|This list of candidates has been compiled through the efforts of members of the California Super-Progressive Anti-Corporate Political Activists Facebook group, a coalition of Bernie delegates and super-volunteers, progressive members of the California Democratic Party and Green Party activists. While there may be other corporate-free, progressive candidates running for office, these are the candidates that have received the most support.
June 2018 Election
AD 3 Sonia Aery (D) CDP
CD 1 Audrey Denney (D) JD
District Attorney: Pamela Price OR
Supervisor District 3: Hilary Hodge
San Diego County
San Joaquin County
Supervisor District 2: Motecuzoma Sanchez – Bernie delegate
(i) = incumbent
(D) = Democrat
Note: Inclusion on this list does not imply my support or the support of any individual member of the FB group. Members of the California Democratic Party are prohibited from expressing support or preference for candidates for state or national office not registered Democrat, and no such support should be implied.
This list is NOT final, names may be added or removed as more information becomes available.
We consider a candidate corporate-free if he does not take contributions from large businesses and corporations (those with over 25 employees).
For recommendations on other statewide races and in Alameda County, check out the San Leandro Talk Voting Guide.
Stephen Jaffe alleges CDP cheated to assure endorsement of unpopular congresswoman.
Stephen Jaffe, a well respected civil rights attorney running for Congress against Nancy Pelosi, has sued the California Democratic Party for playing dirty with the Party’s endorsements. Jaffe is a running on a progressive platform, emphasizing single payer health care, strong environmental regulations, banning fracking and offshore drilling, reforming the criminal justice system and ending police brutality, and ending wars of aggression and American military expansionism.
According to the lawsuit, and as previously described, the California Democratic Party automatically endorses incumbents such as Pelosi, unless a challenge to such endorsement is filed. This challenge must be signed by 20% of eligible participants in the pre-endorsement caucus for the district in question. Jaffe applied to be endorsed by the Party and proceeded to collect the signatures needed using the list of eligible voters given to him by the Party. However, on the same day that the signatures were due, the party created a new list, with a larger number of eligible voters so that a greater number of signatures would be needed. The Party, did not communicate this to Jaffe until well passed the deadline for submitting signatures.
In his lawsuit, Jaffe alleges a violation of due process rights, fair play and transparency.
Newsom will advance to the general election, but it’s too early to predict who will join him in November.
If you are a California Democratic Party( (CDP) insider, you have probably heard rumors that California Treasurer John Chiang’s campaign for California Governor is on its last legs. Despite raising over $7 million and spending over $2 million in 2017 alone, Chiang is languishing at the number four spot in the polls, with just about 8% of the vote. More troubling for his campaign, a recent poll put former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s chances at 21%, within the margin of error of front runner Gavin Newsom‘s 23%,. This has made the media pronounce this a two-person race between the former mayors of California’s best known cities.
For John Chiang, who had started with a healthy measure of support from Democratic Party members, rumors of his campaign’s demise threaten to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. As delegates to the California Democratic Party convention lose faith in his ability to win, they have been switching their endorsement votes to progressive darling Delaine Eastin or JFK-wannabe Gavin Newsom (Villaraigosa seems to be universally loaded within the party), leaving Chiang with a deadly aroma of failure. Similarly, Chiang’s low poll numbers have led to his fundraising becoming flat in the last half of 2017, when he spent almost as much as he raised.
I started this article planning to write about the demise of Chiang’s campaign. I had just written a post on the death foretold of Kevin De Leon’s US Senate campaign – which is not nearly as widely rumored by Party insiders -, and it seemed logical to at least mention Chiang’s as well. But as I looked into the reasons for the rumors, it became clear that insiders were wrong. While it’s true that Chiang’s polling numbers show no movement despite having campaigned heavily for the last year, the same is true of all other candidates. The race today stands pretty much exactly as it did last spring, when the roster of major Democratic candidates was finalized. There has been no movement for anyone because voters, simply, are not paying attention and they are responding most of all to name familiarity. Absent a major scandal, Newsom will earn a spot in the general simply because his name recognition and ballot designation of Lieutenant Governor guarantee that an important fraction of the electorate mindlessly vote for him. What will define who else makes it to the general election will be the next two months of active campaigning, not the last fifteen.
A look at the polls over the last two years, show that Newsom has been consistently polling at ~24% since October 2016, despite spending $2.3 million in 2017 alone. The consistency of his numbers is interesting, because his numbers are similar regardless of the pollster and they seem independent on who else is in the race – the early polls included potential candidates that ended up not running. Newsom got 23% of the vote in an October 2016 Berkeley IGS poll, 25% in a January 2017 Public Policy Polling poll, 28 % in a March 2017 Berkeley IGS poll, 26 % in a September 2017 Berkeley IGS poll, 23% in a November 2017 PPIC poll, 26% in a December 2017 Berkeley IGS poll, 25% in a January 2018 USC poll and 23% in a January 2018 PPIC poll. He spent almost $3 million in 2017 to see no movement.
