This was the first time I have been able to go to a California Democratic Convention. I was an appointed delegate of Assemblywoman Virginia Strom Martin’s but I was never able to attend for one reason or another. This year I was elected as a delegate by the HCDCC. And I had plenty of time off. So off I went. There is a lot that happens at the Convention, so the first order of business I did was to go to New Members meeting to understand protocol. There was much to learn in little time and I was shocked on how many people were there. There must have been over a thousand newbie’s.
Next I went to the caucus meeting of the California Democratic Council, where there was a presentation of new strategies the party would like to use in the future to consolidate campaign information and create a uniform 58 county electioneering process that would lead to more cohesive campaigns. This room was packed! And then there was time left for speeches of candidates and other political interests. I had no idea what was going on when a young man dressed well and speaking gracefully was subsequently booed. I have heard about the Lyndon LaRouche group, but this was the first time I had seen or heard one. He was followed up by another that was not well received. I was kind of taken back, as we are seen as the party of tolerance.
The next meeting I attended was the Rural Caucus. It was packed also and business was spirited but in basic order. They went over issues for smaller populated areas such as onerous rules for septic tanks. I learned voting protocol that they did not cover in orientation, and was not able to participate because I did not join the Rural Caucus as a voting member.
I next went to the Progressive Caucus, that was ridiculously packed with thousands, and I was able to vote. This caucus has been increasing in numbers at a huge rate, and I seen it with my own eyes.
Next was the Chair’s welcome reception. The food was well needed after all those hours in stuffed rooms. Many speeches that were now just becoming more like blah blah blah. My attention span was being tested.
At 8:30 was the Labor Caucus. OK, when I told you the other caucuses were stuffed? I didn’t know what crowded was. Obviously there are no Fire Marshals in Sacramento. This Caucus was a buzz. The long time Chair Jim Gordon was being challenged and there was a coup d'état afloat. And it was successful! There is a new chair, but I don’t know his name. Mr. Gordon finished the meeting. The main topic was the Free Choice Act and many of the politicians in the room called on Dianne Feinstein to support this act. I think it was Senator Dean Florez who gave this speech: “Hello. Free Choice Act. Goodbye!” That pretty much was the theme. The Propositions were going to be a taboo subject at this caucus, but then some speaker made some loose reference to supporting the props and all hell broke loose. One of the labor leaders named Willie came up front and gave an impassioned speech on the weaknesses of prop 1A and clearly had a big following amongst labor. The meeting adjourned, but I am sure there were all night discussions behind many closed doors afterward. There was a hole in the dike.
The Lyndon LaRouche cult/groupies/choir was in the lobby singing songs of their message which not only did not resonate, it was just plain freaky.
Sunday morning the General Session started at 9:30am more speeches and announcements, awards, reports and election results. When business was directed at the propositions the vote was to support 1B, 1C and 1F. The vote to not support 1A, 1D and 1E came through, even though each was voted yes by the majority, just not the 60% threshold needed. Wes Chesbro did a good job in lobbying his constituents in his delegate region to vote yes, but other legislators must have not had the same effectiveness. (Although I will note that Shane Brinton voted against all the Props but 1B.) There were over 3,000 voting members in attendance and many other observers and media people. After these votes, most delegates left to travel home.
But we still had Party business to do. Resolutions were passed to honor Art Torres, May 22 was designated Harvey Milk Day, Thanks to Obama for his review of Bush Policies and Military and Veterans Outreach.
Then there were the State wide issue Resolutions to vote on. The Resolution Committee had over 100 prospective Resolutions and came back to the delegates with 11. Twice people tried to shut down the voting due to a lack of a quorum, because so many delegates left early. I then witnessed enough violations of Roberts Rules of Order and Parliamentary procedure than on any committee I have been on. The Chair lost complete control over the floor and there was shouting and out of order participation. One more “Point of Information” and I would have lost it. Unfortunately the Chair kept focusing on the Resolutions out of sequence also. So there was much confusion over which Resolution was being voted on and what form the Resolution had taken. It was so crazy that Art Torres abruptly asked for affirmation blanket vote on all the Resolutions brought forth. And the majority did just that. In shortened form, the Resolutions were:
1. Oppose a Top Two Blanket Primary Proposal.
2. A Call for Hearing and Reaffirmation of the Party’s Support of a Moratorium on the Death Penalty.
3. Support Same Sex Couples in Their Right to Marry by Repealing Proposition 8.
4. Oil Severance.
5. Health Care Reform.
6. In Support of a Majority Vote for State Budget. (This passed unanimously!)
7. Oppose Governor Schwarzenegger’s Cuts to Children, Seniors and the Disabled in the 2009-10 California State Budget.
8. Credit Card Regulation and Interest Rate Capping.
9. Protect Workers Rights to Organize.
10. Senior Cola Resolution.
11. Calling for the Investigation of Judge Jay Bybee and Others for Their Role in Allowing Torture as Part of “Enhanced Interrogation.”
Then there was the drive home and the many discussions of what had happened. I hope I get a chance to go again next year!