The eyes of the political universe will be on San Francisco as May slides into June and presidential hopefuls descend on the Moscone Center to tango with delegates at the California Democratic Convention. The nation’s most populous state final matters in the primaries as the biggest catch of 2020’s Super Tuesday next March 3.
For months, many politicos feared grassroots activists would bitterly squabble over who would replace Eric Bauman, the first openly gay chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP) who resigned amid allegations of sexual impropriety. But the imperative of replacing Donald Trump has relegated the chair contest to more of an internal matter, enabling delegates to spend May 31 to June 2 debating how to win the presidency and hold the House.
Seven candidates are vying for CDP chair, with election results announced on June 2. Bay Area activist Kimberly Ellis, whose dramatically contentious challenge to Bauman in 2017 was a shocker to party stalwarts and Daraka Larimore-Hall, a millennial activist primarily based in Santa Barbara, are the top two contenders. But less flashy longtime union organizer Rusty Hicks, who has a slew of endorsements from numerous LGBT politicos such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, appears to be the candidates many are hoping will restore order and the CDP’s reputation.
While that party business is going on in the background—as well as the race for new chairs of the LGBT Caucus—delegates will mostly focus on organizing for the big 2020 races, given the 8.6 million registered Democrats in California. Official CDP endorsements will occur at a second state convention in November in Long Beach.
But the San Francisco convention will no doubt also become caught up in impeachment mania. Longtime Democratic strategist House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been trying to tamp down calls for immediate impeachment hearings but featured speakers on Saturday night are Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and impeachment proponent Rep. Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Finance Committee.
Pelosi argues that the seven House seats flipped in the midterms are held by more moderate Democrats in red districts and impeachment could be the wedge Trump and the Republican National Committee need to flip those seats back to GOP control.
The RNC is already raising money and recruiting challengers in California. “We’re very confident we can get those seats back,” RNC spokesperson Torunn Sinclair told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are a lot of folks who want to run against the socialist Democrats who were just elected.”
Though the filing deadline for the March 3, 2020 is on Dec. 6, several candidates have already jumped in and secured major backing. GOP businesswoman Young Kim is challenging Rep. Gil Cisneros again in the 39th District in Orange County. Kim was so confident of her win last year—before losing by 7,600 votes—that she went to Washington and posed with other women elected during the midterm elections. She has the backing of House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.
Also being challenged is Rep. Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach in the 48th District. Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel already has the backing of the conservative Republican Orange County Lincoln Club. Trump named Steele to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Fred Whitaker, chair of the Republican Party of Orange County, tells the Chronicle that San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott will be their likely pick to challenge Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th District.
Five Republicans have announced their challenge to Rep. Katie Porter in the 45th District—but that may take some doing. Law professor Porter has become an Internet sensation with her simple, direct schooling of Trump administration officials, most recently Housing and Urban Development Sec. Ben Carson who confused a real estate owned property term (REO) with Oreo cookies.
On May 20, retired Army colonel and Assemblymember Bob Elliott, who represents San Joaquin County’s District 5, announced he had received “new information” from the RNC that prompted him to abandon his race to replace Cathleen Galgiani in the state Senate and instead challenge Josh Harder, the Democrat from Turlock, for the 10th Congressional District, according to Recordnet.com. He didn’t reveal the “new information.”
No Republican has yet emerged to take on Rep. TJ Cox, who won a squeaker against Republican Rep. David Valadao by less than 900 votes.
Anti-LGBT Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was almost defeated by newcomer Ammar Campa-Najjar in the 50th District, has been indicted on federal campaign corruption charges and faces trial in September. In the meantime, he’s trying to get an advance pardon from Trump for a Navy SEAL accused of killing civilians in Iraq. Hunter told reporters he doesn’t think the Navy will give the SEAL a fair trial, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Rep. Katie Hill, the proud moderate bisexual who defeated anti-LGBT Rep. Steve Knight in the 25th District, was given a leadership role by Speaker Pelosi early on. She already has four GOP challengers and may prove more vulnerable if Democrats take a hard plunge into impeachment. But as Trump flaunts his penchant for authoritarianism, the debate intensifies over how best to uphold the Constitution and the separation of powers.
“We’re just getting closer and closer to a point where we have to do something,” Hill told Politico. “Each of us is personally struggling because we see on so many levels … where he’s committed impeachable offenses.”
Politicos everywhere will be looking to California Democrats for direction, clarity and unification, if not a final conclusion.