How Do You Get to Be a Delegate?

It’s happening again!  I’m getting a slew of emails from friends because they don’t have a clue who they should vote for in the upcoming California Democratic Party Delegate election. Like the judicial elections, the average voter is either completely clueless or is only vaguely aware of the delegate process and knows next to nothing about the candidates.

Truth is, unless you’re among the small percentage of Americans who are political activists or political junkies, you probably don’t know much about the upcoming delegate election. Unfortunately, most Americans are oblivious to this process. Yet, this election determines a lot.

Twelve people (6 men / 6 women) from each of the 80 Assembly Districts in California will be elected to represent their district for both the 2011 and 2012 State Conventions.  These elected delegates will have direct access to the Democratic Party, attend the Democratic Convention, elect party officers, endorse candidates for Congress, state legislature, executive office and more. Remember the super delegates who were receiving personal phone calls from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during the presidential primary?  Although some delegates are appointed many of the superdelegates initially got involved in the delegate process by participating in an election much like the elections that will be held this coming weekend. The point being — this isn’t a meaningless exercise. Its results can have long lasting effects on us all.

I wrote an article a couple of years ago about the experience Dick and I had when we ran to be delegates in our assembly district. It’s a funny story. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here. In a nutshell, neither Dick nor I won. But what we discovered was that only about 150 people turned up to vote. This is for a district that has a voting population of over 300,000.  With so few people participating in the process, a candidate only needs to bring a van full of his or her friends (provided they live in the district and are registered Democrats) and that candidate is almost assured a win. Of course, most candidates didn’t do this but some did.

Unlike most elections, this election is about voting for someone who could be your neighbor, someone you have contact with who can carry your message to the party. This is your opportunity to select from a slate of candidates who you might actually know, who you may run into at the supermarket or at the gas station. In other words, this is where representation begins.

So, since there are probably a few of you out there who might find this information helpful, I’ll share with you what I’m going to do to prepare for the election. But before you get way into this, you should know that you have to be a California resident and a registered Democrat as of Oct. 20, 2010 to vote in the election this weekend. There are more delegate FAQs here.

Here is my list of things to do before I go vote:

1) Find the date and location of the election for my assembly district (AD). I already know mine but if you don’t know yours you can find out by clicking here.

2) Review the list of official qualified candidates for my AD that have met the criteria established by the California Democratic Party to run in this election. To see your list click here.

3) Check to see if those candidates are listed as progressives here.

4) Finally, use Google!  This is a great way to learn  more about the candidates, especially the ones you’ve never met.

Another source for good information is the Progressive Slate. This site will help you find your assembly district, explains the process, lists the issues that progressive candidates will take action on. Unfortunately, once again,  California’s prison industrial complex is not listed as a priority issue but that’s a topic for another article.

Also, not all ADs have candidates listed on the Progressive Slate. For example, AD 44 and 45 don’t have any candidates listed on the Progressive Slate but I happen to personally know several progressive candidates in those two ADs. So if you find that your Assembly District doesn’t have any candidates listed on the Progressive Slate website, you probably shouldn’t assume that there aren’t any progressive candidates running in your district. This is where using Google comes in handy.

sharon kyleThe election is this weekend January 8th and 9th at various locations up and down the state. For those of you who want to see the Democratic party adopt more progressive positions, participating in this process is one of the steps you can take to make that possible.  Earlier in this article I mentioned that Dick and I campaigned to be delegates in our AD. We each lost by one vote. Yes, your single vote makes a difference.

Good luck delegates.

Sharon Kyle


  1. Stephanie says

    To follow up to the above comment, I did go to the election (43rd Assembly District) and am really glad I did. I met and talked with the person at the top of the progressive caucus slate, Johanna Olson, so now feel comfortable with at least one of my votes. I wish I had spent more time on research or met more candidates beforehand, because the local party election is the place to get connected to the process. The grassroots level has to be the place to start effecting change, because top down sure isn’t working.

    The local elections ballot also includes a place to vote for the district’s representative to the state party’s executive board, an important office.

