Thousands of California Democrats are converging on San Diego this weekend for the state party’s annual convention. Their eyes are on the 2018 election — but they're also hoping to move beyond sexual harassment scandals plaguing the Capitol.
Tony Mendoza, who resigned from his state Senate seat on Thursday to avoid expulsion or suspension, plans to attend. He’s hoping to regain his old seat in this year’s election.
Melody Niv and Bella Aguilar lead a California Young Democrats chapter at a San Fernando Valley community college. They said they were “ashamed” to learn of the allegations against now-former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, who had spoken at their chapter. But they’re not afraid to attend the convention.
“I know there’s been a lot of drama and a lot of just nefarious activity regarding sexual harassment. But I’m not really in fear or anything because I have faith in the people that are now involved,” Niv said.
Aguilar agreed. “Yeah, same thing. I mean, it’s definitely hard being two women involved in politics, because it’s definitely traditionally been a very male-dominated field. But here, like Melody said, I do feel very safe,” she said.
The state party says security will be more visible — and it’s set up a 24-hour hotline for anyone who feels threatened.
Others are hoping to shake up the party with progressive ideas.
Victor Monjaras came down from Newcastle, in the Sierra foothills. He’s a college student volunteering for one of the congressional candidates seeking to defeat Republican Rep. Tom McClintock. But he’s also hoping to elect more progressive Democrats.
“I like calling this the shake-ups,” he said of this year’s election. “I don’t like calling it the midterms, because when people think about the midterms, they think, ‘Oh god, it’s college again.’
“We want to call it the shake-ups because that’s more positive. That gets more people involved.”
Delegates will hear from the leading candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. They’ll also hear from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and several Californians mentioned as possible presidential candidates: Sen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.
Update on Sunday, February 26: It was a rocky weekend for California Democrats on the Me Too front.
Tony Mendoza, who resigned his state Senate seat last week after an investigation found he “more likely than not” sexually harassed six women, sought the state party’s endorsement to run for that same seat this year. But delegates in his district voted him down.
Meanwhile, party officials tried to persuade Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia to withdraw her endorsement request because she’s under investigation for sexual misconduct. But she refused, and under party rules, her endorsement was approved.
Party chairman Eric Bauman acknowledged the “elephant in the room” but said the party will work to address the issue.
Ben Adler is at the convention all weekend. You can follow him on Twitter at @AdlerBen and our coverage at CapRadio.org.