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Fresno County Democratic Party Press Release on Jose Ornelas

Fresno County Democratic Party Press Release on Jose Ornelas


July 21, 2020

FRESNO—The Fresno County Democratic Party is deeply saddened at the sudden loss of José Ornelas. José was a member of the San Joaquin City Council having been elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018. He also served on the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee and the California Democratic Party’s Voter Services Committee.

            “Fresno County Democrats have a big loss and void to fill,” says Ruben Zarate, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party. “José’s work and value had been something we’d been longing for as far as activism goes from our west-side communities.”

            A well-respected leader, José was a fighter on behalf of San Joaquin and other west-side communities. He worked aggressively to engage the community and formed a community group so that residents could more effectively address their concerns before the City Council. That group, New Alliance for Change in San Joaquin, will be one of his enduring legacies.

            José is survived by his wife, Nadia, and six children.

Community leaders shared with us their thoughts on José:

“The city of San Joaquin and Fresno County has lost a dedicated civic leader whose service will be remembered for empowering his constituents to become engaged, to be heard and to be respected. My deepest sympathy to the Ornelas family during this difficult time of loss.”

—State Controller Betty Yee

“Council Member Ornelas was a true leader taking every opportunity to advocate for clean drinking water, workers’ rights and educational investment in the City of San Joaquin. In Council Member Ornelas, farmworker families in rural communities found a champion. My sincere condolences to the Ornelas family and the City of San Joaquin for this unexpected loss.”

—Rep. TJ Cox

“Councilmember José Ornelas set the standard for leading by example. He committed his life to advocating for his beloved San Joaquin by working to combat injustices, poverty and championing water quality issues in his community. Immediately after I took office, he was one of the first to meet with me to discuss the needs of his city. West-side communities have lost a true friend and supporter. My sincerest condolences to his family, and all of those who were touched by his life.”

—State Senate Anna Caballero

“We have lost a great advocate and human being. Council Member José Ornelas was a champion for west-side Fresno County communities. His leadership in fighting for water, funding and resources for the City of San Joaquin did not go unnoticed. My wife, Elizabeth, and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, children, family and friends. He will be greatly missed.”

—Assembly Member Dr. Joaquin Arambula 

“José felt the need to focus on the poor communities of western Fresno County by reminding us about the under-education of its youth and the denial of opportunities for the people of these impoverished communities. As a leader, José had the courage to fight to move these communities forward and to adopt a ‘Servant Leadership’ standard to improve the quality of life for all. José understood that those sitting at the tables of power continue to make decisions that have a negative impact on the most vulnerable.”

— Kerman City Council Member Espi Sandoval

“The sudden death of San Joaquin Council Member José Ornelas is a big loss for the west-side communities of the central San Joaquin Valley known as the Appalachia of the West. José was dedicated to increasing the quality of life for the west side by championing the right to have clean potable drinking water for all the west-side communities. He was a rising star within the Democratic Party taking positions on better education, immigration, decent wages and equality for all people in California. I will be missing a good friend, teacher and advisor. Instead of crying and sadness, José would tell us, like Mother Jones, ‘Don’t mourn, organize.’”

—Humberto Gomez Sr., community organizer

“José Ornelas was a good father, husband, coach and dedicated to working hard to become the best public servant in Fresno County. When the families of San Joaquin demanded quality drinking water, José was determined to work with State Senator Anna M. Caballero to do just that; an $8 million grant was allocated!”

—Eliseo Gamiño, president of the Central Valley Leadership Round Table

“José became a friend who made me think deeply about many things, including the complexity of life in a small town that too many people easily pass by, without noticing what’s wrong or appreciating what’s right. I came to his town to study the voters who’d stopped practicing political self-determination and I stayed longer than I’d intended, because he and his generous family and friends gave me hope. I could see that if we could just resolve a few issues here and there, anything was possible—all across America. Like José, small towns in America tell us who we really are. More towns and cities need people who are invested in life like José was.”

