Local Dem leaders react to convention

California to play bigger role in 2020


This year’s Democratic state convention in San Francisco offered a select group of party regulars a sneak preview of Democratic campaign themes.

Included among the 3,400 delegates at the May 31-June 2 convention were local elected officials and party workers from Congress member for the 19th district, Zoe Lofgren to State Assemblymember for District 30, Robert Rivas.

Rivas called the meeting, “a convention with a lot of optimism, a lot of energy.” He and Lofgren saw the weekend as an opportunity for Democrats to build strength coming off the successful 2018 midterm elections. Lofgren said the presidential candidate speeches helped introduce some lesser known Democrats. “For people that are not known in California, it was a helpful thing,” said Lofgren.

Old and new wounds still emerged at times—the old guard and the new guard staking out competing claims for the party’s future, even in a state where Democrats hold an overwhelming dominance.

California in 2020 will be an early voting state, meaning primary balloting begins in February 2020, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. This new position enhances California’s role in the presidential election, making it more pivotal for candidates looking to pick up delegates.

That fact attracted 14 of the 23 Democratic hopefuls—including all of the frontrunners except former Vice President Joe Biden—to the convention in San Francisco.

The timing of ballots in the state isn’t the only thing that changed for the Democratic party in California. Sexual assault allegations against former chair of the state democratic party, Eric Bauman, forced him to resign last November, and the convention tapped Los Angeles labor leader, Rusty Hicks as the new chair with a solid majority.

Assemblymember for District 30, Robert Rivas, was at the convention and supported Hicks in the chair election. Rivas said he was looking for a chair that would pay attention to the wings of the Democratic party in all parts of the state.

Rivas told this newspaper he was looking forward to “really working with [Hicks] that the California Democratic party extends beyond San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

“I’ve had multiple conversations with Rusty about where I come from,” said Rivas. “He was very receptive.”

Among South County Democratatic leaders at the convention, the consensus was that the convention represented a cathartic healing point heading into what is sure to be a tough fight in 2020.  Despite some new veiled potshots at Biden—without naming him—by Warren and Buttigieg, a majority of the speakers focused on President Donald Trump. Big issues like immigration and Medicare for All got mostly passing references, and the May 31 shooting deaths in Virginia Beach were only targeted by single candidate, Sen. Cory Booker.

Lofgren, who represents California’s 19th district Congressional District, is head of California’s congressional delegation. She spoke at the convention on June 1, with a speech that focused on organizing Democrats going into the down ballot races in 2020.

“I think [the convention] went remarkably well,” Lofgren told this paper. “I think the various presidential candidates had their fans and supporters but i think it was generally collegial.”

Rivas and Lofgren both believed that California’s new position as an early voting state made presidential candidates focus more intently on the issues that California is facing. Lofgren said that problems like housing shortages are rarely talked about by presidential candidates or made a part of presidential platforms, but she believed the new voting schedule caused candidates to speak about issues like housing.

Neither Rivas nor Lofgren endorsed a candidate, but Rivas said he was impressed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over the weekend. He told this newspaper he was looking for a candidate that was going to take the time to address some of California’s problems and work to mend the relationship between California and the federal government that has been fractured during the Trump administration.

Rivas said,“As the most populous state in the county, our state deserves attention.”