Conference brings together candidates, potential backers

An array of candidates who have never before served in the Legislature will gather in Sacramento to sit down with a group of political power players who want to take a look at the new crop of contenders.

The unusual, invitation-only conference, called the Candidate Forum 2012, is intended to educate hopefuls on the reality of politics. It is sort of like a political casting call – people with resources for campaigns meeting those who want to run for office.

The all-day event Thursday at the Citizen Hotel is being put on by the nonprofit Leadership California Institute, which was created “to identify and train future policy makers in California,” according to the group’s Web site.

Keynote speakers include former Assembly Speakers Willie Brown, Curt Pringle and Bob Hertzberg, and former Senate GOP Leader Jim Brulte.

Other participants include Jodi Hicks of the California Medical Association, Sunne Wright McPeak, former state Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing; Bob Balgenorth of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, David Quintana of the California Tribal Business Alliance, Shaudi Fulp of Chevron and Dave Howard of the California Association of Realtors.

The Institute California Institute, formed this year, was created by Hal Conklin, a public relations executive with Southern California Edison, and Mike Madrid, a veteran political strategist and long-time adviser to the League of California Cities.

“The idea was to create a program beyond party lines, distanced from any one organization of association, and establish a truly nonpartisan approach,” says Madrid, an expert on Latino voting trends and former political director for the state Republican Party.

“This is really kind of a nurturing of future elective leaders of all parties and ideologies, of all persuasions,” he added.

As of Monday, some 38 candidates from districts across the state were scheduled to participate – one contender for the state Senate, the rest for the Assembly. About 15 candidates were indentified as Republicans, the rest were Democrats.

More than two-dozen sponsors were listed as well, including FedEx, Chevron, California Forward, the California Medical Association, PG&E and the California Hospital Association.

A list of the candidates, sponsors and participants can be seen here.

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