The Envelope Please: Winners and Losers from State Dem Meeting


If there’s one thing Calbuzz can’t stand, it’s that whole self – esteemy, kissy-mama “We’re All Winners” thing, where every rug rat who shows up for after-school league soccer practice goes home with a red ribbon and a cheesy trophy. Politics is all about winners and losers and there were plenty of each at the California Democratic Party state convention last weekend. Here’s our user-friendly guide to both:

Capitol Creaturesdebra-bowen-official-photo

Winner: Debra Bowen. The SOS, a young, smart and very competent rising star, got one of the weekend’s warmest receptions from the delegates. Not to mention, she’s one of the few denizens of Sacto without a single fingerprint on the budget debacle and the looming special election disaster.

Loser: Darrell Steinberg. In his maiden voyage into statewide visibility, the Dems’ state senate leader bet the house on the budget deal embodied by the May 19 ballot props. On Sunday, he lost the pot, when SEIU and AFSCME outmaneuvered him to block an endorsement of Prop. 1A; Steinberg’s post-game effort to declare victory was beyond lame, and only made matters worse.

Event Planner Optics

Winner: Tacos. Assemblyman Hector de la Torre, who’s running for Insurance Commissioner, showed a political talent that approaches sheer genius by throwing all his resources at the key feature of campaign organzing: free food. Hector’s taco giveaway on the K Street mall was mobbed by convention goers who made it among the best-attended events of the weekend.

Loser: The Blue Plymouth. The surprise appearance of AG Jerry Brown’s 1974 powder blue 150 hp, 318 cu. in. V8 Plymouth Satellite (list price $3,342), the iconic image of his first turn as governor, was sweet and sentimental, but it served to underscore the historic set piece nature of his event at the Governor’s Mansion, which itself is a museum, ferhevinsake.

Gubernatorial Gumption

Winner: Gavin Newsom. S.F’s pretty-boy mayor did everything he needed to do to introduce himself to party regulars and insiders in a big way, instantly establishing his credibility as a statewide candidate. If Prince Gavin learns to turn down his constant charm offensive a notch or two, he could be formidable.

Loser: Antonio Villaraigosa. We’re still searching for the urgent, this-just-in bulletins on the big “crisis” budget talks that forced the L.A. Mayor to stiff the convention at the last minute. Tony V’s already hampered by his inability to raise money for a gov’s race before late summer, and skipping what traditionally is the kickoff event didn’t help establish him as a force in the contest.

Special Interest Sweepstakes

Winner: SEIU and AFSCME. Fearful that Prop. 1A’s spending cap will mean lost jobs and wages for their members, the two public employee unions, with an assist from the liberal netroots, out-organized and out-hustled the Democratic legislative leadership to deny the 60% vote needed for a party endorsement of their deal-with-the-devil initiative. If 1A goes down, though, these same union leaders will be on the hook should the prop’s supporters be right in their sky-is-falling prognosis of more and worse budget cuts to come.

Loser: California Teachers Association. The teachers are in a truly awkward position, in bed with Arnold on Prop. 1A, in order to win approval for Prop. 1B, which is what they really want. The Demo delegates endorsed 1B all right, but it was a hollow victory for CTA ‘cause all bets are off unless 1A passes first. Despite heroic efforts by their consultants to fashion a silk purse, CTA is stuck with a sow’s ear.

Comic Relief

Winner: Tony V’s press guys’ line: “Antonio Villaraigosa is not going to Twitter while Rome burns.”

Loser: Bill Lockyer. To his credit, Mr. Treasurer tried to lighten things with a Power Point presentation of the Top 10 movie remakes to come out of the recession. But Good Lord, man, stop the droning and watch some Letterman re-runs: Top 10s only work if they’re short and punchy to the point.

Media Mavens

Winner: Carla Marinucci.
Watching Chron teammates take buy-outs by the score, the Chron’s political chief does it all, racing around and schmoozing at warp speed while covering all the bases, in print and online. She scored a coup by video-blogging Brown giving her a tour of the governor’s mansion, a scoop that turned Calbuzz green with envy.

Loser: Liberal bloggers. We love the energy, smarts and passion of our netroots colleagues on the left, but seriously, guys and gals, there’s no cheering in the press box. The sycophantic questions for Barbara Boxer were bad enough, but the applause at the end of her press avail was truly over the top.

Marketing Strategy

Winner: Ben Tulchin, of Tulchin Research in San Francisco, who dropped a governor’s race poll into the mediasphere just before the convention opened, guaranteeing that it would generate buzz –- positive and negative, alike — for his newly-established survey firm.

Loser: Traditional news media. If their survival depends on making themselves indispensable to their hometown readers, the newspapers demonstrated anew that they’re 24 hours late and $14.95 a month (or whatever the going subscription rate is) short.

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There are 15 comments for this post

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    This was a WOW, guys. TNX.

  2. avatar Carla Marinucci says:

    Calbuzz rocks! So cool to be mentioned by Trounstine and Roberts — who’ve charged into the blogosphere with that signature take-no-prisoners, “print the truth and raise hell” mindset. Long may you rule, baby.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Hey this is great stuff! One of your best pieces yet. And having witnessed the convention first hand, I agree with your ups and downs. Too bad you guys are such good editors or you could have mentioned the eye-jarring lime green Torlakson Tees, the vacant-eyed LaRouche cult chants, and the assemblage of has-been night club acts populating the Friday night receptions that would have left Murf & the Magitones blushing. Hey, Ben's a handsome fellow — did you download that mug shot off smokinggun?

