Californians Play a Big Role at Dem Convention - NBC Bay Area
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Californians Play a Big Role at Dem Convention

Seven Californians were scheduled to speak on Wednesday alone at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.



    Michelle Obama Personal Not Political

    Michelle Obama speaks to Democratic National Convention (Published Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012)

    Their speeches may have been somewhat short and perhaps a little canned, but by Wednesday afternoon there was no question that California delegates to the Democratic National Convention had a higher profile than their counterparts at last week’s gathering of Republicans.

    Watch Live: Democratic National Convention

    Seven Californians were set to address the convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and former controller Steve Westly.

    Villaraigosa, the event’s chairman, was scheduled to play a major role, speaking right before a widely anticipated address by former President Bill Clinton.

    The California delegation had good seats in the convention hall and prime placement in a nearby hotel. On the convention floor, a boisterous cry of, "Hello, California," from minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) drew extended applause on Tuesday.

    "California is in the house!," cried Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), addressing the crowd on Wednesday.

    By contrast, the state’s nearly 700 delegates, alternates and hangers-on at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa were housed miles away from the convention hall in St. Petersburg.

    In the Tampa convention hall itself, Californians were seated way in the back.

    Few were asked to speak, and the state became a punching bag for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who slammed Gov. Jerry Brown in a speech to the delegation, and asked why voters had chosen him over rival Meg Whitman.

    The difference comes down to votes - and money. California voters are so reliably blue, experts say, that Republican strategists feel it would be a waste of time and resources to mount a strong national campaign in the state.

    "The Republican Party pretty much ignores California, and I think their convention highlighted that," said Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), who appeared at the podium on Tuesday with a group of Congressional women.

    By contrast, the Democrats want to highlight California's diverse delegation, Hahn said. Having Californians in key positions in the national party operations also helps ensure that the state's delegates will be showcased, she said.

    The Republicans do seek deep-pocket campaign donors in the state, but the state party apparatus is having financial troubles that have forced it to re-structure its operations and lay off some staff.

    By contrast, California provides considerable money and a dependable flood of votes for the Democrats.

    "California just keeps getting bluer," said political scientist Raphael Sonenshein, who heads the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

    A generation ago, Sonenshein said, California was somewhat purple, voting regularly for Republicans in both presidential and gubernatorial contests.

    But now, he said, the GOP lacks strong leadership in the state, and has failed to develop a deep back bench of future Republicans as well.

    "By taking the hard line on taxes and a number of other questions the Republicans have taken themselves out of the debate," Sonenshein said.

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