East Bay Democratic Party insiders, including Pamela Price, a campaign aide for 15th Assembly District primary winner Buffy Wicks, and current and former elected city officials from all over Alameda County, in an online message board over the weekend, revealed the possibility that the 15th Assembly District race this November may further a growing schism among Berniecrats and establishment Democrats in the East Bay.
There has been lingering suspicions that the upcoming race in the 15th Assembly District may tear apart East Bay Democrats. The matchup is not fully set between Buffy Wicks, a Democrat with strong ties the national Democratic Party through her work in the Obama White House and running Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign in California, and a likely challenger from the left. The race for the second spot in November is too close to call.
Wicks, the June primary winner who moved to the district two years ago and quickly raised more than $500,000 before the beginning of this year, attracted strong support in the district, winning nearly one-third of the primary vote, but also a very vocal opposition. Berniecrats have already labeled Wicks as “Buffy the Bernie Slayer” for her role in helping Clinton defeat Sanders in the 2016 California primary. Support from advocates of charter schools also greatly added to the vitriol among her detractors during the final months of the primary campaign.
“FYI–here’s the problem with Buffy that I sent to my statewide steering committee,” said former San Leandro Councilmember Jim Prola, who still works closely with various unions. “Note the Charter School money–that eliminates her in my mind.
“Wicks got hundreds of thousands of dollars from the “Govern for California PAC” a pro-charter school committee by former Arnold Schwarzenegger advisor David Crane. We want to endorse whoever comes in second between Dan Kalb or Jovanka [Beckes],” Prola suggested to Alameda County Democratic Central Committee members on the online message board.
“Dems are a ‘inclusive group;’ unless you voted for Bernie… Citizens United is important… unless Hillary needs millions in corporate cash.”–Progessive commenter on the central committee message board.
The issue of Alameda County Democratic Party endorsements is still raw for Pamela Price, the progressive candidate this June who strongly challenged incumbent DA Nancy O’Malley. Despite Price’s progressive values and that of the county party, the central committee endorsed O’Malley last April. Price questioned the local party’s moral authority to continue to make decisions based on a candidate’s financial support.
Pamela Price, who lost a tough campaign last week to Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley is apparently still stinging from the primary defeat and the treatment she received from county Democrats, who did not endorse her last spring.
“Jim, if receiving $50,000 from the White supremacist Sheriff and $10,000 from the Fremont police union while the union president is under investigation for killing an unarmed 16-year old Latina girl & then clearing the cops of any wrongdoing did not disqualify Nancy O’Malley from receiving the Committee’s endorsement and support, I don’t see where we have any moral or political authority to reject anyone based on who funds them. I’m just saying – let’s at least be consistent if not correct,” wrote Price.
As the divide continues to expand, one of it first breaking points appears to have occurred earlier this year when popular Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s entire slate of 11 delegate candidates for the state Democratic Party Convention were edged out by a band of activist Berniecrats. The phenomenon was not limited to Alameda County, but also other progressive regions in the state, perhaps, signalling a shift to the left for the party’s makeup and its future platforms.
The next battle in this intra-party fight for the soul of the state party appears destined to be fought in the 15th Assembly District this fall between Wicks and either Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb or Richmond Counilmember Jovanka Beckles.
“While I endorsed Jovanka and am rooting for her,” said Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon. “I would go for Dan over Buffy in a heartbeat.”
Dean Wallace, a field director for Wicks’ campaign, who previously worked for Rep. Eric Swalwell, interjected campaign talking points into the conversation, touting Wicks’ past work in the anti-war movement, fighting Walmart and helping pass Obamacare. But the Berniecrat wing of the central committee, nonetheless, appeared deeply skeptical of her progressive credentials.
“Buffy ‘the Bernie Slayer’ is the total and complete opposite of a unifying candidate,” said Cullen Tiernan, a former Fremont council candidate and progressive. “She appears to be the embodiment of big money, coupled with powerful friends, purchasing a seat.”
Prola piled on Wicks. “Interesting, I believe Walmart wasn’t quite slayed, and the election she worked in 2016 wasn’t quite a win.” In the event, Beckles, an African-American, faces Wicks in November, Prola suggested the local party support her campaign after passing on endorsements for Price; Irella Blackwood, a candidate for Alameda County auditor this June; and Kimberly Ellis, who nearly won the race to become the next leader of the California Democratic Party.
“If it ends up being a Jovanka vs. Buffy [race], it would really hurt to see us use our influence to work against another African-American woman after what we did to Pamela Price, Irella Blackwood and Kimberly Ellis,” warned Prola.
Cheryl Cook-Kallio, an assembly candidate two years ago in the 16th District and mayoral candidate this fall in Pleasanton, along with Crystal Araujo, president of the South Alameda County Young Democrats, attempted to knit the fractious groups back together, although, to no avail.
“If everyone in this thread truly cared about money in politics, we would be focused on overturning Citizens United,” she wrote. “Instead we continue to tear each other down and target any public servant for trying to survive and do the right thing against the Trumps & Cox. We need numbers in November not bickering. We need turnout and unity.”
Added another commenter, “Dems are a ‘inclusive group;’ unless you voted for Bernie… Citizens United is important… unless Hillary needs millions in corporate cash.”