Karen Ocamb

Endorsement Fight at WeHo/Beverly Hills Democratic Club

Filed By Karen Ocamb | January 28, 2012 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Betsy Butler, Democratic Party, endorsed candidates, James F. Mills, Los Angeles, Marta Evry, Orange County, Patch, Torie Osborn, United Farm Workers

50th-AD-Duran-points-at-Torie.jpegTorie Osborn, the openly gay candidate for the new 50th Assembly District, won another local Democratic club endorsement Wednesday night, Jan 25, when she got more votes than her rivals incumbent Assemblymember Betsy Butler and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom. But the process getting to the final vote for endorsement so infuriated West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, a Butler supporter, that he interrupted Osborn's acceptance speech, yelling: "We're not going to work for you, Torie. This is bullshit. .... You divided our community. You divided our community."

An Osborn supporter yelled back, "You got out organized!" Ironically, on the same day, Butler won the endorsement of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council and on Thursday, Jan. 26, she received the endorsement of the United Farm Workers.

Osborn supporter Marta Evry got the Duran outburst on tape and posted the video at her blog Venice for Change.

James F. Mills has a good play-by-play at West Hollywood Patch. He noted that the endorsement by the West Hollywood-Beverly Hills Democratic Club was Osborn's "seventh endorsement from eight area Democratic clubs in recent weeks." But it is the Democratic Party-permitted practice of stacking the club with new members to win the vote that has caused so much controversy in this contest.

Patch reports:

The organization has about 125 members, 35 to 40 of whom are actively involved, according to the club's president, Lillian Raffel. She said the club received 45 new members on Dec. 29--their memberships all paid for with a single check amounting to $1,125.

Some of those new members live in communities outside the area, including Glendale and Norwalk, which are not in the new 50th Assembly District. Club bylaws do not have any residency restrictions, just that a member voting on the endorsement must have joined within the previous 25 days.

Longtime members say those 45 new members were enough to push the endorsement vote in the candidate's favor. Osborn defended the tactic when Patch questioned her.....

"I'm thrilled to have this [endorsement]" Osborn said, explaining she believes the state Democratic endorsement will be "stacked against me" since it consistently favors the incumbent candidate, who in this case is Betsy Butler.

"We're in it to win it," Osborn told Patch. "I have a grass-roots army that's working with me. ... People joining clubs in order to vote for who they vote for is part of the grass roots. It just is part of the tactics. People do it all the time. I'm proud of my troops."

Duran was not the only one angered by the tactic. From Patch:

Although no one else was as vocal as Duran, several others approached Patch to voice their displeasure.

"I have never seen anything as aggressive as this," said longtime member Norman Chramoff, a Weho resident. "I've seen people stuff these meetings and buy memberships before, but in 25 years of doing this, I've never seen anybody so aggressive about it."

Weho Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang was equally concerned. He believed the outcome might not have been for Osborn had just the core club members voted, but as a two-time past president of the club, he also recognized that buying a large chunk of memberships was within the club's rules.

"They're effectively using the rules in ways that haven't really been used before," said Prang, who reports he is friends with all three contenders, but is supporting Butler since she is the incumbent. "It demonstrates where there is a weakness, where the club's endorsements can be manipulated."

Here's the press release from the Osborn campaign on her endorsement:

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - Continuing a winning streak fueled by grassroots enthusiasm and organizational strength, Torie Osborn handily won the endorsement last night of the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club in her bid for the open 50thAssembly District seat.

The club of local Democrats voted 43-28 to endorse Osborn. The eighth endorsement from a local Democratic organization in recent weeks, the move underscores that Osborn has cemented a role as a powerhouse candidate with a lead in fundraising, organization, and popular support.

"California has big problems, and we need big problem solvers to help reinvent the way our state operates, so that our state can once again be a beacon of hope and opportunity," said club member and 21 year West Hollywood resident Lee Walkup "We've had enough of the perpetual budget crises, combined with reckless cuts to education and public safety. It's time for a dynamic shift in the standard operating procedures of Sacramento, to new and unconventional processes, and fresh thinking. That's why grassroots Democrats are proud to support Torie Osborn for Assembly, because we're confident she'll bring the much needed change to Sacramento."

The West Hollywood Democratic Club was founded in 1985 shortly following West Hollywood's incorporation. In 2005, Beverly Hills Democrats was formed as a sponsored PAC of the West Hollywood Democratic Club in an effort to rebuild a grassroots Democratic organization in Beverly Hills. In 2009, these two entities were merged into one organization known as the West Hollywood Democratic Club/Beverly Hills Democratic Club.

"Last night, grassroots Democrats of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills sent a high-powered message to the Sacramento political machine that they've had enough of 'politics as usual,' and that they're ready for bold changes in our state," said Osborn. "I am extraordinarily grateful for their support, and plan working directly with them throughout this campaign and beyond."

In recent weeks, Osborn has scored several consecutive endorsements, including: Stonewall and Stonewall Young Dem Clubs, Santa Monica Democratic Club, HONOR PAC, Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley (DP/SFV), Malibu Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Valley Grassroots Democrats.

Osborn is acclaimed for her pioneering leadership as an executive at several nonprofit organizations, including the Liberty Hill Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center - both of which are located in the new 50th Assembly District - as well as United Way of Greater LA. Osborn also served as a senior policy advisor on homelessness, poverty and economic development to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. She is currently a senior strategist for California Calls, a network of 25 organizations throughout the state committed to commonsense governance reform.

Here's the press release from the Butler campaign on the United Farm Workers endorsement:

Today, Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, made public the following statement: "Too many politicians are afraid of the rich and powerful. Assemblymember Betsy Butler is our champion. Time after time, from the Dream Act to the organizing rights of farm workers, Betsy has stood strong for all that Cesar Chavez fought for. Betsy has won our hearts and earned our support. The United Farm Workers is proud to join Equality California, the California League of Conservation Voters and the Consumer Federation of California in supporting the re-election of Betsy Butler to the Assembly."

Assemblymember Butler calls the endorsement an "affirmation of my lifelong commitment to support farm workers, end discrimination and achieve a more equitable society."

Assemblymember Butler was elected to the Assembly a year ago after overcoming one of the largest special interest assaults on any new candidate in California history. Since her election, Butler received national attention for her success fighting the chemical and plastics lobby and winning an historic ban of BPA in baby bottles.

Butler's work has focused on fighting for consumers, advocating for working families and protecting the environment. In the State Assembly, she serves on the Assembly Budget Committee, the Budget Sub-Committee on Resources and Transportation, the Committees on Business and Professions; Education; Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media; and Rules

For a full list of endorsements, visit www.betsybutler.com

I spoke with both Duran and Osborn on Thursday and offered them space in LGBT POV to explain their positions and reactions directly to readers. I will post those comments if and when I receive them. I am writing a larger piece on the endorsement process for the next issue of Frontiers.

img screen capture from Marta Evry video

(Crossposted at LGBT POV)

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