This past weekend, California Democrats turned out for the grassrootsiest of elections. The task was– more or less– to elect 14 party delegates (7 men and 7 women) for each of the state's 80 Assembly districts. As RL Miller, chair of the state's environmental caucus, described it, California Democrats engaged in “the most retail of all politics, i.e., rounding up 5 of your friends to vote for you and 13 of your friends in a library community room in an election receiving no publicity whatsoever. The winners get the right to travel to Sacramento on their own dime, participate in a statewide convention, and vote on resolutions and state party positions.” Doesn't sound sexy? Dedicated progressives under Bernie's banner made it very sexy this time. And they won and won and won– everywhere.
The state party officially explained it as “The Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEMs) are held every two years (Saturday, January 7 or Sunday, January 8 of 2017) to elect 7 women and 7 men to be Assembly District Delegates (ADDs) for their area. ADDs are responsible for planning and attending informational meetings throughout the region and working with other delegates to represent their community. They are also elected by voters in their district to vote on behalf of the community they represent at Regional Meetings, the California Democrats Convention, and those who are also elected to serve as an Executive Board member are responsible for voting and representing their community at the semi-annual E-Board meetings.”
On Monday, Christopher Cadelago, writing for the Sacramento Bee reported how it went. “It may be a stretch to call it a battle for the soul of the party, but last weekend, thousands of California Democrats filed into union halls and recreation centers to help choose some of their rank-and-file delegates. While the numbers are still being tallied, a group led by the California Nurses Association and other self-described Bernie Sanders-progressives are claiming it won a majority of the delegate slots chosen over the weekend, as well as the bulk of the 80 executive board seats up for renewal.” And that includes dozens of nurses.
Not all the official results are in but it looks like statewide the Bernie slates plus the self-identified progressives who weren't running as Bernie delegates had a combined spate of victories that netted them almost 60% of the seats. In my own district, for example, AD-43– Glendale, Burbank, La Canada Flintridge, Los Feliz, Atwater, East Hollywood– the Bernie slate won all 14 delegate positions. Sure, it's a very progressive district BUT, in November the district elected a total DINO and chater school shill, Laura Friedman, to the Assembly over progressive Ardy Kassakhian. This time the progressives were well-organized and the bundles of cash from the Sacramento lobbyists weren't in play the way they had been on behalf of Friedman. The district right next door– AD-51 (Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Chinatown, East L.A.)– Jimmy Gomez's district, Luis Lopez's slate won 11 of the seats, totally progressive and even Bernie-backing but not part of the “official” Bernie slate, which won the other 3 seats. A couple of districts over, AD-44– Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Camarillo, Oxnard and the coast between Port Hueneme and Malibu (Jacqui Irwin's district), the Berniecrat slate won just 8 out of 14 spots, and some of the remaining 6 people running on “an old guard slate” are just as progressive as the Berniecrats.
Where Berniecrats were well-organized, they did best– like in much of the East Bay, Silicon Valley, Downtown L.A., San Luis Obispo, where turnout was generally through the roof, in some cases double what it was in 2015 and 2013. One thing the Berniecrats need to start understanding better is that “progressive” means more than a cult of personality. Bernie himself understands that even if many of his supporters don't. He backed Nanette Barragan in her congressional race– and was key to her win against corrupt corporate hack Isadore Hall– even though she had backed Hillary. She ran on a more Bernie-inspired platform though and without the last minute Bernie was able to raise for her field operation she might not have won. That's smart politics on Bernie's end.
One of the most hotly contested races was in the 30th Assembly District (Salinas, Soledad, Hollister, Gilroy, Watsonville– Luis Alejo's old district, just won by Anna Caballero). Over 400 people showed up to pick between Caballero's slate and Alejo's slate. Caballero's late was a vibrant coalition of Berniecrats, Latino community activists, a chunk of Latino led unions, and the folks who just passed a Monterey County fracking ban. They won every one of the 14 seats. Luis Alejo, now a Monterey County Supervisor and his wife Karina who was badly beaten when she tried to succeed him in the Assembly are more in tune with Sacramento lobbyists than with party activists.
Last week we wrote about the sustained grassroots organizing in the Richmond area by the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Steve Early described so eloquently in his book, Refinery Town– Big Oil, Big Money and the Remaking Of an American City. AD-15 includes not just all of Richmond, but also Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules. Somewhat shockingly the Berniecrats didn't win there– although only lost by about a 100 vote margin out of a humongous 1,500 cast. Zak Wear, leader of successful rent control campaign in Richmond last year, and who was out on Saturday pumping Melvin, Ben, and rest of Bernie supporter delegate slate believes the non-Richmond assemblers of the Democrats Rising ticket made a big mistake not branding themselves more clearly. There was a lot of voter confusion about who “the Bernie people” running were… and many people are saying that had they been more identifiable they would have won. They got beaten by the California’s Future slate of centrists like city councilor Jael Myrick, State Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond. Lessons learned? I think so and hope things will go from really good to even better for the revolution.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis