In the 1950s, Long Beach was known as “Iowa by the Sea,” thanks to multitudes of Midwestern emigres who called the place home.
Last weekend, as thousands of delegates descended for the California Democratic Party convention, the town had a decidedly different buzz.
“Welcome to one of the gayest places in Long Beach!” shouted Robert Garcia, the city’s gay mayor, to a packed convention fundraiser called “Dems, Drinks, and Drag Queens” at Hamburger Mary’s, a genderfluid downtown saloon.
Hosting Long Beach’s first state convention, Garcia was perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the affair. Some other winners and losers:
Heroes and Zeroes...
Winner: Adam Schiff. Chair of the Democratic impeachment effort, the Hollywood congressmember looked bleary-eyed during his podium speech, but this crowd would have cheered him for blowing his nose. “You will forgive me if I’m a bit exhausted. It’s been an eventful week,” he said to a roaring welcome. “Our democracy is at risk. … There is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes he is above the law.”
Loser: Joe Biden. Leading the presidential pack despite pundit predictions of imminent collapse, the former veep skipped his second state party gathering this year. Avoiding a free-fire zone for booing from lefty activists who dominate state conventions, Biden remains ahead among actual Dem voters, according a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.
Winners: Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Sanders had the largest, noisiest band of backers among the dozen wannabes on hand, heralding his every move, applauding during a Univision-televised candidate forum, and keeping his Medicare for All plan front and center.
Buttigieg’s low-key style contrasts with Bernie’s Howard Beal act, but Mayor Pete won plenty of love, even before a Saturday-night CNN poll showed him up big in (the real) Iowa.
Loser: Kamala Harris. California’s Junior Senator took a torpedo the day the convention opened, when Politico delivered an unsparing piece detailing why her effort is imploding. Her campaign has “done great work, which has gotten us to the point where we are today,” she insisted, failing to note that “where we are today” is in single digits everywhere, including California.
Imagine Seeing You Here...
Winner: Katie Hill. The former Santa Clarita congressmember, who recently resigned amid a sex scandal, was a surprise speaker at the Women’s Caucus, where she won an emotional standing ovation. Calling herself “someone who made mistakes,” Hill promised to stay active, noting she’d appeared hours before at a memorial for victims of the shooting at Saugus High School, her alma mater.
Loser: Deval Patrick. The ex-Massachusetts governor, who just jumped into the presidential race amid concerns of Wall Street types about Biden’s prospects, made his first campaign speech — to the widespread disinterest of delegates: “I am not running, my friends, to be president of the Democrats. I am running to be president of the United States,” he said.
Winners. Cathy Murillo, Jonathan Abboud. The rivals for Santa Barbara’s Assembly seat both hustled to meet and greet delegates, donors, and labor types. Women’s health advocate Elsa Granados also made a cameo appearance on Friday, but Mayor Cathy Murillo had the advantage of being squired by consultant Mollie Culver, well-connected in Sacto circles.
Loser: Jason Dominguez. When he thought his City Council reelection was assured, Jason attended last spring’s convention on behalf of his looming Assembly bid. Fresh off his heartbreaking eight-vote loss to Alejandra Gutierrez, he was AWOL this time.
Winner: Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota senator delivered the convention’s best line, arguing that her Midwest roots position her to reclaim traditionally Democratic Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. “I will build a blue wall around those states,” she thundered, “and I will make Donald Trump pay for it.”
Loser: Gavin Newsom. Prince Gavin dropped by the press corps’ “Hacks and Flacks Dinner” at King’s Fish House (4 stars). He insisted to reporters that it’s way early to write off Kamala, whom he’s endorsed, rolling out the hoariest political cliché of all: “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.”
Images: Stage set for fundraiser at Hamburger Mary's; Adam Schiff addresses the convention (Long Beach Press Telegram); Kamala Harris speaks at "Dems, Drinks and Divas" fundraiser; Katie Hill speaks at the Women's Caucus; Jonathan Abboud outside the VIP lounge; (L-R) Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle, Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times and governor's adviser Dan Newton listen to Prince Gavin at an impromptu news conference at Hacks and Flacks dinner.
(A version of this column is published in this week's Santa Barbara Independent and is cross-posted at Independent.com).