U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris made a big public appearance in Kern County just over a year ago when she spoke at the United Farm Workers 20th Constitutional Convention in Bakersfield.
She was attorney general of California then. She's since been elected to the Senate seat previously held by Barbara Boxer.
She will stay connected to the Central Valley and keep her ears to the ground here, said Matt Rogers, a fixture in the Fresno County Democratic Party who has been hired to be those ears.
“I was born and raised here. Went to Fresno State. I’ve never left,” he said.
Rogers will manage Harris’ Fresno office at 2500 Tulare St. but in truth be shuttling around to communities all across his district, from Stanislaus County down to San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.
Representing the Central Valley for a Democrat may present challenges, Rogers said.
Harris is currently working on legislation that would shield farmworkers who have “paid their dues” from deportation – a bill that is critical for thousands of valley residents who currently live in fear, Rogers said.
But many in the valley who support President Donald Trump’s aggressive stance on immigration might be less fond of that work.
But Rogers said his mission is to not let party lines separate citizens from their senator. Harris gave him that mission.
“She was very clear that our door was open to everybody. It’s not just open to one party,” he said. “We’ve reached out to both Republican and Democratic (political) offices. That’s out how you truly get things done.”
Front-line workers in all political offices have to focus on making sure members of the public get help when they have a problem.
And that, Rogers said, is what political staff across the board do in the Central Valley.
“Staff can set aside that bitter partisanship. I’ve been received very, very graciously by all the staff I’ve reached out to,” he said. “Republicans need health care. Democrats need health care. I think there are issues that unite people in both parties. The key is to find common ground.”
Rogers said his role is to help people. To listen.
“Knowing the people and considering a lot of them neighbors and friends,” he said, “I get to go to work every day being able to work to make their quality of life better.”
Harris’ office can be reached at 559-497-5109.