After angering some within the liberal wing of his party, Democratic Rep. Ami Bera came to Sacramento on Sunday to make a personal appeal but still failed to receive enough support from activists to secure the Democratic endorsement for his re-election.
Bera, a perennial target of Republicans, does not face an intraparty challenge, but his votes to advance a controversial trade agreement and limit Syrian and Iraqi refugees from resettling in the U.S. have been enough to spark the rare level of backlash that flared again at the regional gathering.
The vote was 61 percent in favor of backing him to 39 percent opposed. Bera, of Elk Grove, needed 70 percent of the vote to avoid further deliberation. The endorsement setback, while not entirely unexpected, means the two-term congressman will have to wait until the Feb. 28 state party convention to again seek the nod. The vote in San Jose will exclude clubs and other local groups, and is limited to delegates and their proxies.
Bera showed up at Sunday’s meeting to rub shoulders and briefly address the room.
He again sought to clarify that he has not taken a formal position on the actual trade deal, and merely supported giving President Barack Obama negotiating authority. Bera said he will wait for an analysis this spring before making up his mind on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He then turned his attention to Republican challenger Scott Jones, the Sacramento County sheriff, noting that Jones opposes abortion rights and is skeptical about the recent Paris accord to tackle climate change.
“I see the urgency of climate change as one of our biggest challenges going forward,” Bera said.
Bera and his team have been working to connect with disconcerted delegates after several local activists, including some in his hometown, refused to issue him what for most incumbents is a routine, albeit important, demonstration of unity.
Analysts have said the displeasure, particularly among organized labor, could come to haunt Bera, whose victories over Dan Lungren and Doug Ose were powered by union foot soldiers.
“This is an obvious showing that delegates in the district are not happy with Congressman Bera’s voting record,” said Robert Longer, political and legislative director for the Communications Workers of America Local 9421. “Normally, this is a matter of course; normally, he would have received the endorsement no problem. However ... about 40 percent of the delegates decided that no endorsement is better than endorsing.”
“I think Congressman Bera needs to do some soul searching as to whether he’s a real Democrat, or not. If he believes in the district, he will connect with the voters, he will connect with the folks that got him into office. Otherwise, he will have to find another job.”
After the vote, Bera said he planned to be at the upcoming statewide convention.
“This was democracy in action,” Bera said. “I feel confident that we are going to come together as a party. At the end of the day, we’ve got to continue to fight for our values of putting people to work, creating jobs (and) fighting to protect a woman’s right to choose.”