Supporters of the presidential hopefuls are packing the halls of the California Democratic Party convention that starts Friday in Long Beach, just three-and-a-half months before the Super Tuesday primary in March.
A dozen candidates will address the 5,000 delegates and guests Saturday. But two of the frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, won’t be among them.
“I hope it was really worth it to skip it for them,” said Riverside County delegate Lisa Andres. “I am disappointed. I was supporting Warren. I don’t know if that’ll change. But I guess we’ll see how the forum goes.”
Andres said she’s hoping to hear the candidates talk about how they’ll achieve health care for all, though she’s open to either single-payer or universal coverage through the existing system. She also wants them to talk about housing affordability and homelessness.
Warren, who drew some of the loudest cheers at the spring California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco, will be in Iowa. Biden, who did not attend the spring convention either, held a campaign stop and fundraiser in Los Angeles Thursday but plans to spend the weekend in Washington state and Nevada.
The other two frontrunners, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, are on the speaker list. So is California Sen. Kamala Harris, who’s seen her poll numbers drop in her home state as well as nationally.
Other notable candidates making appearances include Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, and another Californian, billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.
Instead of addressing the convention crowd with speeches, as they did in the spring, those eight candidates will be questioned one-on-one for 15 minutes each on a forum televised nationally by Univision.
Four other candidates did not qualify for the forum but will address the general session Saturday morning: Author Marianne Williamson, former Reps. John Delaney of Maryland and Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, and a brand-new entrant to the race, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
State lawmakers voted to move the primary up from June to March in hopes of garnering more attention from the candidates. Despite the big-name absences, state party chair Rusty Hicks said California is getting a boost.
“When you get multiple candidates for president going to the Central Valley or to the Inland Empire or to San Diego, or places outside of the Bay Area, outside of Los Angeles,” Hicks said. “I think that’s a great benefit.”
Meanwhile, Hicks said he supports a proposal to allow immigrants living in California illegally to become state party delegates. It’ll come up for a vote next spring.