Live from San Diego: The Demo State Convention


[Brilliantly updated below] The Calbuzz National Affairs desk is in place at the San Diego Convention Center, and chairman John Burton has just hit the stage: “Jesus,” is the first word out of his mouth, as he engages in a brief wrestling match with the podium microphone.

“Good morning, Democrats, as we’re supposed to say,” he says with only slightly less enthusiasm than the crowd in the half-filled hall responds to him.

Jerry Brown is supposed to speak at 10:30 but – surprise, surprise – the Dems are already behind schedule.

There’s a small rebellion building at the press table, where members of the Sacto press corps are grumbling because Governor Gandalf snuck in and attended some breakfast at the Hilton and nobody from his staff bothered to notify the media, which is a routine screwup by the press office in its ineffectual efforts to deal with Jerry’s meandering approach to time and space.

10:40 – Burton is introducing Nancy Pelosi, saying she was the greatest Speaker next to Sam Rayburn.

Nancy: “How many times have you heard this – ‘this is the most important election of our generation’ – they just keep getting more important – – the other side keeps getting more outrageous….the road back to the House majority runs through California.”

The theme of the weekend: “Battleground California.”

Gets applause for putting a tax surcharge on the wealthy. Bigger cheer for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (but she also told reporters yesterday that Obama is absolutely right to have a super PAC since so much is being spent against him). See her funny attack on Steven Colbert.

We’re the party of new politics, free of special interests…We will win back the House of Representatives…re-elect Sen. Dianne Feinstein, President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden, Pelosi says. Ground-breaking stuff here.

11:00 am –– She’s gone and Burton is back up…Controller John Chiang about to take the stage…The excitement is palpable.

Chiang talking about CA’s fiscal health an initiatives…July 9, 2007, last date CA operated in the black, he says…he sits on 81 boards and authorities!…Calbuzz searching for coffee…

11:10 — Burton yells at protesters and marchers outside the hall, tells them to pipe down. “You’re not doing your cause and good, unless it’s something I agree with.” Then introduces U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, praises her vote against going into Afghanistan.

She thanks and praises Nancy, Jerry and Kamala — no mention of Gavin, who’s been everywhere here, working the caucuses and receptions like a three-legged dog.

Says Democrats are the voice of the 99% — got that OWS people?

Hey — we just noticed: the Democrats seem to be on the same message — something they seldom do — all using the battleground theme (except for Barbara Lee’s call to book the battlefield in Afghanistan). Her foreign policy seems to channel Ron Paul.

11:20 –– Burton loves Barbara Lee…”She is the goddamn best.” Now he’s introducing Assembly Speaker John Perez…

Touts his middle-class scholarship act… to make college affordable again, he says. Predicts that Republicans will oppose him..says Bob Dutton is quoted saying he’s oppose to it, “regardless of the merits.” Evokes FDR –” It’s a sobering thing to be a soldier in this cause.” Puts in word for Jerry’s tax plan.

11:32 — Burton up again…introducing Jerry Brown…defeated “moneybags Meg Whitman”…the person that’s gonna take us out of the mess we’re in…

11:34 — Jerry thanks the Democrats…as of Labor Day, Whitman outspent him 100 to 1…you don’t start firing until you see the whites of their eyes…I was raising money and collecting interest while Democrats (and IEs) kept attacking eMeg throughout the summer…

Says the Dream Act is alive despite “those radio guys” (Ken and John) whose dreams are now nightmares…mentions the Forgotten Souls of Purgatory…in the prison system, for example…keeps noting that “not one Republican” has helped with the Dream Act or realignment…

Despite the bushy eyebrows, which are back, Jerry is stoked.

The people who know about teaching are the people who teach…you gotta have tests…but this whole testing business hasn’t always been the way it is today…it was a new idea in 1977 that the SAT would be a requirement to get into University of California…tests have become an obsession…too much of a good thing becomes a bad…salt, calcium, tests…I want to put teachers in charge of the schools…(Is he speaking to the California Federation of Teachers which is backing one of the tax-raising measures that threaten his own proposal?)

