The California Democratic Party convention was held Feb. 26-28 in San Jose.
- Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris overwhelmingly won the party endorsement for the U.S. Senate
- Delegates heard from Vice President Biden, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer
- Local activists debated and decided which candidates would get the party's blessing
- See photos from the weekend
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With the convention hall long emptied, we took stock of the state of the California Democratic Party.
The event seemed like a 50th college reunion for veteran politicians, and at the same time one of the biggest rounds of applause came at the mention of Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate few of those politicians gathered in San Jose for the convention support.
In short, the numbers don't look great for Democrats in California.
In November 1992, there were almost 7,410,914 Democrats in the state, out of 15.1 million registered voters.
Now the number of registered voters has increased by almost 2.2 million, but the number of Democrats has risen by less than 28,000 voters.
Here's one photo from the weekend that tells the story.
It was a bit of a throwback weekend in San Jose, with labor legend Dolores Huerta flexing organizing muscle to gather the delegate support to boost her son Emilio Huerta's congressional bid.
After gathering hundreds of signatures and following a lively floor vote, Emilio Huerta succeeded in blocking Fowler City Councilman Daniel Parra from getting the party endorsement as he challenges Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) in the Central Valley race. Valadao is considered vulnerable given it is a presidential year with higher voter turnout.
The effort was a family affair: Dolores, Emilio and his daughter Ana Alicia Huerta worked the California Democratic Party convention all weekend to make it happen.
Thanks to Huerta's actions, neither Democrat will have the party's official support or the funding that comes with it.
After Parra won the endorsement vote of a small, local caucus Saturday night, Emilio and Ana hit the convention halls to gather the 300 signatures needed to challenge it on the convention floor Sunday.
A trio of delegates from Lancaster were among the first to sign.
"I support him, he is Dolores Huerta's son," said delegate Camille Dunn. "Let the people hear him."
At around 11 p.m. the group filed enough signatures. A tired Dolores and Emilio came into the press room looking for coffee.
Decaf for Dolores, cafe con leche for Emilio.
"An organizer eats when he can, sleeps when can," he said between sips.
In the morning Ana and Andres Chavez, the 22-year-old grandson of United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez, worked the halls explaining the particulars of the parliamentary voting to delegates.
Then the big guns came out.
First up to speak in favor of vacating the endorsement was Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of California's Democratic Congressional delegation.
She admitted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasn't able to recruit a candidate in the race early on, one reason Huerta had a late start. She said her heart did a "pitter patter" when Huerta entered in early January. Next up was Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside).
Then came Dolores Huerta:
Huerta was successful — sort of. While he took the endorsement away from Parra, but he failed to win a second vote that would have given the party's backing. That means the party is neutral in the race, and won't offer financial support.
"I won this thing twice," Parra said the night before. "Now, people outside my district get to decide it."
For Parra's supporters the whole process left a bitter taste. After all, they said, Parra had earlier in February won a pre-endorsement vote with backing from more than 80% of local delegates. And he claimed just under two thirds of the vote Saturday night.
"Honor our local grass roots votes," said Parra backer Estella Kessler, 67 of Selma, Calif., in urging statewide delegates to vote to keep the endorsement.
After the vote Parra left the hall, while Huerta walked the halls shaking hands.
Huerta said the real test comes with the June 7 primary when voters take to the polls. He acknowledged his name helped him block Parra.
"It opens the door but it's up to me to bring substance to the table," he said.
An earlier version of this post misspelled Ana Alicia Huerta's name.
As the big event wraps up, a sampling of some of the photos tweeted by both our Times team and others at this weekend's convention.
In the wake of high-profile slayings of black men and children in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland, Baltimore and other cities, the California Democratic Party on Sunday amended its official platform to demand that police be held “accountable for misconduct.”
Party leaders and activists, meeting in San Jose for the party’s three-day convention, also called for independent investigations of deadly incidents involving police use of force. The platform, approved by a voice vote, supports requiring the use of police body cameras and the implementation of police policies favoring “de-escalation” over the use of force when responding to incidents.
The platform, a blueprint for the priorities of the state party, also supports: legalizing recreational use of marijuana, prioritizing the health and safety of Californians over revenue or profits; requiring California to produce 100% of its electricity from renewable and sustainable sources by 2030; raising the statewide minimum wage to at least $15 an hour; and a “common sense ban on deadly assault weapons.”
Less than 48 hours after the California Supreme Court gave him a temporary victory, Gov. Jerry Brown's political allies have begun gathering signatures for his ballot measure to overhaul prisoner parole and juvenile justice.
Campaign workers fanned out across the California Democratic Party convention, asking delegates and Democratic activists to sign the newly printed petitions.
