Local pols impressed by presidential hopefuls

This year’s Democratic state convention in San Francisco offered a select group of party regulars a sneak preview of Democratic campaign themes.

Included among the 3,400 delegates at the May 31-June 2 convention were local elected officials and party workers, from former city councilmember Mickie Luna to Robert Rivas, Assemblymember for District 30.

“It was a very exciting time,” Rivas said. “There’s a lot of energy, and I’m optimistic that we’re going to move forward.”

Old and new wounds still emerged at times at the convention, with the old guard and the new guard staked out competing claims for the party’s future, even in a state where Democrats hold an overwhelming dominance.

California in 2020 will be an early voting state, meaning primary balloting begins in February 2020, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. This new position enhances California’s role in the presidential election, making it more pivotal for candidates looking to pick up delegates.

That fact attracted 14 of the 23 Democratic hopefuls—including all of the frontrunners except former Vice President Joe Biden—to the convention in San Francisco.

The timing of ballots in the state isn’t the only thing that has changed for the Democratic party in California. Sexual assault allegations against Eric Bauman, former chair of the state Democratic party, forced him to resign last November, and the convention tapped Los Angeles labor leader, Rusty Hicks as the new chair with a solid majority.

Rivas attended the San Francisco convention and supported Hicks in the chair election.

Rivas told the Free Lance he was looking forward to “really working with [Hicks] that the California Democratic party extends beyond San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

Luna also voted for Hicks to be the California party’s new chairperson. She said she had appreciated him taking the time to come to Hollister and felt he really wanted to help all California communities.

Rivas said he believed that California’s new position as an early voting state made presidential candidates focus more intently on the issues that California is facing.

Luna said she was impressed by the speeches of Sen. Kamala Harris, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. She was especially taken by O’Rourke beginning his speech with two minutes of uninterrupted Spanish and said he received a warm welcome at the meeting of the Chicano Latino Caucus.

Rivas didn’t endorse a candidate, but said he was impressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren over the weekend. He told the Free Lance he was looking for a candidate who was going to take the time to address some of California’s problems and work to mend the relationship between California and the federal government that has been fractured during the Trump administration.

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