I’ve finally found a few minutes to jot some notes about the recently concluded 2019 California Democratic Party (CDP) Convention held in San Francisco. This is my third convention and first during a presidential campaign season. This was first convention while serving as the Chair of the Placer Democratic Central Committee (DCC).
Thursday, May 30, 2019
For me, convention started on Thursday. Prior to the main convention, the county Chairs and CDP Regional Directors attend a training session hosted by the CDP. At this session, we are presented with a “state of the party” address from the CDP Chair. On that day, that was acting-Chair Alex Gallardo-Rooker. (I’ll post specific take-aways in a second article).
At one point, the various people in the room were given the opportunity to introduce themselves. This was especially appreciated as there were many new Chairs this year. This was an excellent opportunity to put a face to name. Too often you only know people via email, or posts in the various Google groups. It was interesting to see that there is a range in age and background among my fellow Chairs. But the one thing that struck me was the number of DCC Chairs who are Latino. Although expected in counties that have large Latino populations, I was not expecting to see Latinos serving as Chair in counties like Sierra, Butte, Contra Costa, San Francisco or Orange County.
The Voter Choice Act (VCA) has worked well in the counties that were part of a trial-run. However, only a handful more counties have opted to join in (Placer has not joined in). In many cases, the cost of complying with the VCA is prohibiting the counties from joining in. The California implementation of the Motor-Voter Act has created a wave of No Party Preference voters. But most of them do not realize that they can not vote in a Democratic primary as a NPP voters without some additional steps. For Vote By Mail (VBM) voters, the process is quite daunting. Democrats will need to do outreach to newly registered NPP voters to offer them the opportunity to register as Democrats (I will post more items in a follow-up post).
That evening, the county Chairs were invited to a reception hosted by Governor Gavin Newsom. It was an excellent opportunity to network with the other county chairs and speak with the Governor about issues facing Placer and other rural counties. Joshua Elder (El Dorado), Michael Evans (Fresno) and Claire Fitiausi (Kings) are some of the other rural county Chairs whom I’ve met and who are also dedicated to bringing greater attention from the CDP to our rural areas.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Getting signed-in and receiving your credentials is the first task facing most of the delegates as the reach the convention on Friday afternoon. This year, there was lots of space and people were able to get their credentials without much trouble, as far as I could tell.
Committees do the bulk of the “official” work of the CDP. From their meetings, come suggestions and/or resolutions on items such as:
- Changes to the official CDP Platform
- Resolutions to be voted on by the membership
- Changes to voting procedures
- Reviewing challenges to credential / delegate statuses
Friday afternoon, after I’d received my credential, I attended the meeting of the Organizational Development committee where William Monroe (Regional Director of Region 1; the region in which I am an ADEM delegate) presented a resolution pertaining to endorsements in partisan races where no endorsed Democrat is running (a recent issue in the SD1 race just concluded). Also, at that committee meeting, the CD1 Alliance presented their annual report to the committee. I’m on the steering committee for CD1 Alliance, and I was there to support Cindy Ellsmore (fellow CD1 Alliance member and former Sierra County Chair) in her presentation.
I left that meeting and joined the meeting of the Rural Caucus where elections were wrapping up. Candidates for Chair of the CDP attended the caucus meeting as did some of the Presidential candidates. Whereas committee membership is limited to Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) members, caucuses are open to any registered Democrat. In addition to the DSCC members, there are other activists, lobbyists and people interested in a particular cause or issue.
After that meeting ended I had dinner and prepared for the Chicano Latino Caucus (CLC) meeting. I didn’t prepare enough.
Chicano Latino Caucus (CLC)
The Chicano Latino Caucus is a large caucus focused on (you guessed it) Chicano issues.
[NOTE: Chicano is a term that is specifically used for descendants of people from Mexico. Latino is a term generally used for any person of Latin American descent, whether immigrant or US natives.]
Personally, I refer to this caucus meeting as the “Raucous Caucus” due to the rather loose manner in which the meetings are conducted. This evening, the raucousness was raised to a new level!
On the agenda for the meeting was a scheduled vote to determine who to endorse in the CDP Chairs race. Also on the agenda (I think) visits from several Presidential candidates were planned.
Normally, speakers address the caucus one after the other in a quick manner. Here, however, there were gaps in time between the presidential candidates. In the intervening gaps of time, we heard speakers from several unions, movements, and issues facing Latinos today. We also heard a representative from the MORENA party of Mexico, the party of new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Of the fourteen presidential candidates who addressed our convention, three addressed the CLC. Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke addressed the caucus. O’Rourke addressed the caucus in Spanish (mostly) with only a brief summary of his remarks in English. After each speaker, a rush of selfie-seekers rushed the dais in an effort to grab a selfie. The CLC E-Board members were first in line!
