California Democratic Convention Preview: What To Expect

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The 2012 California Democratic Convention is scheduled to roll into San Diego on Friday. The annual convention in California marks the largest gathering of active Democrats from across the state. In fact, this will be the largest gathering of Democrats until September at the Democratic National Convention.

Delegates will be meeting this weekend to amend and adopt the California Democratic Party 2012 Platform. The process was opened for hearings from July through November 2011 and the first draft developed in January. The Platform Committee Meeting will occur on Friday with platform adoption scheduled for Sunday, the Convention’s final day.

Stakes are higher this time around, as it’s an election year and big changes to the California electoral landscape are ensuring this year’s Convention has different tone. Last year’s attendees found the event had a positive and celebratory feeling. It was after all, in the aftermath of 2010’s impressive state Democratic victories, most notably Gov. Brown’s election. This year, California has a new map of legislative districts and open primaries complicating things for a party that was already winning quite easily.

In an Los Angeles Times article on the eve of 2011’s state gathering in Sacramento, Thad Kousser, political science professor at UC San Diego, had an idea of the change in Democratic party dynamics on the horizon, “There are going to be tough, bitter primary battles in 2012 when incumbents get seated in the same district”.

A prediction already seen manifest itself this week, as questions arose concerning strategic priorities over the release of Democratic campaign finance reports, interpreted to some as a power grab by party bosses. Willie Brown came out swinging in his column for the San Francisco Chronicle, blasting Democrats for early endorsements and “freezing out opposition to incumbents in Sacramento”. For an ambitious party looking for the magic two-thirds super majority, issues like these are on the radar of delegates and attendees heading into the Convention.

Despite the work to be done, one of the biggest draws of the Convention is the opportunity for networking with fellow Democrats from around the state. Various workshops, caucus meetings and even late-evening hosted hospitality suite parties will give attendees the chance to meet and speak with other Democrats from diverse backgrounds, over a variety of common issues.

The event is never missing high-profile politicos, with big names expected. Van Jones and Democratic Chairman John Burton will speak on Friday evening. Sen. Al Franken will be speaking at this year’s gathering with the Minnesota Democrat delivering the keynote address to a Saturday dinner event. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is up for reelection this year, will also be speaking at a luncheon the same day.

There are three different ways to attend the convention, as each person receives a credential. These are designated as “delegate”, “proxy-delegate” and “observer”. Credentials are required to attend, which participants can secure through registration and/or paid dues.

The complete event schedule and other information can be found at the California Democratic Convention website.