Commentary: Politicians or the grassroots– Who should lead the California Democratic Party?

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In June, 3,000 Californians will meet at the state’s Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco to shape the California Democratic Party’s platform, policies, endorsements and leadership in the run-up to the 2020 elections.

In the past, these conventions have been dominated by elected officials and other party insiders. Many of these insiders have made positive contributions to our state. But, unfortunately, party insiders have a tendency to craft policies that put politicians’ personal aspirations ahead of the common good.

Of the 3,000 Democrats who will vote at the California Democratic Party Convention, one-third will be chosen from the community at the Assembly District Election Meetings, known as “ADEM” elections. Every registered Democrat can show up on Jan. 12 to vote for 14 delegates from their assembly district.

The problem with the ADEM elections is that, historically, the candidates have been politicians and members of their inner circles. Elected officials are not satisfied with two-thirds of the vote at the party convention– they want it all. Since most Democratic voters do not know about these party elections, the turnout is usually low and the politicians usually win.

This year, two slates of candidates are contending for the 14 seats in Assembly District 70, which includes Long Beach, San Pedro, Signal Hill and Avalon. Members of both slates have strong community-service records. However, one slate is tied to Long Beach politicians who already control most of the Democratic Party’s levers of power.

In contrast, the Blue Revolution slate is a rainbow coalition of grassroots changemakers. Its members have decades of experience in activism, with a proven track record working for racial, economic and gender justice; for immigrants rights, single-payer health care and world peace. Slate members include activists from the California Nurses Association, the Service Employees International Union, the Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union and Our Revolution Long Beach.

Blue Revolution and allied changemakers began the process of democratizing the Democratic Party in 2017. At that convention, they passed several resolutions, including a resolution that leveled the field for new voices by making incumbents meet the same vote threshold for the state-party endorsement as grassroots candidates.

Due to the high number of appointed delegates at the convention, Blue Revolution and its allies were narrowly defeated in their drive to elect fresh party leadership. Backed by politicians and party insiders, Eric Bauman won 51 percent of the vote for the chair of the California Democratic Party, while the grassroots candidate, Kimberly Ellis, earned 49 percent of the vote.

Bauman, at the time of the election, was the chair of the mighty LA County Democratic Party. Many political insiders feared standing up to Bauman because he had long been in a position to make or break a politician’s career. Tragically, his tenure as state party chair ended in a disgusting scandal that would have been avoided if progressives held just a few more convention seats.

In 2017, Blue Revolution won 10 of 14 delegate slots. This time, sending 14 members to the convention will send a powerful message to party bosses and will help ensure that the California Democratic Party becomes an even more powerful, diverse and unified voice for change.

Voters from Assembly District 70 who demand fundamental change need to vote for all 14 Blue Revolution candidates on Jan. 12 from 10:30am to 12:30pm at Teamsters Local 848 (3888 Cherry Ave.). For more information about the candidates and the ADEM elections, visit

Cesar Armendariz is an Ecuadorian immigrant who lives in Long Beach.
He is a Social Studies high school teacher and community organizer. Cesar is the chair of Our Revolution Long Beach, a progressive activist group that represents Long Beach and surrounding areas.