Before the election of President Donald Trump last November, some Democrats in Tuolumne County say they were afraid to admit their political affiliation given the area’s conservative leaning.

However, that no longer appears to be the case judging by the turnout of about 200 people Thursday evening at Eproson Park in Twain Harte for a picnic hosted by the Tuolumne County Democrats to hear from candidates for California governor and U.S. Congress in 2018.

“What we’re trying to do is make people more comfortable to say they are a Democrat in this county,” said Deborah Baron, president of the Tuolumne County Democratic Club.

“And show that we’re still here,” added Diane Bennett, secretary of the Tuolumne County Democratic Central Committee.

The night’s festivities included live music by the DMV Trio, tacos catered by Sonora Taqueria, and speeches by Congressional District 4 candidates Regina Bateson, Jessica Morse, Roza Calderon and Rochelle Wilcox.

Delaine Eastin, a former state assemblywoman and California State Superintendent of Public Instruction who is running for governor in 2018, served as the keynote speaker.

Sharon Marovich, chairwoman of the Tuolumne County Democratic Central Committee, said she remembered county Democrats putting on a similar event in 2014 where the speakers included three men who were running for California Secretary of State.

“I thought how quaint, three men fighting it out to be a secretary,” Marovich joked to laughter from those in attendance. “Tonight, you are able to hear from four women who are running for Congress. The old glass ceiling is just chipping away.”

Bateson, of Roseville, is a native of the state’s Congressional District 4 who holds a doctorate degree in political science from Yale University and taught the subject as an assistant professor at MIT since 2013. She is also a mother to three young children.

Jobs, affordable health care and protecting the environment are the three main areas Bateson says she is focusing on in her campaign.

Calderon, of Granite Bay, grew up in Lincoln after coming to the United States in the 1980s as a refugee from El Salvador following an assassination attempt on her mother, who was believed to be a sympathizer of the guerilla forces that were fighting the military government at the time.

As a geoscientist, small-business owner, activist, and mother, Calderon says she believes the district’s current GOP representative, Congressman Tom McClintock, who lives outside of the district in Elk Grove, puts the Republican Party and his conservative philosophy over the needs of his constituents.

Morse, of Pollock Pines, is a national security strategist who has spent more than 10 years working for the federal government in the Defense Department, State Department, and United States Agency for International Development. She has worked in locations across the globe, including more than a year in Iraq where she says she narrowly escaped being kidnapped by ISIS fighters.

A fifth-generation Northern California native who has hiked 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Tahoe area to Mount Whitney, Morse says McClintock’s views on the role of government has led to him voting against legislation that would help the people in his rural district.

Wilcox, who lives in Roseville with her husband and two sons, has worked as a First Amendment lawyer for nearly 20 years. She wants to improve the struggling economies of rural communities in the district with a focus on improving education and job training.

Although a newcomer to politics, Wilcox said she believes her background in law will help her work across the aisle to effect legislation that will benefit the district.

The women are looking to unseat a veteran Republican politician who has won the district in the past five congressional election cycles and amassed a war chest of more than $300,000 for 2018.

Under the state’s open primary rules, the top two vote-getters in the June primary regardless of party preference will move onto the November general election.

They will also have to overcome a GOP advantage in voter registration. Out of the district’s 444,647 registered voters as of the state’s latest report from February, 43.62 percent were Republicans, 29.09 percent were Democratic, 20.65 percent were independent, and 6.64 percent were third party or “other.”

Stretching from Truckee to the Sequoia National Forest, the district created through an independent redistricting process in 2010 encompasses Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties, as well as portions of Fresno, Madera, Nevada and Placer counties.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.