    • says

      Thanks Stephanie — I’m glad you went and you brought up an important point that I forgot to mention in the article which is the party’s executive board election. I’m going to have to remember to write more about these topics.

  2. Natalie says

    Thanks for posting. Too bad the election for my district was yesterday! Either I haven’t been paying attention, or the Dems do a really poor job of getting the word out about these elections. Until I read your post, it was a complete mystery to me.

    • says

      Sorry Natalie — Sometimes I wonder what percentage of insiders are happy that most people don’t know about this. Hopefully you’ll be ready two years from now

  3. Diane says

    Thank you. I would not have known about this if not for your article. I’m heading out to vote (for an LA Progressive writer who is on the ballot) in a few minutes.

    • says

      Diane — Thank you for letting us know. I was thinking that if at least one person was made aware and took action as a result of reading this article, then taking the time to write it was worth it. You made my day.

  4. GaryH says

    Thank you for posting the link to the progressive slates.

    But I’m really annoyed that my district only has a 2 hour window of “oportunity” to vote, from 2 – 4 on Sunday, District 43 (Mike Gatto, assembly person)

    Some districts even have both Saturday and Sunday open.

    And I only started getting notices about Wednesday.

    I have a nagging feeling this is set up for insiders in the know and not a very democratic process.


  5. says

    This is a great article and I encourage the readers to get ACTIVE and involved by attending the vote for your Assembly District. Without the ground level action provided by the Democratic Party infrastructure we are powerless. If you want to have an influence on the direction and priorities of your party, this is the place to start! Now go do it!

  6. says

    Thank you Dick & Sharon!!! The Progressive Slate in the 47th AD will be facing some FIERCE competition this Sunday – WE NEED YOU!

    If Karen Bass was your Assembly member these last four years or if Holly Mitchell is your Assembly member now, you live in the 47th AD & we need your help! Please come support the Progressive Slate!!!


    Sunday, January 9, 2011
    Registration Opens: 1:00 PM
    Meeting Begins: 3:00 PM
    [YOU MUST BE IN LINE BY NO LATER THAN 3PM to get your ballot!]

    Veteran’s Memorial Building
    [Multi-Purpose Room / Former Teen Center]
    4117 Overland Avenue
    Culver City, CA 90230

    I hope that wherever your readers live they will follow the links in your article, and go to support Progressives everywhere this weekend!

    • says

      Please spread the word by using the “share” features we’ve placed on this website. This article, or any of the other articles here, are easily shared in a variety of ways. Click “share” at the bottom of an article and follow the instructions. We get upset that the progressive agenda isn’t on the table but we have to do more to push it forward. The least of which is to get people to read this stuff and become educated on the issues. Much luck to all.

  7. The Supportive Progressive says

    As a soon to be former CDP Delegate of 6 years I want to say to you… Have fun storming the castle… good luck. I think your efforts will be laudable being a delegate, it is a to be considered an important part of our democracy. The only real problem is, the game is rigged against progressive delegates in the party as long as the rules stand as they do.

    You will only become 1/3 of the voting members of the CDP…. the others are appointed by elected politicos and those who have run for office, failed to be elected, and the misc. local party groups… yes you can see a bit more than 1/3 progressives but the game is still rigged. Now don’t get me wrong, a great many good people are in the CDP, and they mean well and will support a great many efforts to effect change, but it is important that you go in with your eye’s wide open.

    Read the Progressive Plan by Brad Parker and Ahjamu Makalani, a tool designed years ago to change the party from within.

    It worked to change the Platform the last few years but no Elected ever had to read it let alone support it. Silly huh?

    The power in the party is still and always will be with the folks who put up the money and that isn’t you. I’m telling you this to prepare you for the reality to come, and perhaps to allow you to find ways to fix the system.

    If you want to see the history of the last 8 years of Progressive efforts within the CA Dem. Party by hard working Progressives from within, I highly recommend reading “Left Turn Only” by Brad Parker:

    All efforts to effect substantive change in our Democracy will always lead to Clean Money/Voter Owned Elections. All other efforts will continue to support the Plutocratic powers that be in Washington. But as they say… change begins at home.

    Enjoy the ride.

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