LOS ANGELES — After months of unrelenting attacks from the Republicans who want to unseat him, Gov. Gray Davis will face a friendly crowd at the California Democratic Party convention this weekend.
Davis is scheduled to speak at the gathering that falls in the heart of an intense Republican primary race to challenge him, and as he continues to launch counterattacks at GOP front-runner Richard Riordan.
“The party is focused on re-electing Gov. Gray Davis in California,” said party spokesman Bob Mulholland.
The general election is more than eight months away, and Davis is virtually uncontested in the March 5 primary. But he has been the consistent target of the three men vying for the GOP nod and a national Republican party hungry to regain power in California.
Plus, a crippling power crisis last year and budget crisis this year also have chipped away at Davis’ popularity and he has slightly trailed Riordan in some recent statewide polls.
Davis has poured more than $4 million into television ads in recent weeks, many of which criticize Riordan for his stance on abortion, the death penalty and his record of crime.
Riordan, who also has come under fire from some members of his own party for left-leaning stances on some issues, has brushed aside barbs from his Republican opponents and aimed his attacks squarely at Davis.
As a result, the campaign is likely to consume much of the meeting of the Democratic Party’s most loyal activists at Los Angeles’ Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
“It’s an opportunity to rally the activists and to energize them for the November election,” said David Lara-Tellez, chairman of the Riverside County Democratic Party.
Party leaders also will be focusing on a handful of contested primaries, including the open seats for secretary of state, controller and insurance commissioner.
Also, two key figures in the campaign finance reform debate will address the convention. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and nation’s highest-ranking female legislator, House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, are scheduled to speak Saturday.
The Democratic convention is falling one week after a raucous Republican party convention in San Jose, where steep divisions have formed among the gubernatorial candidate supporters.
Many Republicans believe Riordan is the party’s best hope the win the governor’s seat in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans. But others, including former Gov. George Deukmejian, have said they doubt his loyalty and said they would not vote for him in the general election is he is the nominee.
Mulholland said the Democrats plan to remain positive at their annual gathering, “compared to the cannibalism at the Republican convention last weekend.”
On the Net:
The California Democratic Party Web site is http://www.ca-dems.org