California’s Democrats: Stronger than Ever

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

So let me get this straight: Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature for the first time since 1883. They hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Their registration advantage over Republicans is as large as its been in modern history. Democrats have four more seats in the state’s Congressional delegation than they did a year ago. The only semi-announced GOP challengers to the incumbent Democratic Governor are a low-ranking Tea Party legislator and a former state senator who has lost his past two attempts to elected office. And Joe Mathews thinks the state’s Democrats are “weak”? Puh-leez.

While Republicans are still dazed and confused about what they represent, California Democrats are on a roll. Last year’s election results proved it, and early indicators for 2014 suggest that even in a non-presidential year, Democrats are in the drivers seat, nothing withstanding the navel-gazing by Californians Republicans to redefine themselves.

California’s Democrats know last November’s results weren’t a fluke. At the recent party in convention in Sacramento, the  focus was wasn’t on ways to play defense. It was on ways to build on last year’s victories across the state. As Speaker John A. Pérez noted in his speech, there are only two types of counties in California today: blue counties and soon-to-be blue counties.

Let’s look at the  Inland Empire, formerly a GOP stronghold. It provides the perfect example of how the GOP’s decline is inversely related to Democrats’ ascent. Two of the six new swing Congressional districts Democrats picked up were there. What’s more, the winning candidates reflect the state and the Democratic Party’s diversity in a way the GOP can only dream of: Dr. Raul Ruiz, a 40-year old physician with strong Latino roots in the Coachella Valley and Mark Takano, the son of two Japanese internment camp survivors who also happens to be the first LGBT person of color elected to Congress, Meanwhile the California Democratic Party launched a first of its kind Latino voter registration program in these counties, partnering with local County Committees to raise awareness and kickstart Democratic activism in an area Democrats long ceded to Republicans (see this video for details).

Democrats also have been looking toward the future when it comes to new voters. Results from Political Data showed the overwhelming number of voters who registered online last December tilted toward Democrats. With that program still in its infancy, it’s likely Democrats will only do better.

Lastly, the state Democratic Party is drilling down on the increasing number of voters who use mail ballots. Its program — Operation Game Changer –is the first of its kind in the nation. The goal was to take Democratic poll voters in under represented areas of Los Angeles County and convert them to Permanent Vote-by-Mail (VBM) voters. LA County has greatest amount of Dem ballots at over 2.3 million but the lowest VBM percentage in the state at 19%. By increasing the VBM percentage in the LA, it boosts Democratic turnout on statewide initiatives. Last year the program converted more than 50,000 voters to permanent VBM.

Indeed, California’s Democrats are strong — and growing stronger.

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