Tag Archives: Eric Bauman

LACDP Summit Lunch Liveblog: Coalition Building

Following is the liveblog of the LACDP Summit Lunch Panel on Coalition Building with:

  • Assemblymember De La Torre
  • Peggy Moore of OFA
  • Henry Vandermeir of the CDC
  • Arisha Michelle Hatch of the Courage Campaign
  • Dorothy Reik of PDA
  • Gary Vaughn of SEIU 721

This very interesting panel was moderated by Assemblymember John Perez.  

John Perez:  Great to be here, we’ve got a great panel of people who have been involved in coalition politics.  People use the term “coalition” in many different ways, some not so good, such as Bush’s “coalition of the willing”, some good such as when progressive groups come together.  Coalitions are a coming together of different groups for a shared interest.  They’ve identified that interest in themselves, and someone else.

First and foremost, you have to frame the issue around which people will coalesce.  Second, you need to have trust between the partners.  Third, there has to be a mechanism to mitigate when coalition partners have a dispute.  Last, there have to be ways to measure success, and ways to build on that success to move forward.

One example of a coalition coming together on a specific approach will be presented by Assemblymember Hector De La Torre.

Assemblymember De La Torre: AB1060 is a bill that requires that all alcohol sales at grocery stores be done where there is a human checkout person who will check all the codes.  Currently you can go to an automated stand with only one person monitoring 4 or 6 machines.  One person can’t monitor all of this, and it’s not just about minors.  It’s also illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is already drunk.  If you aren’t next to the person and able to check, you can’t tell.  Also, teenagers have figured out how to bypass the the freeze mechanism to get around the alcohol sales barrier.  No one is saying that the alcohol has to be locked away like cigarettes, just that a human has to be at the checkout.

Labor is with us on the bill, but it couldn’t be UFCW versus the grocery stores.  So we need to build a coalition.  Young people, parents’ groups, PTA, MADD, etc.  And it was hard, because there were other issues including Mike Feuer’s lock device bill.  It took a while but we were able to convince them that this was in their interest and necessary.  And in the end, UFCW never appeared publicly as the supporter of the bill, but rather PTAs and MADD and those other groups.  You have to figure out who the best spokesperson and the best face for the issue is.  It’s nice to be right, but winning is important.  You have to have the right face on it.  And AB1060 is still on the Senate Floor, so please sign in favor of it.

Question: These machines are anti-employee!  We need to boycott any stores that have them.

De la Torre: I get askede a lot about whether it’s a labor bill.  It’s not: it’s about how we conduct business in this state.  We the people get to decide how business is conducted in the state.

Perez: That was a great example of how to build a coalition.  In terms of format, we’re going to take 20-25 minutes to go through the panel.  Each panelist will take about 4-5 minutes to give their presentation, then I will moderate the Q&A.  First presenter is Peggy Moore.  Peggy is Political Director of OFA, has organized various campaigns for social justice in Oakland.

Peggy Moore: OFA serves as the President’s field team.  The election last year was exciting and folks got involved who had never been involved in a campaign before.  It was an historic movement, but getting into office was just the beginning of making the change.  OFA was created so that we can support the President on the ground.  Staff of 9 in California, but we’re in 48 states.  We have a phenomenal group of volunteers, and we were phonebanking our hearts out from one congressperson to another, depending on who we needed to give our love to.  Right now it’s all about supporting the healthcare agenda.  But pretty soon it’ll be energy, and immigration and other issues.  So we’re working with HCAN, labor, done press conferences, actions, phonebank, etc.  And when we move to education, we’ll be expanding our coalition building.

We are a part of the DNC.  OFA is a project of the DNC.  Our structure works where we have community organizers who create neighborhood teams.  We want to have people ready and waiting on the ground in an instant when we need to support the president.  We have 150 to 175 organizers ready on the ground.  We’re training people to be ready for action.  The issue is transferrable, doesn’t matter what it is.  We’re just trained to be on the ground and help people organize.  We’ve also been working with Learn to Win.

Perez: Thank you Peggy. Next up is Henry Vandermeir, serving in second term as Chairman of the CDC, and Political Director of the Orange County Democratic Party.

Henry Vandermeir: Obviously, one of the things from the party’s point of view from the coalition point of view is to get our own party working together.  With over 400 clubs across the state, getting them to cooperate is important.  Or if there is a speaker coming and you don’t have enough people in your club, invite people from other clubs to come.  Work together on it and help activate people and get a candidate elected.

It’s important to reach out to PDA, Wellstone and all the other groups out there.  We’re all working toward the same goals.  Not a single one of all these organizations has the resources to do what needs to be done in California all by themselves.  So we need to make them realize that in order to make things happen in this state, we need to cooperate.  Leave our egos at the door when you walk in, work together, quit worrying about “these are our people, these are our precint leaders”.  That’s what gets us into trouble.

There have been issues getting cooperation between clubs and OFA.  We need to reach out to them and make sure that we’re all working together.  It’s not rocket science, it’s all common sense.  That’s what we need to do at the club level.  We cannot reinvent the wheel, we don’t have the resources individually, we need to work together on all of this.

Perez: Next is Arisha Michelle Hatch, the Southern California field manager of the Courage Campaign.  She’s responsible for organizing volunteers on a county by county basis.

Hatch: We’re like MoveOn.org but for California.  We like to call ourselves the greenhouse for the grassroots, in that we have a lot of different members with a lot of different interests.  I work for the Equality Program, which was established after the passage of Prop 8.  We sent out a viral video ad called Don’t Divorce Us, which got a lot of new members.  While many of those are interested in marriage equality, most are interested in healthcare, and secondarily education.  I joined Courage because they were trying to emulate what Obama did during the election.  The Equality Program was founded because every 4 years, California does a great job exporting labor and talent to the battleground states to the detriment of California, so we’re out here to build a permanent progressive infrastructure in California.  In terms of Equality, it’s not just about marriage: it’s about making sure the playing field is level in all areas such as education and healthcare.

Perez: Next is Dorothy Reik, Vice Chair of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, delegate to the CDP from the 41st assembly.  Led a series of forums on single payer healthcare, Gaza, food safety, etc.  She comes to us through the peace movement, and her club has close ties to the Topanga Peace movement.

Reik: PDA was started by Tim Carpenter after the 2004 DNC convention.  The idea was to further our progressive agenda by working inside and outside the party.  That means working with groups that don’t traditionally work with the party.  We have six issues: healthcare for all.  We don’t support hte public option, and stick to that.  We’re upset about the removal of the Kucinich Amendment.  We want out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and want to end all wars.  We want economic and social justice, everyone should be treated equally.  And as far as right to marriage, we want everyone to be able to marry.  Clean and fair elections, which we don’t have in this country: we can’t have voting machines at the front end or the back end either.  Stop global warming, environmental issues we’re on the front lines working against the corporations who want to keep overheating our globe and world until our children don’t have a world to work in.  If you think oil wars are bad, wait until we get water wars.  And accountability, because Obama’s Attorney General won’t prosecute for torture.  We want Obama to address our issues, not Obama’s issues.  We want OFA to work with us, and take directions from us, because we believe Obama has been taking directions from the corporations.

We have conference calls where you can talk to Tim Carpenter.  I get jealous listening to OFA talking about paid staff.  Outside of Tim Carpenter who gets a stipend, almost all of our people are volunteers.

Perez: Final panelist is Jerry Vaughn.  Public Relations Director of SEIU 721, the largest public employee union in CA since 2005.  721 represents more than 80,000 public works from Santa Barbara to Orange County to the border.

Gary Vaughn: With such a large region like that, we have a diverse region that we represent.  Social workers, sanitation workers, RNs, attorneys.  We’ve worked with OFA on various issues and a number of other orgs.  Oftentimes, unfortunately, we are good at making use of other organizations, but we have a difficult time reciprocating.  We don’t have a permanent structure in the community, but rather come in to help win an election.  That’s where we can make improvements to build coalitions.  And we can work better with people on the other side of the ideological divide.

Question from Deana Igelsrud: I’m the e-board rep from the 47th district and co-chair of CA Majority Rule.  A lot of your volunteers were new to the process and excited about the election.  Many of the more seasoned veterans are more interested in the issues.  How do you build coalitions with new people and keep them engaged when it comes to issues?

Perez: Part of the difference is between building an electoral coaliton and a governing coalition.

Peggy: We all supported Barack, but many of us have issues with how he’s handling healthcare.  So we’ve had camps and trainings to invite people to participate.  We are organizing people around healthcare.  We’re online, calling structures we have in place.  And then when it comes to education and energy, those issues pop in too.  People will show up based on their passion.  Our job and focus is to teach people to organize effectively in their communities.

Perez: It seems like every election cycle, you see a peak of activism, but then some people drop off, and some stay involved.  So people who were involved in 2004 now see themselves as old hands.  How has that experience been, Peggy?

Reik: PDA truly is a movement.  We reach out not only to Democratic clubs to work with us, but we also reach out to other groups in the city and the state to groups like One Care Now, and the group standing against the Three Strikes Law.  So we try to reach people and bring them into the Party and into the progressive movement who may not have been politically involved before.  If someone came to me interested in food safety legislation, we did a forum for that to help teach people about that.

Thom O’Shaughnessy: How do we follow and deal with these three tenets: 1) learning how to agree to disagree, 2) how to marry orthodoxy with pragmatism, and 3) how to trade horses in a soft IOU for working on each other’s issues?

Gary Vaughn: We don’t have an answer to those dynamics.  When we have 30 asks of the legislature, given what we can accomplish, can we make 30 asks effectively?  Maybe we need to bullet down to 3 or 4.  Others would say no, we have to push all our issues.  But in other circumstances, we need to know what we have to walk away from the table having gotten.  Our first rule is, do no harm, especially since we have so many budget cuts.  And let’s look at who is doing the work.  And certainly, having wealthier Americans and Californians paying more is worth looking at.

Perez: There’s been a significant debate about gay marriage, given CA and ME.  One complaint is that the LGBT movement hasn’t been involved in coalition politics, that they ask for help but don’t necessarily provide it.  Arisha, what are the challenges in bringing people out of their comfort zone?

Arisha: Courage is well-situated to work on this issue.  Courage is multi-issue unlike some of the other organizations.  One of the things we’re trying to stress in our organizing work is trying to get people to show up, and stress the importance of showing up for community organizing work.  One of the things we’ve been trying to do is stress the importance of not being a one-issue movement.  Bringing people along in their feelings about marriage equality is important, but has to be paired with helping with the issues that matter to them.

Carolyn Fowler: These are not, or shouldn’t be competing organizations.  What is the best way for organizations to reach out to the clubs?

Henry Vandermeir: One of the things you need to do is find out who you’re actually going to talk to.  Know what your resources are.  Common sense would tell you we have all the contact information for all the clubs.  If we want OFA to contact them, well, why not just go to the source?  Make it easy.  It’s a two way situation though.  We don’t just need to contact the presidents.  They also need to contact us.

Peggy: We work closely with the CDP, and getting a list of all the clubs.  We’re going to be at the eboard meeting coming up next weekend.  Coming up and saying, this is who we are and how we work together.

Dorothy Reik: We do it the old-fashioned way, pick up the telephone and call up the club leaders in our area, see if they’ll cosponsor, or join our food safety or other forum.  We have organizing calls, ways to reach out to club presidents and other people, and would love to work with OFA and other groups.

Question: Republicans by and large stand together and are united in their ranks.  We have as Democrats got not to do that among ourselves.  If you don’t like something Obama is doing or whatever, that’s fine and do it in private.  But in a public forum, I find it very offensive to be attacking Obama and what he’s trying to accomplish.

Perez: I’ll take that as a comment.

Question: We have a challenge of people not voting for candidates or working for candidates, and focusing instead on issues.  They need to work for candidates as well.

Gary Vaughn: We do trade with candidates: we work on your campaign, and we’d like you to work with us on these issues.

Question: I’m very disappointed in Organizing for America.  And I love PDA.  You’ve had time to organize your people, and i’ve been to several OFA house parties.  But they don’t teach people how to organize.  They don’t have to join a Democratic club, but they are afraid to even visit a club.  You are spending money giving orders, call this person and say that, not teaching them how to think.  I would like to see Obama people not be afraid of us.

Perez: People take various tones, some more positive and some more critical.  I would ask us to be as productive and respectful in our discourse as possible.  Sometimes it’s hard not to feel the passion we feel about these issues.  There is concern with the difference between a bottom-up approach and a top-down approach, so speak to those issues.

Peggy Moore: I’m proud to work for OFA.  And I’m a president of an East Bay Democratic club.  I understand some of those frustrations that people might have.  But there is a focus we have.  We decided that the issue was healthcare, and this is how we’re going to organize around healthcare.  And there are some groups that think we should be approaching it in a certain way.  I’m not going to be on the street with Organizing for America, challenging the President.  That’s not going to roll.  Other organizations can do that, and they have every right to.  By pushing Single Payer, we may have gotten a public option, which wasn’t on the table before.  But we have a job and responsibility, and we have other issues to deal with as well.  We listen to people about how to do our job better.  We are training people to do the job, and we’ve been around less than a year.  And a lot of the people who voted for Obama and who need healthcare are not Democrats.  So it’s important that we continue to have these conversations.  I will come to a Democratic club and have a conversation with you, I’ll give you my card.  We may not always agree, and I’m OK with that.

Perez: It is a very difficult transition to go from being an activist to running an electoral campaign, and then move to how to govern.  Understanding that as a legislator, understanding that I had to choose often between a number of undesirable options, it’s very difficult.  But it is incredibly valid for us to be frustrated and to express that frustration, because we too came to the campaign with expectations and we want to see many of those expectations met.  So thank you for your openness and commitment to working with all the clubs, and you hear the frustration expressed, and after all these years in the wilderness we want to get as much as we can as quickly as we can.

Question: The point was to encourage Obama activists to get involved in the clubs.

Peggy Moore: We do encourage people to participate.  We have several members from the Obama campaign, that once the campaign was over, were looking for a place to go.  And some of the members have participated in the Democratic clubs.  And some of the clubs are better than others.  And when you get them in the door, we need to keep them in the door.

Eric Bauman: We need to be careful about putting fingers in people’s eyes.  There are Obama activists who don’t like the Party or our movement.  Just as there were Dean activists with the same perspective.  We need to be figuring out how to do this together.  The other side is together and working together.  We need to work together and stop poking fingers in each other’s eyes.

Question: I’m from the John Muir Democratic Club.  How do we raise consciousness of a particular Get Out of Afghanistan bill?

Henry Vandermeir: As far as getting resources, you need to figure out which organizations are going to be more receptive to what you’re working on.  As mentioned previously, some organizations are particularly focused on certain issues, so it has to be a targeted campaign.  Same thing goes for organizations, you have to figure out which organizations are going to be helpful and cooperative, and which will not.

Perez: Just take a last minute from each of you to talk about any takeaway messages in terms of investing in coalition politics.

Dorothy Reik: We need to work together, but we need to give our message to the powers that be to tell them what we think are the best policies.  We need to elect Democrats, but not just any Democrats.  We need to elect the Democrats who are in favor of what we believe in.   We have one of those, Marcy Winograd, running against Jane Harman.

Gary Vaughn: When we talk about coalitions, we have to try to make connections outside of our norm, including with moderates and conservatives.  Break through the partisanship.

Peggy Moore: Thank you for giving me the opportunity.  I need all of you, your mentorship, need you to keep us on track.  We’re working for a better America.  I want to personally invite you over to the opening of our new office at Centinela and Jefferson in Culver City on Thursday.

Arisha Michelle Hatch: I’m personally a baby of the Obama movement.  I challenge you as leaders and organizers to plug into the energy of the movement, and challenge you to question whether you’re creating an environment conducive to plugging in.

Henry Vandermier: Tolerance is a virtue.  If people agree with you 50%-75%, then consider yourself lucky.  Remember that when you go to work on coalitions.

Perez: I want to thank the panel, and bring back Eric Bauman.

Eric Bauman: Thanks to our moderator Assemblymember Perez.

Brian Dennert of the VC Star Interviews Eric Bauman

On Thursday, Brian Dennert of the Ventura County Star blog Brian Dennert Here had an an excellent and informative interview with current LACDP Chair and CDP Vice-Chair Candidate Eric Bauman.

Dennert talked with Eric about Proposition 8, partisanship, the budget crisis and much more.  Here’s a taste:

Q: The state budget is in obvious trouble with problems obviously this year and in coming years. Many point to the contracts with state workers including pension obligations.

Within that context do you remember the last time you disagreed with the tactics, budgetary priorities, or views of any of the large state unions both public employees and private sector unions?

A: California’s budget situation is a disgrace. This governor was elected on a pledge to “cut up the credit cards” and sweep the special interests out of the Capitol.

In the end he has done neither. Under his watch we have a far larger deficit than we did under Governor Davis and the divisiveness between the parties is at an all time high.

This governor cannot deliver a single Republican vote for his budget plan and it is so bad the members of the Republican caucus wore name tags to a meeting with him because he has so little

contact with them.

While Democrats have put compromise after compromise on the table, and even the governor has acknowledged the need for new revenues, not one Republican is willing to compromise.

This governor has failed and his Republican colleagues have sold him down the river,

As to the old saw that this is the fault of the public employee unions, you and I both know that is nonsense. This fiscal crisis began when Arnold unilaterally reduced the state’s revenue by four billion dollars by cutting the vehicle license fees.

It has worsened as out economy has tanked and our outmoded tax system has been unable to maintain any balance. My goodness, more than 52% of our state’s revenues come from personal and business taxes, the most volatile possible source.

Yes, our state employees are reasonably compensated and they work hard for their money. And yes they are willing to talk about reasonable compromises to help out in this crisis. But those who are our highest earners and our largest businesses should pay their fair share and we should close every ridiculous tax loophole that we have extended to the wealthy, like the yacht tax loophole.

Finally, there are only four ways to close this budget deficit – cutting spending, raising revenue, borrowing and reforming the system, for real. Democrats are willing to do all of the above. Republicans need to get with it…

For a good read, head over to Brian Dennert Here for the rest of the interview.

Brian’s Picks for CDP: Burton for Chair, Bauman for Vice-Chair

This is my opinion only, and I have written this in my personal capacity. My endorsement does not necessarily mean it is the endorsement of Calitics or the Editorial Board.

If I were to draw up a list of qualities I want in a chair, I think it would begin and end with the words “grassroots leader.”  Specifically, I would want somebody who has spent time in the trenches, building a Democratic club, and working to get Democrats elected. Not just from the 20,000 foot level, but from right there on the ground.  Knocking on doors and generally doing the things that actually get people elected.  

If you asked me a few months ago about the chair’s race, the name John Burton would not really be the first name that leapt to mind.  Yet, here we are, and John Burton is the best person for the job. He has built Democratic clubs, in fact he helped build a club of whose board I now serve, the San Francisco Young Democrats.  He went door to door, not only for votes, but also for any spare change to help Democrats in San Francisco.  He understands the hard work that is grassroots politics.And all the while, he understands the other end of politics. He’s been there at nearly every level  of politics, making the tough decisions. And in terms of politics and policy, you don’t get much more progressive than John Burton.

But more than any background, the thing that has impressed me most during my conversations with John has been his ability to seek out the best answers.  You think a Congressional candidate has a decent shot at a seat, well, let’s run a poll and see if it is worth pursuing.  You think we can be doing a better job at our online research, well, let’s work together to make it better. It is an attitude of responsiveness an inclusiveness that would be helpful at the CDP.

There is no doubt that John Burton knows how to defend seats.  He did that quite well in the past.  But, it is becoming painfully clear over the past months that our majority is worthless until it becomes a working majority.  In other words, we need to get to 2/3.  We need to strike out into areas we thought unnwinable in the past.  And come the implementation of Prop 11, who knows what opportunities and challenges we might be facing.

I have faith that John will work to carry out his platform and implement strategies to what he calls turning red areas purple.  And, he’ll have help on that front.  Eric Bauman has been an outstanding advocate of challenging red seats, registering voters and working to give our candidates, and our ideals, a fair hearing across the state.  As LA County Chair, he did a whole bunch of work in the red areas in and around LA County. While I am admittedly disappointed to not be endorsing myself, I believe Eric will do a great job as Vice-Chair.

I think these two gentlemen have much to work on.  They should work on bringing in greater representation among the young activist crowd that was so motivated by the Obama campaign.  They should work to put young Democrats in positions where they can help bring in new blood to the party.  But both of them have shown an outsized ability to mentor young Democrats, and I think they will continue to do so.

There is a lot of work to be done to make the party not only more effective in the goal of electing more Democrats, but also making the party itself more relevant to Californians. But I think they have the tools to really help the CDP.  I, for one, will be thrilled to work with these two men in the coming months and years.

As one final note, I have not yet taken a position on the female Vice Chair race yet. I don’t believe that one has quite shaken out yet, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

California’s Crisis of The Status Quo – And the Only Woman Who Can Fix It

There’s an interesting dynamic happening in California.  At the national level, the state’s power is growing.  Californians hold the Speaker of the House and four key committee chairs, including the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and now the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have Californians at the helm.  Any energy and environmental policies will have to go through the committees of Californians, and they’ll have California allies inside the Administration, with the selection of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Dr. Steven Chu as Energy Secretary and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Other Californians are up for possible Administration jobs, like CA-31’s Xavier Becerra (US Trade Representative) and CA-36’s Jane Harman (CIA Director).  It’s a good time to be a California politician in Washington.

It’s a TERRIBLE time to be a California politician in California, as it dawns on everyone in Sacramento that the state is ungovernable and hurtling toward total chaos.  The two parties are miles apart from a budget deal, and even their biggest and boldest efforts would only fill about half the budget gap.  The peculiar mechanisms of state government, with its 2/3 rule for budget and tax provisions, and its artificial deadlines for bills to get through the legislature, which causes remarkable bottlenecks and “gut and amend” legislation changed wholesale in a matter of hours, and the failed experiment with direct democracy which has created unsustainable demands and mandates, make the state impossible to reform and even get working semi-coherently.  The state’s citizens hate their government and hate virtually everyone in it with almost equal fervor, yet find themselves helpless to actually change anything about it, and believe it or not, ACTUALLY THINK THEY’RE DOING A GOOD JOB setting policy through the initiative process, which is simply ignorant (though they paradoxically think that other voters aren’t doing a good job on initiatives).  The activist base does amazing grassroots work, very little of it in this state.  We have a political trade deficit where money and volunteerism leaves the state and nothing returns.  And the political media for a state of 38 million consists of a handful of reporters in Sacramento and a couple dudes with blogs.

Many of these problems have accumulated over a number of years and cannot be laid at the feet of anybody in particular.  But in general, the reason that we’ve gotten to this crisis point, the reason that California is a failed state, is because by and large the dominant political parties WANT IT THAT WAY.  I’m not saying that the state Democratic Party or its elected officials, for example, wants the state to be flung into the sea, metaphorically speaking, but there’s certainly a tendency toward the closed loops of insiders that prefer a predictable and stable status quo, that naturally restricts reform and leads to corruption, gridlock and crisis.  I’ll give you an example.  Last night I was on a conference call where Eric Bauman, Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, announced that he would drop out of the race for state party Chair and run for Vice-Chair, because when 78 year-old former State Senator John Burton entered the race, all his labor, organizational and elected support dried up.  Fitting that he didn’t mention his grassroots support, because it clearly doesn’t matter who they prefer.  