Praises Tesla — not in Texas or Arizona — that’s the future…high speed rail…Spain, China, France, Germany — they can build it — it’s cheaper than the alternative — and make California the only place you can take a high speed rail up and down the state…

We have a few issues on taxes — you’ll get your marching orders on that soon enough…[Nothing else?]…Hopefully we’ll get two-thirds in the Legislature…

Overall: Lot more heat than light; tough, loud, lots of finger pointing. Nada on the only thing everybody wanted to hear about – the tax initiatives.

The minute he finished, nine reporters covering the convention dashed behind the curtain to catch him on the way out and get a comment about why he completely blew off any discussion of  why his tax measure is better than the Molly Munger or CFT proposals that threaten to crowd the ballot and kill his.

In a total chicken-shit escape, covered by security, Jerry refused even to comment substantively and rushed away from the press. What a weak look. Dem Party flack Tenoch Flores then reprimanded reporters for chasing after the governor. As if! Biggest dick of the day, however, was Steve Glazer, who tried to body block reporters and demanded to know what they were doing there behind the magic curtain. Uh, working for a living?

12:05 — Calbuzz now officially out to lunch

Upstairs from the convention hall, US. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was the main act at a lunch featuring over-cooked chicken filets with a sliced almond crust, with micro-portions of steamed broccoli, carrots and red potatoes. No sign of dessert.

DiFi’s speech, while characteristically wonky (who else would call for a new “methodology for funding modern infrastructure”), also leaned left: among other things, she called for a new federal tax on big banks, a state initiative to regulate health insurance rates and require insurance companies to make public data supporting their efforts to raise rates and, in her biggest applause line, legislation to prohibit indefinite domestic detentions of U.S. citizens (isn’t that in the Constitution somewhere?)

Best moment came at the beginning of her speech, when Feinstein noted the difficulty Republicans are having coming up with an A-list challenger to her this year; then she acknowledged the Democratic statewide officeholders in the room — “all these great leaders hopefully not wanting to run against me,” before breaking into a weird laugh that seemed a cross between Ed McMahon and Santa Claus.

Ho, ho, ho.

This news flash: “This is in fact a great democracy.” Also, DiFi hates partisan deadlock in Congress, caused by “outliers who think compromise is a dirty word.” And she’s strongly opposed to “stasis” which, she helpfully explained, “on the highway is called gridlock.”

Feinstein told us she supports Brown’s tax initiative but none of the competing measures out there.

After the speech, Difi was mobbed by folks who wanted their picture taken with her, while members of her longtime posse – Dick Blum, Bill Carrick, Jim Molinari and the incomparable Percy Pinkney – hung. It was good to see Carrick, who usually avoids Democratic conventions like smallpox, but also sad to realize he was there only because the late Kam Kuwata wasn’t to do the honors on behalf of the campaign.

Berman vs. Sherman Chapter 65: After the lunch, one high-ranking member of the National Affairs Desk asked Burton why he introduced Rep. Howard Berman from the podium, but not his chief rival in the 30th CD, Brad Sherman.

“Was he here?”

“Why was Howard at the head table and Brad wasn’t?”

“Ask Dianne.”

“Did she put together the head table?”

“Fuck you.”

A few minutes later, a second senior national affairs honcho tried again:

“How come Brad Sherman wasn’t at the head table?”

“Because he wasn’t. What’s the big fucking deal?”

“But Howard was.”

“I’ve known Howard for 45 years. His people gave a lot of money to the convention. And he sat there. Is that gonna get him a lot of votes? I don’t think so. Anybody here from the Valley? What do you guys got, a slow news day?”

“A good item.”

“The good item is I go back to the Young Democrats with Howard Berman, 1961.”

Walk off.

1:45 — State Senate majority leader Darrell Steinberg and Treasurer Bill Lockyer spoke after lunch, but we missed most of what they said because we were standing in line at Starbuck’s.

