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Illegal immigrant prompts party switch
Georgianna Reichelt, left, walks back to her chair after speaking while Fleener Richards looks on. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Georgianna Reichelt is anything but a shrinking violet.

The long-time Manteca political and community activist never minces her words whether she’s questioning local officials or state politicians.

Her journey has included taking on big business as a union representative, taking the City of Manteca all the way to the California Supreme Court on an environmental review issue regarding a housing development, and successfully suing the City of Lathrop for trampling her rights to speak at a public meeting.

She started her political life as a fifth grader in Montana helping her father who “couldn’t stand Roosevelt” walk door-to-door for Republican challenger Wendell Willkie. By the time she turned 17 and moved to Helena and became part of the labor force, she was convinced the Democratic Party had the working man’s best interests at heart. And when she moved to Manteca in 1966 she became involved with the Manteca Democratic Club, eventually became its president, and ultimately worked on Jerry Brown’s original campaign for governor in 1974.

And now – after over 50 years as being a registered Democrat – she’s switched parties and is now a Republican.

Switching party affiliations isn’t exactly rare but when it comes from someone who effectively uses every local public government forum – including those with cable coverage – to espouse her views such as Reichelt people take notice including the South San Joaquin County Republicans. The group had Reichelt as one of their speakers Tuesday night at Chez Shari’s at the Manteca golf course to share why “the Democratic Party had left her.”

“We are giving away America, in my opinion, to illlegals and criminals,” Reichelt declared before an estimated 100 people Tuesday night who responded to her remarks with applause.

Reichelt emphasized she favors immigration – as long as it is legal and “through the right doors.”

She added those who want to come to the United States “should respect” the fact “many gave their lives for our democracy.”

Reichelt noted that she believed the Republicans are the country’s best chance for restoring “America as the greatest nation in the world, which it once was.”

Reichelt, though, isn’t a star-struck Republican convert. Prior to giving her short speech, she said she was going to stay away from voting in one race – the battle for governor between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.

Comments from local candidates
Various candidates for local races were given an opportunity to make short remarks. Among them were:

•Richard Behling, Manteca City Council candidate, who emphasized he was a fiscal conservative whose main platform was “to get (government) to do what it needs to do and not what everyone wants it to do.”

•Bill Van Ryn, Manteca Unified School District board candidate, who noted he’s been a resident of Manteca since 1964 and that his parents immigrated to the United States in 1952 with “no money, no education, and no job but went to work the day after they arrived here.” He added they went to night school and became American citizens and that they sparked in him a passion for education.

•Carlon Perry, Manteca mayoral candidate, who noted he was a lifelong Republican and a fiscal conservative who introduced 10 of his committee members who were in attendance.

•Jack Mobley, State Senate hopeful for the 17th District, noted that he’s run a business for 22 years in Merced with 110 employees and one of the reasons motivating him to run was to rein in state spending and regulations “so I don’t have to lay any of them (his employees) off.” He added that, “We’ve got to turn this state around. This state will lead the nation out of its fiscal mess or else farther into it.”

•Carolyn Jensen, a Ripon City Council candidate, who served previously for four years on that council plus six years on the Ripon Planning Commission.