Yes on Proposition 16 Campaign Announces Campaign Leadership Team Reflective of California

Yes on Proposition 16, the November ballot initiative to expand equal opportunity for all Californians, today announced a historic campaign leadership team made up of some of the most high-profile strategists and notable civil rights advocates from across the state. 

The campaign co-chairs will be Eva Paterson, President and Co-Founder of Equal Justice Society, and Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, who served as co-chairs of the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA 5 (the legislation that became Proposition 16), alongside Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

Paterson has fought for civil rights as an advocate and attorney for over 45 years, as the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the founder of the California Civil Rights Coalition, and since 2003, as the President and Co-Founder of Equal Justice Society.

Pan has been a leading voice of progress on racial justice issues — to expand HIV/AIDS treatment in China with The Clinton Foundation, as the board co-chair of the Center for Asian American Media, and now as the Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, advocating for justice on issues of language access, immigrant rights, and affirmative action. 

Saenz is one of the nation’s foremost civil rights champions for the Latino community and successfully challenged California’s unconstitutional Proposition 187 and led numerous civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, education, employment, and voting rights. 

The Proposition 16 Executive Committee also includes Quinn Delaney and Walter Wilson.  Quinn Delaney, Founder and Board Chair of Akonadi Foundation, is a noted philanthropist who has focused her giving on supporting the development of powerful social change movements to eliminate structural racism and create a racially just society. Walter Wilson is a long-time civil rights activist and business leader who has worked for over 50 years to increase representation and contracting opportunities for women and people of color, currently serving as the CEO of the Silicon Valley Minority Business Consortium. 

Wilson is also a co-founder of the California Racial Justice Coalition, the movement that created the national campaign against racial profiling, also known as DWB (Driving while Black and Brown).  Wilson is the former State Vice President of the California NAACP, where he led the NAACP fight against Prop 187 and Prop 209, and is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and NOW.  Wilson headed up the Silicon Valley resettlement of over 500 Katrina evacuees, serves as a project manager and Board member of the Silicon Valley African-American Cultural Center project, and is a former Board member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara County.

Nicole Derse, Principal and Co-Founder of 50+1 Strategies, and Courtni Pugh, Co-founder of Shatter, LLC and Partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, will serve as co-general consultants, leading the campaign team. 

Both Derse and Pugh are among the country’s top women political consultants. Derse is a recipient of the Association of American Political Consultants’ 2015 Ballot Measure of the Year Award and a veteran of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  In just eight years, Derse has built one of the state’s largest and most diverse firms in 50+1 Strategies, recently leading campaigns and programs with the ACLU, California Democratic Party, Reform LA Jails, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks and David Chiu, and more. 

For decades, Pugh has worked to pass some of the state’s most progressive measures and elect some of California’s most high profile electeds, including Kevin de León, Kamala Harris, and John Chiang. A trailblazer in her own right, Courtni has a long history working with organized labor and was the first Asian American woman to serve as political director of the LA county federation of labor and the Executive Director of the SEIU California State Council.

Addisu Demissie, Principal and Co-Founder of 50+1 Strategies, who is currently serving as a senior advisor to Joe Biden for President and recently served as campaign manager for Senator Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign, will serve as strategic advisor.  Demissie also managed Governor Newsom’s successful 2018 campaign. 

Sharon Paez Sharon Páez is a co-founding partner at Shatter LLC and Potomac Waves Media where she has advised and created some of the most cutting edge, multi -lingual paid media campaigns — helping to deliver the margin of victory for some of the nation’s highest office holders such as US Senator Tim Kaine, Jacky Rosen, and currently advising Mark Kelly for US Senate. She will also serve as a strategic advisor. 

The diverse staff teams at both 50+1 Strategies and Shatter will also play important roles in the campaign.

“There has never been a more critical moment to restore equal opportunity in California,” said Derse in a statement. “Women, especially women of color, are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. We need to act now to ensure all our communities are safe, and on a path to a more equitable future. In this historic moment, we can build a stronger California by rooting out racism and discrimination in all its forms, by rebuilding a system that believes Black lives matter, and by ensuring that everyone — regardless of what you look like or who you are — has the same opportunities in employment, education, and business.”

Pugh continued, “As two women, we are enormously proud to serve as general consultants for this historic campaign. The team behind Yes on Proposition 16 is a distinguished group of experts and advocates from communities across California. This is the year for equal opportunity in California — and with this team behind it, we are confident that voters will vote yes on Proposition 16 in November.”

