Capitol Alert

Was Berniecrats’ choice to lead California Democrats cheated out of the chairmanship?

Democrats need to win back hearts and minds, Kimberly Ellis tells activists

Kimberly Ellis, 43, campaigned for the Democratic Party chairmanship in Sacramento, California, on May 20.
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Kimberly Ellis, 43, campaigned for the Democratic Party chairmanship in Sacramento, California, on May 20.

California Democrat Kimberly Ellis, who rode a wave of Bernie Sanders-inspired support to come within 62 votes of veteran political operative Eric Bauman in the state party’s recent race for chair, issued a memo late Monday questioning the legitimacy of the election and the review process that followed.

“Based on the information contained here,” the document states, “the actual vote count is in question. It is believed that the wrong individual is serving as chair.”

Ellis’ team alleges hundreds of ballots have corresponding signatures that don’t match the credential sign-in signatures, or are missing, and said it found “multiple documented instances” of duplicate voting – described as a person voting as a proxy, or someone who casts a vote on behalf of another, on more than one ballot.

They further charge that several individuals who served as proxies were not listed in a commonly used political database as registered Democrats.

Ellis’ six-page document comes as a growing number of party activists, including supporters of her opponent, are calling for her to step aside and concede the race, many in the name of party unity as Democrats lay the foundation for the 2018 elections.

The race for party chair heated up when Ellis, the Sanders-inspired Our Revolution and the California Nurses Association helped elect slates of new delegates early this year. While past chairs have included such notables as Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Brown, the position derives much of its power today by serving as a key fundraising arm for Democratic caucuses of the state Legislature.

Ellis, borrowing the Shirley Chisholm slogan “Unbought and Unbossed,” shook up the establishment by contending that oil, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies be shunned, along with corporations that she believes for too long have used their money to influence debate at the state Capitol.

Mike Roth, incoming spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said in a prepared statement that officials are reviewing Ellis’ memo.

“From what we can tell at this point, it appears to be more unsubstantiated allegations and still no facts,” Roth said.

Bauman, the longtime chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party said in a lengthy statement to party delegates earlier Monday that he’s done everything in his power to bring down the level of tension after his narrow victory last month.

“My only public statement on the process was to ask all members of the Democratic Party to treat each other with respect and dignity, and to allow Kimberly Ellis and her supporters the opportunity they deserve to do a thorough review of the ballots,” he said. “I myself stayed away from the CDP headquarters during that review to make certain that none of her activists were uncomfortable or felt like I was imposing on them.”

Ellis, whose insurgent campaign has been reviewing materials from the May 20 election, further contends her efforts to inspect election materials were cut short, along with her request for an independent audit. The campaign wants to see ballot count sheets it said party officials had agreed to show them, and said they were denied discarded ballots and on-site payment receipts. Ellis previously requested that an interim chair step in to serve until the election is certified.

The state party race’s razor-thin margin of 1,493 to 1,431, and exceedingly high turnout, formed the early basis for her review, which while not completed included everything from ballots to forms signed by delegates designating a proxy to vote in their place.

Ellis’ team wants the California Democratic Party to investigate the possibility that people who secured delegate badges were not, in fact, those delegates. They also want the party to determine why, as they believe, ineligible individuals were awarded delegate badges as proxies and were not screened out beforehand. Ellis specifically notes delegates to the state convention did not have to present any proof of identity, including ID cards, before they received their credentials.

Bauman, in his statement earlier Monday, said he believes it is unnecessary to take the ballot review and election challenge process away from a system that is in accordance with party by-laws and procedures, and was set-up under former Chairman John Burton, the former legislative leader and congressman.

“I am well aware that 49 percent of the delegates to the convention voted for Kimberly Ellis and that if we are to keep California the big blue beacon of hope and the beating heart of the resistance, those who have felt shut out of the process must have a true seat at the table,” Bauman said in his statement.

“But I also know that doing so does not require burning down every institution and trashing those activists and volunteers who have given their blood, sweat and tears over the years to make the California Democratic Party the most successful Democratic Party anywhere in America.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago