Speaker after speaker approached the lectern during the California Democratic Party Convention held at the Los Angeles Convention Center to castigate Gov. Schwarzenegger for advancing controversial proposals that have infuriated traditional Democratic supporters.
Over 1,900 party activists attended the event earlier this month to network and send a strong message that Democrats will fight the governor and his proposals.
Larry Caballero, a state executive board member for the California Democratic Party, said that this year’s convention was much more exciting than last year’s.
“First of all, we’re not dealing with a recall election where we lose our Democratic governor only to be replaced by a second-rate actor who turns his back on teachers, nurses, firefighters and law enforcement officers,” Caballero said. “At this convention, delegates are more confident that the ‘governator’ can be defeated by several well-qualified candidates.”
“Democrats were united and energized at this year’s Democratic State Convention,” said Frank Barbaro, the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. “Last year, Democrats were still dazed from the recall and Schwarzenegger’s extraordinary popularity. Now we see the public has chilled to the governor and Democrats are energized.”
Every major political player in the California Democratic Party, including the three gubernatorial hopefuls, attended and spoke at the convention. Attorney Gen. Bill Lockyer, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and former Gov. Jerry Brown, among others delivered speeches that brought delegates to their feet.
Phil Angelides, California’s treasurer, also spoke, deriding the governor for pursuing a costly special election that will take his proposals directly to the people.
“[We] demand Governor Schwarzenegger drop his plan to spend $70 million … on an unnecessary special election,” he said.
The highlight of the convention was the appearance of former presidential candidate and currentDemocratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean who specifically addressed Democratic Party unity, saying he has been pleased with what he has seen in the last few months.
“People used to say the Democratic Party was really not a party, just a collection of special interests. That isn’t true any more,” Dean said. “The future of the country is threatened. We’re going to do what we have to do to make sure America gets back on the right track again.”
The hot topic of higher education came up frequently.
“The governor has let down higher education,” Barbaro said. “He has reneged on his promise to restore over $200 million from community colleges that he ‘borrowed’ from the system last year. His unwillingness to consider revenue increases to ensure that the wealthiest Californians pay their fair share of taxes will ensure tuition increases in the future.”
Barbaro also said that Schwarzenegger has almost doubled community college fees and raised tuition at both the Cal State and UC systems while trying to block qualified students from enrolling at UC schools.
“It’s time we Democrats work together to elect a Democrat to the governor’s office,” said Rima Nashashibi, a vice-chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. “Schwarzenegger’s opponents have challenged him in court, and others have run television ads against him. I think he’s in trouble and the polls show that,” .
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa also spoke, echoing sentiments of other speakers, to an energetic crowd Schwarzenegger once dubbed “girlie men.”
Next year’s annual convention will be held in Sacramento in July.