Chiang‘s numbers vary a little according to the pollster, he has somewhere between 5 and 9% of the vote, but have not shown much movement either. He was at 5% in the May 2017 Berkeley IGS poll, went up to 7% in September and was back down to 5% in the December 2017 poll. Both the November and January PPIC polls had him at 9%. He spent just over $2 million in 2017.
It’s a similar story with Delaine Eastin, who went from 3% to 5% from May to December 2017 in IGS polls and form 3% in the November PPIC poll to 4% in the January one. She spent under $500K in 2017.
As far as the Republican candidates go, John Cox has been in the race for longest. His numbers peaked at 18% in a March 2017 poll, when he was the only Republican in the race, but have been consistent at 7-9% since other Republicans joined. Assemblymember Travis Allen, a Trump supporter with serious accusations of sexual harassment against him, has been polling at around 7% while former Congressmember Doug Ose, a moderate who just entered the race, is at around 3%.
Undecided votes, meanwhile have gone from about 36% in May of 2017 to 26% now.
As shown, there are small differences in the percentages of votes candidates have been getting from poll to poll and between pollsters, but as they don’t seem to reflect either an upwards or downwards trend, even as undecideds show preferences This suggests that these small differences are just noise and that undecideds are not breaking for any of these candidates. Again, a sign that voters are not really paying attention, and that their responses are an indication of name familiarity, aided by candidate description, than of actual preference.
This is particularly well illustrated in the case of Antonio Villaraigosa, whose poll numbers seem to indicate people are focusing on his ballot designation rather than his name. In the Berkelegy IGC polls, where Villaraigosa is referred to as “former Los Angeles Mayor”, he went from getting 6% and 11% of the vote in the October 2016 and March 2017 polls, which also listed Eric Garcetti, the current Mayor of LA, as a candidate – to getting 17% in the September and December 2017 which did not list Garcetti. Villaraigosa got 19% and 21% of the vote in the November and January PPIC polls, where he was also described as the former LA Mayor. However, in the January 2018 poll conducted for USC where he is described as a businessman he only gets 10% of the vote, which is in tune with the 11% he gets in the internal polls separately conducted for the Chiang and Newsom campaign.
This dramatic difference in poll numbers is significant because while Villaraigosa will be able to describe himself as having been Mayor of LA on the candidate statement that appears in the voter guide, he will not be able to use that as his ballot designation. It remain to be seen how many people will vote for him if they don’t immediately recognize him for his former position when they see his name in the ballot.
Static numbers like this show that voters are making their selections based on name recognition and candidate description rather than on preferences based on the distinguishing characteristics of the candidates. As these being the active part of their campaign, and media coverage and the proximity of the election awakes voters’ interest, the polls are likely to change significantly.
Berniecrat Pat Harris May Be the the Breakthrough Progressive to Take on Feinstein
It’s hard to ignore the facts: Kevin De Leon’s insurgent campaign for US Senate is in serious trouble. He is polling at only 17% among likely voters, a decline of 4% since December, and has struggled to raise money – his fundraising totals by the end of the filing period were under $450K. In contrast, incumbent Dianne Feinstein is polling at 46% and has $10 million in her war chest.
De Leon’s troubles are not at all surprising. He announced that he was running for Senator in October, hoping to capitalize on Feinstein’s growing unpopularity, discomfort about her age (she would be 91 by the end of her next term) and the disconnect between her right-of-center policies and California’s leftward political shift. The difficulties of challenging Feinstein were obvious from the beginning, but it was his political miscalculations that doomed the campaign.
De Leon was unfortunate in announcing his bid for the US Senate just as the #MeToo movement started in earnest. Two days after his announcement, women who worked for or with California legislators issued a scathing public letter detailing the spread and the viciousness of sexual harassment at the Capitol. While the original letter did not name names, some victims have started to make their accusations public, leading to the resignation of several legislators. Among those publicly accused is Tony Mendoza, one of De Leon’s close friends and roommates in Sacramento. He has been accused, among other misdeeds, of repeatedly inviting a prospective employee to the apartment he shared with De Leon and then firing staffers who reported this conduct to the Rules Committee. While De Leon denies knowledge of Mendoza’s offensive conduct, activists have noted how De Leon had helped kill a whistle blower protection bill and have criticized the hiring of private law firms to investigate these allegations. His proximity to these sexual harassment scandals helped dull enthusiasm from his candidacy from the start.
Just as serious a problem is that Kevin De Leon apparently failed to anticipate how forcibly Feinstein would try to shut down his campaign. Reportedly, the Feinstein camp leaned heavily on campaign professionals statewide with the message “dump Kevin or you will never work in politics again”. What is certain is that within a fortnight of announcing, two of his long-time consultants, election lawyer Stephen Kaufman and fundraiser Stephanie Daily, distanced themselves from De Leon. His sources of campaign talent became significantly limited. Endorsements, too, dried up: his website does not even include an endorsement page listing his supporters.
