PALM SPRINGS — At least two Democratic clubs in the Coachella Valley will not endorse a candidate in the special March 3 election — for distinctively different reasons. Ultimately, the lack of endorsement is due in large part to the party not unifying behind a single candidate as party leaders hoped.

The election is designed to fill the vacant seat in Senate District 28 that Jeff Stone held until he resigned last year.

The first of the two Democratic clubs not to endorse is Desert Stonewall Democrats. The club met on Jan. 21. Candidates seeking election to Senate District 28 and Assembly District 42 were invited to speak. Candidates were told there would be a vote on endorsements. With an endorsement oftentimes comes financial help.

In the end, the PAC of the Desert Stonewall Democrats chose to make no endorsement for Senate District 28.

The Standing Rules that govern endorsement — these are voted on by the membership — state that the club can only financially support a candidate that has been endorsed. Since there was no endorsement, there will be no contribution. Some have claimed that as much as $2,500 was at stake with the coveted endorsement.

“I don’t recall the club ever contributing as much as $2,500 to any candidate — not even Raul Ruiz when he ran for US Congress let alone a State Senate seat,” James Williamson, past president of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, told Uken Report.

Also, there is no requirement that any specific amount be contributed to an endorsed candidate, Williamson added.

The PAC, which involves members from the Steering Committee, was impressed by both candidates — Joy Silver and Elizabeth Romero — and felt each had a deeply nuanced understanding of LGBTQ, according to a statement Uken Report obtained from Josh Friedes, PAC Chair

Miguel Navarro, the incoming president of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, read the statement in full at the General Membership meeting.

“Both would be exceptional advocates,” Friedes said in his report.

At the interview, both candidates were asked a set of identical questions. Each candidate had an opportunity to share what they wanted in 30-minute interviews. Additionally, both candidates completed a candidate questionnaire which detailed club policy positions and each was asked if she supports it. Both candidates supported 100% of the PAC’s positions.

“We were deeply impressed by the policy knowledge and positions expressed by both Elizabeth and Joy, their credentials, leadership skills and styles,” Friedes said.  “Each was excellent. They were also not the same. Their answers reflected their different lived lives, professional experience and leadership styles. It was really impossible to say one candidate was superior to the other.”

Given there are five candidates on the March ballot in the Senate District 28 race, it was the PAC’s opinion that it is all but certain to go onto a runoff special election. That is, no candidate will garner more than 50% of the overall vote in March, the threshold needed to be declared the winner. The upshot is there is likely to be a special election between the top two vote-getters in the March election.

The most likely outcome will be a Republican squaring off against Elizabeth or Joy Friedes said.

“We would be delighted if Elizabeth and Joy were the top two vote-getters, but we think that’s unlikely,” he said.

The PAC, according to Friedes, further recognized that both candidates each had multiple identities, associated with historically marginalized and discriminated against communities.

“Given this reality, the exceptional qualification of both candidates, and the dynamics in the election, it does not serve the interests or values of the Stonewall Democrats to make an endorsement at this time,” Friedes said. “That is, we do not think moving an endorsement advances the cause of electing a Democrat to the office. Rather we believe it would prove divisive among club members and run contrary to our values.”

The PAC wishes to model best behavior as we become increasingly comfortable with what it means to be a truly diverse and inclusive party, Friedes said.

“We believe there will be more and more races where we choose not to endorse or do dual endorsements, so as to respect the realities of the diversity of our party,” Friedes said. “A duel endorsement at this time is not possible because of the rules of the state Democratic party. As Desert Stonewall Democrats, we are looking forward to engaging the state party in a conversation about how better to respect diversity and inclusive within the party.”

The second of the Democratic Clubs not to endorse in the Senate race is Democrats of the Desert, which is the largest in terms of membership. Apparently, the group’s bylaws prevented the group from endorsing in the race.

The group had extended an invitation to candidates to speak at its Jan. 25 meeting. Silver and Romero both showed up each hoping for the endorsement.

However, the group’s bylaws state that “The Club shall only endorse a candidate for a partisan office if the candidate has been endorsed by the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee (“RCDCC”).” The only RCDCC-endorsed candidate was Silver, so to interview candidates became a moot point.

Dori Smith, president of Democrats of the Desert, addressed the issue head on at the meeting saying members deserved an explanation.

“While DOD was waiting for the Senate seat filing deadline (Jan. 9) the California Democratic Party and Riverside County Democratic Party moved ahead and endorsed Joy in early January,” Smith told members. “We were put in a box. …”

The club was “warned” not to go against the RCDCC endorsements, Smith said. The repercussion could have meant loss of the club’s charter.

“The board will take a hard look at how we avoid such an occurrence in the future,” Smith said. “None of us feel good about what happened.”

Smith apologized to Romero and 100-plus members who gathered.

“The vast majority of members understood,” Smith told Uken Report. “They may not like it, but they understand it.”

Smith said she is talking to her board about the possibility of still endorsing in the race, though none of the candidates has pressed the issue.


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