California Democratic Party Convention: Detailed coverage from our political team


The California Democratic Party convention was held Feb. 26-28 in San Jose.

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Analysis: Democrats heading for trouble with young voters

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.

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Emilio Huerta draws on family name, blocks rival’s Democratic party endorsement in Central Valley race

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.


The weekend in tweeted pics

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.


California Democrats don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here


Democratic party platform supports police body cameras, marijuana legalization, wage increase

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.”


Gov. Brown’s parole initiative hits convention hallways

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.


Final day begins with hometown guy


Democrats back gun control, cigarette tax

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the California Democratic Party on Saturday at its convention in San Jose.
(Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

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:

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:


Senate endorsement vote by California Democratic Party was a blowout

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.

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Kamala Harris wins California Democratic Party endorsement

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Some intense moments for endorsement votes in contentious races

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.


‘America can’t take this much longer,’ Biden says in speech

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.

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A family affair


Behind the scenes as local activists debate endorsements

As the big speeches in the hall get most of the attention, the fights happening far off the stage are shaping several competitive congressional races.

Javier Panzar has been reporting about the endorsement caucuses this weekend, and why they matter. Here’s a primer.

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Sneak peek


Kamala Harris urges Democrats to form ‘more perfect union’

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.


Loretta Sanchez touts Democratic bona fides

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.


Making an entrance


Billionaire Tom Steyer’s call to arms


Labor leader wows Democratic crowd

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.


May the force be with you


It is a popular talking point, but ...


Checking out the competition


With VP Joe Biden arriving, things slow down


Sanders supporters bring the ‘Bern’ to convention

The passionate supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are showing up in droves at the California Democratic Convention this weekend, including many totally new to the state party process.

They are making themselves seen and heard:

Among those “feeling the bern” are political newcomers like Joe Stanton, with the group Tahoe for Bernie. This weekend’s confab is the first for the new member of the El Dorado County Democratic Central Committee.

He is looking for Bernie-like candidates running for local office.

“We need that down-ballot saturation,” he said. “We need everybody.”

Bernie supporters are preparing for a 3 p.m. rally in front of the convention.

The Silicon Valley for Bernie booth is drawing in staunch supporters as well as those still on the fence.

Chapman University student Brigitte Atchekzai said she has been inspired by both Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but she can’t deny the energy around Sanders.

“Nobody expected him, and he just popped up,” she said after posing for a photo with a cardboard cutout of Bernie. “It is refreshing in a way.”

Friday night, Bernie supporters were out until midnight with blinking lights as revelers poured in and out of a late-night electronic dance music show across the street.


Watch Sen. Barbara Boxer’s speech to Democrats

Watch Sen. Barbara Boxer’s entire speech to the California Democratic Party convention, complete with jabs at Republicans in Washington, D.C., and a thank you to her supporters here in the Golden State.


As women go, so goes the Democratic party in California

The cast of speakers at this weekend’s state Democratic convention has underscored a truth about the party’s drive to dominate California politics.

Women have driven the car.

Up today, on the first full day of convention business in San Jose, have been Sen. Barbara Boxer, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, outgoing Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and state Controller Betty T. Yee.

All of them represent the whole state, to be sure, but also the growth in female voters and the importance of that bloc among Democrats.

The governor’s office has remained the province of men —Feinstein’s effort to win it in 1990 failed — but other than that, Democratic women have succeeded in the state.

Feinstein and Boxer won their Senate seats in 1992, becoming the first female pair of senators in the nation. Both succeeded at a time when Republicans ruled the state; Bill Clinton’s presidential win in California that year was the first for Democrats since Lyndon Johnson’s victory in 1964.

His wife, Hillary Clinton, won the state’s 2008 primary, over then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, by turning out professional women in Northern California and Latinas in the south.

Democrats are favored to extend the rule of women in the U.S. Senate this year. Running for the seat being given up by Boxer are Democrats Kamala Harris, the current attorney general, and Loretta Sanchez, the congresswoman from Orange County.

Both were waging a fierce fight for the party nomination and were due to speak later Saturday.


Home-turf advantage


Boxer comes out jabbing


California context


State Controller John Chiang says he’s months from a gubernatorial decision

The weekend may be a golden chance to do some politicking for a big statewide race in 2018, but it appears that state Controller John Chiang is doing the soft sell.

“I’m still two to three months away” from formally deciding whether to enter the race for governor, said Chiang as he darted between convention meetings Saturday morning.

Earlier this month, the state’s treasurer rekindled talk of a run for governor. And he says the possibility of a bumper crop of gubernatorial hopefuls isn’t factoring into the calculation.

“I think I’m unique in regards to fiscal expertise,” Chiang said. “I like the larger contrast.”

The 53-year-old Democrat has $3 million in campaign cash socked away. While not all potential challengers are at this weekend’s convention — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom skipped the event as his wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child on Friday — other potential candidates are on hand.

And after a couple of comments, Chiang was on his way to shake a few more hands.


Big day for Senate hopefuls

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris tweeted about running into the woman she hopes to replace in the U.S. Senate this morning, retiring, four-term Sen. Barbara Boxer.

It’s a big day for Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Don’t miss Phil Willon’s story about the Senate hopefuls’ scramble to win over delegates.

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Speeches beginning for convention delegates

General session speakers run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

They range from gubernatorial and Senate hopefuls to longtime party leaders.

Vice President Joe Biden, the highlight of the day, is expected to speak at 3 p.m., according to the White House.

Here are others on the agenda, according to the California Democratic Party.