Kevin De Leon has always been a prolific fundraiser and had relied heavily on donations from corporations and from labor. He apparently felt he could continue to rely on these contributors for his Senate race. He even opened a Super PAC to help with this plan. But openly contributing to De Leon or a PAC associated with him represents quite a risk for corporations wanting to remain in good standing with Feinstein and her political network. Indeed, his SuperPAC lays empty. De Leon had also hoped that he would be able to transfer the money laying on his state campaign accounts to a PAC that would then support his campaign for US Senate, something that experts doubted would be legal. He did, indeed, transfer $477K from his Lieutenant Governor campaign account and $723K from his State Senate account to the “Golden State Progress” PAC a couple of days before announcing his run for US Senate. These funds, however, were recently returned to the original state campaign accounts.
Meanwhile, De Leon’s reliance on donations from corporations has raised distrust with many in the anti-corporate/Berniecrat wing of the Democratic Party, not eager to replace a corporate senator like Feinstein with another one.
If De Leon continues his campaign, he has an even larger problem brewing. Several years ago, De Leon was caught in a corruption scandal that led to the conviction and incarceration of his close friend and ally Senator Ron Calderon. According to the FBI, in exchange for Calderon not seeking the chairmanship of the California Latino Legislative Caucus (so that Ricardo Lara – now running for Insurance Commissioner – could retain it), De Leon arranged for the Latino Caucus to transfer $25,000 to a consultancy firm owned by Tom Calderon, a former legislator and Ron Calderon’s brother. Tom Calderon himself later plead guilty to money laundering charges. De Leon also promised Ron Calderon that he would offer him a paid appointment after his Senate term was over. De Leon was never charged for corruption, but he did testify against Calderon before the grand jury and was slotted to testify against him if his case had gone to trial.
This scandal has been mostly forgotten, but the word in political and legal circles is that there is additional material that incriminates De Leon. Political insiders believe that the Feinstein camp is waiting until the end of the filing period before releasing such material to the media, if they have indeed acquired it. Of course, at this point it’s only speculation that the material exists and that it will be leaked.
Even if he manages to avoid this scandal from spilling over, Kevin De Leon’s best, and perhaps only, hope of keeping his campaign alive is to obtain the endorsement of the California Democratic Party (CDP), which is meeting for a statewide endorsing convention in San Diego at the end of February. As the endorsed candidate, De Leon’s could ask his corporate and labor donors to make financial contributions to the CDP. instead of De Leon’s campaign. De Leon could dictate how the money would be spent, including on mailers and TV ads for himself. These contributions would be reported as contributions to the Party, and mixed in with the contributions earmarked for many dozens other endorsees, making it practically impossible to tie any particular donor to De Leon. While this is not strictly legal, there are few paper trails and the Party has managed to escape serious sanctions for these actions election after election.
Unfortunately for De Leon, he seems unlikely to gain the Party’s endorsement. While he will have the votes of many labor activists, left-leaning party insiders and some Berniecrats eager to see anyone but Feinstein in that Senate seat, he simply does not have enough internal support within the Party to get the 60% of the delegate vote needed to secure the endorsement. Despite being the President of the Senate, De Leon is not particularly well known among Party activists, he has only started making efforts to reach out to delegates recently, and establishment party activists are usually reluctant to vote for candidates they don’t see as being viable.
To his credit, Kevin De Leon has read the tea leaves and he has started to telegraph the de facto end of his campaign. In a recent interview with the progressive magazine The Nation, he answered the question of why he was running by saying
I think that we are long overdue for a debate on the issues, the values, and the priorities that we care about. It’s been more than a quarter of a century since we’ve had that debate.
That is the language of a protest candidate, one that is running as a symbolic choice or to push the leading candidate in a particular direction. It is not the language of a real contender, who would speak of action rather than debate. De Leon didn’t start this race as a protest candidate, his change in rhetoric thus indicates his acceptance of this role. This should help him maintain the goodwill of Feinstein voters, who constitute 67% of registered Democrats, according to the most recent poll.
Given the current scenario, it is possible that De Leon will remain in the race until after the Party’s Convention in late February, in order to deny Feinstein the Party’s endorsement – which would justify his candidacy in the first place – and then he exit the race. This is particularly likely if a big-name Republican enters the race, as they could consolidate the 30% or so of the vote that goes to Republican candidates in statewide primaries, and thus advance to the general. Republicans are eager to find a serious candidate to run for the US Senate, fearing that without one Republican voters will stay at home and not vote for down ballot races. Still, none have shown up so far and the deadline for submitting a candidate statement to run for US Senate is February 14th.
If De Leon does decide to end his campaign, and provided that he is swift and gets a sympathetic ear at the Secretary of State’s office, he might still enter the race for Lieutenant Governor. De Leon had originally opened a campaign committee to run for that office which has $2.7 million at his disposal, were he to run for that office. His State Senate campaign has another $800K. The current three Democratic candidates for the office are unknowns, and only one of them holds elective office. De Leon has gained some name recognition and press from running for Senate and he would have a very good chance of winning that race.
The conventional wisdom is that if Kevin De Leon remains in the ballot, he will gather the second largest amount of votes at the primary and make it to the general election, even if forced by his fundraising to wage a low-key campaign. However, he may not be so fortunate. The second place spot is just as likely to go to civil rights attorney Pat Harris, a Berniecrat who has quietly been waging a grassroots campaign for months.
