Dems to face off in Calif. nomination fights

Dems to face off in Calif. nomination fights
© Camille Fine

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Thousands of California Democrats headed for San Diego for their party convention, as Democrats battle for the party’s coveted endorsements in a state that's considered crucial for Democratic midterm hopes.

About 3,400 delegates are attending the annual gathering that runs Friday to Sunday and is themed around the idea of the state as a “Big Blue Beacon of Hope.”

In an interview with The Hill, California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman touted the idea that Democrats’ electoral success in California could serve as a roadmap for Democrats in November.

“I think we have to promote our positive Democratic ideas and ideals, but the one thing we have credibility to do here in California is prove that with progressive leadership and progressive governance, we can be successful,” Bauman said.

Endorsements for the high-profile U.S. Senate race, as well as other prominent statewide offices like governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, will be decided Saturday night.

Candidates will need to garner 60 percent of delegate votes in order to receive the state party’s endorsement. But with crowded primaries in many of the state’s contests, it’s likely that some candidates won’t be able to meet that threshold.

Endorsements allow the state party to direct resources toward the Democratic nominees, giving the chosen candidate momentum going into the June 5 primaries. California has a top-two primary system where candidates run regardless of party affiliation and the top two finishers advance to the general election.

The fight for the endorsement “is an amazing sight to watch because a candidate … can personally call every single delegate,” Bauman said, noting that delegates have been inundated with emails, texts, calls and mailers seeking their votes for endorsements.

“People take that endorsement very seriously here in California, so that’ll be a key part of the excitement of our weekend,” he continued.

The spotlight will be on longtime Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.), as she looks to hang onto her seat for another term amid a backlash from progressives.

Feinstein’s main opponent is state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D), who’s been boosted by progressives and recently nabbed major union endorsements ahead of the convention.

Still, it will be an uphill battle to topple Feinstein. De León significantly trails Feinstein in both fundraising and in primary polls.

But progressives have accused Feinstein, who’s served in the Senate for 25 years, of not going far enough to hold President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE accountable. And they’ll be looking to help deliver the endorsement to de León — or at the very least block Feinstein from winning the nomination.

Feinstein is holding a breakfast event Saturday morning, and both her and de León will address the convention that afternoon. The two will be courting delegates throughout the weekend in the lead-up to the endorsement.

There will also be a number of endorsing caucuses late Saturday afternoon for some of the top House races Democrats consider crucial to retaking the House. The party needs 24 seats nationwide to take back control of the House.

Those caucuses will be held in the primaries for the seats currently held by GOP Reps. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherPoll: Trump unpopularity dragging down two vulnerable California Republicans The Hill's 12:30 Report FBI flagged Moscow-connected Russians attending Trump inauguration: report MORE, Mimi Walters and Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaCalifornia Hispanics, even Republicans, are primed to make history House rejects effort to condemn lawmaker for demanding 'Dreamer' arrests Hispanic Dems seek vote to condemn GOP lawmaker for demanding arrests of 'Dreamers' MORE, who is retiring at the end of his term in 2018. Those three seats are high priorities for Democrats, since Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE carried all three districts in the 2016 presidential contest.

Some Democrats are worried that crowded candidate lists will hinder their candidates and potentially block any Democrats from advancing out of the primary and into the November election.

The convention speaker's list also includes some future 2020 presidential candidate.

The lineup features Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCongress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks American women will decide who wins and loses in 2018 elections Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee MORE (D-Calif.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees 2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion MORE (D-Ore.), billionaire mega-donor Tom Steyer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, all of whom have been considered possible candidates to take on Trump.

Others notable speakers include House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiLawmakers feel pressure on guns Former Pelosi challenger: I have no 'interest in running for leadership again' Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (D-Calif.), six other members of California’s congressional delegation, a handful of state lawmakers and other party activists and organizers.

Trump and his agenda are expected to be a prominent focus at the convention.

Steyer has been leading a multimillion-dollar ad campaign calling on members of Congress to support Trump's impeachment. And Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersMaxine Waters calls for Kelly to resign over handling of Rob Porter allegations Maxine Waters defends Oprah to Trump: She's 'richer than you' Dem lawmakers attend 'Black Panther' screenings on opening weekend MORE (D-Calif.) has been an outspoken critic on Capitol Hill who called for Trump’s impeachment after reports that he called several nations “shithole countries.”

Bauman stressed the importance of making significant strides in California when it comes to 2018 as a way to ultimately block Trump from implementing his agenda over the next two years.

“Unless we can deliver House seats in significant numbers to the Democratic conference, there’s no possibility of regaining control of the House and if we don’t regain control of the House, there’s no possibility of putting the brakes on Donald Trump’s dangerous and divisive agenda,” he said.