—Halima Aquino, director of the Voter Engagement and Education Project (VEEP)

“In 2013, José Ornelas helped us form a community group, New Alliance for Change in San Joaquin. He was always concerned about his community, and together we were successful in having our voices heard about our problems with contaminated drinking water. He always had time to listen to us about the needs of the community, and if he could not help us he would reach outside the community for help. He was a great leader, and this is an enormous loss for our group and our community. He will not be forgotten and will always be in our hearts.”

—Eva Luna, president of New Alliance for Change in San Joaquin

“José was a humble person, a leader for the unheard, underrepresented, and gave the community of San Joaquin hope. José never forgot where he came from, from the state of Jalisco. He wanted to make sure his community had equal opportunities in education, economic development and accessible potable water. His death unfortunately leaves a large abscess in our hearts, but I will always remember statements from some in the crowd, “Damn it, the Mexicans showed up,” well credit José, and this will continue to be his legacy. José was our John Lewis, without the notoriety or famous recognition, but he lives in our hearts.”

—Humberto Gomez Jr., Region 8 director of the California Democratic Party

“José was determined to improve the quality of life in his community. When he would encounter a roadblock (and there were many), he would quietly and doggedly persist until that obstacle had been overcome. He formed a community group to inform his service as a San Joaquin City Council member and, in turn, saw many of them become civically engaged. José was a beacon of light for the west side of Fresno County.”

—Michael D. Evans, former chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party

Media Inquiries:

Fresno County Democratic Party


FCDP Press Release:  Redistricting Commission

FCDP Press Release: Redistricting Commission

Press Release
July 16, 2019

Redistricting Commission

FRESNO—California is looking for 14 citizens to join the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw district lines for future elections so that new districts will accurately represent the new population data. The redrawing of districts will be completed in August 2021 and will be reflected in the 2022 election.

The selection committee conducts comprehensive outreach to ensure the widest possible applicant pool for the commission, drafts regulations for the Voters First Act, which authorized the creation of the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, and facilitates the formation of the redistricting commission every three years.

To be eligible, individuals must have been registered with the same political party, or as Decline to State/No Party Preference, since July 1, 2015, and must have voted in at least two of the last three elections. However, an applicant might not be eligible if she/he has a conflict of interest defined by the Act within the 10 years prior to submitting an application.

A voter also cannot serve on the commission if the she/he or a member of his/her immediate family has been appointed to, elected to, or been a candidate for a California Congressional or state office; served as an officer, employee or state consultant of a California political party or of the campaign committee of a candidate for California Congressional or elective state office; or has been a registered lobbyist.

The 60-day application is open from June 10 to Aug. 9. The entire selection process, which will culminate in a new commission, will end no later than Aug. 15, 2020.

Once elected, the commission will conduct an open and transparent process of enabling full public consideration on the redrawing of district lines. The commission is to be independent from legislative influence and should be representative of the state’s diversity.

The commission will establish single-member districts for the Senate, Assembly, Congress and State Board of Equalization pursuant to a mapping process in alignment with the set criteria. Along with the responsibility of drawing district lines, the commission will hold public meetings to solicit and receive public input, research and analyze data used to set geographic boundaries, hire support staff and prepare legal defense to defend any action regarding a certified map.

“California’s redistricting commission is the fairest and most transparent determinant of legislative districts in the country,” says Michael D. Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party. “We encourage eligible Central Valley voters to apply to be part of this important initiative.”

Individuals can apply at

The Fresno County Democratic Party serves as the official governing entity of the Democratic Party in the county in cooperation with the state and national Democratic committees. Visit the local Democratic Party at 1033 U Street in downtown Fresno. For more information, contact 559-495-0606 or

Media Inquiries:

Michael D. Evans

Chair, Fresno County Democratic Party


FCDP Press Release:  Redistricting Commission

Supreme Court Decision on Gerrymandering
Supreme Court Decision on Gerrymandering
FRESNO—Supreme Court justices “turned their backs on voters” with their decision to block federal courts from intervening with how Congressional districts are outlined. The Supreme Court ruling essentially reinforces the unfair advantage of “oddly shaped voting districts” by allowing the continuance of partisan gerrymandering.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who decided the 5-4 victory for conservatives, justified his decision by stating that “federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.” 
    By allowing partisan gerrymandering to continue, the Supreme Court has implied that “free and fair” elections should not be part of America’s democracy. Although this decision will have different effects for different states, it “intensifies the importance of primary elections for candidates,” according to CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck.
Furthermore, this decision indicates that “the only way we’ll end partisan gerrymandering is by voting Republicans out of power in state legislatures,” according to Jessica Post, executive director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. 
    Opponents of the Supreme Court’s decision, such as Justice Elena Kagan, stated, “In the face of escalating partisan manipulation whose compatibility with this nation’s values and law no one defends—the majority declines to provide any remedy.
“For the first time in this nation’s history, the majority declares that it can do nothing about an acknowledged constitutional violation because it has searched high and low and cannot find a workable legal standard to apply.”
The Supreme Court decision was in response to districts gerrymandered by the Republican legislature in North Carolina. “Trump’s handpicked Supreme Court may not think what the NC GOP did was unconstitutional,” states Wayne Goodwin, chair of the N.C. Democratic Party, “but the millions of North Carolinians who’ve suffered for years under maps that silence them know: The right to have your vote count equally is the cornerstone of who we are as a nation.
“There is no issue that gerrymandering doesn’t touch. Expanding access to affordable healthcare, preventing gun violence, acting on climate change, protecting reproductive rights—across the board, the progress we all want depends on representative districts.”
“The Supreme Court decision upholding the N.C. gerrymandering institutionalizes another roadblock to fair and transparent elections,” says Michael D. Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party.”  But our role now is clear: We must oust the party that set in motion this un-democratic through aggressive voter education and turnout. We will return democracy to our country.”

The Fresno County Democratic Party serves as the official governing entity of the Democratic Party in the county in cooperation with the state and national Democratic committees. Visit the local Democratic Party at 1033 U Street in downtown Fresno. For more information, contact 559-495-0606 or
Media Inquiries:
Michael D. Evans
Chair, Fresno County Democratic Party
Press Release: Fresno Democrats on Census

Press Release: Fresno Democrats on Census

For Immediate Release
June 19, 2019
2020 Census
FRESNO—The 2020 Census, scheduled to begin on April 1, will introduce new methods of collecting Census information through the adoption of online, mail-in and in-person access to questionnaires.
            Newly introduced methods are meant to ensure the population is counted accurately and effectively, but people are vulnerable to scams. To avoid becoming a victim, ensure that any mailed Census information is from Jeffersonville, IN; any callers can be verified by the National Processing Center; and all in-person visitors have valid identification.
Any e-mails received on behalf of the Census Bureau should be forwarded to for verification. If you are unsure whether you are being scammed, call the Census Bureau Regional Office at 1-800-992-3530.
            The purpose of the Census is to receive an accurate and representative count of the U.S. population. The information is then used for redistricting, which puts some states at risk for losing seats in the House of Representatives as well as losing funds allocated to cover per capita and specific population costs. California is one of the states at risk of losing seats and funds if the Census does not accurately reflect California’s population.
            A factor that contributes to an inaccurate population count is the percentage of hard-to-count areas within a county. There are 476,414 people within Fresno County who have a higher risk of going uncounted, which accounts for almost half of the county’s population. Areas in southwest Fresno County are especially at risk of being undercounted.
Due to the large immigrant population in California, the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census could serve as a deterrent to immigrant population participation. This issue directly affects Fresno, which has a substantial immigrant population.
“Equitable representation for our Latino community depends on a thorough and accurate 2020 Census count,” says Annalisa Perea, a State Center Community College District trustee. “A significant amount of effort is required in order to achieve full participation in the 2020 U.S. Census, especially in the California community college system, which has some of the hardest-to-count residents in the state.
“That’s why I’m proud that at the local community college district, we’ve already entered into an agreement with the California Complete Count Office for use of office space at Fresno City College to support complete count efforts here in the Central Valley.
“The thoroughness and integrity of the Census count are critical,” says Michael D. Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party. “Our state needs full representation and access to all the resources to which we are entitled. An accurate Census will ensure that.”
The Fresno County Democratic Party can be reached at 559-495-0606 or
Media Inquiries:
Michael D. Evans, 704-975-8874,