  • U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chair of California Democratic Congressional Delegation
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez
  • Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris
  • Secretary of State Alex Padilla
  • State Controller Betty T. Yee
  • State Treasurer John Chiang
  • Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones
  • Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
  • Chair of the Board of Equalization Jerome Horton
  • Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma
  • Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León
  • Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins
  • Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon
  • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo
  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Security sweep

Vice President Biden speaks in about six hours.


40 years apart? No big deal


Tough crowd?


Kamala Harris weighs in on the presidential race


Newsom welcomes birth of son

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is missing his first state Democratic convention in a decade, and tonight everyone knows why.

Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, announced tonight on social media that their fourth child, and second son, was born earlier in the day: Dutch William Seibel Newsom.

The couple married eight years ago and had their first child in 2009.

And as for the baby’s name? Newsom’s father lives in the tiny Placer County community of Dutch Flat.


Why didn’t anyone go to jail, delegate asks


Abortion rights group backs Kamala Harris for Senate, and rival Loretta Sanchez is not pleased

The NARAL booth at the California Democratic Party convention in San Jose.
(Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

The abortion rights organization NARAL today endorsed Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for Senate, snubbing her top Democratic rival in the race, Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County.

Amy Everett, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, said the organization considers both Harris and Sanchez to be “two very pro-choice” Democrats, but the endorsement went to Harris because she has been a “champion” on protecting abortion rights.

While Harris served as San Francisco district attorney, she helped spearhead opposition to the parental notification ballot initiative, Everett said. As attorney general, Harris co-sponsored a bill with NARAL targeting the deceptive practices of some antiabortion pregnancy centers, Everitt said.

“She’s gone above and beyond what we would expect from a politician,” said Everett, who was stationed at the NARAL booth at the California Democratic Party’s ongoing three-day convention in San Jose.

Sanchez, also at the convention chatting with delegates, had a few choice words about NARAL’s decision. The congresswoman said it was just the latest example of Democratic party “insiders” trying to sway the election to Harris.

“We’re 100% pro-choice, and we have a federal voting record on it,” Sanchez said. “It’s all about the insiders. We knew this from the beginning. Getting into the race was not going to be easy, because the insiders already chose who would be the next senator.”

The NARAL announcement came a day before Democratic Party delegates will vote on whether to endorse one of the Senate candidates.


Will these 7 Democrats pick sides?

We’ve been tracking which presidential candidates have earned support from California’s congressional delegation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has no endorsements among the delegation — Hillary Clinton has all of the declared superdelegates.

But there are seven lawmakers who have so far not said who they want to see earn the Democratic nod. Will they weigh in at the convention this weekend?

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Democrats urge low-income Californians nab new tax credit

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and state Controller Betty Yee kicked off the 2016 California Democratic Party convention Friday with an appeal to low-income Californians to apply for a new state tax credit that could put an average of $900 back in their wallets.

An estimated 600,000 Californians are eligible for the state earned income tax credit, a $380 million program approved by the Legislature and the governor in 2015. So far, 116,000 claims have been filed.

“I know from my own childhood how far even a small boost can go, when it comes to putting just simple food on the table or shoes on little feet,” said Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who grew up in southwestern Virginia coal mining country.

The federal government allows an earned income tax credit that applies to people earning up to about $50,000, depending on how many children they have. In 2013, it provided 3.1 million households with an average of $2,373 each, for a total of $7.3 billion, according to Internal Revenue Service figures.

California joined 25 other states and Washington, D.C., when it approved the program to supplement the federal credit with one of its own.

A 2013 study from the Public Policy Institute of California said the federal credit was one of the most effective tools for reducing poverty in the state.

The state has joined with a coalition of community groups, known as CalEITC4Me, to publicize the tax credit and provide free tax preparation for eligible Californians.


Let the Senate politicking begin


Who is paying for the free WiFi at the California Democratic Party convention?


Rep. Grace Napolitano had ‘very minor stroke,’ staff says

The veteran member of Congress will not be attending this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention.


Delegates get special attention heading into convention

If you’re a Senate candidate hoping to win your party’s official endorsement, the delegates to the party convention are your new best friends.

See how the party activists are being courted as things kick off in San Jose.

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Yes, they know the way to San Jose

Some early tweets from Democrats headed to the heart of Silicon Valley for this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention.


Democrats will update party platform in San Jose

Democrats protest fracking at the state party's 2014 convention.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

One of the tasks of any political party when its members meet is to ratify its broad statement of shared principles, a platform on which candidates and their campaigns can run.

California Democrats are no different, and will consider a 23-page manifesto that includes many of the party’s national positions and priorities.

But some seem decidedly Californian.

Support for a government ban on out-of-network ATM fees? It’s in there. So too is a call for “shared, convenient and value-priced parking” for drivers.

Other platform planks are far more aspirational than either Democratic leaders in the Legislature and in Congress seem to be. On the transition to green energy, the platform calls for 100% of California’s electricity to be generated from “renewable and sustainable energy sources” in just the next 14 years, by 2030. That’s doubly more aggressive than the law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown just last fall.

Some items that are new from the 2014 platform are no doubt driven by events of the day. The draft proposal calls for the “universal use of police body, dashboard and prisoner compartment cameras” and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The platform also specifically calls for Democrats to “support fair share fees,” the money collected by public employee unions that is at the heart of a closely watched case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Noncontroversial items -- at least for Democrats -- are still in there, including the legalization of marijuana and a minimum wage that automatically rises with inflation.

And the 2016 platform includes a new section on defeating terrorism. “We believe that it is impossible to eradicate terrorism solely through a strategy of war and brute force,” says the draft document. Unlike the 2014 version, which demanded a 25%-30% cut in defense spending, the new platform has been amended to instead call for a “gradual and responsible reduction.”

The platform is expected to be ratified by Democratic convention delegates on Sunday.