Like many others in the Berniecrat movement, Pat Harris got into politics to fight the corrupting power of dark money in politics, which he understands as the “greatest threat to our democracy”.
A long time progressive, also running on a platform of single-payer healthcare, strong environmental regulations and criminal justice reform, Harris has been crisscrossing California in a solar powered bus, talking directly to voters. His campaign is mostly self-funded – Harris has been very successful in his legal practice – and he will not take any corporate donations.
As commendable as a grassroots approach to campaigning is, it’s unlikely to be successful in a statewide race in a state as large as California. However, probably unbeknownst to him, Pat Harris has an ace on the hole that could propel him to November: his name.
To understand why, you need to remember David Evans.
“Who is David Evans?” you ask. Beats me. To this day all I know about David Evans is his name, his ballot designation of “chief financial officer” and the fact that he got over 21% of the vote in the 2014 race for California Controller. He came within a point of beating John Perez, the then Speaker of the California Assembly, and Betty Yee, a member of the Board of Equalization that would go on to win the seat. Evans was not only a complete unknown, but he spent pennies on his campaign. He won 21% of the vote – a greater percentage than what De Leon is currently polling at – on account of his generic name and his ballot designation alone.
This example, and many others from local races, accentuate the often ignored importance of name familiarity. You might not quite remember who David Evans, or Helen Foster or Dan Jones is – but if you see their name on a ballot, chances are the name will sound familiar. Pat Harris‘ is not only a generic name, but it also happens to be rather similar to Kamala Harris, the name of the last candidate to be elected as the US Senator from California . Kamala ran as Attorney General, Pat Harris will run as some sort of Attorney. And while “Kevin De Leon” is a clearly masculine name, “Pat Harris” is far more androgynous, which might lead voters who don’t want to vote for Feinstein but want to vote for a female candidate, to unwittingly vote for him.
It is truly impossible to know how many voters will support Pat Harris based on his name alone. – or on any other factors. He was not included in either of the polls that measured Kevin De Leon versus Dianne Feinstein. The Controller’s race was very different as it lacked an incumbent, David Evans ran as a Republican, rather than a Democrat, and many voters don’t even know what the Controller does. Still, it does suggest that at least 22% of primary voters are willing to vote based on the name of the candidate and their ballot designation alone.
(an early draft of this article was previously posted)
Party Activists Must Object to the Automatic-Endorsement of Incumbents to Prevent This.
California Democrats have a big problem. Two sitting Assemblymembers, Raúl Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh, resigned after they were accused of sexually harassing and committing other improprieties against women. But these two are the tip of the iceberg. According to rumors circulating within party activists and legislators, the Los Angeles Times has a list of twelve legislators with credible complaints of sexual harassment against them. Two of those legislators are said to be Republicans, which leaves ten Democrats. One of the Democratic legislators included in the list I was given, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, recently resigned citing health reasons. Another, Senator Tony Mendoza, has been publicly accused of luring a 19 year old intern to his hotel room and giving her alcohol, and inviting a potential employee to his apartment to “review her and other resumes” and then firing the staffers that reported this. Mendoza has taken a forced leave of absence, but he is still running for re-election and seeking the Democratic endorsement. He has been calling party delegates to demand they support him.
Chances are both Mendoza, and the other six still publicly unnamed Democrats supposedly in the list of accused sexual harassers – some of whom may even be rapists -, will receive the California Democratic Party’s endorsement. That’s because of recently passed rules that make it almost automatic for incumbent Democrats to get the Party’s endorsement and impossible to challenge them once they are placed in the consent calendar. In trying to protect its incumbents, the California Democratic Party is taking the risk of being known as the Party that endorses sexual harassment.
As the rules stand, an incumbent Congressmember, Assemblymember or State Senator will be automatically placed in the Party’s endorsement consent calendar, unless 20% of the voters at a pre-endorsement conference file an objection by January 17th. These voters are mostly composed of party delegates , county central committee members living in the district and representatives from democratic clubs based in the district. Incumbents themselves are delegates and they get to appoint another 5 or 6 delegates, depending on the office. Incumbents also often endorse and fund slates of candidates for elected delegate and central committee spots, thus controlling a considerable percentage of the votes at pre-endorsement conferences. Even when incumbents do not control voters, it’s very difficult for Democratic Party activists to sign a formal objection like it’s required. The incumbents are still in office and will be for at least another year, and they could easily retaliate by voting against bills activists support or sabotaging the activists’ incipient political careers. Fears of retaliation run rampant within the Democratic Party and with good reason.
Still, if the California Democratic Party is going to retain any dignity and credibility for the 2018 elections, Party members must put those fears aside and file objections against incumbents. They must do it in the case of Tony Mendoza, but they must also do it at the very least against all the incumbents rumored to be in the list – and perhaps against all incumbents altogether as an insurance against any abhorrent information about them that may appear between now and the Convention in late February. Challenging an incumbent does not mean that the incumbents will not get the party’s endorsement – rather, it means that there will be opportunities to remove them from the endorsement consent calendar in the future, if negative information comes to light. But if they are not challenged now, they cannot be removed later if that occurs.
