‘I’m not a socialist’: Liberal Democrats withhold support for Rep. Ami Bera, again

Democratic Rep. Ami Bera failed to win enough votes to secure the Democratic endorsement for his re-election, struggling to gain support from the progressive wing of the party.

It’s not the first time that liberal Democrats have withheld support from Bera, a four-term congressman who represents a district that spans Sacramento suburbs from Elk Grove to Folsom. The party in 2016 also initially withheld its endorsement until its state convention. That year, he defeated a challenge from Republican Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones.

Amar Shergill, chairman, of the progressive caucus of the state Democratic Party, said Bera’s voting record on “bills that increase the profits for Wall Street, medical insurance companies and corporate donors” has led some delegates to “vote their conscience”

Increasingly, some in his constituency have called on Bera to embrace more openly progressive policy ideas, such as the Green New Deal plan to address climate change and “Medicare for All,” a government-run health insurance plan for all Americans.

“I’m not a socialist,” Bera told residents during a Sept. 3 town hall amid shouts from attendees. “How are we gonna pay for it? How is it gonna affect existing hospitals? We don’t know the answers to those questions.”

About 61.5 percent of local delegates voted in favor of backing Bera, or 48 out of 78 votes. Bera, of Elk Grove, needed 70 percent of the vote to avoid further deliberation by the party on whether he should receive an endorsement.

The incumbent has a chance to again seek the endorsement at the state party convention next month in Long Beach, where he will need to get a simple majority to get the nod, according to Eric Sunderland, a regional director of the California Democratic Party

“In all likelihood, he’ll get the endorsement,” Sunderland said. “For folks it’s the tool people have have to make him aware they’re not happy.”

In a statement, Bera said he “looks forward” to receiving the endorsement at the convention.

“I’m proud to have received the overwhelming support of delegates at the pre-endorsement conference,” he said in a statement. “I’ll continue to be a strong advocate for the people of Sacramento County, and pursue policies that move our families forward.”

The primary election is March 3.

Jeff Burdick, a former state public information officer, plans to run as a progressive alternative to Bera in the primary. Burdick published a press release about the Democratic Party withholding an endorsement from Bera.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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