California Democrats closed their fall convention in Long Beach on Sunday, Nov. 17, by endorsing candidates and adopting a party platform, but not before a spirited floor debate over a platform amendment regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The amendment, supported by Palestinian advocates, fell short on the convention floor. Offered by delegate David Mandel, the amendment stated the party’s support for “a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated by the parties that guarantees equality, security and democracy for all, no matter what the final settlement regarding states and borders.”
The proposed resolution also called for state Democrats to “oppose any unilateral annexation of territory, and support the right of all those who were forced from their homes to return to their homelands and receive compensation for their losses.”
Mandel’s floor speech focused on the importance of equality for Palestinians. “I grew up with Jewish values that demand justice,” he said.
The resolution’s critics included state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Burbank. “This amendment cuts to the core of Israel’s ability to be its own state,” Friedman said.
Other platform changes included language striking out support for the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to include a public option to achieve universal health coverage. Instead, the platform calls for protecting gains in health coverage made during the Obama administration and support for universal health coverage regardless of income or employment status.
The convention, which kicked off in earnest Friday at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, featured 5,000 delegates who gathered to strategize, network and endorse candidates in a state where Democrats hold all statewide offices, a supermajority in the state Legislature and 46 of California’s 53 House seats.
Democratic presidential candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, attended a Saturday forum at the convention. Missing were former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who were chided by state party Chairman Rusty Hicks for skipping the event.
Delegate Jean Hendrix of Modesto, a Warren supporter, said it didn’t matter to her that Warren wasn’t there.
“I just am very happy with the (presidential field),” Hendrix said. “The frontrunners deserve to be the frontrunners.”
It’s the second state party convention for delegate Joe Rose of Los Angeles, who said the gathering fired him up for 2020.
“We have an amazing platform and amazing ideas,” Rose said. “We’re the party of facts and looking at things objectively.”
As with other days, Sunday featured a charged atmosphere of Democrats eager to take on President Donald Trump.
“We are going to defeat Donald Trump, either by impeaching the (expletive) or by voting him out!” party Vice-Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall said to rousing cheers.
There was also a sarcastic “thank you Governor (Pete) Wilson” from delegates following a video marking the 25th anniversary of the fight over Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot measure backed by Wilson that sought to deny public services to undocumented immigrants. The backlash against Prop. 187 is credited with inspiring California Latinos to become politically active and reject the GOP.
Delegates formally endorsed candidates in legislative and congressional races, although most endorsements were decided earlier this month, including in the race for the open seat in the 23rd Senate District representing parts of Riverside and Orange counties. Kris Goodfellow got the nod over Abigail Medina in that race.
A handful of endorsements went to the convention to be decided in caucus meetings Saturday, including the race for the 37th Senate District encompassing most of Orange and Huntington Beach along Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach, and part of Anaheim.
David Min, who ran for an Orange County congressional seat in 2018, and Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley sought Democratic endorsement in the 37th as they vie to unseat GOP incumbent Sen. John Moorlach. But they walked away empty-handed, with the party offering no endorsement in that race.
Riverside County Democratic Party Chairwoman Tisa Rodriguez is encouraged by the party unity she saw at the convention.
“There’s such a spirit of cooperation that really, really brings me hope,” she said. “Even in the areas where we disagreed on a few issues … the spirit of cooperation is there.”