There are, of course, other reasons to challenge incumbents. It is healthy in any democracy to have representatives periodically have to make their case for re-election and endorsement before the voters. Just as we don’t automatically elect incumbents to their next terms, we shouldn’t automatically endorse them either.
I therefore urge my fellow delegates, central committee members and club reps throughout the state, to file objections to the automatic endorsement of incumbent legislators in their districts.
If this is not done, and any sexual harasser makes it to the consent calendar without the possibility of being removed – then CDP delegates will only have one choice to prevent sexual harassers from receiving the Party’s endorsement and making the CDP the party that endorses sexual harassment: to vote down the whole consent calendar. There will be no possibility to vote on the individual endorsements of Democratic candidates in the consent calendar – they must all be approved together. The consent calendar will includes all the Democratic Assemblymembers, State Senators and Congressmembers that have been recommended for the endorsement – up to over 180 candidates. It seems, on its face, unfair to punish so many good Democrats by denying them the party’s endorsement simply because it’d be the only way to deny it to sexual harassers. But if it’s a choice between that and endorsing sexual harassers, I believe we should vote to not endorse anyone. Let’s hope we don’t have to make that choice.
Billionaire hedge fund investor and mega-Democratic Party donor Tom Steyer announced today that he will be making an announcement on Monday. The speculation in the press is that he’ll announce his run US Senate against Dianne Feinstein or for California Governor. There are indications, however, that he plans to run for President instead. After all, Steyer just spent $20 million of his own money airing commercials featuring himself asking people to sign a petition urging Congress to impeach Trump. This not only raised his profile nationwide – when he makes his announcement, at least some people will know who he is – but it has helped him build a massive database of voters he can approach for support.
Steyer is making his announcement at a press conference in Washington DC, in front of the national media. Were he to run for a California office, you would expect him to make this announcement somewhere in this state, with a crowd of Californians behind him cheering him on. There is more: today he also announced he was buying each member of Congress a copy of Michael Wolfe’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” and is planning to hand deliver each copy.
But Tom Steyer would be a fool to run for President. Surely, the temptation is great. He is rich enough to fund the election on his own and Americans just showed they will elect a billionaire with no qualifications to the Presidency. He would be justified in asking himself “why not me?”. But the answer should be obvious. We may all hate Trump, but we also love to hate him. Trump has charisma. He is entertaining – a reality TV star for a reality TV generation.
Steyer, on the other hand, is a dud. I’m sure he is a nice guy and he has the look of an old professor, but he is otherwise charmless. But for his millions, he is not the sort of guy you’d have a beer with at a bar. His speeches, which I’ve had to endure at the California Democratic Party Convention (the privilege of donating so much money is a stage) are remarkably uninspiring. His lack of government experience and his business acumen might be enthralling for the sort of people who voted for Trump – but those voters are taken. The rest of the electorate will want someone who knows what they are doing. And beyond impeaching Trump, Steyer doesn’t have much of a platform to run on. Sure, he has fashioned himself as an environmentalist and climate-change warrior, but his history of pumping “hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal mines and coal-fired power plants from Indonesia to China” throws doubts about his sincerity. Indeed, in 2016 he supported a cap-and-trade bill in California that was written by oil companies to protect their interests.
Were Steyer to run, it is difficult to know who his natural constituency would be. The progressives in the party will navigate to Bernie Sanders, if he runs, or to Elizabeth Warren or perhaps to a yet unidentified true progressive. The moderates will have a plethora of choices, including the far more exciting Kamala Harris.
It is difficult to know why Steyer thinks he can run and win, but rich men tend to be surrounded by sycophants who tell them what they want to hear – and if he wants to hear that he’ll be God’s gift to America, I’m sure that’s exactly what his consultants and the politicians who benefit from his largess, will tell him. Of course, he may not want to win at all. Perhaps he just wants to run because he’s bored – that seems to explain Trump’s run as well. Perhaps he just wants to feel adulation from more than the politicians he gives money to.
Of course, I may be wrong. His announcement may be about funding lawsuits against Trump’s massive expansion of offshore drilling . Or he may be starting another anti-Trump initiative. He may be doing something else that would help get his name out in preparation for announcing his Presidential run in the future. And it is possible that he will be announcing a run for Senate or that he’s endorsing Kevin De Leon or even Feinstein herself, perhaps in exchange for her support after she chooses to retire (though that seat seems to have been promised to Garcetti). We’ll know soon enough. But if Tom Steyer is smart, he won’t be announcing a run for President.
A Guide for CDP Delegates
As the 2018 primary season approaches, candidates for all sorts of offices will be seeking the endorsement of the California Democratic Party. To receive it, they will need to convince enough CDP central commission members/delegates to vote for them. Who and where gets to vote depends on the type of office. The following is an explanation for CDP members – and anyone else who is interested – on how the endorsement procedure works.
