|This would be Reilly’s first experience working with a statewide campaign. Through his connection with Father Boyle, Reilly joined Cesar Chavez’ team to defeat Prop. 22. It was during this campaign that Reilly would learn about the effectiveness of a solid field program in campaign management. The UFW had developed its membership primarily though door-to-door efforts as well as through “house meetings” with concerned farm workers across the west.
Reilly worked with a team of organizers who would later become legendary organizers including Fred Ross Sr., Fred Ross Jr., Marshal Ganz, Leroy Chatfield, and Larry Tramutola, among others. “I had a chance to work with an amazing group of people, all of whom were very dedicated to the work the UFW was doing,” says Reilly. He put in charge of the print and broadcast advertising and organizing press coverage of the campaign in Northern California.
Not all of Reilly’s first campaigns were successes, but he learned from each experience and continued to develop his increasingly effective strategic counsel. In 1974, Reilly mentor Fr. Boyle ran for the state Assembly against incumbent John Foran and the Democratic Party establishment. Boyle lost narrowly to a vastly greater funded campaign by incumbent Assemblyman John Foran.
Many blamed a last minute “hit piece” that implied Fr. Boyle lived in a mansion – which was in fact, false. Reilly had learned a hard truth of political campaigns – it was not enough to be on the right side of the issues – one needed the resources to get the message out to the voters. “We had no money,” said Reilly. “If we’d had even a small budget to get out a few mailers we would have had a chance against the party machine, but we could not.”