Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigning in 
California last fall.

Hillary Clinton’s defeat last November revealed glaring cracks in the Democratic Party that might otherwise been glossed over if she had won the presidency. In many ways, the rise of Bernie Sanders and his populist message has reinvigorated the grassroots, even in the East Bay, where progressive principles have always stood front and center.

This weekend, Democrats, including activists inspired by Sanders’ campaign, have their first shot at bringing the tangible change to the party that they say is sorely needed. Politicos all over the state will elect seven men and seven women in each Assembly district during elections held this Saturday and Sunday.


In many cases delegate slates backed by local assemblymembers have a sizable advantage in these races, which are often filled with party insiders and union stalwarts. But in numerous cases across the East Bay, party outsiders with a vision of implementing Sanders’ ideas are hoping to change the status quo at the state Democratic Party level. Two candidates for delegate seats in 18th Assembly District representing Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro believe the area’s progressive leadership is quite satisfactory, but could be better.

Mindful that all politics is local, Alamedans Dan Wood and Gabrielle Dolphin believe realigning the national Democratic Party starts in the East Bay. “California needs to lead us in a progressive direction, but the East Bay needs to lead California. So we really are the epicenter,” said Wood.

To do this will need more voices demanding change within the state party and this weekend’s delegate elections offers a chance to create the party’s next platforms over the next two year, while hoping to influence others. But neither Wood nor Dolphin want wholesale changes made to the party’s already progressive platform. The impetus is to clear away the party’s old guard and institutional group-think.

“I want to be a voice that offers, if not an alternative to the status quo, then at least an angle at it so it can be shifted,” said Dolphin. “The most critical thing is to not allow the status quo to speak to itself. That bubble must be popped.”

She says many state Democrats insiders wrongly dismissed Sanders voters in the past. It’s a group she believes the party will need in subsequent elections. “They have been ignored, put down, called babies and told, ‘You’re whining’ and that’s flat-out not true,” said Dolphin. In addition, the Democratic Party status quo is stocked with unions, “but labor has their own members to rally. They won’t have time to organize everybody else like we can do,” she said.

While holding up a half-sheet glossy direct-mail flyer paid for by Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s campaign committee, Dolphin added, “But we’re up against this.” One side features a smiley Bonta, while the other details his chosen slate of delegates and their headshots. Some Oakland activists have criticized the slate for its lack of Latino candidates.

Some are friends of theirs and others each helped get elected to local office, Wood said of Bonta’s slate. “I’ve known Rob Bonta for years and he’s a very progressive legislator and any district in the state would be lucky to have someone as progressive as he is. But yet, given the East Bay, he’s not that progressive. He’s the one kind of leading the status quo. He’s more of the politics as usual.”

Wood then pointed to a phrase prominently displayed on the Bonta mailer that declared, “Elect a team who will fight for our progressive values.”

“Notice it says, ‘our’ and not ‘yours’,” said Wood. “I wonder if nobody thought about that or was it a conscious choice?”

The “Groundswell Progressives” slate, which Wood and Dolphin are a part, is also backing Kimberly Ellis for chair of the California Democratic Party. But both repeatedly reject the idea that they and others are trying to continue the divide among Sanders and Clinton Democrats. “AD 18 would be okay with these people,” Dolphin said of the Bonta slate. “We’re doing fine, but don’t let good be the enemy of great or best. The nation is saying the party has to change.”

For Wood, this era of political engagement is far different than his personal involvement more than a decade ago supporting Howard Dean for president. “Now it feels like I have a family of supporters behind me.” Dolphin then interjected: “That’s a gift that Bernie gave to the nation.”

All registered Democrats in each Assembly district are eligible to vote. Same-day party registration also allows residents to vote

AD15 Sat, Jan. 7, 11:30 a.m., Albany Community Room, Albany Library, 1247 Marin Avenue, Albany.
AD16: Sat, Jan. 7, 10 a.m., Lafayette Library, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Lafayette
AD18: Sat, Jan. 7, 9:30 a.m., Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 offices, 1720 Marina Blvd, San Leandro.
AD20: Sat, Jan. 7, 10 a.m., UFCW #5 offices, 28870 Mission Blvd, Hayward.
AD25 Sun, Jan. 8, 10:30 a.m., SEIU Local 521 offices, 2302 Zanker Road, San Jose.

Read full statements from each candidate here

AD15 MEN: Jared Ahmed, Brett Badelle, Lawrence Baskett, Matthew Batterton,Aaron Burgess, Vincent Casalaina, Ben Choi, Melvin Cowan, Charles Davidson, Spike DeClue, Hussain Gilani, Alex Knox, Gregory Lyman, Adrian Mixon, Ian Monroe, Devin Murphy, Jael Myrick, Abel Pineda, Max Porter, Sanjay Ranchod, Stuart Robbins, Julian Sanders, Harpreet Sandhu, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Alfred Twu, Burt Vossen, Matthew Webster, Alexander White, Harry Wiener, Melvin Willis.

