Gubernatorial Candidates Come Calling

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Jerry Brown and Cara Robin

Some wore Obama t-shirts, a few mourned Hillary’s exit, but the majority just talked about taking back our country from those who took us to war.

Meeting near San Francisco last weekend, representatives to the California Democratic Party Executive Board, planned neighbor-to-neighbor voter outreach campaigns, passed resolutions calling for the elimination of water boarding and torture, and looked to the future – not just in Washington , but also in Sacramento , as gubernatorial hopefuls came calling.

First came San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom addressing the party’s Progressive Caucus, praising the recent Supreme Court decision approving gay marriage, making proud references to his city’s universal pre-school program, and sharing his Sanctuary Outreach Campaign that assures all SF residents city employees will not, unless forced by the feds, cooperate with immigration raids.

Then came Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who was approached by activists, like me, on his way into the main ballroom.

Is it true you’re running for Governor?, we asked.

I am Governor, he said, smiling, acknowledging that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was out of the state – yet again, leaving Garamendi in charge.

Do you think we’ll ever have single-payer? Can’t you just sign Senator Sheila Kuehl’s single-payer health care bill while the Governor is out of town?

Sorry, no. The Governor wouldn’t like that — though Garamendi reminded us he is a big supporter of single-payer and believes expansion of the Medicare program would be the fastest route to universal health care.

During a speech to the full E-Board, Garamendi criticized Schwarzenegger’s proposed half-a-billion dollar education cuts, longing for the days when California enjoyed a robust higher education system and wasn’t 46th on a list of 50 states for per pupil education spending.

Finally, Attorney General Jerry Brown took the podium, blasting No Child Left Behind for its testing-not-teaching focus and lamenting the revolving door of the California prison system, where 75% of those released are back in prison within a year. [Brown is pictured with West LA Dem Club member Cara Robin at an earlier event.]

We need re-entry programs, Brown insisted when I cornered him in the hall.

What we need is parole and sentencing reform, I responded, pointing out that too many are sent back to prison for minor parole violations.

And we need you, Jerry Brown, to reconsider your support for the Three Strikes Law, which can imprison people for 25 years to life for non-violent third strikes.

Brown ducked on the Three Strikes question, saying something about Republican support for tough-on-crime policies.

Speaking of tough on crime, a few of us also suggested Brown talk to former LA Prosecutor Vince Bugliosi (I know Vince, said Brown, know him well.) about his book The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder. Brown could become an international super star if he decided to try Bush or Cheney for war crimes.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also rumored to be interested in the Governor’s job, was nowhere in sight at the Democratic Party’s Executive Board meeting. Villaraigosa, instead, was on a week-long visit to Israel with three LA City Council members, Maria Elena Durazo, the head of the LA County Federation of Labor, and LAX staff. According to the LA Times, an agreement is in the works for an Israeli consultant to provide advice on maximizing security at LAX and purchasing electronic surveillance equipment for the perimeter of the airport.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles , Women in Black, a group critical of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza , is writing letters to the Mayor’s office, protesting Villaraigosa’s tax-payer subsidized trip to a “pariah” nation in the international community.

Back in San Francisco , Middle East policy expert Phyllis Bennis’ – piped in over the telephone – addressed an anti-war forum hosted by the Progressive Caucus. Bennis said there was no reason for the Democratic leadership to be fearful of bringing the troops home. Sure, said Bennis, the day after the House cuts the funding for eternal occupation Fox News will accuse the Democrats of abandoning the troops, but then that moment will pass and Americans will feel enormously relieved that Congress is listening to them and removing their men and women from harm’s way.

On Sunday, the final day of the Executive Board meeting, representatives voted to oppose the Voter First Initiative on the November ballot. After vigorous debate on the redistricting measure, the Party consensus was the initiative, which would redraw assembly district boundaries for state races, might jeopardize seats held by Democrats and empower Republicans with too might a redistricting pen. The Party also voted to oppose a ballot measure that would require a waiting period and parental notification before a young woman can terminate her pregnancy.

marcy-759153.jpgThough the gubernatorial hopefuls grabbed some of the limelight at the E-Board meeting, much of the weekend buzz was over the election of 19 super delegates to the DNC for the 2012 Presidential convention. For the most part, incumbents – such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters and CDP Platform Chair Christine Pelosi — kept their seats, though a few DNC newcomers, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and San Diego Democratic Party Central Committee Chair and progressive Jess Durfee, also were elected.

by Marcy Winograd

Marcy Winograd is President of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles and an Executive Board representative to the California Democratic Party.

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