Dems by­pass New­som as del­e­gate chief at con­ven­tion

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By John Wil­der­muth

A pair of Bay Area rep­re­sen­ta­tives is in and Gov. Gavin New­som is out as Cal­i­for­nia Democrats chose the lead­ers of their del­e­ga­tion to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Au­gust.

Rep. Ro Khanna of Fre­mont and Rep. Bar­bara Lee of Oak­land will join Los An­ge­les County Su­per­vi­sor Hilda Solis as the co­chairs of the 495mem­ber state del­e­ga­tion rather than New­som, who as Cal­i­for­nia’s high­est­rank­ing Demo­crat would nor­mally lead the state con­tin­gent.

Dub­bing the pro­posed co­chairs “Cal­i­for­nia’s unity team,” Rusty Hicks, chair of the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Party, told del­e­gates on a Sunday morn­ing dial­in meet­ing of the del­e­ga­tion that the three “will rep­re­sent the great di­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia.”

When the del­e­gates voted 368­20 to ac­cept the three, it ended a nasty spat be­tween ri­val groups of Democrats that threat­ened to cast a shadow over the party’s ef­fort to unite the pro­gres­sive fol­low­ers of Bernie San­ders be­hind the more mod­er­ate Joe Bi­den, who will be the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee.

For the past two weeks, San­ders sup­port­ers have ar­gued that his March 3 pri­mary win in Cal­i­for­nia meant a pro­gres­sive like Khanna — an early en­dorser of the Ver­mont se­na­tor and a na­tional co­chair of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign — should be the face of the state’s del­e­ga­tion.

“We were ea­ger to have Ro Khanna as chair be­cause he re­flects the San­ders cam­paign,” said Nor­man Solomon, an In­ver­ness res­i­dent who is na­tional di­rec­tor of Root­s­ac­, a pro­gres­sive group that sup­ported the Ver­mont se­na­tor.

Khanna “ar­tic­u­lates those views so clearly, show­ing this is not a time for murk­i­ness or hedg­ing.”

Faced with the prospect of a noisy, very pub­lic dis­pute dur­ing the con­fer­ence­call vote, Hicks worked out a com­pro­mise with the Bi­den and San­ders cam­paigns and tweeted the deal late Satur­day night.

He pushed hard on that agree­ment Sunday, re­mind­ing the del­e­gates that “both cam­paigns strongly urge a ‘yes’ vote on the pro­posed co­chairs.”

“I be­lieve we’ll land in the right spirit to go into our con­ven­tion united,” Hicks said in an in­ter­view Satur­day.

The agree­ment is a def­i­nite win for Cal­i­for­nia pro­gres­sives, who got Khanna and Lee. While Lee backed Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris in the pri­mary, she’s an icon on the left for her his­tory as an an­ti­war ac­tivist and her sup­port for most of San­ders’ plat­form.

Solis, a for­mer South­ern Cal­i­for­nia leg­is­la­tor and con­gress­woman who was la­bor sec­re­tary dur­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s first term, was re­port­edly the choice of the Bi­den cam­paign.

Pro­gres­sives man­aged to block New­som, who en­dorsed Bi­den in May, from a lead­ing role. While Demo­cratic gov­er­nors typ­i­cally lead their state’s del­e­ga­tion to their party’s con­ven­tion, New­som is per­sona non grata for Cal­i­for­nia pro­gres­sives. The Cal­i­for­nia Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion, one of San­ders’ ear­li­est and strong­est sup­port­ers, has been un­happy with the gov­er­nor for not mov­ing more quickly to put a sin­gle­payer health care sys­tem into ef­fect in the state.

“What­ever his star power or un­de­ni­able virtues, the gov­er­nor doesn’t em­body the trans­for­ma­tional pol­i­tics and vi­sion that Ro Khanna does,” Solomon said.

As gov­er­nor, New­som will be one of the state’s 80 su­perdel­e­gates, party of­fi­cials who in­clude Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress and mem­bers of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

In a mes­sage re­leased min­utes after Sunday’s vote, New­som praised the de­ci­sion.

“Never been a more ur­gent elec­tion — and CA Democrats have never been more en­er­gized, united and ready to elect our next Pres­i­dent,” the gov­er­nor tweeted. “At this mo­ment in his­tory, I’m proud that our Del­e­ga­tion will be chaired by those who re­flect the di­ver­sity and dy­namism of our great state.”

Groups back­ing San­ders said in a pe­ti­tion to the party that “as state del­e­ga­tion co­chair, Con­gress­man Khanna would be well po­si­tioned to serve as a voice for au­then­tic unity be­hind a ticket headed by Bi­den for the im­per­a­tive of de­feat­ing (Pres­i­dent) Trump.”

But in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, their rea­son­ing was more di­rect: San­ders won an easy vic­tory in Cal­i­for­nia, and his peo­ple should be re­warded with a lead­ing role.

Hav­ing a San­ders sup­porter at the head of the del­e­ga­tion means a lot, Khanna said Satur­day night.

“It should be clear that Cal­i­for­nia del­e­gates stand for Medi­care for All, debt­free col­lege, a $15­an­hour min­i­mum wage ... strate­gic cuts to the mil­i­tary bud­get” and other poli­cies that San­ders has backed, Khanna said. “This is a clear state­ment of what the del­e­gates stand for, and that’s im­por­tant.”

The fact that Bi­den’s cam­paign was will­ing to ac­knowl­edge San­ders’ vic­tory in Cal­i­for­nia will help unify the del­e­gates, Khanna added.

“I en­dorsed Bi­den and Bar­bara Lee en­dorsed Bi­den right after Bernie dropped out,” he said. “I will do ev­ery­thing I can to help Bi­den beat Don­ald Trump.”

But in a year when the rav­ages of the coro­n­avirus are wreak­ing havoc with tra­di­tional pol­i­tics, the new co­chairs may never meet the del­e­gates they are sup­posed to lead. While the Aug. 17­20 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion will be be an­chored in Mil­wau­kee, the party is now billing it as a Con­ven­tion Across Amer­ica, with few del­e­gates phys­i­cally at­tend­ing the event.

Bi­den is to give his ac­cep­tance speech in the con­ven­tion hall, but “state del­e­ga­tions should not plan to travel to Mil­wau­kee and should plan to con­duct their of­fi­cial con­ven­tion busi­ness re­motely,” party of­fi­cials an­nounced last week.

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