Several Santa Monicans will help steer the California Democratic Party in a more progressive direction.
14 locals formed a slate to run for delegate positions in the state party and 11 were elected Jan. 27 to represent Assembly District 50, which stretches from Malibu to Hollywood. The Progressive Slate included 10 Santa Monicans, including City Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich and Kevin McKeown, Rent Control Board members Caroline Torosis and Anastasia Foster and Santa Monica Democratic Club President Jon Katz.
Three members of the competing Grassroots Slate were elected: incumbent delegate Steve Bott and Santa Monica College trustee Barry Snell and Tamara Levenson, who co-managed the Westside Democratic HQ.
Almost 1,100 registered Democrats voted in an election that has historically attracted only a few hundred voters. Katz said about 1,000 voters cast their ballots for delegates in 2017, driven by an urge to become more involved in the Democratic Party after the election of President Donald Trump.
The new delegates will shape which policies the party promotes as it gears up for the 2020 elections. Katz said he thinks turnout increased in this year’s election because Democratic voters are more invested than ever in the direction of the party.
“When you have a Democratic president like Obama who’s well-liked, it’s easy to get complacent within the party,” Katz said. “Now that we’re in the Trump era, had a pretty divisive primary two years ago between Clinton and Sanders and are entering a primary where we’re going to have more than just two candidates, we have an opportunity to decide what the Democratic Party will stand for, and that’s why so many people were out there.”
The Progressive Slate ran on a platform of healthcare for all, affordable housing, climate change and immigrant rights. Jennifer Barraza, a new delegate who worked on Kevin de Leon’s Senate race, said voters she spoke with were most interested in single-payer healthcare and environmental policies like the Green New Deal.
“We had a strong progressive message and I think that really resonated with voters,” said Sion Roy, a returning delegate and newly elected SMC trustee. “Progressives in California want to maintain our influence on the strongest state Democratic Company in the country because what we say informs the direction of the national party, which is super important as we head into the presidential election.”
Steve Bott, a member of the Grassroots Slate who was elected, said the two slates’ platforms did not significantly differ but each slate represented different parts of the Westside.
“We wanted representation for Hollywood, West Hollywood and Mid-City, mainly because most of the Progressive Slate was from Santa Monica,” Bott said. “We also tried to bring folks pursuing progressive agendas in their communities who weren’t plugged into Democratic politics into the fold.”
Bott said the slate is interested in making future delegate elections more accessible.
“Both slates worked harder to turn out their supporters this year,” he said. “I think turnout will continue to increase, and it’s great for the party because it’s a way to expose people who haven’t been involved in this kind of politics.”