© Greg Nash
California Democrats on Saturday elected a longtime party activist to become their new chairman, after a contentious day of voting in which a second candidate backed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin meets with Sanders, Jayapal amid spending stalemate America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE's (I-Vt.) official political group refused to concede defeat.
Meeting in Sacramento in the shadow of the state capitol, California Democrats elevated vice chairman Eric Bauman to the top job. Bauman edged out Kimberly Ellis, a Bay Area Democratic activist, by just about 60 votes out of 3,300 eligible delegates.
Ellis did not concede. Late Saturday night, she said she had been in touch with attorneys.
Though both Bauman and Ellis did not want to frame the race as a contest between the establishment wing and the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, their supporters largely embraced that view.
Bauman had the support of the vast majority of the Democratic members of the state legislature, most politically active unions and local party organizations. Ellis was backed by Our Revolution, the outgrowth of Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, and a California nurses union that backed Sanders.
There were few differences between the two candidates, both of whom adopted much of Sanders's 2016 platform. The main differences surrounded Bauman's work as a political consultant against a ballot measure dealing with pharmaceutical prices last year, and Ellis's pledge not to take money from the oil, tobacco or pharmaceutical industries.
Still, the race became politically fraught for some of California's most prominent Democrats. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D), the leading candidate in the race for governor, endorsed both candidates rather than choosing a side.
The convention started off on a rocky path Friday, when some delegates shouted down Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. The nurses union that backed Sanders and Ellis also backed Perez's chief rival, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), in the February chairmanship election.
Bauman late Saturday moved to embrace Ellis, acknowledging the ongoing division within the party.
"There is no denying that there is a problem when so many of our hardworking activists feel that they are not welcome within our party and that they have been slighted and shut out of the process," Bauman said in a statement. "We cannot win the vital elections in 2018 and beyond without the energy, commitment and participation of every part of our Democratic family."
The biennial California Democratic Convention might have been a moment of celebration for a party that holds the governor's mansion, super majorities in the state legislature and 39 of the state's 53 U.S. House seats.
Instead, it served as a platform from which to launch the next round of battles, especially as Gov. Jerry Brown (D) prepares to leave office after the 2018 elections.
Newsom, state Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa all addressed the delegates, in hopes of winning their votes for governor.
So too did hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and state Senate President Kevin de Leon; neither are declared candidates, but both have made moves in recent days that have California Democratic strategists buzzing. Steyer put a poll in the field last week, while de León put out a video some interpreted as a toe in the water.
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