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The shifting Democratic presidential primary is on full display at California party convention

Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The shifting Democratic presidential primary was on full display in California on Saturday, with the newest candidate making his first appearance in front of a large group of voters and a home-state senator arguing that her campaign remains vibrant despite plummeting in the polls.

The main draw for many of the 12 White House hopefuls at the state party gathering was an afternoon forum put on by Univision, but much of the action took place elsewhere at the sprawling Long Beach convention center and at nearby restaurants and bars.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick, who surprised the Democratic field with his last-minute entry into the presidential race on Thursday, said his experience leading Massachusetts proved that he has the skill set to right the nation in the aftermath of President Donald Trump.

"I am not running, my friends, to be president of the Democrats. I am running to be president of the United States," he told thousands of delegates and guests at the state party convention. "There's a difference. I'm not talking about a moderate agenda. This is no time for a moderate agenda. I'm talking about being woke, while leaving room for the still waking."

The politician who drew one of the strongest responses of the weekend is not running for the Oval Office, but is leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump -- Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank.

"You will forgive me if I'm a bit exhausted. It's been an eventful week," he said, before turning serious. "Our democracy is at risk, more so now than any time in my life. ... The greatest threat to our democracy comes from within, a president without ethical compass. There is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes he is above the law."

 

The gathering took place days after the House launched public impeachment hearings and slightly more than 100 days before California's March 3 primary. Nearly 500 delegates are at stake, leading candidates to pay more consideration to the state's voters than in years past when the primary came later in the contest.

"It's nice to have more attention," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said he may endorse a candidate before the primary. "I'll take that as a victory, but we'll never be Iowa."

California Sen. Kamala Harris faced great scrutiny over the weekend about her slide in the polls -- she came in at 3% in an Iowa poll released Saturday, and at 1% in a New Hampshire poll released last week. Convention attendees whispered about stories of dysfunction and tension on her campaign team, reports that Harris denied.

"I am very, very supportive of my campaign, of the people who are working it," she told reporters. "They've done great work, which has gotten us to the point where we are today. And we are focused on what we need to do to move forward."

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