California election season starts with Democrats convention

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 08, 2014 3:22 PM

By Sharon Bernstein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Democrats on Saturday vowed to restore their two-thirds majority in the legislature and push their statewide success eastward in an effort to retake a majority in Congress.

The pledge at the state's annual Democratic convention came a week after the legislative session ended as two state senators were forced to go on leave under criminal indictments or convictions.

The convention, which effectively kicks off election season, showcased Democratic stars such as California Governor Jerry Brown and the state's Attorney General Kamala Harris as well as featured former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom party leaders are hoping may be able to return to her old job.

"Where else but Los Angeles could you go to find a million registered Democrats?" Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti asked in opening remarks.

Democrats in the most populous U.S. state hold comfortable majorities in both houses of the legislature, the governorship, and all other major statewide offices. In a theme that party leaders hope to export nationwide as a swipe against the deadlocked Congress, which is controlled by Republicans, Democrats hammered on a theme that in California, where they are in charge, action has been taken on key issues including health care, transportation and immigration.

"Democrats get things done," Garcetti said repeatedly in a line that continually drew applause.

Pelosi, taking the podium after party chairman John Burton, blamed Republicans for Congress' failure to act on comprehensive immigration reform and other issues, saying progress would have been made had Democrats been in charge. The needy, Pelosi said, are "invisible" to Republican leaders in the House.

But the success of California Democrats has come in part from a forceful push by Brown to move his party to the political center, efforts that have rankled many in the party's progressive wing.

Earlier on Saturday, R.L. Miller, head of the party's environmental caucus, said party officers had tried to confiscate anti-fracking signs she brought to counter Brown's stand in favor of the practice of injecting water and chemicals deep into underground rock to release oil.

"We support Jerry Brown," Miller said. "We like a lot of things that he does. But climate leaders don't frack."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)