Delegates from the California Democratic Party met in regional caucuses this past weekend to vote on a first round of official party endorsements. If a candidate becomes the party endorsed candidate, he or she is then placed on statewide slate mailers and can receive access to party campaign resources. At this preliminary endorsement level, a candidate must receive 70 percent of the voting delegates’ support in order to be placed on a consent calendar for pro forma approval at the Democratic State Convention. Falling short of the 70 percent plateau means further individual voting will occur at the convention, held this year on March 7-9 in Los Angeles.
With the state now instituting a jungle primary system where the top two finishers in the June 3 election advance to the general election irrespective of partisan preference, political party endorsements become more important. Therefore, these regional and state convention votes carry more weight today than in years past.
In congressional voting, two individuals won official endorsement, while another pair, including a freshman incumbent, failed to clinch the party nod. The latter endorsements will be determined at the state convention.
In the 17th Congressional District, where Rep. Mike Honda is facing Democratic competition from former Obama Commerce Department official Ro Khanna, the delegates were extremely clear as to how they stand. Honda was officially endorsed with an almost-unanimous 92-8 percent margin.
In the open Los Angeles County 33rd CD, where Rep. Henry Waxman (D) is retiring after what will be 40 years of congressional service at the end of 2014, state Sen. Ted Lieu won the party endorsement. He defeated former LA City Controller and losing mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel 74-9 percent.
In the east San Francisco Bay area, freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15), who defeated 20-term congressional veteran Pete Stark in a 2012 Democrat vs. Democrat general election, failed to reach the 70 percent mark necessary for endorsement at the regional level. He placed ahead of state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D), but by only a 61-35 percent margin.
Finally, in San Bernardino County’s 31st District where Rep. Gary Miller represents the most Democratic congressional seat in the nation to elect a House Republican, this meeting, too, failed to produce an endorsed candidate. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar came close, winning 67 percent of the delegate vote, but attorney Eloise Reyes’ 16 percent, and ex-Rep. Joe Baca’s 13 percent denied him an outright endorsement.
Just over 320 voting delegates also gathered at the Hershey Convention Center for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting, at which an endorsement vote was forced upon the delegates over the objection of state party chairman Jim Burn. In an event that featured a gubernatorial candidates’ forum and the leading contender almost coming to blows with a rival’s campaign consultant, no individual was able to secure the two-thirds vote necessary to capture the official party endorsement.
State Treasurer Rob McCord, who was behind the drive for an endorsement vote, placed first with 48 percent, just seven votes away from securing an outright majority but nowhere near the two-thirds level. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13) was second with 24 percent; businessman Tom Wolf placed third posting 18.3 percent; while the two former state Department of Environmental Protection directors, John Hanger (5 percent) and Katie McGinty (4.7 percent), brought up the rear.
Though McCord did not win the endorsement, he proved that he was the clear top vote-getter among the Democratic activists, sweeping the state except for the Philadelphia metropolitan region. He said in response to the vote that “… my prediction is that no one will break 50 percent on May 20, either.” The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 20, and the first place finisher, regardless of percentage, will be nominated.
Commenting on the Democratic action, embattled Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign manager Mike Barley released a media statement saying, “… there is no surprise the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee chose to support ‘none of the above’ over the seven unimpressive candidates running on an agenda that’s too extreme for Pennsylvania.”
Corbett is commonly viewed as the most politically vulnerable Republican state chief executive in the country. The Democratic winner in May will become one of the nation’s top challenger candidates.