AD15 WOMEN: Kori Anderson, Judith Appel, Yelda Bartlett, Wendy Bloom, Becky Opsata, Kathy Chao Rothberg, Lara Cullinane-Smith, Jess Dervin-Ackerman, Erin Fredrick, Lanenna Joiner, Nancy Kerr, Hanna Kerns, Rashi Kesarwani, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Christina Murphy, Zenaida Musto, Suzannah Neufeld, Rachel Neumann, Stephanie Oxley, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, Seren Pendleton-Knoll, Jessica Powell, Katherine Rhoades, Karen Rothblatt, Katrina Saba, Julia Schnell, Joey Smith, Tora Spigner, Joanna Stevenson, Lynn Warner, Betty White, Selina Williams, Rita Xavier.
AD 16 MEN: Greg Bonato, Jeffrey Bowser, Bob Donovan, Leonard Dorin, Ellis Goldberg, John Hall, Aram Hodess, Shawn Kumagai, Robert Naylor, Connor Neill, Jerome Pandell, Scott Rafferty, Robert Seitelman, Karestell Smith, Oswell Smith, Asa Strout, Rob Sturm, David Sucha, Thomas Tellner, Mark Van Landuyt, Andrew Van Wye, Dean Wallace.

AD 16 WOMEN: Valerie Arkin, Amy Chen, Lynna Do, Lily Dorman Colby, Tandra Ericson, Heidi Gatty, Sharon Goldberg, Brodie Hilp, Jamie Hintzke, Alicia Hotchkiss, Anita Johnson, Ann Katzburg, Joan Laursen, Debra Look, Tanya Ludden, Cecelia McCloy, Amy Miller, Susmita Nayak, Melanie Neault, Susan Piekarsi, Rocio Ross, Samantha Rudy, Michelle Smith-McDonald, Kristina Sturm, Sabina Zafar, Renee Zeimer.
AD18 MEN: Josepth Baptiste, Michael Brannan, Evan Combs, Andrew Dadko, Karl Debro, Jeff DelBono, Sean Dugar, Dominick Dorothy, Guillermo Elenes, Michael Fortes, Keith Gibbs, Mike Henneberry, Paul Himmelstein, Tristan Hoffmann, Francis Hummel, Craig Isakow, Philip James, Doug Jones, Mike Katz-Lacabe, Morgan Kirschbaum, Isaac Kos-Read, Steven Joseph, Carter Lavin, Michael Lee, Vincent Leung, Jonathan Mill, Bill Schwulst, Jeromey Shafer, Sean Sullivan, Dan Wood.

AD18 WOMEN: Glenda Cabotaje, Eleanor Casson, Amber Childress, Lisa Cysewski, Gabrielle Dolphin, Kathleen Donohue, Lynette Gailord, Debra Grabelle, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Gray Harris, Pamela Harris, Yvonne Hutchinson, Rabia Keeble, Alyce Lane, Maxine Oliver-Benson, Betty Olson-Jones, Elizabeth Ortega, Erin Poppler, Aditi Rao, Sarah Richardson, Rebeca Sanchez, Pheleta Santos, Mara Schechter, Leah Scheibe, Polly Springhorn, Merrin Stearns, Anne Stone, Mary Vail, Malia Vella, Andrea Warren, Breck Winokur, Tiffany Woods.  
AD20 MEN: Jerry Ahuja, Pavel Buzlea, Rocky Fernandez, Tim Horn, M H Koya, Frederic Morrison, William Pease, Seth Rediker, John Rendon, Gary Singh, Cullen Tiernan, Richard Valle, Andrew Wright.

AD20 WOMEN: Dolly Adams, Barbara Aro-Valle, Shaheerah Bradshaw, Amy Brooks, Sarabjit Cheema,Moira Dean, Raisa Donato, Brannin Dorsey, Michelle Gutierrez-Vo, Michelle Guzman, , Victoria Hudson, Michelle Jenkins, Jennifer Kassan, Rachel Lucas, Miki Nakamura, Jatinderpal Sahi, Diana Silva, Althea Weber-Whitfield.
AD25 MEN Tony Alexander, Chandru Bhambhra, Jitu Choudhury, Darminder Dewan, Tejinder Dhami, Alexander Ellebracht, Rajesh Gupta, Hosam Haggag, Sang Han, Rob Means, Frank Modic, Eric Ostgarden, Romesh Japra, Mahesh Pakala, William Rehbock, John Weed.

AD25 WOMEN Sajni Bhambhra, Alka Bnatnager, Veena Birla, Lorena Chavez, Betty Cole, Edwina Davies-Mendes, Karina Dominguez, Mary Donahue, Janet Giovannini-Hill, Madhu Gupta, Carmen Montano, Reena Rao, Shashi Relan, Rachael Shinno, Angela Tamayo, Sameena Usman, Kathleen Watanabe.