As Election Day 2022 grows near, The Beat sat down for a talk with the leadership of the newly formed East Valley Democratic Club of Santa Clara County, a membership organization chartered by the County Democratic Party aiming to create a cohesive and empowered community among local Democrats while upholding and eventually endorsing select candidates…
The Club’s President & Secretary is former Milpitas City Councilmember and School Board Trustee Marsha Grilli, its Vice President & Treasurer is Ray Mueller, and its Membership Director is Clarence Madrilejos.
“There was a need,” explained Madrilejos, “to have a Democratic club in this side of the valley…We just don’t have a sizable, dedicated activist community…”
In the past, there have been a couple attempts at such clubs in the Berryessa area, so it made sense to pool Milpitas, Berryessa, Evergreen, Alum Rock, and as much of the East Valley as possible into one new organization.
Said Madrilejos, “In the long-term, we want this to be a sustainable club, that can build a community, that can be able to share common values, and also advocate for candidates that this side of the valley cares about.” He added that right now “There’s no unifying voice that can be able to help push good people to elected office.”
Grilli pointed out that Milpitas had already had the Milpitas Democratic Club for a number of years. It was run by Deepka Lalwani, who passed it off to Grilli, essentially saying, Why not expand it and look at the state issues that we’re all dealing with?
Grilli emphasized the priority of crossing local borders and building meaningful partnerships so as to open up our local area. According to Mueller, being able to say that the East Valley Democratic Club was co-sponsoring one particular event enticed Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez to attend.
Mueller added, “The East Side of San Jose is frequently discounted as only the place where the lowriders came from and the place where people get killed. We’re not. And I think this is a chance for us to be part of a bigger thing that makes us a little bit more respected.”
“This side of the Valley’s been underrepresented, all the way from Milpitas down to Evergreen and everywhere in between,” Madrilejos shared.
This year, the club is supporting candidates endorsed by the County party, but in the future, they seek to do their own endorsements. For the time being, they are gathering awareness, as well as members…
“We want this to last,” said Madrilejos. “I want to make sure we have a solid foundation, that we’re building a strong sense of community…as diverse as this side of the Valley is, in terms of our points of view, approaches, backgrounds, history, race, gender, orientation, and [it] ends up being sustainable.”
All three leaders have strong personal ties to the Democratic Party, highlighting its priorities, mindset, and past history…
“I’m gay,” said Mueller. “I don’t understand how Log Cabin Republicans are able to build that log cabin…” The first election Mueller worked on took place in the 1980s, during the Reagan era, in Lake Forest, Illinois. They grew up in a home that was both Democrat and Republican, with their mom and dad in each party. As they volunteered during the election, students walked in looking to vote straight Republican. “They were obviously doing,” Mueller recalled, “what someone had told them to do.” But they personally felt they wanted to have choices: “I think that I feel more comfortable today, and safe, in a space with my fellow Democrats than I could ever feel in a Republican event.”
Grilli grew up in a Republican home. Her father, a business owner, was “very much a Republican.” But when he passed away in 1993, she and her brother both switched to the Democratic Party. “The values of the Democrats fall more in line to my values,” Grilli explained. “It makes me feel safer, and that we’re fighting for people.”
Madrilejos cited Democrats’ behavior and contributions across American history as important, stating that if not for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s modernization of immigration, “I probably would not be here.” Likewise, if not for the efforts and leadership of Democrats, “I probably would not have gotten the public school education I have.” He also stated that “having good leaders defending policies, and hopefully promoting policies, to expand economic power [and] equality” allows people the chance to purchase homes and find good jobs.
“I look at the Democratic Party as a party that creates the structure for empowerment,” Madrilejos added. In the meantime, Madrilejos said that the Republican Party’s belief in “unfettered capitalism” is “very dangerous to society.” He does believe that capitalism can work, but with safeguards in place: “We should have the structures in place so we can succeed.”
Learn more about the East Valley Democratic Club of Santa Clara County here.