California Democrats Navigate Turmoil Linked to Feinstein At Convention

California Democrats are gathering this weekend for their state convention, despite party disagreements about the future of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat.

Party officials, delegates, and guests are expected to project togetherness as Golden State Democrats prepare for a bruising campaign to reclaim the House and retain the presidency next year.

However, the convention comes at a critical point for the state party, as Democratic leaders in and out of office face mounting pressure for Feinstein to resign, and the primary for her seat becomes a battle between the progressive and establishment wings.

“I know that on an interpersonal level and in small groups, obviously, it’s something that comes up all the time,” said Jed Leano, a state Assembly representative vying for re-election.

“I’m not sure how much of that will be addressed publicly.”

The conference for new delegates is primarily an opportunity for members of the party to meet in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, honor legacy Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and discuss organizing strategies for the coming year.

It’s also a platform for Californians to highlight their achievements to steer the national discourse in a more progressive direction.

As the calendar approaches 2024, delegates are entrusted with bringing concerns to the table and mobilizing grassroots and institutional organizations around them while also calling attention to areas that don’t typically get a large platform.

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“We have to answer some basic fundamental questions about where we stand on big progressive issues like the Green New Deal [and] health care,” Leano said.

Multiple Democrats in the state cited housing and homelessness as essential priorities, with crime, policing, and public safety intertwined. Rising crime has dominated the election off-cycle, with Democratic contenders laying forth dramatically different ideas to keep people safe.

As Mayor Karen Bass (D) seeks to establish the outlines of her first term as the city’s top executive, it has become a greater focus in Los Angeles, the site of the Convention Center gathering.

“Everyone agrees that we need housing for all Californians. The question is, how do we get there? “Homelessness is disproportionately a problem in California, and this is a Democratic-controlled state,” Leano remarked.

While Democrats expect Bass, a Biden ally and former member of Congress, to draw a lot of attention, the venue is also an excellent place to see who is ready for prime time.

Democrats agree that holding such a major public event will be difficult without addressing the elephant in the room: Feinstein herself.

The 89-year-old senator’s age has generated concerns about her competence and timeframe for leaving her long-held position on Capitol Hill.

Other Democrats have speculated about when she will stand down while she has been away from Washington recovering from shingles. These concerns are pertinent when crucial decisions on the Senate Judiciary Committee go unaddressed.

California Democrats Navigate Turmoil Linked to Feinstein At Convention

This week by IGS/UC Berkeley, the topic is also on the minds of California people. The majority of respondents believe the senator cannot continue in office.

“Two-thirds of registered voters polled (67%) agreed with the statement, ‘Feinstein’s recent sickness underscores the reality that she is no longer fit to serve in the United States Senate.’ “Voters of all political stripes agree.”

While Feinstein’s fitness has sparked debate in Washington and on the West Coast, some predict that it will be more of a behind-closed-doors issue during the convention, something attendees will discuss quietly during conference breaks rather than address in a formal manner.

The optics are especially problematic because a tight and crowded primary is already underway to fill her seat. For the time being, the three serious candidates — Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee — have avoided the issue, preferring not to add to an already contentious issue that has divided the party.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a progressive who backed Lee, was the first Democrat to call for Feinstein’s resignation and was praised by some on the left. Others, however, have questioned the move and are wary of predicting her future.

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On the other hand, the House MPs vying for her seat are anticipated to promote their separate candidacies throughout the holiday weekend. Schiff, often regarded as the most moderate prospective primary contender, and Lee, widely seen as the most liberal, have embraced the two-day conference as part of their campaign appeal.

“We must ask ourselves if we are leading the way on the big-ticket items.” How far and how far are we willing to go to achieve those goals?” Leano stated. “A prime example is the vacancy.”

Another prominent player, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a rising star and one of the forum’s main draws, has increased his reputation by fiercely opposing Republican moves to rip back rights for people in other areas.

His efforts to call out governors from Republican-led states, including Florida, home to newly announced Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (R), have been met with a mixed reaction within his party, with some saying they’re glad he’s sounding the alarm at a critical time and others questioning his motives.

“Our governor has clearly been out on a national level over the last couple of months speaking out against racism and speaking out against abortion bans,” said Brandon Black, a Sacramento-based strategist, and Democratic Party delegate.

“Right now, California leaders are stepping up and saying, hey, no, this isn’t okay.” This isn’t who we are as a country or as a culture,” he added.

Democrats say the delegate-rich state will be a vital marker of where the party’s principles and the majority of people stand in 2024, so Newsom might play an important role. It’s also likely to be at odds with the GOP’s goals.

“While our nation continues to face extreme MAGA Republicans who are working hard to roll back our efforts to build progress, the Biden Administration continues to deliver for the American people,” according to a memo detailing the convention’s objectives.

One of the most visible split screens has occurred this week, as Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has resisted Democratic efforts to achieve a debt ceiling agreement.

Democrats have labeled the Republican California Speaker’s desire to add new criteria to social safety net programs as damaging to Americans. McCarthy has been a significant target of progressive ire as lawmakers continue to bargain just days before a default.

“You’re going to see much more unity at this convention,” Black said.

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