Capitol Alert

Democrats ramp up talk of impeaching Trump, passing universal health care in California

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris AP

Happening today, and continuing through the weekend: The California Democratic Party convention in downtown Sacramento. Before your eyes glaze over, or you head to the bar to prepare for Saturday night performances by Common and Cypress Hill, we’ve got a tip-sheet for what to watch for.

TO THINE OWNSELF BE TRUE: While Democrats nationally are warning about becoming overly consumed by President Donald Trump, California liberals have been largely unwilling to share in that concern.

With the Justice Department appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia, an increasingly pressing question has emerged: Will Democrats here reach consensus on Trump’s actions as grounds for impeachment? Momentum is building, with cities like Richmond taking public votes.

This week, Antonio Villaraigosa, a candidate for California governor, said Trump should quit or be impeached if media reports on his activities are accurate. Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, introduced a state resolution asking Trump to resign, and urging Congress to impeach the president if he doesn’t leave office voluntarily.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, has already said impeachment would happen if a handful of Republicans joined Democrats “to put country above party.” Huffman offered another option: “Or, in 2019 after (Democrats) win the House,” he tweeted from his campaign account.

For now, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is scheduled to address the more than 3,300 party activists on Saturday, has been reticent to go there on impeachment, even as Democratic operatives expect to poll-test the public’s views on the issue.

JOHN BURTON’S SUCCESSOR: The party’s liberal lion is stepping down as chairman, a position once held by Pelosi, Gov. Jerry Brown and Phil Angelides, and an internecine fight to replace Burton is brewing between Eric Bauman and Kimberly Ellis.

Bauman, an aide to California politicians, was long seen as a lock for the position until Ellis, a virtual unknown who helped train Democratic women to serve in politics, emerged on the scene. With the help of liberal groups like the Bernie Sanders-supporting nurses union, Ellis’ rise has drawn comparisons to the national Democratic Party chair contest between Keith Ellison and the eventual winner, Tom Perez. But the dynamics look more like the 2008 Democratic presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with Ellis as the newcomer.

She likes to say the party platform, which calls for the adoption of single-payer healthcare and an immediate moratorium on fracking, should act as a guiding document, “not provide political cover.” Bauman, meantime, has billed himself as every bit as progressive as Ellis, but with the connections and skills of a veteran operator (the vast majority of elected state legislators are behind Bauman).

In a new video out Thursday, Bauman stresses that it’s not enough to be the “‘anti-Trump Party’ – we must unite around our shared progressive agenda.”

We won’t get into the details of who may be leading in the delegate count, but an Ellis victory would signal a shift away from the establishment in the state party. Politicians have taken notice. Controller Betty Yee is on board, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the frontrunner in next year’s governor’s race, and a supporter of single-payer backed by the nurses, endorsed Ellis this week, noting her ability to energize the grassroots and advance change in the party. Newsom did not withdraw his original endorsement of Bauman, which he issued last fall, but you can read the tea leaves.

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE: Hundreds of Ellis-supporting nurses are gathering on the west steps of the Capitol at 5 p.m. and marching to the convention center for what’s become one of the signature issues in Sacramento: single-payer health care. On Saturday, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, will speak to delegates assembled at the convention.

BOO-BIRDS? A Friday welcome reception with Burton and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg features an out-of-town guest: Perez. What kind of reception will he get from the party faithful here? Sanders delegates tell us they’ve already snagged a private meeting with the new chairman.

SPEECHIFYING: Follow the speeches without being there.

GUARD CHANGE: If Sanders is the leading voice in the Democratic Party, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris can begin to claim ownership of the title in California. Harris is expected to use her first speech to party activists as senator to rally the troops by talking about what she’s faced in her first four months, and what’s at stake in the near term. She’ll also touch on what’s at risk from the standpoint of our civic values that go beyond partisanship.

Harris helps lead off a day of speeches on Saturday. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, whose political profile has swelled with the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, is the dinner speaker.

NO SHOWS: Brown, who is out of town for a family reunion, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who isn’t a regular at such events.

HAMLETS AND EGGS: Is Feinstein running again next year? She hasn’t said yet, which itself is notable. But several convention attendees would like to know, including Schiff, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Depending on who you talk to, and when, Steyer and de León could be preparing to jump into the Senate race, particularly if Feinstein provides an answer to their questions soon. One, or both, could also challenge for governor, with the possible support, and money, of the other. Steyer has been polling, and meeting with interest groups in Sacramento.

Now, a source tells The Bee that Steyer’s political team is interviewing campaign managers ahead of a possible run.

De León’s future has been up in the air for a while. He released a slick video this week that sent the rumor-mill into overdrive, but quickly confirmed he won’t be making an announcement this weekend. Along with the two aforementioned offices, there also is everything from state treasurer to lieutenant governor, which now, somehow, is a crowded race.

Padilla is grooming himself for the U.S. Senate, which is probably the case for Garcetti, unless he runs for governor, or president, first.

It’s enough ghost campaigning in close quarters to sate even the thirstiest politicos.

No plans Friday night? Steyer will talk about his environmental reform efforts at the party’s Chicano Latino Caucus, in Room 202 of the Sacramento Convention Center. Scheduled to speak at the caucus meeting are gubernatorial candidates Villaraigosa, John Chiang, the state treasurer, and Delaine Eastin, a former state schools chief.

Also appearing are Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, rivals for the office in 2018. No Newsom, however.

FOOD TRUCKS: Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, are hosting an outdoor food-truck festival at noon Saturday they hope will feed 200 families by raising money for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago