Delaine Eastin Is Fighting For Momentum In The Governor's Race — And She's Going To All 58 Counties In California To Do It

Delaine Eastin was a sophomore in high school when a drama teacher urged her to try out for a part in "The Man Who Came to Dinner." She hesitated until he told her: "This is a metaphor for your whole life. If you never try out, you will never get the part."

Eastin auditioned and won the role. Decades later, the advice sticks with the former state schools chief, this time in her unlikely run for governor.

Despite calls for more women in leadership roles in state politics following sexual misconduct allegations in Sacramento, Eastin has been largely overlooked in the race, lagging far behind her Democratic rivals in fundraising and the polls.

California has never elected a female governor. And Eastin, one of nine women to be elected to statewide office in California's history, hopes to break that barrier in November, 26 years after California sent two women to the U.S. Senate in the "Year of the Woman." But few voters know her because she left the Capitol 15 years ago. So Eastin is barnstorming the state, appearing in all of California's 58 counties.

"If I can get in front of enough people, I have a really good shot," she said in an interview during a recent 18-hour day of campaigning. "It is daunting, but I am feeling really quite encouraged."

It's a strategy that works in Iowa or New Hampshire, but is almost impossible to replicate in a state as large as California, with its 19 million registered voters.

But Eastin, 70, is trying, and she frequently receives a warm reception.

UCLA students rushed to take pictures with her at a March UC Regents meeting after she passionately called for a recommitment to education when a tuition increase was considered. She often delivers memorable lines to win over audiences in her public appearances, including her take on student testing during a recent debate: "You don't fatten a hog by weighing it more often."

At the California Democratic Party convention earlier this year, Eastin had a surprisingly strong showing: Despite registering in the single digits in the polls, she won the backing of 20% of state party delegates. And at a gathering of liberal clubs in Ventura last month, attendees compared her to former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

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Kate McCartypolitics, C.A.