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California Democratic Party State Convention Kicks Off In San Diego

A view of the San Diego Convention Center from the bayside, June 1, 2014.
Michael Schuerman
A view of the San Diego Convention Center from the bayside, June 1, 2014.
California Democratic Party State Convention Kicks Off In San Diego
California Democratic Party State Convention Kicks Off In San Diego GUEST:Ben Adler, capitol bureau chief, Capitol Public Radio

>> I'm Maureen, it's Friday February 23rd our top story, Democrats from across California are gathering in San Diego as the party's annual state convention begins today. Organizers say the three-day event will focus an energized democratic party on their 2018 objectives. There will be political star power at this convention with minority leader Nancy Pelosi, senators Diane Feinstein, and Pamela Harris, and a host of top candidates scheduled to speak. But there are potential fault lines in the landscape of blue unity. Promoted by convention organizers. Joining me for that and more is Ben Adler, capitol bureau chief for capitol public radio who was at the San Diego convention center. And Ben, welcome to the program. >> It's good to be with you, Maureen. >> Party chairman, Eric Bowman says the theme of the convention is that California is a big blue beacon of hope. How do Democrats intend to send that message? >> Well, I think you're seeing, you know, no matter how fractured the democratic party might be on issues like single payer health care, and those fractures will certainly be on display at this convention. What's probably uniting every single person here is a desire to retake the house of representatives, where California will play a lead role in that effort. And of course take President Trump in 2020. Block his agenda first in Washington with this year's election results. And then take the fight directly to him in the next presidential race. Obviously, President Trump has plummeting -- I guess you can't plummet when you will start so low, approval ratings in California. He's not a popular figure here. And particularly at this convention, you're seeing a lot of energy among Democrats, united in the effort to take back the house and go after the president. >> It's been observed that the headline speakers at this convention are kind of a lineup of potential 2020 presidential hopefuls. >> Yeah, from Pamela Harris, the U.S. senator from California who just got elected in 2016. To Eric GARSETTI the mayor of Los Angeles who is just back from South Carolina where he had some events there and no one is misunderstanding that particular gesture. We're also going to hear from Oregon senator, Jeff MERKLEY. We're not seeing big names from elsewhere in the country, potentially running for president, we're not seeing Elizabeth Warren or Kristen Jill grand or Cory booker. But you're getting focus on Californians who are putting themselves out there prominently or suggestively. >> Four gubernatorial candidates are going to be speaking at this convention. How fierce is the competition among those candidates ? >> Well, obviously, quite a lot at stake. It's not seen as likely that one of the four candidates will reach the 60% of the delegate vote necessary to obtain the official formal California democratic party endorsement. If one of them did, it would be a big boost. But you've got a lot of active Democrats here. A lot of different interest groups and advocacy groups. And it's really a coming out moment for many of these candidates to make their case in a setting that's going to give them a lot of energy. Maybe more so than just sitting up on a stage and going back and forth in a, you know, a town hall format or in some of the previous debates that have been held. This will be in front seat of a RAUCUS convention hall. You'll be able to size up the candidates and see who can make their case compellingly to this crowd. >> Diane Feinstein will be here this year. How much of a challenge is the senator facing? >> If you look at the poles, not a lot. She's well ahead of really the only prominent challenger, another Democrat, state president pro tem Kevin de Leone. His support comes from Republicans who are probably not aware of the fact that he's the author of the bill that passed last year. But Feinstein knows she needs to engage with the convention crowd and with activists this year. It's unclear if either of them will reach the endorsement. But in particular, it would be a huge boost for de Leone. Diane Feinstein has name recognition throughout the state from votedders who pay no attention. De Leone is not as well known. To put out on campaign materials he's the official endorsed candidate of the state democratic party, if he wins, that would be a big boost for him. Feinstein, essentially, I would say probably needs to just hold serve. >> What are you really looking forward to reporting on this weekend? >> Well, one angle that's -- we haven't touched on yet is the house races. I mean, you know, Democrats really see California as key in their effort to take back the house this November. You have a lot of competitive primaries in this district. Including as I'm sure your listeners are familiar with. Darrell ISA is retiring from this neck of the woods. A pole put out suggests that if the election were held now, two Republicans would advance to the November run off under the top two primary system. Diane harkY, a current member of the board of equalization, a former state assembly member, and a current member, rocky Chavez, and the Democrats from Doug apple gate who ran against ISA, to others. They would not move on. And so there are efforts, way foot, to I think from the democratic party power brokers to try to find alternate races for some of these candidates to run in. And maybe clear the field to ensure that Democrats do have someone that can get into the November run off. If they don't, it would be a colossal missed opportunity for Democrats in a seat that is seen as likely, if a Democrat makes the run off, of Democrats having a very solid chance at winning. >> Now, one thing that apparently will be missing at this year's democratic convention is any hard partying. Is the me-too movement changing the social atmosphere this year? >> I think it's too soon to say whether there will be hard partying or not. There are always receptions both formal. And then, you know, a little less formal. And interest groups that pay for these receptions. And candidates that pay for them. What we are seeing this year is a more vocal, concerted effort from the state party to try to head some of this off. There's going to be additional security guards around. Security presence. And they've set up a 24 hour hotline. So -- and yet, Tony Mendoza, the state senator from Los Angeles county who just yesterday resigned from his post, rather than face a suspension or expulsion vote from his colleagues, he's going to be right back here this weekend. He told cap radio that he was going to seek election to his former seat this year. His now former seat this year. And he will be at the convention trying to get endorsements. If Democrats hoped his resignation yesterday would finally put this whole story behind them, think again. >> I've been speaking with Ben Adler, capitol bureau chief for capitol public radio, Ben, thank you very much. >> You're welcome.

The three-day California Democratic Party State Convention begins Friday at the San Diego Convention Center with a series of caucus meetings, workshops and panel discussions.

The approximately 3,400 delegates will vote Saturday on endorsements for governor, U.S. senator and other statewide offices.

The delegates will adopt the 2018 party platform Sunday and ratify earlier endorsements for congressional and legislative races.


Keynote speeches will be delivered Saturday by Sens. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, billionaire Tom Steyer, founder and president of NextGen America, which acts to prevent climate disaster, promote prosperity and protect the fundamental rights of every American, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas.

Gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin are set to speak Saturday, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and her challengers, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Pat Harris.

Lieutenant governor candidates Jeff Bleich, Ed Hernandez and Eleni Kounalakis will participate together in a forum Saturday. Candidates for other statewide offices will also speak Saturday.

The general sessions will also include programs on mobilizing women to run for office and vote, a celebration of black voters, a series of speeches by labor leaders and millennial elected and party officials.

Saturday's luncheon program will feature California Democratic Party Chair Eric C. Bauman and remarks by national politics and policy journalist David Dayen and Jon Lovett, who was a presidential speechwriter for Barack Obama and now hosts the weekly podcast "Lovett or Leave It."


The dinner program Saturday will feature Democrats serving in municipal offices discussing the policies they have implemented. San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole will be the master of ceremonies.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Garvey Unified School District Trustee Henry Lo and Palm Springs City Councilwoman Lisa Middleton, the first transgender person elected to a city council in California, are set to speak.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will conclude the program by discussing the interplay between city government and the federal government.