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    The January Election You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

    By Peter Gallotta–

    Democrats rule the roost in California. There are few other states in the union that arguably bleed as blue as California does today. Almost every state elected officer from Governor to Secretary of State to Treasurer is a Democrat. In the California state legislature, Democrats recently won a supermajority in both the State Senate and the Assembly. Even remaining Republican strongholds like Orange County flipped blue during the midterm elections in November. Today, of California’s 53-member Congressional delegation, a whopping seven are Republicans.

    The California Democratic Party (CDP) has become one of the most influential and well-oiled Party machines in the country and plays a formidable role in ensuring ongoing blue victories up and down the state. Most Democrats in California likely don’t know much about the role that the CDP plays in our electoral process, and the influence it carries. Yet, this month, Democrats throughout California have an opportunity to shape its future through a mostly unheard-of election called the Assembly District Election Meeting or “ADEM.”  

    The CDP is made up of roughly 3,000 delegates who get to decide on which candidates get endorsed, what the Party stands for, and how it governs itself. Of these 3,000 delegates, roughly 2,000 are either Democratic elected officials or appointed by elected officials and Party leadership—often making them beholden to the political beliefs of their appointing officer. The remaining 1,000 delegates are elected at the ADEM elections, which are held every two years in January in every Assembly District in the state (there are 80). These are the delegates beholden to you.  

    This year’s ADEM election will take place either on the weekend of January 12–13 or 26–27, depending on the Assembly District. On that day, registered Democrats in that District will be eligible to vote to elect seven female-identified and seven non-female-identified delegates, along with one delegate to represent the District on the Party’s Executive Board.

    But don’t confuse this kind of event with your typical Election Day. There are no polling locations in your neighborhood and you can’t get your ballot mailed to you. Voting is strictly limited to two hours on a weekend morning, and you must vote in person (there’s no online option).

    It’s no surprise then that the ADEM elections have long been considered something that only Party insiders participated in. And where’s the democracy in that?

    Well, two years ago in the wake of Trump’s election and a fractured national Party, beleaguered Democrats throughout California saw an opportunity to change that. It was time for the Democratic Party base to take the reins and set an agenda to make the Party more accountable and representative of the needs and interests of us—the rank and file, and not just the established insider interests.

    Two years ago, I was one of hundreds of people throughout the state who threw my hat in the ring to run for delegate to the California Democratic Party. I ran as part of a slate of other “Reform Democrats” to represent Assembly District 17, the east side of San Francisco, with a clear agenda: get corporate money out of our party, fight for Medicare for All, and expand rent control throughout California. And with support from other San Francisco Democrats, I won.

    This year, I’m proud to be supporting a new crop of “Reform Democrats” who are running on a bold and progressive platform of change that includes free childcare and community college, public banks to fund the Green New Deal, strengthening unions and sanctuary for all refugees and immigrants.

    The 14 candidates I’m supporting are: Shanti Singh, Mia Satya, Kitty Fong, Jane Martin, Gloria Berry, Lorraine Bowser, Gloria Archuleta, Kevin Ortiz, Bahlam Vigil, Zhihan “Han” Zou, Brad Chapin, Otto Pippenger, Gabriel Markoff and former Supervisor John Avalos, who is running for the party’s Executive Board. They reflect a broad coalition of groups including the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, the Latino Democratic Club, SEIU Local 1021, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the SF Berniecrats, and already have the endorsement of Supervisor Jane Kim, San Francisco Democratic Party Chair David Campos and former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

    If you are a registered Democrat and live in Assembly District 17, join me in voting for the “Reform Democrats for Labor & Equity” slate on January 12, 10 am–1 pm, at the Women’s Building on 3543 18th Street, just a few blocks from 16th and Mission BART. To find our more information about the slate members and progressive candidates running in other Assembly Districts, visit: https://www.adems.vote/

    The truth is that the Democratic Party can and should be far more than an organization of insiders or a political machine that only endorses and fundraises for elected officials and candidates. It can be a vehicle for holding elected officials accountable on issues, for pushing a more progressive policy agenda and for building political power amongst grassroots activists throughout the state. That’s what makes it both democratic and powerful.

    The newly elected Democrats in the House and the return of San Francisco’s own Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House are a turning point for the Democratic Party nationally. Many of these newly elected members know that the Democratic base wants to see them deliver a progressive agenda for the American people.

    If we’ve learned anything from 2016 and the midterms in 2018 it is that when we show up and when we organize, we can win. For the sake of our democracy and our Democratic institutions like the CDP, we can’t rest on our laurels and hope for the best until 2020 comes around. Because as goes deep blue California, so can go the nation. Let’s keep organizing to win in 2019—starting with the ADEM.

    Peter Gallotta is a 30-something LGBT political activist holding on to the city that he loves thanks to rent control and two-for-one happy hour specials. He is a former President of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and currently serves as an appointed member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party.