Before each special, primary and general election, the California Democratic Party considers the endorsement of candidates for statewide and legislative office. Normally, incumbents are automatically placed on the consent calendar for endorsement by the DSCC, unless petitions signed by at least 20% of the pre-endorsement conference voters object. The State Party endorsement key dates may be found here:
Regions, including our region 20, convene pre-endorsement conferences to endorse candidates in these and other legislative races. The party held a pre-endorsement conference on February 12 to consider an endorsement for the 50th Congressional District because the incumbent, Scott Peters, was pulled from the consent calendar as described above.
Rep. Peters faces challengers from the left in his own party. Peters, who has represented the 52nd Congressional District for nearly a decade, now falls in the new 50th District, which comprises much of central San Diego along with San Marcos and south Escondido in North County, as well as Coronado. Democrats Adam Schindler, a medical researcher and technical writer, and Kylie Taitano, a software engineer, have announced campaigns against Peters.
Eight delegates from the Coronado Democratic Club participated in the pre-endorsement conference to endorse a candidate for the 50th Congressional District, the only race in our community for which a vote was held. Tasha Boerner Horvath is on the consent calendar for 77th Assembly District, and our State Senator, Toni Atkins of the 39th District, won’t be up for re-election this year.
In order for a candidate — or incumbent who has been pulled — to get onto the consent calendar, the pre-endorsement conference vote must be at least 70% — a high bar. Congressman Peters missed that 70% by only one vote. Hopefully, the endorsement caucus will endorse Scott at the state convention — it has a 60% threshold. Rep. Peters’ district now is considered to be “safe Democratic,” and he is highly likely to be re-elected regardless of whether he receives the party endorsement. It would be foolish for the caucus to fail to endorse Peters.
Party endorsement means that Scott Peters will receive party funding for his campaign and also be included on the slate of endorsed candidates. Access to these funds gives his campaign the ability to distribute some funds to other, down-ballot candidates who could use additional help. Without the party endorsement, Peters’ will need to campaign separately from the party and most likely will lack the resources to help other Democratic candidates.
This is a problem with both parties — moderate incumbents are being challenged in primary elections — “primaries” — by candidates with positions that align with the more ideologically extreme wings of their parties. Often it’s because of their vote on a single issue. We can look back to the last time Senator Feinstein ran for re-election and was challenged by Kevin de León, who got the party’s endorsement.
Feinstein crushed de León in the June primary, winning every county and finishing in first place with 44% of the overall vote. De León finished far behind with 12%, which was enough for a second-place finish and a ticket to the November election under the state’s top-two primary system. Of course, Feinstein went on to win re-election.
We have too many “ideologically pure” activists running the party, and not enough mainstream Democrats whose views actually reflect those of average Democratic voters. We often forget that it’s the unaffiliated voters who decide elections, and we need to make sure that we appeal to them.