Media Gets CADEM Convention Narrative All Wrong

Kimberly Ellis rallies her troops at the convention/ photo credit Amar Shergill

by Sean Raycraft

I Like the majority of the country was in utter shock and disbelief over the election of Donald Trump. Those who know me, also know I was a strident supporter of Bernie Sanders. I felt like he had the right ideas, he had a consistent progressive track record on every issue I care deeply about.

Like many other Sanders supporters I was emotionally crushed after the Democratic primary. Like the vast majority of Sanders supporters (contrary to popular media narratives) I sucked it up, and fought for Hillary Clinton. Not because I thought she was this perfect, godlike paragon of virtue, because she isn’t, but because in life, we do not always get everything we want, especially in politics.

I went to phone banks. I walked precincts in Nevada, it was harder to do than it was for Sanders, because my heart just wasn’t in it as much. I care too much about workers right, feminism, the future of the world and democracy to let my differences with Hillary Clinton allow a right wing government led by an incompetent racist take control of the world’s only superpower. Then November 8 happened.

My journey to the California Democratic Party Convention started in late 2016. I didn’t know anything about the structure or workings of the Democratic Party. I had no idea what the ADEM elections were, what their function was, or why it matters.

For the record, ADEM means Assembly District Election Meeting, and they function similarly to other party caucuses.

Typically, these elections are glorified popularity contests, but this time many candidates and slates put in quite a bit of time, energy and effort into organizing. Citizens in our district were (still are) angry over the results of the November elections and clearly wanted to do something about it.

So, its late November, and I get a call from my friend Josh Jones about this ADEM . I have long been a community organizer, working on issues ranging from workers rights, to sick pay for all working Californians, minimum wage, farm worker OT, housing security and racial justice. Suddenly didn’t have anything to work on.

But what the hell was an ADEM election? Josh and I had worked together on a few of these issues, so I said sure, why not? I started organizing with people I hardly knew at all as part of this takeover of the California Democratic Party with people I hardly knew.

Nurses, community organizers, former Sanders campaign activists, and UCD student activists. I can honestly say these people are the most caring, dedicated, honest and decent people I have ever organized with. We were going to be part of a coordinated, statewide effort to take the California Democratic Party Chair from the established powers that be, to fight the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, and to fight the culture of extreme deference to incumbent elected Democrats.

I have seen this corrupting influence of money in politics up close. Local elected Democrats like State Senator Bill Dodd and Assembly members Cooley and Cooper seemingly care more about campaign contribution checks from the wine industry than social justice and basic human dignity. According to various government watchdog groups,

Senator Dodd received over $125,000.00 in campaign contributions from the wine, beer and alcohol industry in the last campaign cycle. Cooley took nearly 40,000 from the Farm Bureau and from the Wine industry. Cooper took 43,000 from these groups.

Unsurprisingly, they all voted against basic fairness for farm workers when they voted no on AB 1066, which provides a pathway to overtime after 8 hours of work in a day. Fortunately, there were other Democrats who saw the value in basic fairness, and voted yes. The Governor, in his wisdom saw the same and signed it into law.

So, all of us who had never really organized together, came together over the holiday months, and worked our butts off to organize for the January 8 election. Normally these caucuses are placid affairs, with low turnouts. To put it in perspective, in the 2014 round, enormously popular and all around amazing woman,

Marlene Bell ran away with the election with 100 votes for the entire assembly district 4. Her next closest competitor came in with 60 or so if memory serves. On January 8, in the middle of a driving rainstorm that flooded the parking lot and closed roads all over the district, I got 378 votes. Our entire slate of ten candidates got elected. Similar results happened all over the state, where reform slates won, capturing over 60% of the ADEM delegates.
For the vast majority of the public daring to read this, the California Democratic Party awards its delegates into thirds. One third are elected delegates like myself, 7 men and 7 women in each assembly district. There are 80 assembly districts in California, so 1120 delegates, can be elected. One third are selected through Democratic Party County Central committees.

The final third are Democratic Party elected officials and their appointed delegates, on a sliding scale. For instance, State Senate Pro Tempore has 30 appointed delegates at one end, while losing assembly district candidates have 3. The chair of the Democratic Party is a powerful person.

They appoint all the chairs of the subcommittees, and wield tremendous fundraising influence in endorsing candidates, where party funds are allocated and ultimately what the party agenda is.

The two major candidates are Kimberly Ellis, Executive Director of Emerge California, a non profit organization that recruits and trains progressive women to run for political office, and Eric Bauman, Male Vice Chair of the Party and insider favorite. It was commonly accepted that this election was supposed to be a Bauman coronation, not a bitterly partisan affair.

Kimberly Ellis organized at the grassroots, and with the help of veteran Sanders organizers, won 60% of the ADEM delegate seats. I myself am a strong Kimberly supporter, but there are things I like about Bauman. He is ardently pro labor, as am I.

There was a hit piece put out by a political blogger in LA that admonished Bauman for refusing to take his business card, as it did not have a union bug on it. He also personally walked the picket line with the striking CWA workers on Saturday. As someone who is adamantly pro labor, I like that aspect of Bauman, because I like Democrats who stand up for working people.

It is important to note, that both Bauman and Ellis were strong Hillary Clinton supporters. What has not been talked about much in media is how the Bernie Sanders activists are fighting and fighting hard for Kimberly Ellis, a black woman (and one of my favorite people). Despite what you may hear about “Bernie bros”, we absolutely love Kimberly, feminism, and people of color, and are willing to fight hard for them.

Kimberly is the unapologetic pure progressive in the race, who also walked the picket line with CWA workers. On the issues, the two are practically indistinguishable. They both are ardently socially liberal and pro workers rights.

On style of leadership and priorities, they are very different. Bauman is the status quo, and his argument would be that in California, Democrats are doing great. Ellis would point out that in California, there are many bright blue areas and bright red areas, and we need to spend more time and effort in every single county across the state to elect Democrats.

They also differ in leadership style. Bauman is seemingly the authoritarian, the party boss, and has a reputation for twisting arms and intimidating the opposition. Ellis wants to flatten the power pyramid of the Democratic Party in California and bring more people into the decision making process, diffusing the power.

Importantly, Ellis wants to change the culture of extreme deference to incumbent Democratic elected officials, which in turn earned her the ire of the established democratic powers that be.

One of the reasons I ran to be a delegate was to change this culture. The party endorsed Bill Dodd over Mariko Yamada, largely because he was a sitting legislator, combined with his strong fundraising record. Mariko was clearly the better choice for progressives, and had an amazing track record, but the party chose to endorse the sitting legislator anyways after a bitter floor battle at the convention. Needless to say, she would have voted yes on the farm worker bill.

The convention

I am hesitant to call the 2017 California Democratic Party a single convention, because I feel there were really two conventions going on. One for the party insiders, and one for the outsiders, who have elbowed their way in. Friday night, the newcomers held a well-attended dinner, with a full sticker price of 27$, and reduced prices for those who could not pay that amount. Speakers at that event were Congressman Ro Khanna, the California congressman who successfully unseated a sitting Democrat from San Jose, Roseanne Demoro,

President of Nation Nurses United, Dottie Nygard, congressional candidate and challenger to Republican Jeff Denham, and Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner. All these speakers talk about a fiercely progressive vision for California and America, and how simply resisting the Trump and the Republican agenda is not enough. They were all ardent supporters of SB 562, the Healthy California Act, which will create a single payer health care system for California if passed.

By contrast the official Democratic Party dinner hosted at the convention, was headlined by Adam Schiff, who has risen to prominence by becoming the media’s go to Democrat to criticize the Trump administration. I watched the whole speech on YouTube, and I found it rather dry and disinteresting.

It is exactly the kind of thing I would expect to find on MSNBC. A whole lot of talk about Russia, and not much in the way of substantive policy proposals, or economic populism. I did not go to that dinner, but I am told it was a lucullan affair, with a ticket price of well over $100 a plate.

The convention schedule was busy with free events, sponsored by the likes of Gavin Newsom, or the Chairman, or progressive groups. You could go get free drinks, or free ice cream, or even go to a free concert if you endorsed the right candidate.

While I certainly personally have no problem with people having a good time, it offends my political sensibilities to be partying hard at a time when Donald Trump occupies the White House, and the Republican agenda seeks to harm much of what I deem important in political life. Social justice, advancement of humanity, preserving democracy, union rights, gender equality, LGBTQIA equality, and the separation of church and state are all under existential threat from a united Republican government. Seemingly, its a time to put in the work needed to change that situation, not the time for lavish parties.

While reflecting on the extravagance of the Democratic Party in California, I am reminded of a famous quote by Voltaire

““History is only the pattern of silken slippers descending the stairs to the thunder of hobnailed boots climbing upward from below.”

In the case of the Democratic Party in California, I think one foot is wearing the boot, and the other, the slipper, and it remains to be seen which will become dominant over time, or if the Party will ascend the stairs or slide down.

