Have Your Say in the Political Process

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 18, 2019 - 11:56:00 AM

The Dems, bless their little restless hearts, are getting restless again. In the last week I’ve been deluged, at both my personal email and my Planet address, with exhortations from a variety of people I think well of (and a couple of not-so-much) to show up on January 26 to vote for delegates to the California State Democratic Convention. Most of them were for the Emeryville gathering of residents of California’s 15th Assembly District, where I actually live and could vote, but I even got one for Assembly District 18, which includes Alameda and environs.

Why should I (or you) care?

The central focus is that California has become a one-party state, or realistically a no-party state. The Republican Party has essentially committed suicide, with California as usual on the leading edge of change.

This last election knocked off another substantial number of Republican congressmembers, and Republicans in the state legislature are getting scarcer and scarcer. When you add in the top-two “jungle” primary, which more often than not pits two self-styled Democrats against one another in the general election, the old advice to “hold your nose and pull the Democratic lever” just doesn’t work. 

Delegates to the state Democratic convention, some to be chosen this weekend, can endorse particular candidates in the sea of hopefuls who run first in the June “primary” and then in the November general election. A delegate's endorsement adds luster to a candidate's resume. 

Here’s a broader definition of delegates’ powers from one of two slates which are soliciting votes in AD 15, the Progressive-Labor Slate: 

“Every two years, the CA Democrats elect 7 self-identified females and 7 other than self-identified females from each Assembly District in CA as delegates to the state party. Those who are elected will have a chance to vote for the new party chair and other leadership. The race is hotly contested and will determine how welcoming, grassroots-focused and innovative the party becomes or how beholden it will remain to big money interests.  

“Delegates elect Party officers, endorse candidates for statewide, legislative and congressional office, attend the annual convention, network with other Democrats, represent your constituency, promote the California Democratic Party agenda, and vote to endorse resolutions and ballot measures.” 

The hotly contested race for Assembly in the 15th District ended up being won in November by the candidate with far and away the biggest carpet bag full of cash, career politician Buffy Wicks, who has wasted no time aligning herself with San Francisco’s Scott Wiener as the voice of the big money development industry. It’s a sure thing that most of those who voted for her had only a vague idea of what her politics are, and just saw her smiley face and a pretty baby on her numerous glossy mailers. Most of them had no idea that she’s part of the developer-funded faction which wants to wrest control of land use from local jurisdictions. 

The Progressive-Labor Slate in AD15 was the first to drape itself in the progressive mantel, the one most coveted by candidates around here, from North Oakland through Richmond. Their web page spotlights candidates from a wide variety of progressive backgrounds, with the most prominent being Nurses’ Union member Wendy Bloom and Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison. Organizations claimed by candidates include a variety of unions, and Our Revolution (the trailing edge of Bernie Sanders). 

The other team in AD15 has adopted the apt title of Union of Progressive Leaders. That’s code for “top down”—it’s controlled by establishment state electeds. Pictures of this slate were included in an email from Richmond Mayor Tom Butts, but I couldn’t find any web site which stated their principles if any. Its slate graphic is prominently headed ENDORSED BY SEN. NANCY SKINNER AND ASM. BUFFY WICKS, in case you missed the memo about who’s on top. 

I also got an email about the race in AD18 from an old compañera of mine who used to live in Berkeley but has now moved out of state. She asked me to vote for her niece, but sadly I’m not in that district, so I won’t be voting there. 

The slate her niece is on, the East Bay Unbossed Slate , does have the best definition of candidates’ political principles I’ve seen. They seem to be the polar opposite of the so-called Union of Progressive Leaders slate which wants to run AD15.