California Dems fail to bestow party backing in major races—snubbing Feinstein and Becerra

The California Democratic Party has weighed in on some of the most consequential races on the 2018 ballot with a resounding shrug.

At the state party convention in San Diego this weekend, delegates were split, offering no endorsement in the race for governor. And they rebuffed two of its most prominent incumbents in Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, giving their challengers more votes but not enough for anyone to garner an endorsement.

In a sign that the party base may have moved to the left since 1992 when Feinstein was elected, state Senate leader Kevin de León secured a majority of delegates over Feinstein, who is seen by many party members as insufficiently progressive and anti-Trump—many still haven’t forgiven her for saying last year that she hopes the president learns and changes, and then “he can be a good president.” Still, with no candidate winning over 60 percent, the party did not offer an endorsement.

Attorney General Becerra could not be accused of being soft on President Trump, having launched nearly 30 lawsuits against the administration since being appointed to the office by Gov. Brown last year. Even so, a majority of delegates backed Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones for Becerra’s job. Many delegates see Jones as the more progressive candidate who has been more actively involved in state party building than Becerra, who spent the past two decades in Washington D.C. as a member of Congress.

In the governor’s race, the “no endorsement” results do not call into question Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s front-runner status, but do suggest a more evenly split field within the Democratic rank-and-file. Newsom received the top vote at 39 percent, with Treasurer John Chiang at 30 percent and former state school superintendent Delaine Eastin garnering 20 percent.  Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles who many see as the most centrist candidate in the race, came last with just 9 percent of the delegate vote.

It wasn’t all ambivalence in San Diego. In the race for superintendent of public instruction, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond of Richmond, who has the backing of the state teacher’s union, resoundingly won the endorsement. Thurmond won 89 percent of the vote, while Tuck, a champion of charter schools, won just 5 percent of the vote, coming in a point behind votes for “No Endorsement.”

The party also declined to offer endorsements in some of the most competitive legislative and congressional contests—the races to replace Republican Darrell Issa of Vista and Steve Knight of Palmdale.

Former state Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia, who resigned from the state Senate last week in the face of sexual harassment allegations he has denied, lost his local endorsement vote by a nearly 4-to-1 margin. He said he still plans to run again for his old seat. One contested congressional race was decided on the convention floor: Dave Min was endorsed in the Orange County seat currently held by GOP. Rep. Mimi Walters.

Here’s a breakdown of the vote for party endorsements in statewide races, and a list of candidates who received the party’s seal in legislative and congressional races.

What’s the value of a party endorsement label? We explain.

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