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Most of the Democrats running for governor of California are hard to miss at the state party’s convention this weekend in San Diego. Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin are roaming the convention center, making speeches to delegates and—whether signing autographs or being booed—facing crowds of supporters and detractors at every turn.
Not so with Amanda Renteria, the political director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, who announced her longshot campaign for governor earlier this month. Renteria is at the convention but keeping a relatively low profile. She’s not addressing delegates because she got in the race too late to have her name included on their endorsement ballot.
“We are doing it differently,” Renteria said in a brief interview with CALmatters.
“The normal, traditional ‘Did you get this endorsement? Did you raise $10 million? Are you poll-tested?’… Those are the kinds of things we are just not going to do. In fact, I believe they have eroded the authenticity of people running.”
Renteria, who grew up near Fresno, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014 when she challenged Republican Rep. David Valadao for his seat representing the Central Valley. Renteria now lives in Menlo Park with her husband and two young children. She recently stepped down from her job as operations chief to Attorney General Xavier Becerra to launch her gubernatorial campaign, a move that shocked the political establishment.
Renteria said she’d been thinking about running for governor since November but decided to go for it in January after sitting through a debate among the Democratic candidates in which Newsom and Villaraigosa attacked each other over their business ventures.
“It was the debate of who used what more to get rich,” Renteria said.
“I’m sitting there in the crowd with a lot of college students … and there was a piece of me that wanted to jump up and say, ‘Wait, this is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be about how you’re going to enrich yourself. It’s supposed to be about serving others.’”
Renteria said she wanted to focus on poverty and income inequality, but offered no policy specifics on the subject. Instead, she said she wants voters to get to know her first.
“It is also important for political leaders not to just put forth policies but to make sure we’re actually working with people to understand what their needs are,” she said.
“A lot of people criticized the Hillary campaign for having all these policies—and we had some really great policies—but if you’re not actually connecting them to folks, I think it’s hard for people to understand how they’re involved or to be a part of it.”