Thousands of Democrats and 14 presidential candidates flocked to one of the nation’s most liberal cities for a packed California Democratic Party convention Saturday, where they derided President Donald Trump and advanced a long list of liberal plans on issues from health care to gun control.
Highlighting the Golden State’s relevance leading into an election year, one candidate after another took to the podium to make their case to California delegates. More than 5,000 delegates, volunteers, staff, and members of the media registered for the convention at the Moscone Center.
The state’s historically late primary has blunted its influence in past nominating contests, but next year’s earlier primary has drawn a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls to the state. California will hold its 2020 primary March 3, up from its usual June primary date.
Here is a sampling of what the candidates had to say:
Cory Booker pitches gun control
Updated: 3:42 p.m.
California Democrats paused for a moment of silence in memory of the 12 people killed in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
Then they gave a standing ovation for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s passionate call for gun control.
“Children are being murdered in our schools and we do nothing,” Booker yelled over cheers from the crowd.
“It is time that we come together and stand together and take the fight to the NRA and the corporate gun lobby like we have never seen before.”
The last of the presidential candidates to make his pitch to delegates Saturday, Booker called for unity in voting President Donald Trump out of office.
“This election cannot be about what we are against, it must be about what we are for,” he said. “This is about who we are and who we must be to each other. It’s not about us versus them.”
California Democrats boo Hickenlooper
Updated: 3:21 p.m.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was the only presidential candidate booed by the crowd at the California Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco on Saturday.
“Socialism is not the answer,” he told the crowd, suggesting that overly liberal candidates could scare off some voters. “If we’re not careful, we’re going to help reelect the worst president in history.”
He gave the most moderate speech of the candidates addressing the full convention, and got the coldest reception from attendees.
Although the crowd cheered when he called for gun control, Hickenlooper was booed again when he criticized plans to overhaul the health insurance system with a Medicare-for-all system.
“We shouldn’t try to achieve universal coverage by removing private insurance for over 150 million Americans,” he said.
‘Middle-class’ millennial Mayor Pete wants new politics
Updated: 3 p.m.
Why not nominate a middle-class millennial mayor with a track record in the industrial Midwest?
That was the opening question South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg asked Californians during the Democratic party convention on Saturday.
“Why not someone who represents a new generation of leaders?” Buttigieg continued, calling for an era of “new politics.”
The multilingual, gay, military man unexpectedly caught America’s eye when he rolled out his presidential campaign in April, evidenced by a swarm of supporters that cheered him onto stage. And among a crew of candidates who spoke before him at the convention calling for immigration reform and the need to combat climate change, Buttigieg uniquely spent much of his speech stressing economic policy change.
“The economic ‘normal’ has failed a working and middle class that powered America into a new era of growth, only to see the amazing wealth that we built go to a tiny few,” the small town mayor said.
Though he did not outline any specific revisions to support the middle class, Buttigieg said he wants Washington to “work more like our best-run cities and towns, instead of the other way around.”
Kirsten Gillibrand: “Our president is a coward.”
Kirsten Gillibrand highlighted the bravery of firefighters and young immigrants in a speech to convince California delegates to support her candidacy for president at the state Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco on Saturday.
“Our president is a coward,” she said. “You, California, deserve a president whose bravery and courage matches your every single day.”
The New York senator was the fourth of fourteen presidential candidates to address the full convention. She highlighted her proposals to curb the influence of big money in politics and to codify abortion rights in legislation.
“I will go toe to toe with anyone to do the right thing,” she said. “I am fighting for an America where power truly belongs to the people.”
Elizabeth Warren calls for changing status quo
Updated: 12:50 p.m.
The system is rigged and Democrats need to be more aggressive in demanding change, Elizabeth Warren told members of the California Democratic Party on Saturday.
The Massachusetts senator rattled off a list of problems facing the country -- racial inequality, gun violence, unaffordable health care.
“These are enormous problems,” she said. “But they are all connected to one thing: power that is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy and well-connected who help themselves at the expense of everyone else.”
Supporters cheered and waved signs with her presidential campaign slogan “I have a plan for that” as she called for breaking up big tech companies and raising taxes on the richest Americans. She said new taxes would fund universal childcare for every baby, universal preschool for ever 3- and 4-year-old, free public college, Medicare for all and the Green New Deal.
“When I lead this Democratic Party, we will not be a party that nibbles around the edges,” she said.
She urged attendees to volunteer for her campaign and encouraged them to fight as she was played off the convention stage by the Dolly Parton song “9 to 5.”
Beto bolsters immigration plan
Updated: 12:00 p.m.
To achieve his White House ambitions, former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke is leaning on his newly developed immigration reform plans to captivate the hearts of voters.
O’Rourke narrowly lost his bid to unseat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last November. But after a coalition of grassroots organizers and small dollar donors catapulted his campaign to national attention, O’Rourke decided to head back to Washington, D.C. by way of a presidential race.
Fluctuating between speaking in Spanish and English at the convention, O’Rourke said his administration would bring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and millions of undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows” by offering them a path to citizenship.
He also criticized President Donald Trump’s former “zero-tolerance” policy from Spring 2018 that separated families at the border.
“Never again will we put another child in another cage,” O’Rourke said. “Nor will we deport another mother to a country she fled from in the first place.”
The Texas Democrat also argued for greater access to health care and said he would sign a new voting rights act that would end gerrymandering and allow for same-day voter registration.
Kamala Harris blasts Donald Trump
Updated: 11:51 a.m.
California Sen. Kamala Harris accused President Donald Trump of lying and breaking his campaign promises in her speech to her home state’s Democratic party Saturday.
The first of more than a dozen presidential candidates slated to speak at the convention this weekend, Harris told California delegates she wants their votes, characterizing the upcoming presidential election as a battle for America’s values.
She said Trump has failed to protect health care and bring back jobs and instead has hurt the people he promised to protect. She blasted his tax and health care policies and said his tariffs are hurting Americans.
“I like to call it Trump’s trade tax,” she said, taking a page from Trump’s playbook and giving his tariffs an alliterative nickname.
Attendees at the Moscone Center in San Francisco cheered and rose to their feet when she called for the president to be impeached.
“Democrats, we have a fight on our hands,” she said. “It’s a fight for who we are as a people. It’s a fight for the highest ideals of our nation. With this president, it’s a fight for truth itself.”
Pelosi avoids call to impeach Trump
Updated: 11:00 a.m.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd of California Democrats eager to hear from the San Francisco native and greatest thorn in President Donald Trump’s policy agenda.
Pelosi is known for often blocking Trump’s attempts to fund a border wall, roll back the Affordable Care Act and stymie immigration. But the nation’s top Democrat is also a former state party chair and continued powerful fundraiser
She is under fire by more liberal Congressional Democrats, who remain adamant that the president should be impeached. But the speaker stuck to her usual script on Saturday and said her priority is increasing the party’s majority in Congress.
“Across the ballot, to the top of the ticket we must win and we must elect a Democratic president to the United States,” Pelosi said, wearing white for the suffragist movement. “But we will also investigate and litigate to protect our democracy.”
Several audience members waved Rosie the Riveter signs reading “Speaker Pelosi,” and a smaller group yelled calls for Trump’s impeachment from the crowd. Though Pelosi said Trump “will be held accountable for his actions,” the nation’s most powerful female politician stayed the course, instead propping up a pro-choice agenda and underscoring the need for a grassroots effort to take back the Senate.
That way, she said, the party can fight for immigrants, equal pay and environmental protection policies.
“We will go where the facts lead us,” Pelosi said. “We will insist on the truth. We will build an ironclad case to act. Because in the United States of America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States.”
Newsom welcomes attendees to California’s “dream-soaked shores”
Updated: 10: 20 a.m.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom welcomed presidential hopefuls and convention attendees to the “dream-soaked shores” of the Golden State and his home city of San Francisco on Saturday morning.
“Welcome to this wacky and wonderful city,” Newsom said. “As a native son, it is good to be home.”
Speaking to a friendly, cheering crowd, the former San Francisco mayor touted the state’s efforts to protect LGBT rights, expand health care access and protect the environment. He also highlighted his efforts to end the death penalty in the state, alluding to his decision to grant temporary reprieves to all the prisoners on the state’s death row earlier this year.
“We are nothing less than a progressive answer to a transgressive president,” Newsom said. “California is where the future happens first.”
Bernie Sanders, other Democrats court unions
Updated: 7:30 a.m.
A handful of presidential candidates woke up early to woo California organized workers Saturday morning during a Service Employees International Union California breakfast.
“When unions are stronger, America is stronger,” Amy Klobuchar told the energetic crowd of healthcare and social services workers, long-term care providers and low-income laborers.
The breakfast served as a formal audition for the White House candidates hoping to secure an endorsement from the coalition of employees. Union workers, who can mobilize voters in the primary, are a coveted constituency for the candidates.
Several spoke of increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour and expanding benefits, much of what California has already moved to do.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders touted his past support of labor unions, highlighting his efforts to raise the minimum wage and guarantee workers the right to unionize.
“I’ve been out on the picket line with workers,” he said.
“If we’re going to grow the middle class in this country, if we’re going to do away with starvation wages and make sure that every worker earns a decent paycheck, we are going to have to grow the trade union movement in America,” Sanders continued, saying that his administration would make it easier to join the workers’ bargaining organizations.
He also promoted his Medicare for all bill to create a single-payer health care system as well as making public colleges and universities tuition free.