ELECTION ‘12//OAKLAND DISTRICT 3 | Pedro Rios is the Republican candidate for the 32nd Assembly District in Kern County. He waxes romantically about his up-from-the-boot-straps rise from the fields of the Central Valley to hopefully a seat in the State Legislature. It’s standard conservative “I built that” bullshit that resonates with many in rural California towns. Except, the Republican candidate never mentioned he came to the United States as nine-year-old undocumented immigrant. Rios didn’t mention it because it strays far from GOP’s talking points that ostensibly demonize such people for all its ills and, also, that he opposes the DREAM Act, which if enacted in his pre-teen years, would have greatly helped him in particular.
There is quite a bit of race politics and hypocrisy in this story, but it also shows how progressives in Oakland and the East Bay, as a whole, live in a completely different political environment. Oakland District 3 City Council candidate Alex Miller-Cole also arrived in America as an undocumented immigrant. He doesn’t always mention this fact, but he has not entirely shielded it from the public, either. Miller-Cole offered his immigrant story at a few candidates’ forums over the past few months, including his arrival as a teenager to success in business to his citizenship just a few years ago. Anywhere else and Miller-Cole’s autobiography would be a revelation worthy of an expose and attempts by opponents to ding him as “not from here.” Instead, the disclosure is just as unimportant as how Miller-Cole enjoys his morning coffee.
With a large ethnic population in Oakland, taking shots at Miller-Cole’s path to citizenship is a risky political move. But, maybe it should be examined more fully for other reasons. Alex Miller-Cole is not his real name. His odd mixture of Anglo names, he says, comes from urgings by a former business colleague to change his name to something more palatable to rich white folks and by marriage. It is not exactly odd for people to change their names when they become U.S. citizens, but politically, it opens voters to ask themselves, “What is he hiding from?”
In emails to supporters, Miller-Cole has also trumpeted creating his first “corporation” as a young man in his 20s. Some of Miller-Cole’s critics have done the math and wonder how an undocumented immigrant could have been so successful on his own in the business world when the legality of his residency would have been in great question.
And then, there’s this somewhat paranoid and ultimately ironic tale. When I asked Miller-Cole about his unique immigrant tale a few months back and how long it had been since he became a citizen, he claimed one of his opponents for the District 3 seat this fall had been snooping into his background and making secret inquiries into his illegal residency status. Later in this cloak and dagger story, he accused Sean Sullivan and his surrogates of perpetrating pressure against him that became part of the impetus leading him to citizenship.
Some may recall this was the same setting where Miller-Cole referred to Sullivan as an “asshole” and later questioned Sullivan’s loyalty to the No on Prop. 8 movement. Sullivan often mentions his participation in fundraising for the No on Prop. 8 campaign, yet Miller-Cole downplayed his opponent’s sincerity for the cause. As Miller-Cole sees it, he righteously heeded the call of Beyonce, and all the single ladies, and told his partner to “put a ring on it,” while Sullivan chose not to, at least, for now. “Maybe he’s not ready to make a commitment,” I said to Miller-Cole that evening in West Oakland, to which he smiled and shrugged.
In the meantime, folks in Kern County would have been foaming at the mouth and pulling clumps of hair out of head in anger over a candidate who not only was an undocumented immigrant, but also one who kisses men! Oh, dear!