Unsinkable Kerry Fan in a Sea of Bushies


Larina Corbell, 16, slapped a Kerry-for-president sticker onto her candy-apple red 1971 Volkswagen Beetle on Monday morning and drove to Valley Christian High School in Cerritos.

This, she knew, would kill any chance of being voted Miss Popularity.

Larina, a junior, says she knows of one other student at Valley Christian who likes Kerry. Earlier this year, when Larina pasted a Kerry photo onto her binder, she heard taunts of “four more years” as she walked the halls.

Still, it took her by surprise when she was motoring home after school Monday and happened to check her rearview mirror.


The Kerry sticker was gone, replaced with one for President Bush. At home in Long Beach, Larina found out what happened to the Kerry sticker that had been peeled off. It was wrapped around her chrome muffler like melted cheese.

All right, Larina said. Enough is enough. So she sat down and fired off a letter to the editor of the school paper.

So why was she so angry over what sounded like a typical high school prank? It is a Christian school, after all, so you wouldn’t expect young lefties to roam the halls talking revolution.

“I guess it was the last straw,” says Larina, who was less bothered by the melted bumper sticker than by fellow classmates falling into such predictable lock step.

“Some say they want to debate,” says Larina, “but I always say that unless they can give me one good reason why they’re voting for Bush, I won’t debate.

“What I’m hearing from them is their parents’ beliefs, recycled through them. They don’t say much, except that Bush is a Christian and Kerry’s not, or Bush is pro-life, or Kerry gets Botox. It’s not substantial.”


Besides, she said, “Kerry is Catholic, and I don’t think that because he practices a different theism, he’s less active in his faith.”

I should note that Larina, whose parents are both longshoremen, is a veteran debate club member. This past summer, she was invited to the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., where she studied politics and law at American University.

“Since she was 6 or 7, she would talk about having dreams that she lived in the White House,” Larina’s mom, Marina, told me at their kitchen table before Larina left for school Thursday.

It’s true, says Larina, who doesn’t remember when or why she developed a passion for politics. But she’d definitely like to run for office one day.

On the principle that it’s never too soon to start grilling politicians, I asked Larina to explain why she prefers Kerry to Bush. She and her family describe themselves as devout Christians, and, as her mom puts it, “God is first in our lives.”

“One of the things that scares me about Bush,” Larina says, “is the idea that he is, quote-unquote, ordained by God to do good things.... He’s a human; we’re all imperfect.”


She has problems with the war in Iraq and Bush foreign policy in general, and although she respects the president’s religious beliefs and his right to express them, faith-based politics make her nervous.

Not only will Kerry be stronger on foreign relations, she argued, but she likes his take on abortion rights.

“I personally don’t agree with abortion,” Larina said. “I think life begins at conception ... and I know I would never have or consider an abortion.” But she doesn’t think a president should “dictate to the country whether it’s right or wrong” based on his religious beliefs.

Larina wanted me to make clear that she had no intention of badmouthing her school (she loves it) or fellow students (many of her best friends are Bushies). But she wanted to make a point about free speech and encourage students to resist the polarizing forces that turn people into parrots.

“This is pro-Bush country,” Valley Christian Supt. Kevin Kaemingk told me in the principal’s office. “I would say 90% of the parents are Bush supporters, and if you go to a football game, you’ll see a lot more W than Kerry stickers.”

Kaemingk told me that in a meeting with Larina and her mom earlier this week, Larina argued that supporting Kerry didn’t make her any less Christian than her classmates. Kaemingk said he hoped Larina’s letter to the editor, which runs next week, will be used by teachers to spur debate.


“It is difficult to support Kerry among so many ‘compassionate conservatives,’ ” Larina’s letter says. “However, I love the fact that I’m entitled to my own opinion.

“Embracing this right, I have studied the election and politics at great length to form my own opinions. I hope that anyone reading this will respect ... themselves enough to form their own opinions. They might be different from your parents’ or the status quo, but at least you’ll know what you believe.”

When Larina drove to school Thursday, she left the Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on the back window of her car, with one alteration. Above it, she added a strip that says, “America can’t take four more years of ... “

Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at, and previous columns can be read at