Competition, Not Coronation, Is How the Democratic Party Will Grow

democratic donkey

That could well be the tagline for the contest taking shape for the June 7, 2016 primary for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring US Senator Barbara Boxer. In just two weeks we have already witnessed been several twists and turns. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom has stated he will not run. Billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer yesterday decided the same. And a burgeoning Twitter movement has begun to draft former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa into the race.

la-me-pc-atty-gen-harris-to-announce-us-senate-001Democracy for America and the Courage Campaign recently released a poll taking the pulse of progressive activists. Attorney General Kamala Harris was the clear front runner, but both organizations have called rightly called for a contested primary.

Instead of producing any credible candidates, pot-stirring spokesmen on the Republican side are busy spinning tales of doom and gloom. These so-called “Republican strategists” have been quoted recently as saying multiple Democratic candidates will not only split the vote, but divide Democrats, creating irreparable fissures that will depress turnout in the general election.

The exact opposite is true.

Think back six years ago. The presidential primaries between then-Senators Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 were called– at the time they were happening – detrimental to Democratic unity and the eventual nominee’s chance of winning the general election.

That analysis makes a certain kind of sense. Sides were picked. Barbs were tossed. But the practical, long-term benefit was it forced the Clinton and Obama campaigns to compete in red states where there was no real Republican contest – building organizations, earning local media coverage – that would eventually help Obama win nine states – Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina – that voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

This same effect is possible in California’s red counties with the beneficiaries being local and state legislative candidates.

Turnout will be higher because it’s a presidential election year. A contested primary for the US Senate will serve to further boost turnout. Not just in the Democratic bastions of the Bay Area and Los Angeles, but here at home in Orange County and in other parts of the state.

If Villaraigosa joins Harris in the race, there will be two Democratic candidates that will excite, and more importantly, drive turnout of every Democratic voting bloc.

It’s unlikely two Democratic candidates will face off in the general election, making the June primary extremely competitive.

To advance to the November ballot, both Harris and Villaraigosa will have to stretch beyond their geographic and ideological bases of support. That means competing in our state’s inland counties, developing targeting models based on voter’s affinities instead of party identification, earning local media coverage, and of course, building GOTV operations.

Sharon Quirk-Silva (Photo: Chris Prevatt)
Sharon Quirk-Silva (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

These actions at the top of the ticket will help boost Democratic candidates running in local and legislative races. And this will help Democrats win back the 65th Assembly District seat along with making inroads in areas where Democrats are not normally competitive.

Competition for the Democratic nomination for US Senate, not a coronation, is how the Democratic Party will grow in Orange County and in California. Any hard feelings left over after the June Primary Election will be salved over by the prospect of turning California an even deeper shade of blue.

Summer is coming, and I can’t wait!