California Democrats Rally Around Common Themes

The fundamental themes of the Democratic Party echoed throughout the San Diego Convention Center on Saturday, day two of the 2012 California Democratic Convention.

Speaking to the economic state of California, State Controller John Chiang identified financial education, a quality Board of Directors, health care reform, deep retrofitting, and job creation within the state as a “strong recipe for California’s future success.”

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CA Governor Jerry Brown speaking at the California Democratic Convention, Saturday Feb. 11. Photo credit: Benjamin Wong, IVN

Governor Jerry Brown took to the stage shortly after, discussing the need to cut back testing in schools and let “the people who know about teaching, teach.” He glossed over the high speed rail controversy, defending it as “better than the alternative.” He also touched on the Dream Act for illegal immigrants, but his speech was completely devoid any discussion of his proposed tax initiative. Competing with two other tax proposals, Brown’s tax initiative would temporarily raise the state sales and income tax.

Seeking reelection for a fourth term, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein put the re-election of Barack Obama as the first order of business in her luncheon speech:

“We must re-elect a man who restored America’s image abroad, who saved the American auto industry and who has worked tirelessly to bring America back from an economic crisis he inherited.”

She included affordable healthcare in the Democratic agenda, in line with the earlier statement from Rep. Nancy Pelosi that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. She asked for support on her proposed amendment to ban the detainment of citizens on U.S. soil, calling the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a “stain on America.”

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaking at a luncheon at the California Democratic Convention on Saturday, Feb. 11. Photo Credit: Benjamin Wong, IVN

While joining fellow Democrats in praising the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling against Proposition 8, she criticized the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for taking away 1,100 federal rights from same-sex couples. Lastly, she spoke to the importance of a Democratic victory in the six districts with vacated Republican seats; seats singled out by Pelosi as critical in her effort to win back the House.

The afternoon took on a different tone, with passionate speeches by Attorney General Harris and Lt. Gov. Newsom, both speculated by the Los Angeles Times to be the future leaders of the Democratic Party. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom took the stage first, touting the Middle Class Scholarship program introduced by Assembly Speaker Perez earlier today. The legislation would make education more affordable for middle class families and “insure access to college to every Californian who earned it,” said Newsom.

Attorney General Kamala Harris followed, defending her decision to include California in the multi-state mortgage-abuse settlement with banks. According to Harris, the settlement will bring $18 million back into the state of California. Paying little notice to the Republican candidates, she instead focused on the Democratic vision for America. She fired up the crowd, emphasizing the recurrent themes of the middle class, public education, environmental protection, marriage equality, rights of women and immigrant communities, and healthcare.

Speaking to the Democrats at a dinner reception, Sen. Al Franken inspired the crowd with a mix of passion and humor. Calling on innovation, education, and infrastructure to pave the way for success and recovery, his push for innovation mirrored Gov. Brown’s plea earlier today for innovation in the area of alternative energy.

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Protestors gathered outside the San Diego Convention Center Saturday, Feb. 11. Photo Credit: Benjamin Wong, IVN

Amidst the politicians and delegates, young students and activists came from all around California to participate in the convention as well. While some are active members of the California Young Democrats youth arm of the Democratic Party, others campaigned for the competitive Congressional race between Berman and Sherman in District 30.

We asked Young Democrat Zachary Mullings, a member of the club “College Democrats” at the University of California, Santa Cruz, what brought him to the convention:

“I come here every year as a member of the club. I want to help other people get involved in politics and learn more of my responsibilities in the party, especially at the local level, because we usually just hear big national news.”

Occupy San Diego protestors also made an appearance today. Gathering outside of the Convention Center, they held signs challenging war, the National Defense Authorization Act, and reaffirming their original message against unfair wealth distribution in America.

Tomorrow, Democrats will announce their positions on the June Propositions, ratify their pre-primary endorsements, and adopt a party platform. Gearing up for the uncertainty of tomorrow’s debates, however, one thing seems sure: the Democratic Party’s unwavering support for Barack Obama.