CALBUZZ--Kamala Harris simply crushed U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez at the California Democratic Party state convention over the weekend: the state Attorney General had a bigger, fancier, livelier reception for delegates; more energized and organized volunteers; an infinitely more polished and compelling speech to the general assembly, and a landslide 78% vote for the CDP’s endorsement for the U.S. Senate.
Other than that, it was a lovely weekend in San Jose for Loretta.
In her speech to 3,200 attendees, Harris looked and sounded like a U.S. Senator, calling the GOP presidential campaign “a race to the bottom, a race to anger, a race to blame, a race to fan the flames of nativism in our country.”
She said Republican Donald Trump’s cry to “Make America Great Again,” begs the question: “for who?” The Republicans, she said forcefully, want to reverse gains in civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality, humane immigration policies, labor rights and environmental protections.
“They promise to go back to a time when even a victim of sexual assault did not have the right to choose. But the stakes are too high in this election. We are not going back to that back alley,” Harris said to rousing applause.
Her best line (h/t strategist Sean Clegg): “We the people understand our unity is our strength and our diversity is our power.” (Memo I to Hillary Clinton – see, it’s about “us,” not about you.)
And to her credit, Harris ditched the fancy entourage in favor of walking around shaking hands with delegates usually accompanied only by press secretary Nathan Click (Calbuzz gets results!)
Sanchez, for her part, told the compelling story of her own gritty upbringing and touted her credentials, as pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-gay rights and more. “I connect with working people and Latinos because that’s who I am,” she said, noting that she was one of the first Head Start kids in U.S.
She called immigration reform “the next great moral imperative of our generation” and advocated a “path to legal status” (not “citizenship”).
Sanchez was well received – although the hall lacked the cheering, stomping, sign-waving troops Harris deployed — but her delivery was unskillful, at times even clumsy, and there was way too much “me” and not enough “we.” Worst of all for Sanchez, when the endorsement vote was tallied, she got just 19% of the 2,139 ballots cast. Ouch.
Which makes Harris the official candidate of the Democratic Party. Almost certainly, in a top-two primary in June, Sanchez’s challenge will be to come in second, ahead of thinking man’s Republican Duf Sundheim who – if his game plan works out – will by then have virtually buried former state GOP chairman and snake handler Tom Del Beccaro. The wily Sundheim even managed to steal a little press over the weekend by showing up in San Jose to generate a couple “in the belly of the beast” type stories.
Calbuzz had more than an inkling that Harris was about to crush Sanchez among the delegates on Friday night, when we ran into Dolores Huerta, the graceful, diminutive giant of the United Farmworkers, outside of the convention hall. We asked who she was backing for Senate and without a second’s hesitation, answered, “Kamala,” dismissing any question that suggested identity politics would determine her vote. (CalBuzz reviews the rest of the California Democratic Convention … including Mayor Eric Garcetti’s and Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s impact on the attendees … here.)