Top Democratic contenders spend day wooing California activists -- minus one
Democratic candidates for president Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren are seen in this composite image.
Kathleen Ronayne and Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, June 1, 2019 4:12PM EDT
SAN FRANCISCO -- More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls flocked to California on Saturday for the chance to make their cases to thousands of activists in the nation's largest liberal stronghold during a three-day gathering of the state party.
California's own Sen. Kamala Harris looked to make a show of force in the prime first speaking slot to kick off the day's main event, and her campaign even emblazoned the official convention lanyards with her name. But it was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who electrified the crowd the most among the early morning speakers, bringing the Democratic party's most faithful voters to their feet repeatedly as she pledged bold action.
"Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses," Warren said in a thinly veiled shot at former Vice-President Joe Biden, who has expressed hope the GOP will have "an epiphany" after U.S. President Donald Trump is gone. "But our country is in a crisis. The time for small ideas is over."
Biden was the only major candidate not attending the weekend gathering, opting instead to campaign in Ohio.
Harris has a deep connection to California voters; she has won statewide office three times, once to U.S. Senate and twice as the state's attorney general. Before that, she was elected as San Francisco's district attorney. In her remarks, she reminded the crowd of their long history together, then brought the crowd to its feet with her call for impeachment hearings for Trump.
"We need to begin impeachment proceedings and we need a new commander in chief!" she declared.
Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided mentioning impeachment in her remarks but said the House would hold Trump accountable.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke also addressed the morning convention, slipping seamlessly between Spanish and English, a key move in a state with a large Hispanic population. He praised California Democrats for their massive turnout in the 2018 midterms, when the party flipped seven U.S. House seats held for years by Republicans and noted that his unsuccessful Senate bid drew record Democratic turnout as well.
"You, California Democrats, have offered the rest of the country an example," he said. "And in Texas we were right there with you."
California has shifted its 2020 primary earlier on the calendar, to March 3, part of the Super Tuesday collection of contests, in hopes of giving the state more sway in choosing the party's nominee. California will offer the largest delegate haul, but it is a notoriously difficult state to campaign in, given its massive size and expensive media markets. While Harris has a built-in advantage, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is also expecting to build heavily on the organization he built in the 2016 contest.
Sanders wasn't scheduled to address the full crowd until Sunday, but he greeted union workers at a Saturday morning breakfast and received an enthusiastic reception Friday night at a meeting of the Chicano-Latino caucus, which endorsed him during the close 2016 contest with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"This time we are going to win California," he declared.
Other candidates attending the gathering: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; California Rep. Eric Swalwell; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; former Obama housing chief Julian Castro; and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.