This race in the most Progressive Assembly district in the country is a battleground for the war that has been waging within the Democratic Party since 2016. If the DCCC can insert a fake progressive by flooding the district with money, we're doomed to repeat the mistakes made in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. Same as it ever was.
May 13, 2018

The Democratic establishment’s “failures” against Republicans, and great success at marginalizing Progressives, both result from the same rich incentives. To help you laugh through your tears at this corrupt game of top-down class warfare, watch the video above, which we encourage you to share (and to adapt freely, per its Creative Commons statement).

One local California race could create a new template-- very good or very bad-- for elections nationwide, featuring:

• a new and depressing type of establishment candidate (Buffy Wicks),
• a new and exciting type of local Progressive candidate (Jovanka Beckles),
• a sadly familiar example of turf wars between local moderate-progressives, and
• a glaring example of how the Democratic establishment’s version of ‘identity politics’ excludes minority candidates who refuse to be bought.

1- Establishment Donors’ Counter-Attack into Heartland of Grassroots Progressivism

The California State Assembly recently tried to bury state #Medicare4all without a vote, in a typical result of the excessive influence of Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Carbon, Big Security and other killers of policies, people and planets. As Bernie-inspired candidates challenge local establishments nationwide, the state and national Democratic establishment is counter-attacking in the Bluest big state’s Bluest Assembly District-- California’s 15th centered in Berkeley.

This district’s June 5 primary election has everything:

• national/state money vs local grassroots;
• Hillary’s vs Bernie’s supporters;
• neo-liberals dropping their mask of identity politics; and
• turf wars between different communities’ Moderate-Progressive local establishments.
The national and state Democratic establishments have richly funded the candidacy of a veteran national fundraiser, who has zero track record of office-holding or local residence, and who is the least Progressive candidate in a large field.

Clicking the image directly below will allow you to listen to a music video mocking this candidate’s professional money trails and fails.

Buffy Wicks is the only candidate in the AD15 race who opposed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Presidential primary. While largely tailoring her platform to the district, she remains visibly the furthest ‘Right’ on charter schools (whose promoters are among her donors) and tenants’ rights. Buffy, who describes herself as a “community organizer,” headed Hillary’s California 2016 primary campaign, after heading a pro-Hillary Super PAC, after playing significant roles in Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns’ fundraising, and heading the Obama Administration’s Office of Public Engagement-- during the notorious post-election demobilization of grassroots participation in Obama For America.

Buffy’s many prominent endorsers include California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who (in between campaigning alongside Hillary) presided over the 2016 Presidential primary, including incorrect instructions to voters and poll workers, and alleged ballot-tampering, which suppressed votes for Bernie.

How Buffy raises and spends big bucks:

Massive fundraising by Buffy includes donations from mega-donor and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (whose brother spent $70 million to secure this year’s Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois), and from senior personnel in the offices of Rahm Emanuel and Cory Booker. It was leaked, and then acknowledged, that Buffy poll-tested the resonance not only of her own potential positions, but also attack lines against four other candidates. Buffy has access to virtually unlimited funds in order to carpet-bomb the district with expensively tailored positive and negative messaging.

Damage Control by Progressives?

An important goal for Progressives should be keeping Buffy out of November’s second round (general) election, by driving her down to third place or lower in the June 6 first round (‘jungle’) primary. The larger turnout of general elections will enable Buffy’s high spending, buzzwords and celebrity endorsements to reach more people than is possible by other candidates’ face-to-face contacts. Relegating Buffy to third place would be a nationally influential rebuff of the national money machine’s over-reaching. But a strong turnout of well-informed Progressives in this district can accomplish even more.

2- Nation’s Most Successful Grassroots Progressivism Alongside Local Turf Battles

Jovanka Beckles is the AD15 candidate whose election would bring to state government, and to national visibility, a uniquely successful local Progressive political model. Jovanka is a working-class veteran of the nation’s most Progressive city council, which has built the nation’s best record of winning elections and implementing successful Progressive policies, in the face of massive oppo-spending by global villain Chevron Corporation, in Chevron’s long-dominated ‘company town’ of Richmond California. This under-reported story is recounted in the 2017 book Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City, and the 2018 book Winning Richmond: How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall.

