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    Important Groundwork Being Laid Now for the November 2016 Elections

    zoeWhat’s a delegate? Why should you care? What does that have to do with anything?

    Those who have been immersed in Democratic party politics long enough probably know the answers, but I find the average San Francisco voter doesn’t fully understand all the “stuff” that happens in the background that impacts who has a better or worse chance at getting elected to public office. I know I didn’t fully understand it five years ago when I first became involved in local politics. So my column this month will be part tutorial (and editorial) and also give a perspective on how the winds are currently blowing for future key state-level races in 2016. Seems a long way away, but the groundwork is being laid now and you should pay attention.

    Winning elected office in San Francisco and California requires a lot of things. One obvious thing is money for campaign staff and campaign collateral (mailings, yard signs, advertisements, billboards). It also requires a solid field organization—volunteers willing to phone bank, go door to door to talk to voters, provide visibility at heavily travelled intersections, or drop literature at the doorsteps of likely voters. The final key criterion for success involves collecting endorsements.

    Many voters don’t have the time or energy to research every candidate and every ballot proposition, especially in busy election years. Instead, they rely on the recommendations of organizations they trust, or align with philosophically or politically. They will take the “slate card” they received in the mail (with the list of endorsed candidates from their favorite club or group) to the polls with them and use that tool as a reference as they cast their votes. Perhaps many of you readers do the same thing.

    Of all the endorsements out there—Democratic clubs like Alice B. Toklas or Harvey Milk, or issue-driven organizations like Sierra Club, or unions like SEIU 1021—there is one that has arguably the furthest reach and carries the heaviest weight. That coveted endorsement is the official endorsement of the Democratic Party. For city and county offices—Mayor, District Attorney, Board of Supervisors—these endorsements come from the San Francisco County Democratic Central Com-mittee (DCCC). It currently has 32 seats. These consist of 24 seats that the city’s Democratic voters elect every 4 years (full disclosure, I am one), and the remaining 8 seats are Ex-Officio members. The individuals are state or federal elected office holders who reside in San Francisco (e.g. Dianne Feinstein, Assemblymember Phil Ting). If a city/county candidate wants the Democratic Party endorsement, they need to convince those 32 members to support them.

    For state-level district offices (State Senator, Assemblymember), the numbers expand quite significantly, to the neighborhood of 90+ delegates from San Francisco County and several hundred for statewide office. For these races, a candidate relies on the votes of the Democratic State Central Com-mittee (DSCC) delegates. The DSCC has generally three sources for delegates. Each county’s central committee (DCCC mentioned above) has a certain number of delegates they send (SF has 29); each federal and state official and Democratic party officer has appointments they can make (e.g. Mark Leno or Nancy Pelosi); and the third source provides more grassroots delegates. Twenty-eight “ADEM” delegates are elected in caucuses held every two years where registered Democrats come on a Saturday or Sunday morning and vote for those they want to represent them on the DSCC.

    These ADEM caucuses took place last month and the outcome was not random. Assemblymember David Chiu, who will be up for reelection in 2016, and Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is widely rumored to be planning a run for Mark Leno’s Senate seat when he is termed out in 2016, put together their own slates and were successful in getting elected supportive people for the vast majority of these 28 delegate seats. The DCCC delegates appear to have a majority supportive of Chiu and Wiener. Finally, those that are appointed by state and federal officials are loosely required to vote as they are directed by the elected official who appointed them. David Chiu has taken over Tom Ammiano’s delegates, so you can count on a shift from more progressive to more moderate delegates from that source as well.

    All this is to say that the groundwork is being laid out now for the November 2016 elections, and it appears David Chiu and Scott Wiener already have a head start on securing the delegate support necessary to claim the coveted “Endorsed by the Democratic Party” stamp of approval in 2016. The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, for which Scott Wiener previously served as Co-Chair, and which went all-in on endorsing David Chiu for Assembly, gained some substantial power and influence with these moves and appointments. A significant number of DCCC and ADEM delegates are current or former members of the Alice Board of Directors. In the end, this means the LGBT Community will have a powerful voice in the Democratic Party, and a strong influence on these upcoming elections. Stay tuned!

    Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She currently serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, as a San Francisco Library Commis-sioner, and as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.