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California's Democratic Party Is in Chaos

This year’s party chair election was particularly loaded — and heated.

by Billie Brownstein
Jun 5 2019, 6:40pm

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SAN FRANCISCO — The California Democratic Party has been united on at least one thing since the 2016 election: defeating Trump in 2020. But they’re in a state of chaos over their own party’s priorities, and that made this year’s party chair election particularly loaded — and heated.

Since Republicans are few and far between in the state legislature, the state's Democrats keep busy battling amongst themselves, particularly on issues like single-payer healthcare and the merits of impeachment. Activist candidate Kimberly Ellis wanted to push the party further to the left — which is likely why she lost to labor leader Rusty Hicks on Saturday for the coveted position.

Before the election Ellis had harsh words about the party infighting, calling it a “toxic culture” rife with abuse, bullying, harassment, and retaliation.

But while Democrats were seething behind the scenes, they publicly spoke of a united front. “My hope is that we don’t use our sharp elbows on one another — that we actually save them for the real fights that we have ahead,” Hicks said.

But even after the results came in, Ellis didn’t mince words about her more centrist colleagues. "There are those of us who have a value set that says that we should value people and we should value our planet, that we should be fighting for fairness and justice and equality for everyone. And there are those who want to take a more incremental approach to that kind of change. And I think that was on full display tonight as it was two years ago."

The drama around the election was only compounded by the fact that Eric Bauman, the last party chair, was accused of workplace impropriety, including an allegation of forced oral sex on a sleeping assistant. Bauman denied it and resigned from the position late last year. All of this added to the tense backdrop of this past weekend's California Democrats' convention in San Francisco, which was attended by almost every 2020 presidential candidate.

VICE News attended the convention to see where the party might be headed — not only in the state, but in the country as a whole.

This segment originally aired June 4, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.