Tag Archives: Crashing the gate

Crash The Gate In San Luis Obispo & Santa Maria: Day 2

Yesterday on Daily Kos, I explained how my candidacy for Assembly District Delegate in AD-33 was a classic example of “crashing the gate.” Younger volunteers from the Obama campaign are continuing to serve in their communities across the country.

In some communities, there is more than just a tiny bit of friction between us and the old timers and their clubs. I don’t begrudge these long term volunteers their positions. But I do begrudge them their monopoly on local party positions.

If San Luis Obispo is famous for anything, it’s probably the farmer’s market. 20+ years before I moved to the area, I remember my family talking about visiting SLO to go to the Farmer’s Market. Tonight, I went there and leafleted for my campaign.


Here I am on the new Court Street handing out leaflets tonight. This is something I never would have done before I attended a community organizer training with Central Coast United For Change in early December, where I was inspired by Walter Heath and Hilda Zacarias to get more involved in my community.

On that day, we were broken up into groups, and had three hours to pick a project. My group’s project involved raising public awareness for a local non-profit called Transitional Food & Shelter that helps disabled homeless people, who fall through the large cracks in our safety net. We handed out leaflets downtown and wrote a letter to the editor. My belief in this need forced me to overcome my awkward feelings about leafleting. I found most people either kindly decline or kindly accept. Just like my first canvassing experience in Nevada, it was not weird, in fact, it was rewarding.

The happy ending is that our small, little quick action resulted in a surge in donations. I later volunteered to do pro bono legal work for that organization, and started this diary after writing a letter on behalf of one of their clients.

So, tonight, learning what I learned from a group of Obama volunteers, my lovely wife (the cameraperson here) and I hit the pavement.

If that’s too grassrootsy for you, I also bought air time on the local Air America station, KYNS 1340. I got an e-mail from a fellow volunteer today saying, “Heard your radio spot today–didn’t know I was working with a soon-to-be celebrity!!” I sure hope so!

And if that’s too “old media” for you, I also have a very Web 1.0 website helping people sign up for the caucus at http://electstorm.com. I was distraught to see that pre-registration is closed. I don’t remember that on the organizing conference call. I hope people who show up a bit late don’t get the Ken Blackwell Ohio 2004 treatment from our local Democrats!

I’m also planning on sending out some e-mails! I’m so 2002!

I’m a lawyer. It must mean I’m adopted. My mom is a teacher. My dad was a teacher. My wife is a teacher. My mother-in-law is even a teacher! Growing up with a widowed teacher for a mom in California’s High Desert taught me to appreciate the sacrifices teachers make. Some of my wife’s friends from school have been kind enough to support me, I believe, for that reason.

I will always stick up for teachers-that’s my mama you’re talkin’ about!

If any of you are in the Central Coast/San Luis Obispo/Santa Maria area and can come out to our party caucus, please do, regardless of whom you vote for. We made a big leap in the federal elections last year, but California is in desperate straits, and we need the energy people brought to last year’s election to carry over to bring California back.

Hope to see you Sunday!

Crashing the Gate in California

Today, Matt Stoller wrote a list of eight rules for building a progressive America.  One of them concerns putting progressives in charge of the Democratic Party at all levels.

In one month, the California Democratic Party is holding elections for the DSCC (Democratic State Central Committee).  There will be 80 separate caucuses, one for each assembly district, on the weekend of January 13-14.  The 6 men and 6 women who win these elections will become 1/3 of the delegates to the CDP, and will as part of their duties become delegates to the state convention in April, where they can vote on the party platform, party operation and machinery, and specific candidate endorsements.  This is a real opportunity to get progressives and reformers into the state party to attempt to steer it in a direction that is more responsive to the grassroots, more engaged with the electorate, and generally more functional and successful.

I’m going to be running in the 41st Assembly District, and everyone in California who wants to help take back the party should do so as well.  On the flip, I’ll tell you about some of the structures that are already in place to help get progressives elected.

