FROM DEMOCRAT TO INDEPENDENT
by Ramon Pena
I have sat down about 10 times wondering how to start my story. I guess the beginning would be good.
My name is Ramon Pena, I have been an Independent from 2002 till present. It’s funny -- I feel like I was born with the letter D on my forehead. As far back as I can remember I have always been a Democrat. My family are from Puerto Rico and politics was always a subject of conversation in my home. Mostly Puerto Rican politics, still politics. I did not understand, and actually did not care for it. My father had many Democratic friends and although he never voted in his life he felt he was a full Democrat. I found it boring.
I never voted, I always heard people talking about the corruption in politics and was not in the least interested. I never heard from politicians till election time and that was one of my other turn offs when it came to politics.
One Saturday afternoon I was desperately looking for work. My mother opened the New York Post and yelled out from the other room. “Ramon, estan buscando gentes para un trabajo de politica!!”
All I heard was the word politics. That was enough for me not to care. She gave me the paper and it said Voter Registration Drive for college students. My god, I was 33 years old, they are not going to hire me. Anyway I called and swallowed my pride. They needed phone callers for a huge voter registration drive with the Independence Party. Never heard of them in my life, did not care, what the hell I called…
I said to a nice girl that I am not a college student but I am desperately looking for work. She said “don’t worry, come on down.” That Sunday afternoon I went to 42nd street and 3rdavenue. A huge beautiful office rented out by the Pataki Campaign. I got on the phones and here I was campaigning for a man I had very knowledge of but I know he was running for Governor. I did not care, it was a job.
About 2 months after the voter registration drive the campaign went to another level. Independents were speaking to other independents. I said again, “I am a Democrat but it’s a job” This is when I met a wonderful teacher, mentor and who I consider a wonderful friend, Cathy Stewart. Before the phone calls Cathy had these political briefings. Honestly I feared them because I thought it was the same old political mumbo jumbo. When she spoke a new world started opening up to me. Cathy has been the reason why politics is so different to me now. I realized then and there that I was not finding an interest with politics because Democrats really did not represent my ideals. I realized that my calling was Grassroots Organizing and this is that the Independence Party had to offer. It was then that I started making friends within the Independence Party, Howard Edelbaum is a great friend and a teacher, anytime I need advice in things that may confuse me I call him right away.
My big decision came when I decided to re-register. Amazingly I was scared to tell my father about this move. I mean I was 34 years old…Why should I be scared? I guess I felt it was disrespectful to my father, he took it pretty hard, but I explained certain issues that Independents face and although I never got his blessings, he left it alone and saw that this was what made me happy. Years later I remember when he use to tell his political friends that his son was an Independent. I think he was proud of it.
Now I am a member of the county committee, I have done street work, I volunteer my time to this wonderful party who believes that the culture of politics must change.
After 10 years I am still learning and probably will always learn for the rest of my life. That is the beauty about being an Independent.
I want to thank the hundreds of Independent friends who have been there for me. I would like to list them all but you all know who you are.
Thanks for making me an Independent!!!!