CHARLOTTE, N.C. — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and a number of other Democratic leaders packed an expansive hotel ballroom this morning to rally the California delegation, highlighting the state's importance in winning back the House.
Along with numerous mentions of President Barack Obama, the breakfast program focused largely on House races. Guest speakers include Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.) and Donna Edwards (Md.), who co-chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program that helps candidates running for GOP-held seats.
“California is essential to it all,” Pelosi said.
The number of competitive House races in California increased dramatically last year, when an independent redistricting commission redrew the lines. While two pairs of Democratic incumbents were drawn together, the party was also handed a number of potential pickup opportunities.
Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) are heavily favored to win statewide, so the party's focus in the state is down-ballot. State Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, who emceed the breakfast, said that “if we went to sleep tomorrow,” Obama and Feinstein would carry the state. But the party has work to do to pick up the half-dozen GOP House seats it wants.
“California’s success in electing Democrats here is really critical to our success” nationwide, Pelosi said. “You have seen the last two years an obstruction of President Obama’s agenda. We cannot afford that for another two years.”
When the new district lines were approved last year, the party appeared to have an opportunity to pick up a half-dozen seats. Those expectations were tempered following the June 5 primaries. While Democrats still expect to pick up a few seats, the National Republican Congressional Committee concluded from the primary results that the majority now ends in California — it's no longer a path there for Democrats.
The ballroom was littered with “Celebrating Nancy Pelosi” signs passed out to delegates as they entered. Nearly every party official who stepped to the microphone noted that for Pelosi to return to the House as Speaker after two years in the minority, a bulk of the 25 seats the party must net would need to be won in California.
"We have to get 25 seats and, guess what, California’s got a third of them right here," Edwards said, slightly overstating the point.
Polis highlighted the DCCC's Red to Blue candidates in California: Ami Bera and Raul Ruiz, "the dynamic duo of doctors"; astronaut Jose Hernandez; Mark Takano, who would be the first openly gay Member from California; state Sen. Alan Lowenthal; and San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters.
“You in California have the opportunity to help return Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House of Representatives,” Polis said.
Other speakers included House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) and Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), who opened the breakfast with a passionate speech that energized the large audience.
“I want to thank California in the last election for topping the nation for political success,” Pelosi said, noting that every Democratic House incumbent returned in 2011. “In that spirit of success, California will once again lead the way in re-electing an extraordinary president, Barack Obama.”