First, there’s a little background you may need to know.  This is not a situation where progressives are starting from scratch.  In the 2005 CDP delegate elections, the opportunity to take back the party was seized by groups like DFA and PDA (Progressive Democrats of America), and was fairly successful.  In fact, the Progressive Caucus of the CDP is the largest caucus in the Party.  But clearly, this was not successful enough to impact real change.  The CDP refused to endorse Prop. 89, the Clean Money Elections initiative, despite the fact that virtually every progressive organization and Democratic club endorsed it.  The number of contacts with voters was, in a word, abominable.  The Democratic wave breaking across the country appeared to end somewhere in Reno.  Democrats did not perform at the level they should have given the mood of the electorate.

There are 3 components to the CDP.  1/3 of the delegates are elected officials, nominees, and appointments.  1/3 come from the county committees, which are weighted by populations.  The final 1/3 are elected in the assembly district caucuses.  So, in order to maximize the impact of these elections, the Progressive Caucus is seeking to run full 12-person slates in each assembly district.  Many of the major grassroots organizations
(Progressive Democrats of America, DFA-Link, SoCal Grassroots) are partnering to help form these slates.  The idea behind the slates is simple: each person brings a certain number of people to the delegate elections, and gets them to vote for everybody on the slate.  If each candidate gets around 10 people, in most districts that will probably be more than enough to put everybody into office.  In some districts, they’re lucky to get 12 people TOTAL to these elections.  The times and locations of the elections are publicized on the Web but not really anywhere else.  It’s a deliberately closed process that seeks to keep power in the hands of those who control the party.  This is an opportunity to distribute that knowledge and use the democratic process to take the party back.

It’s important to note a couple things.  The Progressive Caucus is doing this in a very open-source manner.  They are collecting names from assembly districts all across the country.  Once they have them, they will put out an email to connect those progressives together, so they can discuss how to most effectively get out the vote.  The various district slates will also be able to pick the platform they’d like to have on the back of the slate card.  There’s been a lot of controversy about this.  The initial meeting I attended seemed to suggest that the Progressive Caucus was basing participation on whether or not prospective delegates will agree to vote with the caucus on 5 core issues.  It seemed like the equivalent of a loyalty oath in return for their endorsement and the resources therein.  The five issues are:

-universal health care
-clean money elections
-immediate withdrawal from Iraq
-elimination of poverty
-investigation toward impeachment of the President

That last one was the source of major controversy within the caucus.  I was at the caucus meeting last Friday as part of the CDP executive board meetings in Anaheim, and what amounted to a live version of the impeachment flame war we see here on a daily basis broke out.  Some wanted the last item to read “impeachment”; others wanted “investigation.”  There was vigorous debate and eventually “investigation toward impeachment” won out by a resounding margin.

But here’s the point.  These are the issues that the Progressive Caucus will focus on when it comes to determining a platform.  But they are also the true reformers in the party.  They have actively started a “Red-to-Blue” program to engage Democrats in rural and conservative areas of the state.  Procedurally speaking, they do want to make the party more small-d democratic.  And as for the litmus test, they are leaving it up to the individual progressive slates to decide what issues they want to run on.  It’s democracy in action.  The Progressive Caucus would hope that everyone they decide to endorse would support these broad goals.  But I think they took a lot of heat with their initial rigidity and have opened the tent a little bit, as long as the delegates are committed to progressive principles and the idea of reform in the party.

If you want to take part in this process, the Progressive Caucus has already set up a website, ProgressiveSlate.com, as a clearinghouse for all the information you need to run, an explanation of the duties and responsibilities of a delegate, how to find your assembly district, everything.  Through the site you can contact the people who are collecting all the information about potential candidates.  What you need to know is that the deadline to file your candidacy is January 2, 2007.  The elections will be held the weekend of January 13-14, and the CDP has all the information on time and place centrally located at this site.

I think it’s important for the netroots to get on board with this project.  The grassroots is actually far ahead of us at this point.  But this is a way to strengthen that bond between the two groups, as well as become unified in advocating for reform within the California Democratic Party and a more effective, 80-assembly-district, 53-Congressional-district, 58-county strategy.