Late Saturday night, the delegate votes were counted. Everyone thought it was going to be a close race. Both sides had good reasons to think they had the votes to win. I was at the Kimberly victory party. She was ahead in the count until the very end, when Eric Bauman pulled ahead in the final count, winning by a razor thin 62 votes out of 3000 cast.

Kimberly still hasn’t conceded the race as of this moment. Her supporters are emotional. We thought we were going to win and had good reason to think so. If you show me someone who is happy about losing, Ill show you someone who didn’t try hard enough to begin with. To my fellow Kimberly supporters, I would quote Joe Hill’s last words and say “Don’t mourn, organize”.

Much of the media has worked hard to build a narrative that California Democrats are uncouth for yelling “F- Donald Trump!” Loudly at the convention, and John Burton flipping the bird. Frankly, I think that is the wrong take away from this convention. The Party is clearly split between the activist class and the leadership class, and the media focuses on the cheap headline.

The party is split on priorities, rhetoric and style, and it is up to the new Party Chair to prevent these political divides from becoming unbridgeable political chasms. Should the future chair of the party read this, I would like them to know I will do my part to elect progressives, hold them accountable and push for a progressive agenda at every level of government.

I would also add they would be wise to make party reform and unity a priority, and that means being inclusive, transparent and democratic. Resisting the Trump agenda is *not* enough for California.

Sean Raycraft is an elected ADEM Delegate in AD 4 and proud shop steward.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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        1. Keith O

          Don, does it hurt that Democrats really look foolish here?

          So anytime you post something about conservatives should my response be:

          “Why do you care?”

          1. Don Shor

            My favorite line from that story:

            Bob Dole was asked by a reporter why he didn’t join Rockefeller in “the salute”. He replied, “I have trouble with my right arm”.

          2. David Greenwald

            And why do you care more than the more important part of this story – the huge split in the Democratic party between the progressives and the establishment.

        2. Howard P

          Don… bad example… to most conservatives, Nelson Rockefeller was a flaming liberal.

          Now, a real conservative, Spiro Agnew, was more erudite and intellectual when he came up with his “nattering nabobs of negativism” quote.  He was too professional to “do the bird”… among his professional creds included “extortion, tax fraud, bribery, and conspiracy. He was charged with having accepted bribes totaling more than $100,000 while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President.”

          He escaped prosecution by resigning as VP.  Opening the door for Gerald Ford (his ‘accidency’ – first president to have never been elected as president or VP) to become VP, and then President when Nixon resigned.  The “tie” is Rockefeller became Ford’s VP, and died almost exactly two years after leaving that office.  Ah, the period from 1968-1977… heydey years for the Republicans!  The first (and so far only) resignation of a VP, to avoid criminal charges; same for Nixon, as President.  Cutting edge, Republicans racked up three ‘firsts’!

          Reports are, Nixon accidentally ‘heeled’ Ford, and said “pardon me”… a few months later, Ford did. [another ‘cutting edge’ first!]

        3. Keith O

          There is a very famous picture of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller flipping off a heckler while campaigning in 1976.

          LOL, Don how many times have you criticized me for pointing at other equivalents from the opposing party?


  1. Eric Gelber

    John Burton may have his own unique style, but I believe his sentiments were shared by most all. Couthness is not always called for–for example, in the face of a federal budget proposal that even Governor Brown–hardly a radical within the party–described as “unconscionable and un-American: Governor Brown Issues Statement on President Trump’s Proposed Budget.

    The Trump administration and the GOP will help unify Democrats on the important issues. Although, unity may be overrated. As Will Rogers said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

    1. Keith O

      Unity?  The DNC turned against many of its own members.

      Of all the weird sideshows in American politics, the one unfolding in a Florida courtroom may be one of the strangest. Largely uncovered by anything resembling the elite political media, a passel of disgruntled Bernie Sanders donors has filed a $300 million class action suit against the Democratic National Committee for $300 million alleging that the DNC defrauded them by rigging the primary process against the Sanders campaign.

    1. David Greenwald

      Much more interesting is the fact that Eric Bauman a long time party operative and heavy favorite was nearly upset by a progressive insurgent in a disputed election and you want to focus on a finger by an 80-something year old John Burton

      1. Keith O

        Ha ha, that’s exactly what do you liberals/progressives do.  It doesn’t matter what Trump does all you focus on is is any of your perceived negatives.

