Supporters of Bernie Sanders Look to Take Democratic Leadership in California – Alejandro Lazo May 20, 2017 12:29 p.m. ET


Kimberly Ellis has promised to push more liberal agenda, give grass-roots activists more power in party leadership

Since the election of President Donald Trump, California has emerged as an important state for supporters of Bernie Sanders and a battleground that could point to the future of the Democratic Party.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, California has emerged as an important state for supporters of Bernie Sanders and a battleground that could point to the future of the Democratic Party. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO—Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are hoping to capture the California Democratic Party’s top leadership post this weekend, rallying around an insurgent candidate who has promised to reorder the party establishment and redefine what it means to be a Democrat in this deeply blue state.

Delegates to the state Democratic Party convention in Sacramento will choose a replacement for departing chair John Burton, who has been credited with helping solidify the party’s control of the state, even at a time when much of the rest of country has been awash in a sea of red.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, California has emerged as an important state for Sanders supporters and a battleground that could point to the future of the Democratic Party. A win for the Sanders supporters’ candidate, Kimberly Ellis, could prove a significant victory for their movement after Mr. Sanders’s choice to head the national party, Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), was defeated in February by former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who is viewed largely as a more establishment figure.

The California race itself is less about ideology, given that the candidates—Ms. Ellis, an African-American woman from the San Francisco area, and Eric Bauman, the current vice chair of the state’s Democratic Party—agree on most issues and the state’s platform is already progressive when compared with other states. But the contest does break down along the same fault lines that have divided the party since Mr. Sanders mounted his own unlikely challenge for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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