Sunday, January 22, 2012

AD50 Candidate Betsy Butler Loses Every Local Dem Club Endorsement, Yet Secures CA Dem Party Endorsement With Sacramento's Help

Betsy Butler at the Stonewall Democratic Club endorsement meeting.
She lost to opponent Torie Osborn.

Despite losing every Democratic Club Endorsement in the district to opponent Torie Osborn, AD50 candidate Betsy Butler managed to win the California Democratic Party's "pre-endorsement" caucus today with 57% of the vote.

So how did this happen, and more importantly, why should you care?

Every year, CDP delegates meet a few weeks before their yearly state convention to "pre-endorse" (aka recommend) Democratic candidates they believe are worthy of their party's institutional support.

In 2010, I wrote about the process during the Harman/Winograd primary battle:

If you're a registered Democrat in California, right around election time, some helpful soul will hang a brochure on your front door knob that lists all the official California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsements for the election in your district.

So here's how a Congressional candidate in California gets that endorsement: Local CDP delegates, county committee members and representatives of local Democratic clubs get to vote in something called a pre-endorsement conference for the Congressional candidate they would like to see endorsed. If 70% of the voters at that conference endorse a candidate, then that recommendation is sent to the full CDP Convention a month or so later where, usually, the recommendation is accepted by unanimous consent and placed on the coveted CDP Door Thingee.
That CDP Door Thingee can potentially mean thousands of votes for the endorsed candidate, especially in our new "open" election system, where two Democrats can potentially face off against each other in both the primary and the general election. Which is why candidates always scramble this time of year to secure the endorsement.

Theoretically at least, the delegates voting in these caucuses are supposed to be from the home district of the candidate they're voting to endorse. And actually, the delegates themselves are.

However, the politicians who "own" these delegates don't have to be.

You see, only about a third of CDP delegates are elected by popular vote. The other two-thirds are appointed by politicians or elected by Sacramento insiders. And in contested races like the one for the 50th Assembly District, delegates can be traded amongst politicians like playing cards.

That's exactly what happened today in the AD50 pre-endorsement caucus.

Of the 64 votes Butler received, 5 of those came from delegates she herself appointed. Forty-two delegates were assigned by Assembly Speaker John Perez, who pulled them from assembly districts as far away as San Francisco and Riverside.

Torie Osborn, on the other hand, not being an elected official, could not assign herself delegates. The numerous Democratic club endorsements she secured weren't particularly helpful either, since party rules severely limited the number of delegate they're allotted.

Sheila Kuehl, Torie Osborn, Jackie Goldberg

Butler failed to get the 70% needed for unanimous consent at the CDP convention, so she'll have to wait until February for convention delegates to give their seal of approval. It's entirely possible grassroots activists won't let this go without a fight, and could organize to block unanimous consent, forcing a full vote on the floor.

Such moves are rare, success rarer still.  As a group, convention delegates are an almost perfect microcosm of Sacramento itself - insular, inclined to protect the status quo and resistant to overcoming institutional inertia.

But in the age of "occupy",  grassroots activists seem less willing than ever to put up with the status quo.  As one young Osborn supporter put it, "Folks in Sacramento should take note that AD50 supports Torie Osborn without a doubt, and will fight to make her voice heard" 

Fasten your seat belts, kids, this could be a bumpy ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment