Tag Archives: Burton

Burton To Run For Re-Election as CDP Chair

After some nudging from a list of Democratic activists, longtime San Francisco politician aims to increase stability in Democratic Party

by Brian Leubitz

As you may know, I am a regional director for the state Democratic party.  As a San Franciscan, I have tremendous respect for the work that Sen. John Burton has done for our community and for the state.  He is a progressive that will fight for his beliefs.

But it turns out he knows how to lead a state Democratic party.  He knows how to hire a good team and let them run a solid organization.  Since he assumed control, the party has been in a much better financial situation, has spoken out on issues that it was too timid to discuss before, and oh, by the way, also managed to sweep statewide during a tough election year.

And as somebody who, as a statewide field director, relied heavily on the state Democratic Party’s field operation last year, I know that John Burton and his team know how to mobilize voters and win elections.  It was for these reasons I was glad to sign on to a letter asking him to run again, and equally glad to hear that he’s running again.

California Democratic party chair John Burton, 78, hasn’t officially announced it yet — but he has made the decision to run for another term to lead the party in 2013, the Chronicle has learned.

The plain-spoken, tough-talking Burton — one of the most battle-scarred of California political veterans — was urged earlier this month to run for another term by a host of party activists and insiders. Their efforts were expressed by two party leaders, CDP regional director for San Francisco Brian Leubitz — who’s also the Calitics blog director — and Alice Huffman, NAACP president, in a letter earlier this month. The group expressed “strong support” of Burton’s next term and urged him to announce his decision for another term.(SF Gate)

The day he was elected as chair, Sen. Burton called on President Obama to bring our troops home from both Iraq and Afghanistan. And he has continued to challenge the Democratic Party to dream big. He’s done well, and the party will be lucky to have him and the strong team that he’s built (and convinced to stick around).

By the way, Burton had some choice words for the Republicans debating in our state right now.  Check that out over the flip.

In Advance of Tonight’s GOP Presidential Debate in California, Democrats Release New Numbers on Job Losses in California Which Would Result From GOP’s Extreme Budget Policies

GOP’s Support of Tea Party Budget Plan Would Cost 931,570 Californians Their Job

Sacramento – In advance of Wednesday night’s GOP Presidential debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, the California Democratic Party released an estimate of the number of jobs which would be lost in California, based on a new analysis conducted by the DNC, as a result of the GOP Presidential candidates support for radical economic policies.

The DNC’s analysis found that just the balanced budget amendment called for in the GOP plan, if in place in 2012, would result in the loss of 9.5 million American jobs including 931,570 jobs right here in California. The loss of so many jobs could blow a hole in the U.S. economy and further damage recovery prospects while adding millions of Americans to the ranks of the jobless.

Statement of California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton:

“Tonight’s debate will be a showcase for an extremist agenda that promises much but ultimately results in more corporate profits for the few and the privileged and more layoffs for Californians struggling to get by. The draconian cuts to Social Security, education, health care, Medicare, infrastructure and job training supported by these Republican candidates would cost millions their job.

Californians are still busy digging their way out of the mess produced by the last bad batch of Republican policies and we don’t need more of the same.”

Link to DNC Report

This Was No Happy Accident

(Welcome to the Executive Director of the California Democratic Party, Shawnda Westly – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

I remember driving around the state with Chairman John Burton back in January of 2009, when he was “just” ex-Senate President pro Tem John Burton – an unknown quantity to most DSCC delegates.

I remember introducing his, um, entertaining and unpredictable style to activists from around the state. And I remember everything you told him needed to be done to prepare for 2010.

You asked John for tools and training.  And John asked you to show up and fight for our statewide ticket on election day.  

We faced difficult financial challenges.   We overcame them, together.  (in large part because of the non stop fundraising of our Chairman and the active DEM2010 program started by our great Controller – Hilary Crosby!)

Together, we made our victories in 2010 happen.

We cut monthly expenses by 25%.

We gave an online database to every county and showed them how to use it, we planned and executed 12 training bootcamps around the state, hired a full time bilingual Communications Director, overhauled the CDP website and increased online organizing and had monthly organizing calls with our Statewide Officers, Regional Directors, and Caucus Chairs.

For all of these things, I want to thank the dedicated CDP staff who helped create and execute all the changes the new administration laid out – with professionalism and dedication.

We built new programs to prepare for whatever challenges the Republicans might throw at us – giving donors a reason to invest and you a motivation to volunteer.

And volunteer you did.

No matter what the pundits said, we ignored them.  

From the Politico columnist who said “Boxer will lose”


To when we were simply told “Meg Whitman will defeat Jerry Brown” http://biggovernment.com/tdelb…

Or, even pundits from our own party doubting our organization and will who said “I do not believe there is anything approaching a Get Out The Vote operation on the ground that is going to be up to the task.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/…

Well, they were all wrong.  

From the start, the goal of the California Democratic Party in the 2010 election cycle was to deliver a higher amount of Democratic Permanent Vote By Mail (PVBM) voters to the polls than in the past.  By election day, California Democrats were able to turn out 744,448 more Democratic PVBMs in 2010 than in the last gubernatorial election of 2006.

To add further context to that number just consider the following: during the 2006 gubernatorial election, California Republicans turned in 76,477 more PVBM ballots than California Democrats did. In 2010, California Democratic PVBM voters bested Republican PVBM voters by 226,480 votes.

That’s a net swing of +302,957 Permanent Vote-by-Mail voters.

And that made the difference in the Attorney General’s race, which was decided by about 75,000 votes.

Not only that, but despite a 20% drop in overall turnout between the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 gubernatorial race, Democrats came within 93,000 votes of hitting the high benchmark of PVBM Democratic turnout reached during the historic presidential election.

As you begin to make plans to join your fellow Democratic activists in Sacramento for this year’s convention, make sure you take time to give yourself a big pat on that back.

Because our celebration this weekend didn’t happen overnight.

And it was no happy accident.  It happened because of you.

De Facto CA GOP Leader Grover Norquist Needs a New De Facto Job

Washington, D.C. insider and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist was recently quoted by conservative columnist Debra Saunders in the SF Chronicle as saying “I think golf and cocaine would be more constructive ways to spend one’s free time than negotiating with Democrats on spending restraint.”

I have always considered golf a good walk spoiled.  As a recovering cocaine addict, I am surprised that anyone would think that it is at all constructive to spend one’s free time using that drug.

One would think that Mr. Norquist made this comment with a straw in his hand bending over a mirror full of white powder.

This is the man the California Republican Party is taking its cues from when it comes to tackling our state’s budget crisis.

It’s no wonder California Republicans find themselves out of touch not only with California voters on the whole, but even with an increasingly smaller percentage of Californians who self-identify as Republican voters.

A recent Field Poll showed that 61% of California voters were in favor of holding a special election to vote on a package of spending cuts and temporary tax increases to balance our budget. Even 56% of California Republicans are in favor of the idea.

Instead Republican leaders in Sacramento are taking their lead from their de facto leader in Washington, D.C., Grover Norquist. This isn’t good for Californians, it isn’t good for our budget process and it isn’t even good for the Republican Party.

Californians must be trusted to exercise their right to vote – that’s how things work in a democracy. What remains of the sensible part of the Republican Party needs to speak loudly against out of touch, and out-to-lunch Republicans like Grover Norquist.

Burton’s Behavior as Chair: Epic Fail

The general buzz leading up to last week’s California Democratic Party Convention was mostly about the need to energize and motivate the party faithful for the 2010 midterm election.  The conventional wisdom is that the party faces an uphill battle in the midterms due to historical trends (the president’s party generally loses seats in the midterms), and political ones (the teapartiers bring nothing if not enthusiasm).  There is also the general ennui that has set in since President Obama’s inauguration in January, 2009.  The reality of governance has created tension within the party, and there is general concern that liberals and progressives will stay home on election night.  All of these factors set the stakes very high for John Burton’s first convention as Chair of the party.  I wish I could say that he was able to answer the call.

From all appearances, it looked like the Chair was barely able to answer the call to get out of bed.  Sporting a red bowling shirt (Note to John: the party color is blue.  The other guys are red) with an uncooperative white t-shirt underneath on Saturday, Chair Burton stumbled and grumbled around on the dais as if nursing a very bad hangover.  Apparently there is some charm in his preferred demeanor, but I was unable to grasp it.  I realize that the Chair should not be the source for words of inspiration, but is some enthusiasm too much to ask?  From handwaving through the votes by acclamation to searching for the next item on the agenda, there was the appearance that the Chair was winging it.  For Saturday’s agenda this was not such a serious problem, since the general session was primarily a series of speeches, including very good ones from Senator Boxer and Governor/Mayor/Attorney General Jerry Brown.

On Sunday, however, the Chair’s inability to adhere to procedure had some very detrimental effects on the proceedings, and, at least for this delegate, on the enthusiasm of the audience.  Sunday is the day for business at the convention.  We vote on endorsements, platform issues, rules, etc.  We also find out the results of the endorsement votes that were held Saturday afternoon.  The Chair gave the results between speeches as if he had something better to do.  Then it came time to vote on the endorsement for the 36th Congressional District.  Jane Harman is the CA36 incumbent and is being challenged by Marcy Winograd.  An endorsement caucus had been held on Saturday, which Harman had won.  Winograd was able to gather enough signatures, however, to force a final vote on the floor on Sunday.  It almost didn’t happen.

The Chair garbled the endorsement question so badly that I was not sure what we were voting on.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one.  The first vote was a voice vote, and the “Ayes” and “Nays” sounded pretty equal to my ear; nevertheless, the Chair ruled that the Ayes had it.  I was puzzled, not only because of the ruling, but also I recalled that when we had a floor vote two years ago (Leno versus Migden), both sides were given 4 minutes to present their case.  This time the vote was taken without speeches, even though Winograd’s troops were lined up at one of the microphones.  Fortunately a delegate went to another microphone and asked basically what we had voted on and protested that it wasn’t clear.  The Chair bristled.  While he was bristling, Winograd’s forces had made their way up to the dais and protested that they had not been able to speak.  The Chair first berated Ms. Winograd for asserting her rights under the rules, then went back to the parliamentarian for a ruling.  Both flustered and frustrated, the Chair allotted 4 minutes each to Winograd and Harman.  

Both sides passionately presented their case.  The Winograd team made the argument that the endorsement reflects on the party as a whole, so it is only fitting that the entire delegation have a chance to overturn a district’s vote.  Harman’s forces took the opposite side, questioning the fairness of the ability of the entire delegation to overturn a district’s endorsement.  The vote would proceed by a show of delegate cards, but even this didn’t go smoothly.  Supposedly cards were counted, but many delegates did not see counters in their region.  The vote had to be done again.  The second time took longer and it appeared as if there were enough counters, although some delegates were still not sure if they were counted.  Again the Chair looked as if this were his first time doing this, and was not in control of the proceedings.  As the counts were tallied, another speech or two intervened.

Finally the vote was announced, and it was rather close.  The Chair made some crack about nobody being bribed for their vote, which was really bush league.  I guess it was an attempt at humor to lighten the mood.  Winograd protested on another point, but I was unable to hear what it was.  Burton again rebuked her, telling her she should get her people organized better.  This was again bad form on the part of the Chair.  The Chair is in a privileged position and should not be taking potshots at people who are asserting their rights as candidates, delegates, etc.  The Chair should rule but not opine.  Full disclosure:  I  did not support Winograd’s bid to overturn the endorsement; I agreed with the Harman camp reasoning.

One final episode cemented the impression that Burton was winging it the entire weekend.  The platform committee did not recognize the author of an item that the committee had sent over to the Rules Committee even though this person had been standing at one of the microphones during the Platform Committee (PC) report.  The  PC report was then voted on without discussion.  The Chair failed to see the speaker as well, but tried to make amends by allowing the speaker to address the audience from the dais for two minutes later on.

The session limped home to an odd but fitting conclusion when one delegate asked for a quorum call even though there was no more business at hand.  Maybe they just wanted to leave.  Apparently the convention ended, and we were headed out the door.  No calls to action.  No rousing finish.

None of this criticism is meant to take away anything from John Burton’s years of exemplary public service.  He has done more for California than I could ever hope to do, but the party’s “Back to the Future” gambit is having the effect I feared that it would.  Many of the young democrats and Obama supporters who put the party over the top have never heard of John Burton, and don’t know a thing about Brown’s governorship.  There was nothing said or done by the Chair that gave me confidence that the party is connecting with these vital new voters.  If the goal of the Chair for this convention was to energize and motivate the base for 2010, my conclusion is that he failed, epically.