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    I saw Patty Garamendi at the Garamendi booth. Certainly that’s worth a mention. Although all she was passing out was stuff that had LG on it. Kinda a embarrassing. I guess no one told the printer that he’s running for Congress.

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    Which was embarrassing, the swag or Patti? Both?

  6. avatar Bill Bradley says:

    Actually, the infamous Blue Plymouth was pretty cool. And funny.

    And smart politics …

  7. avatar Steven Maviglio says:

    Of course, I’ll take exception to your comments about Senate President pro Tem Steinberg. The Party actually endorsed a couple of the props, and supported each of them by a majority vote (58% for 1A, which is what he spoke to on the floor). He also carried the day in the Resolutions committee, where they won handily. You have to put this in context: the convention is a jamboree of hyperpartisans; winning passage on ALL the propositions was a minor miracle. Look at the Reeps — they didn’t go neutral, they rejected them ALL. And GOP Leader Villines was in charge of that.

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    What’s amazing is that certain pro-1A operatives haven’t levitated off the ground from the speed of their spinning. For a party convention to reject endorsements of 3 measures unanimously backed by their own legislative leadership is a drubbing, not a minor miracle.

  9. avatar Brian Leubitz says:

    So, I guess as a liberal blogger, and as part of the campaign team for No on Prop 1A, I get a win & a loss. I actually missed the end of the Boxer event, so I can't confirm the applause. But I think you might be missing the point for many bloggers, that they are advocates rather than newspeople.

  10. avatar Roberts and Trounstine says:

    Fine. Advocate away. But don’t participate in news conferences.

  11. avatar Anonymous says:

    good job Ben

  12. avatar Brian Leubitz says:

    Well, you’ll have to blame the Boxer folks for that. There was supposed to be a blogger meeting with the Senator immediately before the press conference, but that was canceled due to some scheduling issues. The Senator’s people then merged the blogger and the press conferences.

    I think you’ll find a very different vibe at the blogger meetings. It’s more personal and casual than a press conference. Mayor Newsom held one later in the day, which I believe your winner, Carla Marinucci, attended. (By the way, I think Carla did a magnificent job as well. Although, I am partial to the play-by-play coverage of the endorsement fight on http://Calitics.com. )

    Look, I’ve been in my fair share of press conferences, but that is not necessarily true of every blogger. But the fawning questions that I heard addressed the questions that those bloggers’ readers want answered. They really want to know how Sen. Boxer plans on dealing with recalcitrant Republicans. Anyway, they are still better than Jeff Gannon/Guckert’s question:

    “How are you going to work – you’ve said you are going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

    At any rate, I’m just happy about getting my “winner” award for blocking the 1A endorsement. I wasn’t able to do much blogging during the convention, so I’ll leave that hat on, keeping my blue ribbon with it.

  13. avatar Anonymous says:

    To lift a phrase or sub-head from a Herb Caen [our late mentor] "Baghdad by the Calavaras" column: [And overnight] "Sodden Thought" = There was a conspicuous absence amongst some elected, official state government Demo Party stars. One who was a featured keynote speaker at the National Convention: The CA State Controller. Maybe the "three strikes" rumors finally got to him at long last? For the unwashed, some of us – of a certain age – recall the gentleman (1) Threatening to issue IOUs instead of CA tax refunds – with the predictable media outcries then taxpayer rushes to either delay filings or "neglecting to file" by the April 15th deadline; then (2) another ill-timed threat to simply just not issue State Unemployment checks until a CA budget agreement had been crafted – however ineptly; and finally (3) inexplicable delays in authorizing addition of the Federal Stimulus 'boost' of motley and modest $25/week dump to extant [sub-minimum wage] state unemployment checks starting in February. [In the last case, an action which looks to the unschooled as strangely like bald-faced "misappropriation of FEDERAL FUNDS]! By my second grade math – that truly was "three strikes". So when does or has the Federal Grand Jury already indicted the guy & HE'S BEEN QUIETLY SEQUESTERED AT "THE NEW ROCK" – a.k.a. Federal Penitentiary in Lompoc? AT LONG LAST, a "POST-SCRIPTO" on the "Taco give-away" food success story, with resultant mob scene from the motion picture "Ben Hur" re-enacted before our very eyes: Perhaps the only memorable footnote to that ["which might have been"] could be a marketing genius from Corona 'Cuervesa' – who earned an annual bonus by happily, even joyfully handing out free samples of 'the product' in those plastic bottles, with real lime wedges! But then, Dems wanted to keep this party family-friendly, right? 😉

  14. avatar Anonymous says:

    The Fresno Bee, the lone newspaper in the San Joaquin Valley with a Cap Buro reporter, covered the Valley angle on the convention here:


    and here:


  15. avatar Anonymous says:

    Links to “The Fresno BUZZ” WERE HELPFUL. TNX!!! For anyone attending this multi-day event, how was the TeeVee news coverage, in Sacto? Especial interest in KCRA-TV [CHANNEL 3] FIELD REPORTER(S) AND ANCHOR(S); ANY MEMORABLE TEEVEE COVERAGE EVENTS?

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