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Gov. Candidates Mill And Tensions Emerge At Calif. Democratic Convention

Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

Attendees of the California Democratic Party Convention celebrated outgoing chairman John Burton, who is retiring after eight years.

Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

California Democrats elected a new party leader this weekend in Sacramento--an influential position with input into the candidates and platform the party will support. But, the election itself is typically a dry affair with a predictable outcome. Not this time.

Party vice chair Eric Bauman seemed the consensus pick a year ago. He ultimately won, but it was not a consensus—a fact apparent during his acceptance speech, as Bauman struggled to be heard over boos.

"We have too much work ahead of us to be divided like this," he said.

The California Democratic Party has a newly-energized wing that supported Senator Bernie Sanders in last year’s primary election. Led by the state nurses union, they coalesced around another party chair candidate, Kimberly Ellis, and made that preference known. 

Kimberly Ellis Supporters 052217P

Supporters of Kimberly Ellis hold signs in the main convention chamber. Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

Ellis ultimately lost by 62 votes out of almost 3,000. That led to cries of “rigged” and calls for a recount, which drew the ire of outgoing chair John Burton.

"I mean if you’re [expletive] unhappy with life, be unhappy with life." Burton told the crowd.

There weren’t many policy differences between Bauman and Ellis, but it shows post-election, the self-identified “Berniecrats” remain a loud, influential and dissatisfied faction that the California Democratic Party must reckon with.

Convention attendees are the Democratic party’s most active supporters, so candidates for California governor looked to drum up enthusiasm among them. Former schools superintendent Delaine Eastin, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, state Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave speeches, shook hands and scooped ice cream.

Candidates For Governor At The CA Democratic Party Convention

Gavin Newsome 052217P

Gavin Newsom, who is running in the 2018 governor's race, were among the candidates looking to drum up support during the California Democratic Party Convention this weekend. Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

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