Capitol Alert

Divided Democrats endorse few statewide candidates at California convention

A busy weekend of campaigning for delegate support at the California Democratic Party convention culminated in…well, not much. Most of the top candidates for statewide office went home from San Diego without an endorsement.

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In the governor’s race, frontrunner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom led the crowded field with 39 percent of the nearly 2,800 votes cast. But it was well short of the 60 percent threshold for an endorsement.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has run a consistent second to Newsom in statewide polls, trailed badly with only 9 percent. He faced a rough reception at the convention, and was even booed Friday night during visit to the labor caucus, where hecklers called him a “union buster.”

While he has failed to break through so far on the campaign trail, Treasurer John Chiang crowed to supporters about his “incredibly strong second-place showing” in the endorsement vote, where he garnered 30 percent.

“Just as importantly,” his team said in a release, “chronic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom couldn’t muster the support needed to secure the endorsement despite campaigning for the job for nearly a decade.”

Former superintendent of public instruction Delaine Eastin, who has been anemic in fundraising and public polling, captured 20 percent of delegates.

State Senate leader Kevin de Léon and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who are trying to take out fellow Democratic incumbents for the U.S. Senate and attorney general, respectively, fell just short of capturing underdog endorsement victories.

De León was the clear favorite of convention attendees over veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whom he dismissed in a speech as lacking “real leadership, moral clarity,” taking 54 percent of the endorsement vote to her 37 percent. He declared it an “astounding rejection of politics as usual,” though Feinstein still leads him handily in fundraising and polling.

Jones, who is trying to run to the left of liberal Attorney General Xavier Becerra, beat him 56 percent to 42 percent among delegates.

“We need a fighter, not a follower,” Jones said in a release touting his “huge win.” Becerra said in a statement that he was “deeply honored to have received the support of so many California Democratic Party delegates” and would “continue to build toward victory.”

The open race for lieutenant governor ended in a virtual tie between state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, and former U.S. ambassador Eleni Kounalakis — 42 percent to 41 percent — with only 17 votes separating them.

In the 4th Congressional District, where several Democratic candidates have been engaged in a nasty fight over a longshot challenge for the traditionally Republican seat, convention delegates coalesced around Jessica Morse. Despite recent revelations that she exaggerated her professional accomplishments at the State Department and in the military, she received nearly two-thirds of the vote and won the endorsement.

And former state Sen. Tony Mendoza, who resigned from his Los Angeles-area seat this week following a Senate investigation that found he likely sexually harassed at least six women over the past decade, encountered his first obstacle in a bid to regain the post. Local delegates overwhelmingly rejected his bid for an endorsement, though he said he still planned to run.

“The voters in the district make this election, not them,” Mendoza said in an interview. “I’ve got three months and a half to connect with my voters and let them know my message.”

California Democratic Party endorsements

U.S. Senate: none

Governor: none

Lieutenant governor: none

Attorney general: none

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

Controller: Betty Yee

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

Board of Equalization: none

Congressional and legislative district results