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Wilson writes: "More than 3,000 delegates from across the Golden State will parachute into Sacramento in coming days to hear from candidates running for an open gubernatorial seat, a handful of statewide offices, and to elect a new party chairman."

Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)
Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)

Bernie Backers Fight to Take Over California Democrats

By Reid Wilson, The Hill

19 May 17


ast weekend, the Sacramento Convention Center hosted a statewide volleyball tournament. This weekend, it will host the next battle in the war over the future of the Democratic Party.

More than 3,000 delegates from across the Golden State will parachute into Sacramento in coming days to hear from candidates running for an open gubernatorial seat, a handful of statewide offices, and to elect a new party chairman.

Forces loyal to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) see the race to replace outgoing chairman John Burton as a chance to take over the best-funded, best-organized state party in the nation ahead of the 2020 presidential contest.

Our Revolution, the outgrowth of Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, and the California Nurses Association, the most prominent outside group that spent on Sanders's behalf last year, both back Kimberly Ellis, a professional organizer from the Bay Area who has spent the last two years running for chair.

Most of California's political elite, including 30 labor unions and the vast majority of the state Senate, supports Eric Bauman, the current vice chairman of the state party and head of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Neither candidate loves the idea that the race is a proxy fight between the Sanders and Hillary Clinton wings of the Democratic Party.

Both candidates backed Clinton in the 2016 primary, and both have supporters in each camp. Both supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Sanders’s choice to lead the Democratic National Committee, in February. (Ellison lost to former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.)

But it is a frame others have embraced as the Democratic Party strives to find a path back to power.

“What is happening at the national level has spilled over here,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire (D), a Bauman backer. “You have very similar sides lining up as you did in the Democratic primary.”

The internecine fight has delegates and elected officials walking on eggshells, fearful of alienating either the established wing of the party with a proven history of raising money and mobilizing supporters, or the progressive wing that has harnessed the enthusiasm Sanders brought to the campaign trail.

Gavin Newsom, the state's lieutenant governor and the front-runner in the race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown (D), has endorsed both Bauman and Ellis.

“This is going to be a contentious weekend,” predicted state Sen. Toni Atkins (D), a former Assembly Speaker who backs Bauman. “There is a progressive end in our party pushing to upend the status quo.”

Ellis has cast herself as the embodiment of a new and different direction for California Democrats, after years under more established figures. Bauman has not embraced the establishment label, but his support from labor and elected officials has let Ellis paint him as the status quo.

The differences between Bauman and Ellis are minor: Ellis has told delegates she would refuse contributions from the pharmaceutical, oil and tobacco industries. Bauman wants to start an in-state think tank meant to advance progressive ideas.

But what is most telling is that, even while both candidates backed Clinton, who beat Sanders by seven points in the state’s 2016 primary, they have freely adopted Sanders’s platform. Both back raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and both support a single-payer health care system, currently being debated by California’s Democratic-dominated legislature.

The race will be decided by about 3,300 delegates who have won the right to vote. About a third were elected at caucuses in state assembly districts in January, where long-time Democratic Party stalwarts were stunned by the number of Sanders supporters who showed up to run for, and win, delegate slots.

Another third are controlled by party leaders and elected officials, the majority of whom back Bauman.

The final third was elected through county party organizations, where both sides claim victories: Bauman won 94 percent of the vote among his home-town Los Angeles County members, who make up nearly a quarter of the total vote. Ellis has recruited new candidates in northern rural counties, where Democrats have not always been present in recent years.

“In very few things in life can you affect what the electorate looks like,” said Joe Macaluso, who works for Ellis. “We actually can influence who’s in the delegation.”

Bauman's camp claims it has commitments from more than half the delegates, enough to win the race outright, said Dave Jacobson, Bauman's lead strategist. Macaluso said Ellis “absolutely” has the numbers necessary to win.

Strategists watching the race say a win this weekend will come down to each side’s whip operation. Though 3,300 delegates will show up in Sacramento, the number who actually stand in line to vote may not be as high. Both Ellis backers and Bauman supporters say they have created the mechanics necessary to get their voters to the polls located throughout the convention center.

“This is all going to come down to a mobilizing effort and an organization effort,” Jacobson said. “We feel extremely confident in our operation and in our mobilization efforts.”

“Our whip program has been running for two months,” Macaluso said. “And we’re not whipping undecided votes, we’re making sure our voters are in line.” your social media marketing partner


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+15 # Buddha 2017-05-19 10:06
We so desperately need Corpo-Dem fossils like Brown out of the way, we need leadership that will make California Single-Payer happen. Leadership that will stop accepting Petro-Dollar donations and allowing fracking in our fault-riddled state that fills our aquifers and water supplies with its poisons; we can't be "environmental leaders" and one of the leading oil producing states at the same time. We need sane water policy that balances preserving watersheds and its species with our significant consumption needs, and that will take investment. Unfortunately, in CA we keep falling for the slick socially-left but corpo-neolibera l Dem candidates of the Clinton mold. So while on one hand we are so proud of our socially Left cred, and we drive around in our hybrids (Prius owner here!), behind the scenes we are fracking in our neighborhoods and farm land, drilling for oil off our coasts, and pumping said oil across our state for refining and export of its products from our ports with nary a bleep.

Let's face it, if positive change is going to come to America, it isn't coming out of Washington anytime soon. It will have to be from the states. Time for California to step up and show how it is done, environmentally , economically, and for health care...and that's going to need a good old dose of New Deal "Democratic Socialism" folks.
+2 # Femihumanist 2017-05-19 12:36
You're so right.

People in the Washington area are watching the race for the Dem nomination for Gov in Va. Both candidates express the same views on the surface social issues (income inequality, abortion, transgender, marriage, etc.). The difference seems to be that one is part of the old Domo establishment while the younger one has not existed very long in the party of Goldman-Sachs and pipelines. So, the question is can you undo your own past? I think you can but I wouldn't take that chance if I was voting in Va.
+1 # Wise woman 2017-05-20 03:16
Every night on the world news we see the ravaging effects of climate change. It will continue and it will get worse and if the big one hits in CA due to tracking, all that oil won't matter a hill of beans. The devastation will be calamitous and folks who survive will be running inland directly into the path of tornadoes. If this doesn't wake us up, nothing will. Mother Earth will survive no matter what it takes. That's what Native Peoples understand and white people don't. Will the meek inherit what's left of the earth?

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