California politicians who have come to define the blue-state resistance to President Donald Trump will be given prominent platforms to spread their message at the state Democratic Party convention this weekend in San Diego, with an emphasis on wresting back control of Congress and a possible glimpse of the 2020 presidential contest.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has defied Trump and the Republican majority in Washington on health care, immigration and the Russia investigation, headlines the convention with a speech Saturday, followed by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
They are “all talked about as potential presidential hopefuls,” California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman said. “We’ll see.”
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Other scheduled speakers who have gained political star power for hurling strong words and challenges to Trump are Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.
The weekend offers Democrats in the nation’s most populous state a chance to set the tone – and strategize – for the upcoming midterms this June and the November general election.
“I think our major thematic of the convention defines it all: California is the big blue beacon of hope,” Bauman said. “The entire nation looks to California...to resist Donald Trump...to take back the House and to prove our progressive taxation polices, resolve deficits and build surpluses.”
Universal health care and immigration, defining issues for the party, will be center stage. Liberal activists are expected to press candidates for California governor, U.S. Senate and other statewide offices to take stronger, more left-leaning stances on both issues.
“Our convention will feature a lot of energy from those who are pushing...single-payer or Medicare-for-all health care,” Bauman said. “I think you will (also) see that around bail reform and changes to Costa-Hawkins and other housing-related measures. I’m not troubled by that, that’s what they do.”
Clearing the way for stronger rent control is a top issue in the governor’s race this year. The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act limits rent control in cities.
Four of the Democratic candidates to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown are set to participate in a debate-style event on the convention stage Saturday. They are Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former superintendent of public instruction Delaine Eastin.
Amanda Renteria, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton in 2016, announced too late to secure a speaking spot or to appear on the ballot for the party endorsement, Bauman said.
She told The Bee’s Capitol Bureau this week that she’s running because California needs “an inspiration,” but her clumsy campaign launch and activity in the week since she announced is leaving Democratic operatives and delegates scratching their heads about her motivations. She has not yet reached out to several caucuses at the convention to request a late speaking spot nor has she contacted the party chairman.
“She’s been a friend of mine for a number a years,” Bauman said. “She certainly has my cell phone number.”
Insiders are skeptical that any gubernatorial candidate will get 60 percent of the delegate votes needed to win the party’s official endorsement Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean they’re not gunning for it.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has not regularly attend party conventions, is also campaigning for the endorsement. She and her primary challengers, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Los Angeles attorney Pat Harris, are expected to press Feinstein on her stances and positions on Trump and his agenda.