The largest gathering of 2020 presidential contenders to date will converge in San Francisco this weekend for Cal Dem’s annual convention—another sign of California’s new status as a pivotal primary state.
All told, 14 candidates vying for the highest office in the land will come through the Moscone Convention Center to press flesh with party leaders and activists as they vote on who should succeed Cal Dem Executive Director Eric Bauman after his 2018 ouster over sexual misconduct claims. (Click here to see who’s in the running).
Each presidential hopeful will get 10 minutes to speak at the convention’s general session, and several of them are set to appear at a forum hosted by the nonprofit MoveOn to talk about their “one big idea” they believe will change the country for the better.
The most recognizable faces to state party insiders are, of course, Congress members Kamala Harris (D-Oakland) and Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin)—California’s first elected Dems to run for president in two-and-a-half decades.
At least one candidate plans to swing through the South Bay while he’s in the general vicinity. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders—whose campaign is co-chaired by Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Fremont)— will headline a public rally from 5 to 7pm Saturday at the Arena Green in downtown San Jose.
The San Jose event overlaps with Sanders’ first “grassroots fundraiser and friendraiser” of the election cycle, which is scheduled to run from 6 to 9:30pm in San Francisco, the night before the self-described democratic socialist is set to speak at the convention.
Other candidates planning to court party officials over the three-day occasion are: Julian Castro (who was in San Jose just last week), Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper and John Delaney.
Observers say Sanders’ decision to take the convention stage at the tail-end of the weekend could sway the outcome of the election for party chair.
The first ballot takes place Saturday night, but if none of the contenders get more than half the votes, a second go-around will take place on Sunday. Of the top three aspiring Bauman successors—Rusty Hicks, Daraka Larimore-Hall, Kimberly Ellis—that potentially benefits one more than the others.
According to Politico: “Sanders’ scheduled Sunday speech almost guarantees that Ellis—a Berniecrat with the backing of his Our Revolution organization—gets the boost of an energized grassroots crowd who will stick around to hear their candidate, and may be more motivated to cast round two ballots.”
A lot rides on this kind of mundane intra-party politics. Whoever becomes the new chair gets to helm the most powerful political party in one of the biggest states in the union as we head into a historically consequential presidential election year.