Andy Wong, Director of External Relations for The Education Trust–West, an education equity advocacy group, and former Engagement Director for Giffords — a national gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — will serve as Campaign Manager.

“As a woman of color who has worked in business for decades, I can tell you: it is far past time for equal opportunity in California,” said Schenae Rourk, President of Redwood Resources, an outreach and procurement firm based in Los Angeles and member of the Proposition 16 steering committee. “The status quo serves the old boy’s network, and no one else: California businesses owned by women and people of color are denied $1.1 billion per year as a result of lost government contracts. Women and people of color who want to create jobs and build a thriving business in California by accessing critical government and local agency contracts should have equal opportunity to do so. That’s why it’s so critical we pass Proposition 16 this November.”

“Racist rhetoric and paranoia surrounding COVID-19 has led to rampant bigotry, job loss, and violence for many Asian Americans who call California home,” said Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s absolutely clear now: we have a long way to go to root out structural racism, guarantee fair wages and hiring practices, and ensure educational and economic access.  Proposition 16 will deliver equal opportunity for AAPI Californians — putting millions, whether they have called California home for generations or are just starting out, on the road to a healthy, safe, stable life.” 

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, (MALDEF), which has endorsed Proposition 16, said, “Twenty-four years ago, Latino voters saw through the lie and had the highest proportion of votes against eliminating the critical equal opportunity programs that Prop. 16 would finally restore.  With Latinos now comprising a quarter of California voters and forming a critical component of the state’s economy today and in the future, Latinos will come forward to make an enduring contribution to our state’s equal-opportunity future by voting Yes on Prop. 16.” 

“We have fought for the issue of equal opportunity in California for decades,” said Eva Paterson, President of Equal Justice Society. “The death of Mr.  George Floyd forced the nation and world to acknowledge the vitality of toxic racism.  The shift in consciousness was critical to the passage of ACA 5 which resulted in putting Proposition 16 on the November ballot., When we started this journey in August 2019, Dr. Weber and our coalition were told that the reinstatement of affirmative action and the repeal of Proposition 209 was impossible. After much hard work on the part of the amazing members of the Opportunity for All Coalition ACA 5 was approved by both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support. Now voters across the state by voting Yes on Proposition 16 can make the California Dream a reality for all.”

The consultant team, which is more than 50% women and more than 70% people of color, also includes award-winning communications strategists Dan Newman, advisor to Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris, as well as 2012’s Yes on Proposition 36 campaign; Brian Brokaw, current outside advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom and campaign manager for Yes on Proposition 64, which legalized the adult use of marijuana in California. Amelia Matier, a long-time campaign operative who recently served on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential team and managed Buffy Wicks’ campaign for State Assembly will serve as Press Secretary. Media firms 76 Words, who developed creative for 2018’s Amendment 4 in Florida and Initiative 940 (on police de-escalation) in Washington State, along with lead creative development of television advertising, and Resonance Campaigns will help lead on direct mail and digital creative development.

The consultant team’s diversity is reflective of its dedication to reaching every California community as part of the Yes on Proposition 16 campaign. Cecilia Cabello, former California State Director for Pete Buttigeg’s presidential campaign and has been a long-time member of the political landscape in Los Angeles and Sarah Palacios, former political director for Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Léon, will lead Latino/a community outreach and political engagement. Ron Wong and Imprenta Communications Group, one of the leading AAPI-driven communications firms in California, will lead Asian American Pacific Islander engagement, small business outreach, and media; and Taisha Brown, Chair of the California Democratic Party’s African American Caucus, will help engage the Black community.  María Elena Jauregui, a news broadcasting expert specializing in Spanish Language Media will lead Latino Media Outreach.  Calvin Sung, who most recently served as the  California Organizing Director for Steyer 2020 will serve as the Analytics Director. 

Beyond its Executive Committee, the current Steering Committee is comprised of: California State Board of Equalization Member Malia M. Cohen; Paul Guerrero of La Raza Roundtable de California; University of California Student Association Government Relations Director Parshan Khosravi; University of California Student Association Statewide Organizing Director Salih Muhammad; Redwood Resources President Schenae Rourk; Los Angeles civil rights attorney Lisa Holder; The Education Trust – West  Executive Director Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga; AFSCME Local 3299 State Political Director Julie Diaz Waters; PICO California Director of Organizing Joey Williams.  Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber, who authored ACA 5 and shepherded Proposition 16 to the ballot, is an honorary member. 

The Proposition 16 campaign team will be expanding their Steering Committee in the coming weeks to include even stronger representation from across California. 

For more information on the Yes on Proposition 16 campaign, visit voteyesonprop16.org.

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