The California Democratic Party has a state central committee that consists of about 3,300 members/delegates. These members are mostly either directly elected by voters at assembly district caucuses which take place in January of odd years, selected by county central committees or appointed by the Democratic elected officials. They get to vote on the endorsement of candidates for statewide office, as well as for candidates for Congress, State Senate and State Assembly for the district where they live. In every county in California, there is also a Democratic Central Committee – the members of which vote on the endorsement of candidates for local offices.
All 3300 members/delegates of the California Democratic Party vote on the endorsement of state-wide candidates. The vote happens at the CDP’s annual convention, which this year will take place on February 23-25 in San Diego. In order to vote, delegates must register for the convention and credential. If they are unable to attend, they can have another eligible registered Democrat carry their proxy. They must also register for the convention and get their credentials.
The vote itself usually takes place on Saturday afternoon. Delegates stand in line to get their ballots, which they then cast. Delegates can chose to vote “no endorsement”.
A candidate needs 60% of the votes cast to win. Votes of “no endorsement” count for the total, blank ballots do not. If no candidate reaches 60% of the vote, then no candidate is endorsed. If a candidate reaches it, s/he becomes the officially endorsed candidate of the California Democratic Party.
Only candidates considered by the Chair of the CDP to be “viable” are able to stand for the endorsement. To be considered “viable” in this election, a candidate must
– Have been previously elected to public office in a jurisdiction with a population of over 50,000 (Democratic central committee does not count) OR
– Have fundraised at least $250K OR
– Be polling at least at 6% on the polls OR
– Get the physical signatures of at least 300 delegates.
In addition, candidates must pay an application fee of $1,000. While this is not a hindrance for large campaigns, it is a significant investment for protest candidates who are unlikely to receive the endorsement in any case.
I believe these will be the endorsement candidates for statewide races. In parenthesis, I’ve written how I intend to vote.
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla (no endorsement)
Controller: Betty Yee (Yee)
Treasurer: Fiona Ma (no endorsement)
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara (undecided)
It is very difficult for a non-incumbent candidate in a contested race to get the party’s endorsement – and this is particularly true when there are multiple candidates with a following. In 2016, Kamala Harris was able to obtain the endorsement over rival Loretta Sanchez, but in 2014 no candidate for Secretary of State or State Treasurer was able to get it. In my estimation, no candidate for Governor or Lieutenant Governor will receive the endorsement. It is also likely that there will be no endorsement in the US Senate or the State Attorney race, though in the latter I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Jones won it.
In the past, incumbents without serious competition did not seek the party’s endorsement in the primary, knowing that as the only Democrat in the general, they would automatically receive it. Alex Padilla and Betty Yee may still take this approach.
Endorsement of Candidates Running for Congress, State Assembly and State Senate
Endorsements for candidates for Congress and the Legislature can be relatively simple in non-contentious races, and very complicated in contentious ones. In summary, it is up to the delegates that live in the district of each candidate to place them in the Party’s endorsement consent calendar, but the whole body gets to vote on their endorsement according to the rules below. Key issues to remember is that outside the Convention floor, delegates can only vote for candidates running in their districts. At the Convention floor, they can only vote to 1) remove specifically challenged candidates from the endorsement consent calendar and 2) adopt the endorsement consent calendar. Given that a vote to not adopt the endorsement consent calendar would mean that no candidate would be endorsed, this pretty much will never happen. If you are on the consent calendar by the Sunday of the convention, you are endorsed.
Any registered Democrat is eligible to run for the Democratic endorsement – there are no viability tests in these races – but they must pay an application fee of $250 to $500, depending of the office they seek.
Automatic Endorsement of Incumbents (Unless)
Incumbent Democratic Assembly members, State Senators and Congressmembers are automatically put on the endorsement consent calendar, unless 20% of eligible voters at the pre-endorsement Conference file an objection at least 10 days before this conference. In 2018 the deadline to file this objection is January 17th at 5 PM.
This process is made more difficult as there are reports that regional directors are not sharing the list of eligible voters with delegates that want to challenge incumbents, making it harder to surmise how many signatures you need to reach 20%.
If 20% of eligible voters file this objection, the incumbent and any other Democratic candidate that has applied for the endorsement will appear before the pre-endorsement conference.
On January 27th or 28th, each region (an administrative subdivision of the CDP which includes 4 assembly districts) will have a pre-endorsement conference where eligible voters will vote on the endorsement of Assemblymembers, State Senators (if running) an Congressmembers.
At the pre-endorsement conference, eligible candidates come and give a 2 minute speech. After all candidates for all races in all districts that fall in the relevant region have spoken, voters vote and then ballots are counted. Voters can choose to vote for “no endorsement” in every race. A candidate needs to get 70% of votes cast to be put in the consent calendar for the Party’s endorsement. If no candidate receives 70%, but at least one candidate receives 50% of the vote, the endorsement goes into an endorsement caucus at the convention. All candidates that are registered Democrat are eligible to participate in the endorsement caucus for their district, if one is held. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, there will be no endorsement for this race in the primary.
To be eligible to vote in a given race you must be 1) a CDP member/delegate from the relevant district or 2) a regular central committee member living in the relevant district or 3) a representative of a Democratic club with its main membership in the relevant district.
