Hickenlooper who? California Democratic Convention delegates anxious to winnow field of candidatesSAN FRANCISCO — Some of the 15 presidential contenders schmoozing delegates Saturday at the California Democratic Convention are so popular, they need no introduction but their first names: Bernie, Kamala and Beto.
Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (if you can pronounce it), are right up there on the name recognition scale, too.
“When you get below that, who the heck are they?” asked Orange County delegate Doug Harding, outside the main hall Saturday afternoon.
“We love ‘em, but they need to leave.”
Some delegates clearly subscribe to “the more the merrier” mantra and scrambled for selfies Saturday with any candidates who passed through the Moscone Center. But others are anxious to winnow the huge field of serious presidential contenders — 24 by most counts — hoping to earn the Democratic nomination to take on President Trump in 2020.
“I can identify up to about five,” said Becky Curry, 64, a delegate from Lake County who felt lucky to see the likes of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts make speeches Saturday. “When I get down to Bennet, Hickenlooper and some of the other Bs, they fall into the same category — I don’t know them.”
Marianne Williamson? John Delaney? Michael Bennet? While the author, the former Maryland congressman and Colorado’s U.S. senator have their acolytes, the enthusiasm on Saturday among California’s 3,400 Democratic delegates, based on the applause scale alone, seemed reserved mostly for the household names.
It wasn’t for lack of enthusiastic speeches by the candidates.
“Our president is a coward,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a speech from the main convention hall Saturday. “That’s not what we deserve.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii criticized Washington politics as “of, by and for self-serving politicians and the rich and powerful. This must end.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s voice was already hoarse when she took the stage, saying, “I don’t have money, but I have grit” and received an ovation when she left the stage.
But when Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said he woke up next to his husband Saturday morning thanks to a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court, the San Francisco crowd let out a prolonged cheer.
“The riskiest thing we could do is try too hard to play it safe,” he said.
The unfortunate task of following him fell to Rep. Eric Swalwell from Dublin, who has been a frequent pundit on CNN but still struggles to gain name recognition. And when former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said “socialism is not the answer,” the extended booing nearly drowned him out.
Delegate Gail Cain from Orange County called the large field of candidates “crazy,” especially since “they all have the same thing to say.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner, was a no-show, opting out of the California convention — a decision that didn’t sit well with some of the delegates.
“To ignore us like this is a big mistake,” said Kari Birdseye, a delegate from Benicia. “He should have showed up.”
She also held disdain for candidates who didn’t seem to be in it for the right reasons: those she believes are angling to raise their profiles or be tapped for cabinet posts.
Still, “what’s important is that we’re going to be unified behind our candidate no matter what,” she said. Alluding to Trump’s 2016 win, she added, “we learned that the hard way.”