During an eight-year track record as a city councilor advancing a broad Progressive agenda against Chevron’s environmental, safety and tax abuses, Jovanka has stood up gracefully but firmly to very crude gay-bashing, as culturally conservative Richmond’s first out gay politician. Jovanka is endorsed by Our Revolution (local and national), by the Working Families Party, by Blue America and by numerous local unions (and statewide SEIU-CA), Greens, Democratic Socialists, and other Progressive organizations. More details are at her campaign website here.

How Blue (& Green) is California’s AD 15?

Assembly District 15 is uniquely fertile territory for an ‘immoderate’ and unapologetic Progressive like Jovanka. Most of the district is in the U.S. Congressional District of Barbara Lee, who cast the sole vote against the post-9/11 over-broad Authorization for Use of Military Force, and who has been re-elected many times with more than 80% of votes. The district stretches from the North of Oakland (birthplace of the Black Panther Party), and its wealthy enclave Piedmont, through the ‘People’s Republic of Berkeley’, to several smaller and poorer towns.

Turf Wars Weaken Local Progressive Establishments:
Jovanka’s (and Buffy’s) first round prospects are improved by the likely division of first round votes between the candidates of three different local communities’ Moderate-Progressive local establishments.

• North Oakland: The Oakland establishment is mainly supporting Oakland City councilmember Dan Kalb.

• Berkeley: The Berkeley establishment, which held this seat for 38 years, is mainly supporting Berkeley School Board director Judy Appel.

• West Contra Costa County: In 2014 the Berkeley establishment’s long winning streak was finally ended by Tony Thurmond of Contra Costa County. Tony, who is giving up the seat to run for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has endorsed Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, a first-term El Cerrito City Councilmember, and a nurse who also obtained the endorsement of the California Nurses Association. Tony apparently recruited Rochelle into the contest, and certainly shepherded her endorsement by the California Legislative Black Caucus (and maxxed-out donations by some of its members). Presumably Tony would like to keep the seat from being regained by the Berkeley establishment, and was also happy to prevent the boat-rocking Jovanka from being the first round’s only candidate from West Contra Costa County-- and only Black Woman.

3- Jovanka’s Four-fer Rips Off Establishment’s Mask of Identity Politics

Policy commitments and credibility are the most important thing about all candidates, but there is education and entertainment value in this contest’s testing – and revealing the hollowness-- of the national Democratic establishment’s lectures on the need to support minority candidates. Jovanka’s identity is a ‘four-fer’-- count’em: Black, Woman, Gay-married (and a mother and grandmother), and immigrant (as a child from Panama). The following table compares identities of the top 7 out of 12 declared candidates, in this field of (self-described) Progressives.


Could it be any clearer? The establishment vets candidates for fit with the corrupt money system-- a vetting which can achieve new extremes of predictability by retooling, into candidates, that system’s operatives, like Buffy. Contrary to its dishonest rhetoric, for every level and faction in the establishment, the highest priority is to exclude grassroots-mobilizing minority candidates, like Jovanka.

Establishment rhetoric about the importance of candidates’ “experience” is also dishonest. Every other candidate in the above table has more experience in public office, more local dues paid, and more knowledge of the district, than the establishment’s pick Buffy, who has zero. In contrast, the longest legislative experience in the field is Jovanka’s eight years on the Richmond City Council.

This race is testing a new local election model: retooling a fundraising operative into a fake Progressive candidate (aided by a track record free of previous positions on policy), to carpet bomb a Progressive and highly educated district with a carpetbag full of money and celebrity endorsements. If this succeeds, it will be repeated everywhere because, if they can fake it here, they can fake it anywhere.

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