Similarly, candidates for CDP Chair, Rusty Hicks, Kimberly Ellis, Daraka Larimore-Hall and Rita Ramirez (a CLC E-Board member) addressed the caucus with a smaller rush of selfie-seekers.
At the conclusion of the Chair candidates’ speeches, the caucus cast their endorsement votes. The process was confusing and needs to be improved. But once all the ballots were counted, the caucus endorsed Rusty Hicks, the eventual winner of the race for Chair. So congratulations to Rusty for winning the CLC endorsement.
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Saturdays are “business days.” That is those are the days when the “big” business takes place. This year, Saturday was the day on which we would vote for the new Chair.
The day started with a potential protest at the Womens Caucus. The Medicare For All supporters had announced plans to protest Nancy Pelosi at the Womens Caucus. Fortunately, they decided to protest outside the Moscone Center in view of the media.
I attended a 8 AM training session on the MOE data application (Serisously! Who schedules a technical training session at 8 AM on the second day of convention???). It was quite interesting to note that most of the people in attendance were from the rural counties, where access to data makes up for nice canvass-able neighborhoods and are instead targeted by phone banks and postcard parties.
After training, I wandered into the tables/chairs set up in the back of the main convention hall, where I met up with some activist friends from Sacramento County. We chatted about things that will be happening there in the coming months (upending the status quo).
While waiting for the general session, I managed to run into past CD4 candidate Jessica Morse. We chatted briefly prior to my entering the hall. Once in the hall, I exchanged texts with CD1 candidate Audrey Denney and we met to resolve some business.
The absolute best part of convention for me, is meeting with delegates and elected officials from throughout the California. It is always interesting to discuss the goings-on across our great state. People from the Blue areas of our state, have an interesting take on our Red districts. By getting a chance to tell them about our unique challenges, I’m able to open the door to the possibility of their assisting us in working to elect a Democrat in our Red district.
On Saturday, the delegates heard from several Presidential candidates. Some were well received (Elizabeth Warren) while other were literally boo’d (John Hickenlooper). I’ve heard from some of our delegates that the delegates should have been more polite to Hickenlooper and let him finish his speech uninterrupted. I’ve also heard from other delegates who have pointed out that Hickenlooper spoke out against Medicare For All, which is officially supported by the CDP. Hickenlooper also decried “socialism.” Older delegates seem timid in the face of that term, whereas younger delegates almost embrace the tag. Hickenlooper mistook who he was addressing and suffered the consequences.
I did attend the official CDP luncheon. I was seated across from two delegates from San Bernadino county. They mentioned how conservative our county is. I had to agree.
The end of the afternoon session featured speeches by the candidates for CDP Chair. Afterwards, we left to go vote. What a fiasco that was.
Similar to the overlapping, serpentine lines that I first encountered at the 2017 convention, the lines to cast a ballot for chair were confused and took about two hours to complete. Surely, we, as a party, can do better. Social media posts have shown elected officials using staffers to “hold” their place in line, allowing them to jump past thousands of “regular” delegates to cast a ballot.
I went “off campus” that evening and met my daughter for dinner. She lives in San Francisco near Golden Gate Park and we were able to enjoy a pleasant dinner.
I returned to catch the end of the Irish Caucus and afterward ran into the two candidates for CD4 in the hallways (not at the same time). I suspect that we will have a good campaign to replace our current (mis) Representative with someone who cares about the district.
Sunday, June 2, 2019
The final day of convention is used to ratify changes to bylaws, endorse resolutions and receive committee and caucus reports.
At one point, a wonderful woman, Hene Kelly who is a Regional Director as well as the Chair of the Disabilities Caucus demanded to know how / why our convention was being sponsored by Juul, a manufacturer of vaping products, whose sales are often aimed at children. After a brief exchange with acting-Chair Alex Rooker on how CDP should replace the sponsorship funds from Juul, Kelly offered to bake Challah to raise funds for the party. A true grass-roots effort!
Sunday’s presidential candidates included Bernie Sanders, whose supporters showed their appreciated unreservedly, and also John Delaney who received the convention’s second chorus of boos. Delaney stated that he did not support Medicare for All. Medicare for All has been adopted by the CDP through resolution as something that our party is striving towards. This places him out-of-step with the majority of convention attendees, hence the boos.
The convention also voted to endorse the Green New Deal resolution introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This support for GND by the convention attendees is what got John Hickenlooper boo’d the day before.
A highlight for Placer Democrats was our own Greg Harnage receiving the Region 3 Volunteer of the Year award. Greg serves as our First Vice Chair and is a rising star in our party. Congratulations to him!
Eventually the caucus chairs gave their report and the convention ended.