Complaints filed with state Democratic Party over delegate elections

Voters and would-be delegates in two districts have filed complaints with the California Democratic Party over alleged improprieties in recent delegate elections held around the state earlier this month.

One of these complaints names freshman Assemblyman Curren Price, D-Inglewood. Price’s chief of staff, Robert Cole, has dismissed the charges as “sour grapes.” Meanwhile, CDP spokesman Roger Salazar said that new rules and much higher
participation have caused confusion in these local elections.

On the weekend of January 13 and 14, CDP delegate elections were held in about 60 of 80 Assembly districts. Each was to choose a dozen delegates, evenly divided between women and men, if possible, to represent the party at state conventions over the next two years. Each district central committee also elects a dozen delegates, while local elected officials name another dozen. There is no corresponding Senate district elections, since the Assembly districts cover the entire state. The elections are open to any Democrat who was registered in the district as of the November election.

Democratic activist Tim Goodrich sent a complaint to party chairman Art Torres and secretary Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer on Sunday. It alleges six different improprieties in a delegate election held in Hawthorne on January 14. This includes charges of improper voting and unethical use of power by the presiding officer of the election. Goodrich was one of seven candidates on a “Democrats for Progress” slate; he said he lost by four votes.

“We decided to contest this election so this fraudulent activity doesn’t
happen again and to send a message that the people want fair elections
within the CDP,” Goodrich said.

The Democrats of Progress slate was led by Price’s opponent in the primary, Steve Bradford. Bradford was nearly able to win the party endorsement in last year’s state primary; Price went on the win the primary by a mere 113 votes.
Bradford was elected as a delegate. So were two other members of his slate, Alexis Beamon and Sheila Mickelson. But Price’s slate swept the other nine slots, essentially ensuring he will keep the party endorsement when he runs for re-election in 2008.

Goodrich’s complaint makes several allegations: that voters’ eligibility was not properly verified before people cast their secret ballot, that Price led a Martin Luther King Jr. Day barbecue in a park next to the polling place and did not invite people associated with the Progress slate in order to stack the election, and that election presiding officer Pablo Catano improperly used his role in a successful effort to get elected to represent the district on the state party Election Board.

These charges were corroborated by another member of the slate, Cara Robin, who said she lost by two votes.

“I feel like Al Gore in Florida,” Robin said. “I’ve been signing my e-mails ‘Al.'”

Both Cole and Catano denied the charges. Both noted that the MLK party had several sponsors besides Price. This included Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi; the invites went out to people in the community, while most of the Progress supporters lived elsewhere.

“I think he’s trying to imply that there’s was a possibility to vote several times,” Cole said. “But with 147 people registered and only 136 votes cast, that would hardly be a sign of voter illegality.”

Catano said it’s illegal for them to demand ID from voters; identities were verified by comparing people’s signatures to those on voter roles. He noted that he was an appointed delegate, and said that most people already had voted for the E-Board position before he did any speaking in his role of overseeing the election. He also disputed the election results put forward by Goodrich and Robin, saying they lost by larger margins. The CDP website currently lists winners, but not vote counts.

For the first time, the CDP instituted a uniform set of rules for these elections, issued on December 9. This may have causes confusion, Salazar said. However, he said none of the elections have been certified by the party, and as thus results are not yet official.

He added that all complaints will be reviewed by the party’s compliance-review commission by April 1. This body is made up of three members each from the party rules committee and the credentials committee; these members have not been named yet. If either side it not happy with the results, they can file an appeal directly with the full credentials board.

In the 60 elections held so far, 4,600 people have voted, Salazar said. While no official records of participation numbers were kept in prior years, there was a major upsurge due to a highly energized Democratic base. The other 16 districts are scheduled to have their delegate elections by February 7.

“The fact that we were so successful also meant we had more glitches,” Salazar said. “But you’d rather have that than nobody showing up.”

Meanwhile, two separate complaints were filed with the CDP over the delegate election in AD 42. This district is represented by freshman Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, but the complainants said that Feuer was not present and did not appear to do anything to affect the election.

One, signed by four delegate candidates and one voter, alleged that convener Andrew Lachman illegally used the voter rolls to send out a mailer promoting executive-board candidacy. Lachman lost by 11 votes.

The other complaint was filed by voter Mona Pastor. She said when she showed up for the meeting at the Beverly Hills Public Library, a poll worker advised her to vote for Andrew.

“Thankfully it didn’t affect the outcome, but the poll workers need to be taught the basic rules of running an election,” Pastor said.

Lachman denied the allegations, saying he stepped aside from running the meeting, as the rules called for. As for the mailer, he said it went to only 160 people from a list he compiled himself.

“I’m active in six or seven Democratic clubs,” Lachman said. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people.”

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