  2. Tia Will


    It matters a great deal what 45 does. During the campaign, when he said that he would protect Medicaid, Social Security and insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, I noted those as positives. As to be expected however, given his loose association between words and actions, is to have put forth zero plans honoring those programs & is backing a budget outline which would gut all three. So where do you see the “perceived positives” ?  I will be more than happy to say so when I think that he has actually made a positive move…..any positive move at all.

  3. Keith O

    Democrats just don’t get it, when they have photos and videos of them acting up like what happened at CADEM floating in the media it just leads to #WhyTrumpWon.

  4. Keith O

    While Democrats are urging their followers to crash and create chaos at Republican town halls here’s how Democrats treat their own protesters at CADEM:

    Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg was set to speak at a party convention but was met by protesters demanding the party — and DNC chair Tom Perez, who was in attendance — cut ties with corporate donors and implement single-payer healthcare.
    The protests angered Burton, who stepped up to the mic and lashed out, saying the Democratic Party had been fighting for single-payer “since before you were born.”
    “Hey, shut the fuck up or go outside,” Burton yelled to the crowd.

      1. Sean Raycraft

        What is more vulgar? A few gestures and a casual bleep you? Or a President who brags about successfully grabbing a woman’s genitals without her permission?

  5. Don Shor

    So, the Sanders supporters just lost a very close election. I’d guess the Hilary supporters can relate to that very well. Just sayin’. I’ve got no dog in this fight.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Here’s another way to look at what happened.  Just as with the Democratic primary, Democratic party insiders worked to squelch the populist progressive uprising in their party.  They want to pretend to be progressives and have the progressive vote while continue doing business as usual – literally, business as usual.  But what they are really doing is shutting out the people who have the energy, the ideas, and the concern for the little guy that the Democratic party is supposed to have.

      1. Ryan Basham

        That’s not at all what happened, but I totally understand why it looks that way from the outside.

        There’s some important backstory, here. First, Eric Bauman is a widely respected progresive activist and Democratic operative, in the best use of the phrase. As chair of the LA County Democratic Party, he’s presided over increases in Democratic voter registrations while most other counties have seen a decrease. As Vice Chair of the state party, he helped lead us to crucial 2/3 majorities in the legislature. Before Ellis jumped in the race, everyone assumed he’d be the next chair, for good reasons.

        Then Ellis jumped in. Those of us who have been around a while–which doesn’t make us bad guys, by the way; we’ve just been fighting for the same things Berniecrats want for longer than they have and learned lessons about how things get done that they have yet to–all generally saw her being drafted into the race by a senior party official who happened to not like Eric, personally. And many of the knowledgable Bernie supporters, both old guard and new school, saw her as co-opting the Bernie movement for her own devices.

        But much of that is inside baseball. I’m just giving you perspectives I’ve heard from several folks.

        The big point is that Kimberly Ellis played dirty. She and her supporters tried to highjack Democratic club meetings across the state, where hardworking everyday people work tirelessly to keep the party moving forward, to force endorsements in her direction. Her campaign tried to propogate the idea that Bauman isn’t the strongest on gay marriage, even thought he IS gay and is married to a wonderul man he’s been with for over 20 years. Someone started spreading this story that Eric is a sexual deviant who not only surrounds himself with a harem of twinks, but had sexually assaulted minors. I don’t remember ever hearing that Ellis disavowed that last one, but she sure as hell didn’t do it right away.

        Also, to be totally honest, Emerge California has not been very successful in getting their candidates elected. GREAT mission and good people, but lame results. Contract that with Eric’s stellar track record and the fact that he was endorsed by every single state legislator who has ever introduced single-payer legislation, and I hope you see that this was not a race about insiders vs. outsiders.

        It’s also a false narrative to paint long time party people as the antagonists in this situation. I got involved in the party in 2004, and the vast majority of the people I know in the same boat take a lot of offense to the notion of being un-progressive or somehow blocking change. The honest truth is, we’ve had enough time to learn that behaving as if change happens overnight is futile, and we’ve made *real* progress with consistent, persistent work. We’d love to be inclusive of the fresh energy in the party, but it’s hard to do that when they come in with sticks and judgments.

        A final word: Ellis demanding a one-sided audit is absurd. Recounts (which this is not, by the way, as the election results are final and her only recourse would be to take this to court, which is a dodgy proposition at best) are ALWAYS observed by impartial people AS WELL AS representatives from each side. I’m not sure it Ellis knows this, but she should. At this point, she’s taking her ball and going home instead of playing team, and it’s a shame. We could really use her leadership to bring the party together.

