SLO pro­gres­sives had a great year and look to ex­pand their in­flu­ence in 2019

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY TOM FULKS

Lo­cal Democrats are fac­ing one of the most con­se­quen­tial po­lit­i­cal years in mem­ory. With the 2020 Cal­i­for­nia pri­mary pushed up three months to March 3, our state joins Texas, Vir­ginia and North Carolina for an early “Su­per Tues­day” pres­i­den­tial-year pri­mary. Vot­ing by mail starts four weeks be­fore that — just over 12 short months from now.

This means cam­paigns for all lo­cal, state and na­tional of­fices on Cal­i­for­nia’s 2020 pri­mary bal­lot will be hard at it for most of 2019.

The lo­cal po­lit­i­cal year starts Sun­day (for print read­ers, that’s to­day, Jan. 13), when 14 seats on the SLO County Demo­cratic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee are up for elec­tion among reg­is­tered Democrats.

Known as the ADEM elec­tion, there are seats open for seven women and seven men to rep­re­sent the 35th Assem­bly District on the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. The com­mit­tee’s mem- bership helps de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of the Demo­cratic Party at the lo­cal, state and na­tional lev­els.

The ADEM elec­tion runs from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sun­day at the Sierra Vista Hospi­tal Au­di­to­rium. Reg­is­tered Democrats who live in AD35 (SLO County plus parts of north­ern Santa Bar­bara County) are el­i­gi­ble to vote. Voter reg­is­tra­tion is on site.

The SLO County Demo­cratic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee is made up of about 60 mem­bers: 14 ADEMS, 21 elected from coun- ty su­per­vi­so­rial dis­tricts (I’m elected from the 2nd District), lo­cal city and county elected of­fi­cials reg­is­tered as Democrats, lo­cal Dem club rep­re­sen­ta­tives and ap­pointees from the Demo­cratic state Assem­bly can­di­date, state Sen. Bill Mon­ning and U.S. Rep. Salud Car­ba­jal.

His­tor­i­cally, the lo­cal ADEM elec­tion was a non-event — viewed as an ar­cane, in­side­base­ball yawner, peo­pled by po­lit­i­cal geeks, with re­sults known well in ad­vance. Two years ago, that all changed be­cause amped-up lo­cal pro­gres­sives, inspired then by Bernie Sanders’ run for pres­i­dent, turned out in force for the first time.

In 2017, nearly 700 lo­cal pro­gres­sives stood in the rain for hours at the lo­cal IBEW union hall to vote for their slate — who, once elected, up­ended the lo­cal sta­tus quo, tak­ing con­trol of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee with a new en­ergy and sense of ur­gency, of­fend­ing some old-timers.

By late 2018, that en­ergy trans­lated into im­pres­sive gains: gen­eral elec­tion can­di­dates en­dorsed by the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee gained or main­tained ma­jori­ties on the city coun­cils of San Luis Obispo, Ar­royo Grande, Morro Bay and

Grover Beach. The one Demo­crat run­ning for City Coun­cil in Atascadero also won, and SLO Mayor Heidi Har­mon won a sec­ond term by a re­sound­ing 63-35 per­cent af­ter ek­ing out a ra­zor­thin vic­tory two years ear­lier.

This year, pro­gres­sives have again fielded a slate of 14 can­di­dates with a plat­form pro­mot­ing Medi­care for all, ad­dress­ing in­come in­equal­ity, rein­vig­o­rat­ing cli­mate change pol­icy and stim­u­lat­ing eco­nomic pros­per­ity through ed­u­ca­tion and in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments. Though a few oth­ers are run­ning, no other for­mal slate is chal­leng­ing the pro­gres­sives.

Our lo­cal pro­gres­sives are aim­ing high, hop­ing to in­flu­ence the di­rec­tion of the en­tire Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Party. The main event there is a tough party chair elec­tion at the state con­ven­tion at the end of May.

Sev­eral high-pow­ered can­di­dates are vy­ing to re­place dis­graced for­mer chairman Eric Bau­man, forced to re­sign amid a sex­ual harass­ment scan­dal. These in­clude Bay Area pro­gres­sive Kim­berly El­lis, for­mer state Sen. Kevin de Leon, pres­i­dent of the LA County AFLCIO Rusty Hicks and, po­ten­tially, women’s cau­cus vice chair­woman Chris­tine Pelosi and state As­sem­bly­man Reg­gie Jones-Sawyer.

Select­ing Bau­man’s re­place­ment is prob­a­bly the big­gest de­ci­sion ADEMS will make this term be­cause it will have a di­rect bear­ing on the di­rec­tion of the na­tional party and its pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in 2020.

This seat is key to Cal­i­for­nia’s in­flu­ence on the 2020 pres­i­den­tial race be­cause at least four Cal­i­for­ni­ans (Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Bay Area Con­gress­man Eric Swal­well and bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer) give in­di­ca­tions of run­ning. An en­dorse­ment from the state party would af­ford any can­di­date an early bump.

Cal­i­for­nia has the largest bloc of Elec­toral Col­lege votes and it’s the most eth­ni­cally di­verse state in the na­tion. Mov­ing Cal­i­for­nia up on the cal­en­dar pro­vides a much bet­ter sense of how can­di­dates will com­pete in more di­verse states — such as New York, Illi­nois and Ohio — than in small, eth­ni­cally ho­moge­nous states such as Iowa and New Hamp­shire, which get out­sized at­ten­tion.

Lo­cal of­fice seek­ers take note: The cam­paign sea­son for 2020 has be­gun.

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