you have the rest of this tree with totally rotten fruit. It’s my job to get them to realize that in attempting to put your religious preferences into law, look what you have done to America over the last 30 years.”
Secor told the Democrats that he moved to California “from the great north woods of northern Wisconsin” with his family at age 12.
He now assumes the vernacular of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“I am a 99 percenter .. .and most of the people in [the new] District 50 are 99 percenters,” he said. “My job is to convince them that they have been led down the garden path for the last 30 years, and it’s got to stop.”
A county resident for more than 50 years, Secor highlighted his range of work experience.
“I’ve been a truck driver, a warehouseman,” he said. “I’ve been in housekeeping in a department store, I’ve been in maintenance. I’ve taught school. I graduated from San Diego State in ’72.”
But he concedes he didn’t achieve a career in teaching, as he had once hoped, because of alcoholism.
“The reason I had all these jobs, I found out later, was alcohol—even though I’ve never had a DUI,” he said. “I’ve never been arrested in my life. My last traffic ticket was 1967 for illegal U-turn. So I was what they call a functioning alcoholic.”
He conquered his addiction in 1990 when he joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and still attends AA meetings.
“That’s what changed my life,” he said. “Haven’t had a beer in 22 years.”
At San Diego Superior Court, he said he rose through the clerking ranks and recently won the ABCD Award—above and beyond the call of duty—by taking over an ill colleague’s job for six months while doing his own.
“They said it couldn’t be done,” he said. “And when I left, they had to give it back to two people.”
Secor said he’s always had an interest in politics—but not party politics.
Two ot three months ago, he said, he attended a Democratic Party event in Bonita.
“They didn’t know who I was,” he said. “I asked them first: Who does the party have running against Duncan Hunter? And they said: No one. And I said: Well, I’m running against him.”
“I’m retired. I own my own home. I have a small pension. I could sit back and watch this whole circus go by, but it’s important to me that the real people—the 99% you hear about—have a representative in Washington.”
If the Republicans have their way, he said Social Security will be privatized and Medicare will become a voucher program.
“It’s impossible; it’s ridiculous,” he said of GOP aims. “I will never allow any adjustments as far as Social Security is concerned. There is not a problem with Social Security. It can be fixed very easily. Ronald Reagan said Social Security is a trust between the government and the people.”
Recalling his 1964 job with Latin American labor, he noted efforts in Southern states to crack down on illegal immigration.
“I have nothing but absolute respect for those farmworkers. … You’re going to see Alabama lose $75 million this year when nobody goes out there and picks their fruits and vegetables. Georgia is going to be even worse. This disrespect for these workers is totally out of place. I admit that the nation has an immigration problem, but the idea of demonizing these people is wrong.”
Secor isn’t officially a candidate until early 2012, after he’s secured 3,000 signatures or paid a $1,740 filing fee.
He said he hopes announced Tea Party candidate Terri Linnell of Ramona and perhaps Democrat Connie Frankowiak of Julian will run as well—and combine their support to keep Hunter from achieving the 50% threshold that guarantees him re-election.
In 2012, the top two vote-getters in the state’s new open primary in June could face off in the November presidential election, even if both candidates are from the same party.
An Occupy San Diego participant and speaker, Secor said the country “has come to a point now where people are taking to the streets to be noticed because they have been, until now, the new silent majority. … And they need a spokesman.”
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