As the California Democratic Party meets this weekend in San Diego for its annual convention, tensions between the party’s establishment and progressive wings could shape fights for governor and Senate — and congressional races critical to recapturing the House.
“The ability to win back the House clearly starts here. It raises quite a level of expectation,“ says state party chair Eric Bauman. “But what some would perceive as ugly battles are energizing battles.”
There are probably too many Democrats running for governor for one to eke out the 60 percent required for a formal state party endorsement. But there’s a full-on battle in California’s U.S. Senate race. Longtime incumbent and establishment favorite Dianne Feinstein faces a challenge from state Senate leader Kevin de León, who’s courting grassroots progressives.
“It’s really important, given that we are the underdogs, there’s no question about it,” de León said. ”I know that she’ll be fighting hard for it as well. But it would be a huge boost, obviously, if I were able to secure it.”
Endorsements matter even more in competitive congressional primaries, where voters are usually less familiar with all the candidates. That could set up battles between progressives seeking people who share their values and party leaders backing candidates they believe are most likely to help Democrats take back the House of Representatives.
With the #MeToo movement drawing increased scrutiny to political conventions where powerful lawmakers mingle with young activists, Bauman says the party has lined up extra security and a 24-hour hotline for delegates worried for their safety.