There is little doubt in my mind that John Burton will run the party, or rather delegate it to whatever lieutenant will run the party, in the exact same way it has been run for the last decade or so, characterized by missed opportunities to expand majorities, a lost recall election for Governor, cave-in after cave-in on key budget priorities and a failure to capitalize on the progressive wave of the last two electoral cycles.  These are not abstractions, and they have real-world effects, $41.8 billion of them at last count.  And honestly, the Special Assistant to Gray Davis didn’t represent all that much change, either.

We have an ossified party structure, and a phlegmatic legislative leadership that is unable to get its objectives met because the deck is essentially stacked against them.  The times call for a completely new vision, one that can energize a grassroots base and use citizen action to leverage the necessary unraveling of this dysfunctional government to make it work again.  The work on Prop. 8 since the election has been tremendous, but ultimately, if public schools are closing and unemployment is above 10% and the uninsured are rising and the pain felt in local communities is acute, then we have a much larger problem, one that requires a bigger movement allied with the civil rights movement to make change.

The key flashpoint is the 2010 Governor’s race.  There is currently no one in the field with the ability to break the lock that the status quo has on California and deliver a new majority empowered to bring the state back from the brink.  In an article published last month, Randy Shaw put it best.

None of the current field appears likely to galvanize a grassroots base, or to be willing to take on the “third rails” of California politics: massive prison spending, Prop 13 funding restrictions, or the need for major new education funding. Dianne Feinstein? She’ll be 77 years old on Election Day 2010, and she has long resisted, rather than supported, progressive change.

Jerry Brown just finished campaigning to defeat Proposition 5, which would have saved billions of unnecessary spending on the state’s prison industrial complex. This follows Brown’s television ads for the 2004 election, which helped narrowly defeat a reform of the draconian and extremely expensive “three strikes” law. Brown’s consistent coddling up to the prison guards union is the smoking gun showing that he is not a candidate for change.

Gavin Newsom came out against Prop 5 on the eve of the election, undermining his own “break from the past” image. He also spent another local election cycle opposing the very constituencies who an Obama-style grassroots campaign would need to attract.

With her Senate Intel. Committee post, it is unlikely that Feinstein will run.  He forgets John Garamendi, who supported Prop. 2 (!) because of his fealty to farming interests and who first ran for governor in 1982.

Shaw mentions that the state is ready for a Latina governor, and mentions the Sanchez sisters.  He’s right in part, but has the wrong individual in mind.  I am more convinced than ever that the only person with the strength, talent, grassroots appeal and forward-thinking progressive mindset to fundamentally change the electorate and work toward reform is Congresswoman Hilda Solis.  She authored the green jobs bill that Barack Obama is using as a national model.  She is a national leader on the issue of environmental justice and has the connections to working Californians that can inspire a new set of voters.  She beat an 18-year Democratic incumbent, Matthew Martinez, by 38 points to win her first Congressional primary.  She has worked tirelessly for progressive candidates across the state and the country.  In a state whose demographics are rapidly changing, she could be a powerful symbol of progress that could grab a mandate to finally overhaul this rot at the heart of California’s politial system once and for all.  This is not about one woman as a magic bullet that can change the system; this is about a woman at the heart of a movement.  A movement for justice and equality and dignity and respect.  A movement for boldness and progressive principles and inclusiveness and openness.  A movement that can spark across the state.

I know that Solis is interested in the Vice Chair of the Democratic caucus if Becerra takes the job in the Obama Administration.  Congresswoman, your state needs you desperately.  Please consider running for Governor and leaving a legacy of progress in California.

E-Board Notes

I was only able to attend the Saturday session of this weekend’s e-board meeting, under the strange and foreboding Anaheim skies – the fire in Chino Hills nearby blotted out the sun during the midday, you could actually stare right into it – but there were some interesting happenings:

• The Progressive Caucus meeting featured a debate between two candidates for party controller, Eric Bradley (the incumbent) and progressive challenger Hillary Crosby.  It was good of both of them to come to the caucus and express their views, but Bradley’s contentions (some would call them alibis) for why the party didn’t do quite as well in downballot races this year were kind of preposterous.  First, he claimed that money moved into some races late because nobody knew Barack Obama would do as well as he did.  This is insulting on a variety of levels.  First of all, Obama was leading by as much as 28 points in some polls as far back as June, and was never seriously threatened in any polling.  Second of all, I don’t see how it matters, in terms of who you spend money on, how a race that is out of your control is faring.  The next thing that Bradley said, echoing something I hear a lot at these CDP meetings, is that we cannot disclose information to the membership of the party on financing because “we cannot let the Republicans know what we’re doing.”  We might as well let them know, considering that hiding the information hasn’t brought us much good.  Also, the entirety of the information that Crosby and progressives like her are seeking is a) already readily available in FPPC and FEC reports and b) sought AFTER THE FACT so we can make intelligent decisions about what worked and what didn’t.  There is a bias toward secrecy there that is quite disconcerting.

