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2017 California Democratic Party convention2018 electionCalifornia Democrats

Rallies, F-bombs and a raucous start to the California Democratic Party convention

Supporters of single-payer healthcare rally outside the California Democratic Party convention Sacramento on Friday. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Supporters of single-payer healthcare rally outside the California Democratic Party convention Sacramento on Friday. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez addresses a crowd. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez addresses a crowd. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

The California Democratic Party convention started with a bang Friday night, with protesters disrupting speeches at the official kickoff and state party Chairman John Burton unleashing a series of F-bombs aimed at the demonstrators.

The chanting began when Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Burton stepped up to the podium in a cavernous hall at the state capital's convention center, with protesters shouting demands that the party reject corporate donations and work to implement a single-payer healthcare system.

Burton, known for his salty language, lashed out quickly. He told protesters that the Democratic Party had been fighting for single-payer healthcare “since before you were born.” 

“Hey, shut the ... up or go outside,” Burton said.

“Parade all you want, but unless we put it on the ballot or elect new Democrats you can walk up and down the street and people still aren’t going to have decent healthcare. So let’s get with it.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez headlined the kickoff event and, seemingly accustomed to such a reception, delivered his speech in almost a thunderous shout — loud enough to drown out the chants.

Perez compared the atmosphere to holiday dinner with his extended family and told the hundreds of Democratic delegates in the crowd that, just like family, now was the time for all of them to come together. 

“We have a raucous Thanksgiving dinner. We talk about politics. I’m Dominican. So we talk about the other thing, which is baseball,” Perez said. “And then at the end of the day, we get together and talk about our shared values.”

Most of his speech was a pointed rebuke of President Trump, ridiculing the Republican president for his “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act

“Here’s one big thing we agree on. Donald Trump is an anathema to our values. Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in American history,” said Perez, who served as Labor secretary in the Obama administration. “Donald Trump has to go. And that is why we must work together as Democrats.”

Perez took over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February in the wake of the November election, which gave the GOP the White House, both houses of Congress and most of the nation's governorships and state legislative chambers.

Perez was considered the establishment liberal in his hotly contested race with Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the choice of the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. 

Rick Deutsch, a business professor at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, was among the protesters shouting loudest. He says Democratic Party leaders haven’t done enough to make single-payer healthcare a reality, even when it had the opportunity. He had no love for Perez.

“When the Democrats had full control of the House and Senate and presidency, we still ended up with a Republican healthcare plan,” Deutsch said. “I don’t want to hear from Tom Perez. Once again, the only thing we hear from him is platitudes."

But Teddy Gray King, a Piedmont councilwoman and Democratic delegate, wasn’t too happy about the protests — especially those aimed at Burton — saying there is “no greater progressive in California.”

“Our country is hurting right now, and those of us in the Democratic Party believe strongly that our election was stolen from us,” King said. “We’re like a family. We’re taking it out on each other. It angers me. It saddens me.”

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