California Democrats gird up for tough races

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California Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown arrives to a press conference to announce that he is filing a motion to compel bond-rating firm Moody's Investors Service to comply with a subpoena it has resisted for seven motions on April 19, 2010 in Los Angeles.

California Democrats held their state convention this weekend in Los Angeles. Democratic candidates face some highly competitive races this year. Although California voters are overwhelmingly Democrats, disillusionment with elected officials runs deep - and conservatives are charged up for a fight. KPCC’s Julie Small reports party leaders hope to ignite a similar passion among state Democrats.

Let’s get this party started! That was the Democrat’s call to arms this weekend at the state convention in Los Angeles.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, the presumed Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said, "There’s some anxiety out there, but we’re on the move!”

Republicans invade California Democratic convention, mock Jerry Brown from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

That “anxiety” Brown talked about is over whether he can defeat the Republican frontrunner for governor, Meg Whitman. Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, has saturated the airwaves with commercials.

She’s already spent a record $46 million on her campaign for governor. A recent poll shows her slightly ahead of Brown.

At the convention Brown challenged Whitman and the other Republican in the race – Silicon businessman and State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner – to a three-way debate before the June primary.

That's something that’s never been done. Brown said the extraordinary challenges Californians face called for a different approach to the election.

"Because this is not going to be decided on the airwaves in a scripted, prepackaged advertisement, paid by and formulated by very hidden consultants," Brown said to a crowd of a thousand delegates "This is going to be mano y mano. One candidate against another."

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer also acknowledged she faces a tough fight to get re-elected to a fourth term. Boxer’s running against former U.S. Congressman Tom Campbell, a fiscal conservative with moderate social views, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, also a fiscal conservative with moderate social views and who’s independently wealthy. Polls show Boxer holds a healthy lead over each of these candidates – but one of the slimmest margins she’s ever had running for reelection.

California Democratic delegates chant for Barbara Boxer from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

Boxer said she needs help.

"I need you to be excited," she told convention delegates "as excited as the Tea Party people are! Will you help me? Will you get excited? Will you be with me? Will you make the phone calls and raise the dollars?"

The delegates at the convention cheered Boxer and Brown.

But it’s the Democrats outside the convention hall that they need to inspire, and declined to state voters – the fastest growing group in California.

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