Keeping California Democrats strong
by Eric C. Bauman
The Democratic Party is at a critical juncture in its long evolution.
The election of Donald Trump ushered in one of the darkest periods in our nation's modern political history. Many across our state and the nation are frightened, and they are right to feel that way. In just a few short weeks, Trump has proved that he intends to make real all of our worst fears.
In this new era, it is not enough for our Democratic Party to be anti-Trump. We must unite around a progressive agenda that will encourage the newly mobilized activists who energized Bernie Sanders' campaign and who turned out by the millions for Women's Marches.
The successes of the Democratic Party in California are a roadmap back to power for Democrats nationally – and we must ensure California remains a beacon of hope for our brethren nationwide. That is why I am running to be the next chair of the California Democratic Party.
As an openly gay man who has been with my partner for nearly 35 years, ensuring that California remains a leader on LGBT rights is deeply personal to me. I have been in the trenches of this struggle for decades, serving as president of Stonewall Democratic Club through most of the 1990s and helping to found what became the National Stonewall Democrats. My husband, Michael Andraychak, and I are keenly aware that if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns marriage equality, the law of the land in California is the hateful Proposition 8.
As a registered nurse who spent many years working in inner-city emergency rooms, I am deeply committed to seeing California enact single-payer universal health care. This commitment is not a new policy stance for me. I was part of four different legislative efforts to bring single-payer to California over the decades, but I believe that the carnage to which the GOP is leading our nation represents a defining moment where California should declare itself a "health care sanctuary" state.
One of the most frequent attacks against me is that people view me as the "establishment" candidate, often comparing my decades of preparation for this job to the way Hillary Clinton touted her resume as a reason to elect her president. Trust me, I am well aware that experience alone is not a reason to vote for someone.
But I also reject the notion that experience doesn't matter at all. When I became chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party in 2000 (an unpaid, elected position representing the largest local jurisdiction of Democrats anywhere in the nation), we had a $50,000 annual budget and one half-time employee. Through building strong partnerships with our allies and innovative programming, I built that organization into a cutting-edge political party with a $1.7 million budget and six full-time staff. Our campaign operations have received more than 20 national awards for social media, vote-by-mail solicitation, internet advertising, grassroots organizing, literature, and direct mail (http://www.lacdp.org/campaignawards).
Throughout this time, I have been committed to identifying new areas of growth within our party, most notably, through supporting the red and rural areas of our state. For almost two decades, I have traveled the state providing guidance and inspiration to local activists in the farthest flung corners of California. I brought urban legislators together with rural activists to successfully garner support for policies that never before received the necessary backing. In 2005, I launched the Red Zone Program at LACDP to deliver substantial campaign services to those who run for office in deeply Republican districts in Los Angeles County and elsewhere – who are all too often ignored, maligned, and under-resourced.
I truly believe the grassroots are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and the reason we have been so victorious in California. Nothing is more effective than one passionate volunteer looking a voter in the eye and speaking from the heart about an issue or candidate they believe will make a difference. That's why I authored the plank that greatly reduced the ability for elected officials to affect local endorsements and increased the number of grassroots delegates elected at the California Democratic Party, a process many Sanders supporters effectively organized around this year to gain a significant foothold in our party – by some reports winning more than 600 slots among the approximately 3,400-person strong membership of the CDP.
The revitalizing energy these activists bring will help push California Democrats to even further heights. Over the last eight years that I have served as CDP vice chair, we have won every statewide race two cycles running, and even against last year's Republican takeover across the country, California Democrats held every Congressional seat and picked up enough seats in our state legislature to win a vital two-thirds supermajority in both houses.
But winning races is not our end goal. True victory will come as California continues to be the nation's leader standing up to Trump, fighting for immigration, the environment, climate change, workers' rights, criminal justice reform, supporting the middle-class, reducing poverty and income inequality, ensuring fair taxation, and upholding our commitment to the health and education of all of our people.
I look forward to serving as the next chair of the California Democratic Party, where I will always engage with our activists, leaders, elected officials and institutional partners to ensure that our state remains a shining example of how politics and government can be vehicles for good, for generations to come.
Eric C. Bauman is the vice chair of the California Democratic Party and chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.