During the first weekend in March, the California Democratic Party, for the first time in state history, endorsed three Black candidates for statewide office at the same convention.
Delegates attending the virtual convention threw their support behind Dr. Shirley Weber for Secretary of State; Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI); and Malia Cohen for Controller.
“I’m asking for your ongoing support, running for my first term as Secretary of State. I’m going to fight, whatever happens. The democracy gave me life, gave me opportunity and gave me purpose,” said Weber, who Gov. Newsom appointed Secretary of State in December 2020 after he selected Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in the US Senate when she became Vice President.
More than 96 percent of the delegates attending the convention, themed “We Are California,” voted to endorse Weber.
The convention attracted more than 3000 Democratic office holders and district delegates to engage each other and mobilize the party faithful as they prepare for the 2022 primary and midterm elections.
Democratic National Convention (DNC) top brass also attended the annual conference, including Vice President Kamala Harris; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12); DNC Chair Jaime Harrison; and members of California’s delegations to the United States Congress, among others.
Rusty Hicks, California Democratic Party Chair, praised the endorsements and admitted the party needs to do more to empower voters—not just engage them.
“Our party over the last two years, actually stood up an organizing department specifically to engage communities across the state on a year-round basis, not just on electoral work, but on important issues and policy work,” Hicks told California Black Media, addressing concerns about the decreasing number of Black men voting for Democratic candidates in elections across the country.
Cohen received endorsement votes from 93.7 percent of the delegates. Cohen, who is currently President of the State Board of Equalization, was chosen over Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin.
“I’m a proud, lifelong Democrat. I’m a proud graduate of Fisk University. We are the alma mater of the great John Lewis. You remember, John Lewis. He was the one that coined the phrase “making good trouble,” she said. “Well, Fisk is the place where I learned the art of making good trouble. A notion that has shaped my career and my public service.”
Thurmond, who was endorsed by 93.7 percent of the delegates, was elected SPI in 2018 in a close race over his opponent Marshall Tuck. That race was reportedly the most expensive campaign ever for a state education chief.
“In 2018 you endorsed me to serve in this role. I’m before you again asking for your endorsement as I seek re-election to continue the great work to support our six million students in this state,” he said.
Thurmond told party leadership and delegates—some attending from a production studio in Los Angeles, others mostly participating from home—that he lost his only parent to cancer when he was six years old.
“I ended up being raised by a cousin who I met for the first time when I showed up on our doorstep,” he said. “We were raised on the free lunch program, on public assistance and government cheese.”
Thurmond said he found the strength to succeed by his belief in “the promise of education that my teacher shared with me—and saying that my life would be better than it had started.”
Other candidates the delegates endorsed for the June 2022 California primary include: Gavin Newsom for Governor; Eleni Kounalakis for Lt. Governor; Alex Padilla for US Senate; Rob Bonta for Attorney General; Fiona Ma for Treasurer; and Ricardo Lara for Insurance Commissioner.