The signature gathering is the ultimate in political insurance policies, after last week's ruling by a Sacramento judge that Brown shouldn't have been allowed to add his parole proposal to an existing initiative that was already in the review phase by state officials. The case is now sitting in front of the California Supreme Court, but the governor convinced the court on Friday night to allow him to begin gathering signatures while they weigh the case's merits.
In other words, the signatures gathered over the next few days could all end up in the shredder if the justices uphold the lower court ruling against Brown's initiative.
While the governor's team no doubt has a pretty receptive audience at the Democratic gathering, it's a decidedly smaller pool of voters to sign the petitions than Saturday, where the crowd swelled to see Vice President Biden and a full roster of party superstars.
Lawyers are expected to submit documents to the state's high court in the legal fight over the initiative by Tuesday. No word on when the court might issue a ruling on the legality of Brown's measure.
The California Democratic Party on Sunday threw its support behind a slate of proposed state ballot measures, including initiatives to hike cigarette taxes, affirm a law banning plastic grocery bags and impose stricter gun control.
The vote by party delegates came on the final day of the party's three-day convention at the cavernous San Jose Convention Center.
Not all of the proposed ballot measures were taken up for a party vote. Among those that were noticeably absent were a batch of initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. However, the state party's proposed platform supports marijuana legalization.
The measures that received the party's nod of approval and have qualified for the ballot, would:
- Allow the California Legislature to suspend members and suspend their pay and benefits. The measure, which will be on the June ballot, was drafted after the indictment of three state senators.
- Repeals provisions of Proposition 227, including the requirement that all children be taught English. School districts would be allowed to determined the best language instruction methods. This measure will be on the November ballot.
- Affirm a 2014 law approved by the Legislature and governor imposing a statewide ban on plastic, single-use grocery bags. The law is being challenged by a referendum on the November ballot.
The Democratic delegates also granted state party chairman John Burton the right to grant party support to proposed ballot measures still seeking to qualify for the November ballot, including measures that would:
- Extend the income tax increase on high earners that California voters approved in 2012 under Proposition 30.
- Require background checks for people who purchase ammunition, and ban the possession of large-capacity magazines.
- Impose a tobacco tax increase of $2 a pack to help pay for healthcare and tobacco-use prevention programs and research.
State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris overwhelmingly won the endorsement of the California Democratic Party on Saturday, capturing 78.1% of the ballots cast by party delegates.
According to party officials, 2,139 party delegates attending the party's state convention voted in the contest.
Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange received 19.3% of the vote.
Delegates also had the option of voting for "no endorsement," but few chose to do so -- only 2.6% voted for that option.
There was a huge cheer that erupted in a tiny makeshift room inside San Jose's convention center Saturday night as Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) won his party's official endorsement.
But he had no opposition. This was all about what it means to be a Democrat.
Bera, a two-term incumbent, won enough votes of delegates in his district caucus meeting to get the party's official seal of approval for 2016. The Sacramento area physician has found himself in hot water with some of the party faithful over his votes in favor of President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and new immigration restrictions on Syrian refugees.
In the meantime, Democratic convention delegates handed out official endorsements in a handful of other races that feature two or more Democrats.
In an Assembly race in the Inland Empire, Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) won the endorsement for her reelection in a race against Democrat Eloise Gomez Reyes. The contest is being closely watched as a test of the power of centrist Democrats like Brown.
The weekend convention endorsements were only in those races that were left unsettled in regional meeting held prior to the state party gathering.
One of those, the nationally watched rematch between Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) and challenger Ro Khanna, ended on Saturday night with a strong party endorsement of Honda.
But Khanna's supporters fumed over fliers handed out that alleged campaign donor links between the former Obama administration official and top Republican politicians.
Whether the party endorsements matter come election day is unclear; campaign strategists argue that when there are two candidates from the same party on the ballot, any kind of suggestion from the party itself on who should be picked can provide that last little push.
You can't help but wonder whether Vice President Joe Biden's long and emotional speech on Saturday about politics, the Obama legacy, and Republicans wasn't one he wished he'd been delivering in South Carolina instead of in San Jose.
Biden spoke for almost an hour to a huge crowd of California Democrats, and took aim at the GOP presidential field while delicately avoiding any endorsement of either of his own party's contenders.
Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris told delegates to the California Democratic Party's convention that they need to work together to form "a more perfect union" as the 2016 campaign unfolds.
In her speech to the California Democratic Party convention, Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez urged delegates to back her candidacy in the U.S. Senate race.
As of mid-afternoon, the biggest applause at the California Democratic Party's convention was for the speech by Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU California.
"We're here to make choices," she said.