• In the general session, there was a continued set of numbers given to prove that the CDP did everything it could to win downballot races.  Art Torres mentioned 1 million live GOTV calls and $12.5 million spent.  These are all nice numbers (although Obama’s California campaign made 1 million calls a day in the week leading up to the election), but if the results are essentially nothing, recapturing seats that were gerrymandered to benefit Democrats to begin with, then the question of effectiveness must be asked.  We had a very good session about that with a group of committed activists who ran phonebank operations and local headquarters and state campaigns, and the information was very illuminating.  First of all, we have got to end the practice of being one of the only two states in the country not using the DNC Voter File and VAN software.  The data is supposedly better in the current set we use, but that can be bought out and integrated into the VAN.  I heard about numerous problems with the statewide Neighbor-to-Neighbor tool that made it essentially useless.  

Second, there needs to be more empowerment at the local level.  The stories I heard from the organizers at DP-SFV (the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley) on how they funded their headquarters and made the best use of volunteer time, for example, was great.  In the last week, however, the folks running the campaigns from Sacramento got very top-down in their approach and made all kinds of mistakes that the locals had to fix.  It discouraged volunteers and organizers at the local level.

Finally, there has to be off-cycle organizing so that prospective volunteers are brought up with a culture of impacting their own communities instead of driving off to Nevada every four years.  This includes finding and capturing the local groups who worked so tirelessly for Obama this year.  They need to have it explained and drilled into them why staying local and effecting change inside California is so important.  And organizers need to be paid year-round to help bring that about.  Finally, they need to be in EVERY county, not just the populous ones or the most contested ones, to impact those statewide races for 2010.  For his part, Chairman Torres said he is committed to finding organizers and capitalizing on all the energy we see now, and I think we need to hold him to that.

• The above steps make a good criteria for the next party chair, and that race was the buzz of the session.  Right now we have three candidates: Eric Bauman, chair of the LA County Democratic Party; Alex Rooker, current first Vice-Chair; and the legendary John Burton, former State Senate leader and Congressman.  At first I figured that Burton would have locked up so many endorsements from legislators who he’s known forever that this might not be much of a race; however, Rooker won the endorsement of the CDP Labor Caucus, which is very significant (if not totally surprising, as Rooker has longstanding ties to labor).  I don’t know if you’re aware of who pays for campaigns in California, but the labor community could have a lot to say about who’s the next state party chair.  In addition, a tough three-way fight with two candidates from the North and one from the South could give the Southern California candidate an advantage. (CORRECTION: Rooker is from LA County, which would give the advantage to the northern candidate)

I’m inviting all of the candidates to visit us at Calitics and offer their vision of where they want to take the party.

Bauman Unanimously Re-Elected, Ups Ante as LACDP Chair

Eric Bauman is going to raise $1 million dollars for 2008.  The best part is how he’s going to spend it.

Last night, members of the Los Angeles County Central Committee raised their hands to take an oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, and took to electing Party officers.  Among them was Chairman Eric Bauman, unanimously re-elected to a fifth term.

I’m told that’s a record.  From his words last night, it’s easy to see why.

Bauman has been singled out here as someone who speaks his mind and knows the mechanics of electioneering, even when his opinions and techniques run against the grain of some Democratic leaders.

He showed what he’s made of in thanking the Central Committee and looking ahead to 2008 – and perhaps beyond:

Now is the time to rebuild, refresh and reassemble the mosaic that comprises our Democratic Party for it is only through unity, strength and shared purpose that we can be successful this fall.

As we work to build unity however, we must take seriously our responsibility to remind those we have elected or put in positions of power of their obligation to do the right thing by our Party and our people.

Whether it is protecting those most at-risk from harsh budget cuts or standing up for our Constitution or avoiding situations and actions that have the appearance of impropriety, as leaders of our Party, we must not fear holding feet to the fire and speaking truth to power.

If we truly are leaders, we must act like it: respectfully, responsibly, but fearlessly.

Who else senses a little tough love in there?

What I find interesting about Bauman’s leadership of the LACDP is not just his (sadly uncommon) willingness to speak truth to power, but how he marshalls forces and resources on the ground to help candidates up and down the ballot, even in those districts often written off as unwinnable.