But Steinberg had a riff on how his problems trying to deal with Republicans in Sacramento makes him feel great sympathy for Obama and his failed effort to, um, transform politics. Lockyer appears to have lost some weight and also has a new dye job up top.

Our old friend Alice Germond, secretary of the DNC, is giving an old school stemwinder. So old school that she actually mentions the “L word” out loud, as she applauds “California…where liberal politics begin.”  Sean Hannity take note.

Are you kidding me dept: Germond does a shout-out for “your great Senator, Dianne FeinSTEEN.” Seriously? She’s only been in the Senate for two decades – why would you expect anyone in the Beltway to know how to pronounce her name. Alice knows better.

Speaking of liberal oration, Gavin Newsom just gave the best speech of the day, a pugnacious call for Democrats to be more aggressive in defending its principles of fairness and social justice and quit wimping out in ideological conflicts with Republicans.

“The left ends up on the right side of history” when Democrats fight instead of wilting, sez Prince Gavin, who adds a big-shout – “I want to thank the Occupy movement,” that results in a lot of younger delegates doing that wiggle your fingers in the air thing. Inquiring minds want to know: Does Gavin have more or less products in his hair than Calista?

Kamala speaks: Oops — best speech until Attorney General Kamala Harris wrapped up a terrific speech outlining how she recovered $18 billion for Californians from unscrupulous mortgage banks. I’ll tell you what’s too big to fail, she said, as the crowd leapt to their feet:

The middle class, the California Dream, the promise of public education, the greatest university system, environmental protection, inclusive society, marriage equality, the rights of women, immigrant communities, healthcare for everyone — that’s what’s is too big to fail. “And California Democrats, when we pull together, we are too big to fail.”

Huge standing ovation.

2:50 — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has the unenviable task of following Kamala…He’s doing a nice job and getting support for his hope someday to see single-payer health insurance…

Party controller Hillary Crosby wants to know why Democrats all just can’t get along.

State labor boss Art Pulaski exhausts the dictionary of cliches introducing Secretary of Labor and former state senator Hilda Solis.

Big boo when she mentions former governor Pete Wilson. Talk about a gimme. She also describes Burton as “modest.” Hmmm.

You gotta admire Hilda, who came from nothing to be in the White House cabinet, but we wonder: Is the Labor Secretary really just the No. 1 Business Rep for Big Labor? Good point: that while jobs have grown in the private sector under Obama, 400,000 public sector jobs have been eliminated.

Solis fired up delegates but not sure about her wisdom in calling congressional Republicans “some fools in Washington.” Doesn’t she have to testify to them sometimes?

3:30 — Burton introduces Debra Bowen as “the only person who’s ever run for secretary of state because she wanted to be secretary of state.” Bowen comes to the podium with a toothbrush for reasons that remain unclear. Since we mentioned Lockyer’s new ‘do and Gavin’s products, we should also point out, in the interest of non-sexist personal appearance commentary, that Bowen really needs a new hairstyle. Just sayin’.

Pats herself on the back for outlawing “touch screen voting in California.” The toothbrush thing becomes clear: Says we all need to teach kids to vote just like teaching them to brush their teeth. Sheesh.

Now Burton’s mumbling about “flossing after every meal.” Calbuzz is getting close to hitting the wall.

3:55 — Add union bosses: Dean Vogel, president of the CTA, is ranting. Something about Republicans “coming after our families…You come after our families – you have to go through us.”  Somebody hose this guy down.

State superintendent of schools Tom Torlakson is talking to the 12 people still in the hall. Bashing Gingrich Junior Janitor proposal: Newt doesn’t want our kids to read Charles Dickens, he wants them to live Dickens.

Burton thanks Torlakson and says he’s “definitely something else.”

We’re outta here.

Late night add: For you junkies who have to know the outcome — Berman got enough votes at the 30th CD caucus to prevent Sherman from winning the CDP endorsement. A big win for Berman.





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