Eligible voters can either vote in person, or can mail their votes to the regional director (or even e-mail them), but they must arrive by the time of the pre-endorsement conference.
Challenge Opportunity of Pre-Endorsed Candidates
incumbent that was not challenged before the pre-endorsement conference or candidate that received 70% of the votes at the pre-endorsement conference, is put in a consent calendar for endorsement at the Convention. Their name can be removed, however, if an objection to this endorsement is filed by 20% of the CDP delegates in the district in question OR 666 CDP delegates from any districts (20% of the total number) 10 days or more before the convention (Febuary 13 in 2018). Note that at this level only actual CDP delegates are eligible to object and only delegates are counted to determine the 20% needed to do so.
If an objection is appropriately filed, the endorsement vote goes before an endorsement caucus at the Convention.
(Note: the bylaws are not explicit about whether incumbents who are automatically placed in the consent calendar can be removed from it. In my opinion, however, the language on the bylaws suggest that they should be. However, the leadership of the Party disagree with that reading. Therefore be advised that if no one objects to the endorsement of an incumbent 10 days before the pre-endorsement conference, that incumbent will not be able to be able to be removed from the consent calendar and the will almost assuredly be endorsed).
At the Convention in San Diego, there will be endorsement caucuses for races in which 1) a pre-endorsed candidate (i.e. the candidate who was put in the endorsement consent calendar) was challenged or 2) no candidate got 70% of the vote at a pre-endorsement caucus, but at least one candidate got 50% of the vote. All candidates who participated in the pre-endorsement caucus in the latter case will be eligible to compete for the endorsement.
To be put in the endorsement consent calendar at the endorsement caucus, a candidate must receive 60% of the vote. Once again, “no endorsement” votes are counted, but blank votes are not. Delegates cannot vote by mail, but can send a proxy. Only credentialed delegates/proxys can vote. A quorum is 50%+1 of delegates.
If no candidate receives 60% of the vote, there is no endorsement in that race. There is no second ballot.
Challenges after the Endorsement Caucus
If a candidate receives at least 60% of the vote but no more than 2/3 of the vote at the endorsement caucus, his endorsement (or rather, his placement on the endorsement consent calendar) can be challenged by obtaining the signature of at least 300 CDP delegates on a particular form. All delegates, regardless of where they live, are eligible to sign.
If he receives 2/3 or more of the vote, there is a more complex method to challenge it which includes 10 delegates from the relevant district filing a petition and a group of Bauman appointees deciding whether to accept the challenge or not.
If this happens, the endorsement goes to the floor of the convention where all delegates present will vote to either approve the challenge and remove the name of the pre-endorsed candidate from the consent calendar or not. In the case his name is removed, he will not be endorsed.
Endorsement of Local Candidates
Candidates for local office, which in California are all non-partisan, can still apply for the Democratic endorsement. This endorsement, however, is granted by the Democratic Central Committee for the specific county the office is sought. In the cases of candidates running for district boards that cover more than one county (e.g. the Bay Area Rapid Transit District), candidates may have to seek the endorsement of multiple Democratic Central Committees.
While there is some intersection between members of county central committees and members of the state central committee, these are not necessarily the same. Endorsement rules vary from county to county, as the county central committees are independent bodies.
And someone wants to make sure we know it
Multi-millionaire real estate developer Elenis Kounalakis has a long history of supporting corporate Democrats, including right wingers such as Congressmember Ami Bera. She fundraised heavily for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to the point of buying herself an ambassadorship to Hungary. She moved on to be part of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle and an ally of David Brock and George Soros. As she runs for California Lieutenant Governor, however, she has tried to market herself as a progressive, claiming she supports single payer healthcare and a lot of other causes dear to Berniecrats’ hearts.
Apparently, it’s all for show. In a 2016 interview with Politico, Kounalakis called Bernie Sanders policies – things like single payer healthcare, tuition-free public colleges, strong environmental regulations and banning fracking, stopping the TPP and re-regulating Wall Street – “pie in the sky and impractical” while describing Bernie as a “fringe candidate” who “is simply too radical and his ideas are just fiction.”
While it is possible that Kounalakis had a changed of heart, there is no indication that this has been the case. Beyond claiming these “pie in the sky and impractical” ideas for herself, she seems to have done nothing to advance them, either by lobbying for them at the Legislature or by supporting progressive candidates that will actually champion them.
There is a good Berniecrat running for Lieutenant Governor in California, Gayle McLaughlin. A current City Council member and former Mayor of Richmond, California, McLaughlin has a record of fighting big corporations, including Chevron, leading people-powered campaigns, instituting police reforms and passing rent control. McLaughlin was endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself in past races, recognized by Bernie in his book “Our Revolution“, and has been endorsed by numerous Our Revolution chapters in this race. However, a former Green who became an NPP to vote for Sanders, McLaughlin is running for Lt Governor as a “no party preference” candidate. This means that she is not eligible for the Democratic Party endorsement and that delegates to the California Democratic Party Central Committee, cannot publicly support her or avow a preference for her. I am thus doing neither.
