A Ray of Hope? Are the California DEMs Actually Getting Democratic?

EASTSIDER-In recent weeks, the notoriously closed California Democratic State Party has seen a number of challenges and exposure in the media, including challenges to their election for Assembly District 51 party delegates, and other instances lacking real transparency. Now they seem to be responding. 

ADEM AD 51 Election Rerun
After weeks of secrecy and silence regarding the California Democratic Party's handling of the recent Assembly District 51 Delegate Election, on March 27, just like magic, the Review Commission published its Decision regarding Ron Birmbaum's Challenge to the Election. You can read the full Decision here. The short version is that the Election was overturned. Mostly. 

Reading from the Commission Decision, two points emerged which prompted the reversal: 

1)  Based upon the testimony submitted, the CRC requested the CDP staff perform a full review of the sign-in sheets. The CDP staff review found 79 participants as not registered as Democrats and 18 participants not registered in the district” and… 

2) The CRC finds that the ballots cast by the 97 ineligible voters could be enough to affect 10 of the ADEM winners (6 self-identified female/4 other than self-identified female) and the representative to the Executive Board. The difference between the second-place female and fourteenth-place female was 79 votes. The difference between the fourth-place non-female and fourteenth-place non-female was 84 votes. The difference between the first-place and second-place candidates in the Executive Board election was 37 votes. 

Full credit is due to the assiduous and painstaking efforts of Jeanine Rohn and Ron Birnbaum to compile this data and file a solid Challenge. Kudos to the Commission members as well. We now will have a new and (hopefully) properly run election for AD51 on Saturday April 27. 

Regarding the April 27 Election, the following criteria are mandated: 

3) The CRC orders that candidates be limited to those eligible at the prior election (excluding those already confirmed to be elected in Order Number 1). 

4)  The CRC orders that participants be limited to those who were eligible at the original ADEM and remaining eligible as of the date of the new election meeting. 

5)  The CRC orders that notice be provided to all those required to be noticed for the original meeting plus those who participated at said meeting. 

6)  The CRC orders that such an election be conducted by CDP staff or their designee. 

On the other hand, the Commission simply declared that four of the candidates will be seated, because they could. I am told that there was an appeal filed on April 8 challenging their decision and asking that the entire election be voided and rerun. 

This is progress indeed, even if incremental. Not too long ago, during Eric Bauman’s reign, they would have simply told everyone to go pound sand. And absent the significant pushback, they would likely have done it this time as well. 

The Prize in May 

This year in particular, the stakes are high. As everyone with a political pulse knows by now, the CADEM Chair (and LA County Dems Chair in the past) Eric Bauman was forced into a resignation last year over his predatory sexual conduct and take no hostages running of the party. Don’t kid yourself, his legacy lives on. 

At the moment, the Acting Chair is Alexandra (Alex) Gallardo-Rooker, who stressed the importance of electing a solid Chair in May at the State Convention: 

“As the CDP’s acting Chair, it is my duty to ensure that the Party selects its next Chair through an orderly, transparent, and democratic process. As required by the By-laws, the election for the next Chair will occur at the next State Convention, which will take place from May 31 – June 2, 2019 in San Francisco. All eligible members of the Democratic State Central Committee (the “DSCC”) will have the opportunity to vote for Chair at the Convention.” 

The smart money betting is between Kimberly Ellis, who came within a hair’s breadth of unseating Bauman, and the establishment candidate, Rusty Hicks. Rusty is currently the head of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor (County Fed) and is clearly the establishment candidate to beat. With these stakes, every vote will count. 

So in terms of AD51, whoever wins at the end of April will be seated and have a vote come the end of May. It’s a big deal, since that person will lead the party until 2021. 

The Takeaway 

Assembly District 51 is a large, sprawling District obviously gerrymandered to produce a Latino assembly member. In terms of the ADEM rerun election, let’s take a look at the District, and at the vote for Delegates. 

According to Around the Capitol, there are around 229,000 voters in the District. April 9, 2019, Voter registration figures show that they are about 59% Democratic, and the next highest group is No Party Preference at about 29%, with less than 10% Republicans. 

Going back to the contested AD51 Delegate Election, it looks like somewhere around 900 people voted, with something like 97 ineligible voters. Folks, that’s simply not a lot of participation. Further, it means that over 10% of the voters in this election were ineligible, which says a lot about the lack of oversight. 

Not only that, in the Special Election to fill the vacancy as Jimmy Gomez went to Washington, Wendy Carrillo won the seat with 11,100 votes. Check out the numbers at Ballotpedia

So, here’s my idea. According to the rules for the April 27 election, as long as you were one of the 134,000 plus registered democrats as of January 2019 and continue to be one as of April, you are an eligible voter for this ADEM election. I think it would be wonderful if some of our Dems who don’t usually participate in these internal elections would show up April 27 and try to keep the rerun election honest. 

First, check that you are really in Assembly District 51. If you’re uncertain, you can either look at the map in Ballotpedia, or you can call incumbent Wendy Carrillo’s office to make sure. The LA Office number is 213-483-5151, and further contact information is available on her website.  

Come on down and participate in democracy. Ask questions, challenge BS when you hear it. If even 50 to 100 new people go and vote, the weight and importance of every single vote is HUGE. Check out the slates. Talk to the candidates, check out East LA and its amenities. Have some fun. Shake up the system and deliver message to the same tired secretive insiders. 

CADEM AD51 Delegate Election

Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

(As long as you’re in line by 1 p.m. you can vote) 

WHERE - East L.A. Rising

324 N. McDonnell Ave

East Los Angeles 90022


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.