Alameda County District Attorney candidate
Pamela Price speaking to voters Wednesday 
at the City of Alameda Democratic Club.
PHOTOS/Zac Goldstein


Four prohibitive political underdogs took the stage in Alameda Wednesday night with visions of unseating entrenched incumbents in the U.S. Senate, Congress and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. While their platforms hovered around slightly different points on the far left, there was a unifying message: the state and national Democratic Party is out of touch with own constituency.
“We are the progressive wave,” said Stephen Jaffe, who is challenging Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi next June. “We are here because we are the true believers. We represent the fundamental core values of the Democratic Party. I do not adhere to the politics and programs and the people presently in control of the Democratic Party. They are corporatists. They are centrists and they are elitists. They are not us,” said Jaffe. “It is our job as progressives to band together in this fashion and take back the party from the people who have hijacked it.”

Congressional candidate Stephen Jaffe says
if his campaign makes inroads into Nancy 
Pelosi’s support, it will ignite progressives 
across the country.

Jaffe calls his primary race, “somewhat immodestly,” he adds, the most important in the country next year. If he can make inroads into Pelosi’s support, he said, ostensibly hoping to achieve the momentum that led the Tea Party to topple Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014, it will “send a ripple effect across the country to my fellow progressives,” he said.

A poll released Wednesday bolstered Jaffe’s argument, revealing just 30 percent of Democrats in California want Pelosi to continue as the House Democratic leader.

David Hildebrand, a Socialist Democrat from the Sacramento area, signaled similar tones of dissatisfaction with the status quo, saying his opponent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is out of touch with California voters, for instance, opposing legalization of cannabis and supporting the death penalty. “The energy in this party is with the people with boots on the ground,” said Hildebrand. “I’m not here to burn down the house. I’m here to build the Democratic Party within its own tenets and beliefs.”

At a local level, Alameda County District Attorney candidate Pamela Price, like Jaffe on the national scene, believes her June primary race against Nancy O’Malley is the most important in the East Bay. Judging from the reaction at the City of Alameda Democratic Club Wednesday night, they agree. On numerous occasions Price received wild applause, far more than any other panelist.

“I believe justice done right is what we need in Alameda County at this time,” said Price. “For too long district attorney’s have forgotten that their mission is to protect public safety by advancing justice.”

When an audience members asserted many parts of Alameda County support O’Malley’s brand of criminal justice, he asked how Price would change those attitudes. Price rejected the premise, saying vast majorities of county voters supported two recent state referendums for reducing criminal penalties and jail times, initiatives that O’Malley opposes. “We have an office that is out of sync with the will of the people,” she said of O’Malley.

“We voted overwhelmingly to end mass incarceration. We voted to give people a second chance at a first-class life. That means we want people to have alternatives to incarceration. We want bail reform. We want to stop charging kids as adults. We want to get rid of the death penalty. We know what it means to be a Democrat in Alameda County,” said Price to cheers from the audience. “The problem is the district attorney in this county is not following the California Democratic Party platform.”

Like Jaffe, Hildrebrand, another candidate from the 10th Congressional District, Dotty Nygard, who sent a proxy Wednesday night, Price faces considerable institutional and financial forces against her campaign. Not surprising since O’Malley has never faced an opponent during her two four-year terms and will likely count on the endorsements of nearly every county and city official in Alameda County.

But with wave of progressive energy further strengthened in the East Bay, first, by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign, and then conversely, the election of President Donald Trump, all four candidates are banking that vigilant voter participation will outperform campaign contributions.

“We are in the age of Trump and Ahern,” said Price, while referencing another Alameda County entrenched incumbent, Sheriff Gregory Ahern. “We are a new wave of progressives. This is our time. We have an opportunity to make change where we live.”