        1. Sean Raycraft


          Youre clearly not paying attention, and are in fact spreading a wild bunch of lies, particularly with regards to Kimberly denouncing the despicable rumors about Eric. Here is the text of the public statement she released within an hour of Bauman’s email.

          “ear Sean,

          Just like you, I was shocked to read the email Eric just sent out.

          I called Eric to express my outrage and sadness. I was not able to get him live but left a message and hope he will return my call when he is able. 

          These rumors are despicable and there’s no place in our politics for such outrageous behavior and I denounce any such type of cruel maligning of someone’s character.

          While Eric and I have substantive differences, we also have had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time together on the campaign trail. Though there’s certainly a lot of passion on both sides, I’m proud of the mutual respect and courtesy we’ve show each other in our interactions. 

          My plan for the next two weeks of this campaign is to talk about the future of this Party. I hope Eric will join me in doing so too.

          Democratically yours,

        2. Roberta Millstein

          The honest truth is, we’ve had enough time to learn that behaving as if change happens overnight is futile, and we’ve made *real* progress with consistent, persistent work. 

          Yeah, you know, we’ve heard this argument before.  Ad nauseum.  And we’re not buying it.  That’s the part that you don’t seem to understand.  Too often the “progress” has been in line with corporate funders (seen as a necessary sacrifice to keep power and move forward – but when does the moving forward happen?) and at the expense of the vulnerable (who are promised that they will get help later).  I bought the “incremental progress” line throughout the 90s.  Maybe it made sense then; it probably did.  But it’s played out now.  Maybe you might consider whether the time is ripe for new strategies.  You only seem to want to bring in new people if they want to fight things your way.  Consider trying things their way instead of assuming they won’t work – different times, different measure.

  6. Sean Raycraft

    Let’s consider my perspective here. I literally wasn’t involved in the party a year ago. I have extensive experience with street activism, labor, organizing, and workers rights advocacy. I got involved with the party for many reasons, one being the unconciable Dodd endorsement over Mariko Yamada, who is clearly the better choice for progressive politics.

    Bauman, and the political establishment supported Dodd, despite his moral failings, and because of his demonstrable fundraising prowess. This doesn’t mean I don’t like Bauman, I think I have made that clear many times that I have a lot of admiration for the man.

    When you say we come in being judgements and sticks, yeah you’re right. We do. Because asking nicely for things doesn’t cut it in politics, and you ought to know that, as a party insider for more than a decade. We didn’t win 15 because we played nice and accepted the status quo, nor sick time or farm worker OT.

    I was personally threatened by Bauman supporters if I did not support their candidate, or their candidates for party officers. While I don’t hold Bauman accountable for this, it would be ludicrous to do so, it does entrench my antipathy towards the established powers that be within the CDP.

    My final word will be about Maglivio. His hiring as spokesperson for the CDP is frankly, baffling. He’s a freaking union buster, 1%er, and represents much of what I think is wrong about the party. The extravagance, the haughty attitude. The condescension towards activists who want progressive change. Why did Bauman think it would be ok to hire this guy?

    Really super last thing. I went to the convention. I was there, I saw things go down. Don’t presume to lecture me on what I saw, or how things happened. There really were 2 conventions going on, and the split is just as prevalent as it was on Sunday.

    1. Jim Hoch

      “I literally wasn’t involved in the party a year ago”

      Most groups are skeptical of newcomers who want to take over. The Republicans have been fighting the Tea Party insurgency for a decade.

      1. Sean Raycraft

        When I say I wasn’t involved a year ago, that means I wasn’t part of the party infrastructure. I have spent ample time campaigning for candidates and policies I believe in though, so it’s not like I haven’t had contact with these folks

        1. Jim Hoch


          It’s not the same thing. Bernie is quite upfront that he is not member of the Democratic Party so his supporters can only be seen with skepticism. I looked on his website just a minute ago and it says

          “Biography: Bernie Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history”.

          Why would he merit respect in the party?

        2. Howard P

          Jim H… legally, anyone can run in any primary, in many states… likelihood of success is a different matter entirely…

          In CA, independents can vote in Democrat primaries, but not Republican primaries.

          For “true” party nuts, your point is spot on… surprises me a bit though, that CA Democrats reject independent voices… but then again, don’t think Sean is an ‘independent’, nor were there probably any independents part of the Demo ‘conclave’.

          Both parties need to recognize that those who declare themselves independent/no party preference, are growing in number, while both Demo and Republican registrations are declining.  At least as a %-age.


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