If one looked beyond the heated rhetoric from the podium, most of it directed at President Trump, last weekend’s Democratic state convention revealed a party with many internal fault lines.
The most obvious was the power struggle between the party’s establishment and its left wing, dubbed Berniecrats.
The Berniecrats had come close to electing its own party chairperson at the previous convention, and many still believe that the party regulars manipulated election results to elevate Eric Bauman into the chairmanship.
Bauman might have lost had there been another election last weekend because the leftists were clearly in the majority, as demonstrated by the poor showing of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the endorsement showdown with challenger Kevin de León, a hero to the left for championing universal health insurance coverage and other causes.
De León, the president pro tem of the state Senate, was all over the San Diego convention hall while his Assembly counterpart, Speaker Anthony Rendon, was virtually invisible, spending most of the weekend holed up in a hotel room.
Rendon has become a target for the Berniecrats for refusing to advance single-payer health legislation that de León’s Senate had passed, with the California Nurses Association waging a campaign of personal invective against the Assembly leader.
The convention also revealed that labor unions, the party’s cash cow, are not unified going into this year’s elections. While left-leaning unions such as the nurses are beating the drums for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bid for the governorship, helping him finish first in the endorsement balloting, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who finished last, can tout support of police unions and the United Farm Workers Union.
The latter is important because Villaraigosa needs strong Latino support to have a chance of winning the governorship. However, the convention also displayed the ever-wider fault lines among Latino factions, especially those from Los Angeles and environs.
The region’s Latino political clans joust with each other constantly for dominance in local government, legislative and congressional arenas.
The obvious rivalry of de León and Rendon, the grandson of immigrants from Mexico, is one example. And when Secretary of State Alex Padilla took the podium to introduce and praise Feinstein, it underscored his rivalry with de León.
Padilla doubtless covets a U.S. Senate seat himself, and his hopes hinge on Feinstein being re-elected this year and then ceding the seat later, either when her term expires in 2024 or sooner by resignation. Therefore, for Padilla to have a shot at the Senate, de León must lose.
Padilla’s clan in the northeastern corner of the San Fernando Valley includes former Assemblyman and City Councilman Felipe Fuentes, now a Sacramento lobbyist for business groups, and Raul Bocanegra, who was forced to resign from the Assembly last year after being accused of sexual harassment.
In 2001, Padilla, et al, backed James Hahn in his successful run for Los Angeles mayor over both Villaraigosa, who unseated Hahn four years later, and Xavier Becerra, who was then a congressman and is now state attorney general.
Speaking of which, a top aide to Becerra, Amanda Renteria, announced just before the convention that she, too, would run for governor. She can’t win but potentially could dilute the Latino vote enough to keep Villaraigosa out of the November runoff.
Renteria, who lost a bid for Hanford Republican David Valadao’s congressional seat in 2014, presumably has Becerra’s blessing to challenge his old mayoral rival. Were Villaraigosa to become governor, it should be noted, Becerra, if elected, would no longer be the state’s top Latino political figure.
CALmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/articles/author/dan-walters. Dan Walters: email@example.com