After the jump I’ll share what I heard last night (and from Bauman separately), and what I’ve seen him do to build and strengthen the Democratic Party in Los Angeles County.

In nominating remarks, presumptive Assemblyman John A. Pèrez noted that in Bauman’s time as LACDP Chair, the organization had grown from an annual budget of $50,000 to over $1 million this year.

The amount raised is important.  However, what really matters is how it’s being spent – a wider topic of some discussion here at Calitics (and across the party) in recent weeks.

Continuing his speech, Bauman reminded Party members how they chose to spend their war-chest when they adopted a budget earlier this year:

That’s why LACDP’s leaders have spent months setting goals and formulating an aggressive plan to educate, motivate and mobilize LA County’s 2,070,210 Democrats.

Our plans for 2008 are extensive and include everything from direct voter contact programs to voter registration to providing comprehensive training for Democratic activists.

Of course we will assist clubs and groups who open campaign headquarters; work with the California Democratic Party; and maximize the quality, effectiveness and impact of our Red Zone program. We will also work with our colleagues in rural, red and purple areas around the state to help them best take advantage of this incredible Big Blue Wave year.

As Chair of this Party, I staked out an aggressive goal in January to raise a minimum of one million dollars this year to fund our various programs – and more than half of it has already been raised. That is a testament to a talented staff and committed members who have worked hard to ensure we have the resources we need to accomplish our goals.

Most importantly, these funds are being used to support candidates for local, state and federal office and to fund the critical activities that will grow our Party and support our grassroots activists and volunteers.

Bauman’s details of how the funds would be used – for grassroots activities and Party building – fired up the membership.  Whether it’s in candidate campaigns, PACs, or Party Organizations the fastest way to stifle grassroots fundraising is to have that cash disappear into a vacuum or worse, to have it used for purposes unfathomable to the rank and file.

I’ve had some personal experience with Bauman’s grassroots programs.  A close friend of mine was a Red Zone candidate two years ago and benefitted from guidance and resources from Bauman and the LACDP staff.

I myself had the privilege of leading two training sessions for the Red Zone candidates and their staffers last weekend.  These are citizens from across the county (or whose districts reach into the county) who are answering the call of civic duty by running in tough Republican Districts.  They are doctors, teachers, and parents taking up the mantle of our Party and LACDP has their back.

Bauman has had his eyes on California’s rural, red and purple regions for a long time.  In recent months, he has worked to export this Red Zone program beyond his home county – a good model as CDP moves toward implementing their 58 County plan.

Full disclosure: I am proud to have previously worked for John A. Perez and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party – both mentioned above.  I tapped these relationships to copy/paste from printed remarks, instead of transcribing my recording.

Eric Bauman’s letter to Dianne Feinstein re: FISA

Anyone who knows Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, knows that he has no compunction about giving fiery speeches and telling anyone exactly what’s on his mind.

And–in something the current CDP leadership should take note of–that includes Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Below the fold you’ll find Chairman Bauman’s full letter to Senator Feinstein regarding the upcoming FISA legislation to be considered in the Senate.

I fully expect that Eric’s name will be on the tongues of many grassroots CDP delegates this winter, as he is one of the early declared candidates for the CDP chairmanship.

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I write to you today to express my concerns, and the concerns of the members of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, regarding the FISA/telecom immunity bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is now in the US Senate. While we applaud your past attempts to work across the aisle with Senator Specter on a compromise bill, we urge you not to support any form of immunity for telecom companies who were complicit in the Bush Administration’s warrant-less wiretapping scheme.

LACDP members believe that the Congressional leadership has struck a deal that will further erode our civil liberties and circumvent the original FISA law. We ask that you not only oppose this new FISA/telecom immunity bill, but that you filibuster it to prevent its advancement in the US Senate.

Letting telecom companies off the hook violates our fundamental notions of privacy and justice – not to mention violating the protections of the US Constitution. These companies clearly violated the rights of individuals under federal law. To exculpate these corporations now, who were complicit with the Bush Administration in its transgressions, leaves countless scores of people with their rights violated and no legal recourse.

Including immunity in the FISA bill sets a terrible precedent. It sends a message to companies everywhere that they may trample rights of individuals at the behest of the government without recourse. Such an arrangement allows corporations to become de facto arms of an outlaw administration, a dangerous expansion of powers in a time when checks on the executive are few. The only way to stop this arrangement is to hold companies accountable for their actions instead of granting immunity.

It is true that litigation against the telecom companies could potentially be severe in cost – but can we really put a price on preserving the US Constitution?  Can we put a price on protecting individual privacy and checking limitless executive power? We think not, and for those reasons we ask not only for your opposition to the House bill, but your leadership in conducting a filibuster to block passage of this dangerous and erosive legislation.

Most Sincerely,

Eric C. Bauman

Chair, Los Angeles County Democratic Party