VISTA — Around 200 people gathered in front of the Vista office of U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), like they have every Tuesday for the past 65 or so weeks.
This time would be their last.
Indivisible 49, the organization behind the so-called “resistance rallies,” started staging protests outside of Issa’s office in January 2017, and have held one each week since. Organizers said it is believed to be the longest running and largest resistance protest in the country.
But on April 24, organizers said it was time to focus on the June primary election, in which a crowded field of Democrat and Republican candidates are looking to fill the seat being relinquished by Issa, who announced in January that he would not seek re-election.
“I have such mixed feelings about it, I am going to miss seeing these people every Tuesday morning,” said Ellen Montanari, one of the protests’ chief organizers. “Yet, it also frees up about 40 hours of my time … and I’m going to take all of that time and putting in this last push, these last 30 days to get out the vote.”
As was the case in January, when a large impromptu rally broke out to celebrate Issa’s retirement announcement, Democratic candidates for the seat could be seen in the crowd, including Sara Jacobs, Paul Kerr and Chrissy Levin, the wife of candidate Mike Levin.
Levin echoed Montanari’s sentiments about the bittersweet nature of the final rally.
“It is a combination of sadness and excitement,” Levin said. “Sadness because this has been such a unifying event for everyone, and really a point for people to come together regardless of which candidate they supported, to come together to support a common mission. And excitement, though, because it means we are on to the next phase, and something exciting and hopefully a Democrat in Congress.”
Meanwhile, as rally attendees cheered and applauded as Montanari and other speakers addressed the crowd, Steve Hasty, a Trump supporter, spoke over an amplified sound system in an effort to drown out the other side. He was joined by two other men, including James Hawkins, who said it was important to show the counterpoint to the Indivisible 49 rally.
“It is very important because politics decides who gets what, and some people want stuff of other people and they don’t care who gets hurt,” Hawkins said, alluding to policies championed by Democrats. “So it’s important to come out and influence politics any way you can and one way (is to) come out be seen and give your opinion.
“I want to avoid lot of what they want to put into place, because I see it as putting more burdens on me and taking my liberty away,” Hawkins said.
On the other side of the street, Montanari and others said the group was entitled to be there, and that it would not dampen their celebration.
“I love free speech,” Montanari said. “I don’t agree with his policies but thank God we live in a country where we can be out here talking like this.”
Kerr said, however, that the large disparity between rally attendees portends what’s to come in the primary and general elections.
“I think it is rather than symbolic, it’s emblematic of what the election is going to be like,” Kerr said. “Democrats are activated, they are engaged, they are ready to make this happen.”
Some attendees, however, said they would like to see some of the Democrats who are behind in the polls drop out of the race to ensure one Democrat advances to the November runoff. California has open primaries, meaning the two top vote-getters advance, regardless of party.
“I believe that the new candidates need to narrow down to get one good candidate, there are a lot of good candidates out there, but they need to really narrow down to which is the best one of the group and go with it,” said Cynthia Free, a San Diego resident who has attended many of the weekly rallies with her husband, Roger.
“I think they need to leave just two or three (candidates),” Roger Free added. “There is just too many.”
Most of the attendees — including Chrissy Levin — said they had pledged to immediately throw their support behind whichever of the Democratic field advances to the runoff.
“Too much is at stake to be divided,” Levin said.