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Free booze and celebrity appearances: How candidates for governor will court California Democrats this weekend

Clockwise from top left: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Treasurer John Chiang, former state schools' chief Delaine Eastin and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (Associated Press / Gregory Urquiaga / UC Davis)
Clockwise from top left: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Treasurer John Chiang, former state schools' chief Delaine Eastin and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (Associated Press / Gregory Urquiaga / UC Davis)

Top candidates to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown will gather at the California Democratic Party’s annual convention later this week, giving the most crucial speeches of their campaigns to date, courting activists and wooing donors and powerful party leaders.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin will each address thousands of delegates and guests on Saturday in Sacramento. Though the candidates are well-known among Democratic insiders, the speeches mark the first time the four of them will address the same influential crowd — a critical benchmark in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

They will also court the party faithful with food, drinks and parties. Chiang is co-hosting a “United for California” late-night reception on Saturday. Newsom is headlining a street party featuring rapper Common and DJ Jazzy Jeff the same night, as well as a couple of gatherings earlier in the day.

Political leaders who are potentially eyeing runs for higher office will also be out in full force.

In advance of the three-day meeting, state Senate leader Kevin de León emailed delegates a sharply produced video about the importance of California as a liberal bulwark during President Trump’s tenure.

De León, who is termed out next year and has been the focus of widespread speculation that he plans to mount a gubernatorial bid, is also addressing the delegates. He will be honored at a “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres” party that will feature DJ Samantha Ronson Friday night.

Advisors did not rule out a run, but said De León was focused on his current job.

Billionaire environmentalist activist Tom Steyer, also the subject of rumors that he is polling about his prospects in a potential run for governor, will also address the convention. His NextGen Climate group will hand out breakfast burritos to delegates.  

A political advisor to Steyer declined to confirm or deny the polling rumors.

“It's no secret that Tom Steyer is considering running for office, and he'll make a decision later this year,” Rose Kapolczynski said. “We aren't going to discuss our research program in the news media.”

Other political leaders who have  been the focus of speculation, such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Secretary of State Alex Padilla, also plan to greet delegates.

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