Eleni Kounalakis’ quotes in the Politico article came to my attention through an anonymous e-mail from a throwaway account. Given the timing – less than two months before the California Democratic Party’s convention, when delegates like I will vote on which candidates to endorse -, it seems likely that this e-mail came from one of her two Democratic rivals, State Senator Ed Hernandez or former Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich.
Ultimately, none of the Democratic candidates in the Lieutenant Governor’s race holds a progressive vision and none of them would do much to champion social justice and human rights. Therefore, I recommend that my fellow delegates vote “no endorsement” on this race. I will do that myself.
These are quotes from Kounalakis from the January 2016 Politico article.
“Bernie Sanders is a fringe candidate,” said Eleni Kounalakis, a major Clinton donor who served as ambassador to Hungary during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State.
“Not just because he is advocating for policies that arepie in the sky and impractical, but also because he has no proven ability to advance these fringe strategies. He’s been in Congress for decades and hasn’t been able to advance any of his fairly radical ideas.”
Kounalakis, who hosted Clinton at her San Francisco home for a $2,700-a-head fundraiser last November, said that “Sanders could very well come out of Iowa and New Hampshire looking like a viable candidate. But in terms of leading the country? He’s simply too radical and his ideas are just fiction.”
Just for fun, these are the quotes she gave to the same Politico writer about John Biden, when she feared Biden might run against Hillary instead.
“I’m very angry that it’s so difﬁcult to defend her against lies. I’m worried we’re not accustomed to having a woman candidate at this level, and we don’t have the language to ﬁght sexist attacks.”
“I’m concerned that the ﬁrst bumpy road she hits — and there’s a man ready to knock her out. I’ve seen this before.”
NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION, BUT YOU CAN USE AS “ONE SUPPORTER”
(Some concern that “if Clinton loses New Hampshire and Iowa, Biden could get in.”) NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION.
(“Colbert appearance looked staged. He’s launching a Presidential campaign out of grief? That doesn’t make any sense to me. I think he’s being opportunistic.”) NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION
"CA didn't wait around for marriage equality.
We can't wait around for #SinglePayer.
It's time for #SB562!"
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) September 22, 2017
California Lt Governor and candidate for Governor Gavin Newsom is once again backing SB 562, the single-payer health bill sponsored by the California Nurses Union (CNA) and introduced in the California Senate by Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. For calendar reasons, the State Senate passed the bill before the financial studies were finished, so the bill did not include funding mechanisms. Single payer proponents were expecting that these would be introduced as the bill was considered by the Assembly. Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon, however, did not allow this to happen, putting the bill to pasture instead. Single payer activists have been pushing Rendon to revive the bill, attach the funding and move California towards single payer.
CNA endorsed Gavin Newsom back in 2015 with the expectation that he would back single payer. However, he was publicly cagey about his support until he was forced to take a stance by delegates to the California Democratic Convention. At the time, he told delegates “I am with you” in support of SB 562. After the Convention, however, Newsom made public statements opposing SB 562 and proposing a healthcare plan based on Healthy San Francisco, which provides a limited public option for people who cannot otherwise afford private insurance. Healthy San Francisco only works with specific community hospitals and clinics and does not provide coverage for medical emergencies outside city limits.
CNA leadership has been under pressure from its members and outside allies alike to withdraw their endorsement of Newsom given his anti-SB 562 stance. The pressure seems to have worked on both leadership and Newsom, as he announced his support of SB 562 Friday morning, speaking at CNA’s Convention in San Francisco. This should assure him of CNA’s continual support, but his equivocations on the bill have already damaged his credibility among single-payer supporters.
California Treasurer and current candidate for Governor John Chiang surprised election watchers by taking to tweeter to shill for McDonald’s:
— John Chiang (@JohnChiangCA) September 18, 2017
The fast food chain is often criticized by progressives for serving unhealthy food and contributing to child obesity and diabetes, for exploiting workers and paying them far below a living wage, and for resisting attempts to unionize its workforce.
Chiang’s photo-montage tweet was further surprising as it showed him holding a cheeseburger in front of the original McDonald’s in San Bernardino, which is now a museum:
They don’t serve food there anymore- did you bring this with you to get this random shot? Seems weird
— K b (@lawyerkat) September 19, 2017
Weird indeed. The visit to the “original McDonald’s” was also touted on Chiang’s campaign website, though there is no word as to where he actually bought the burger in the photo.
But why would a Democratic candidate for Governor of California take time from his campaign to shill for a fast food chain? A look at Chiang’s donor list may hold the answer.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Chiang’s third largest contributors are C.C. and Regina Yin, who together have given Chiang almost $100,000. Moreover, the couple has hosted high-value fundraisers for Chiang that likely netted him tens if not hundreds of thousands dollars more. The Yins own dozens of McDonald’s restaurants in California.
This is not the first time that John Chiang does favors for his campaign donors. Last August, the Sacramento Bee reported that Chiang granted millions of dollars in tax breaks to developers who had donated to his campaign.