Power Grab

Establishment Democrats Masquerading As Progressives

Elected officials attempt to hijack the selection of community representatives to the state party convention with their own slate of delegates.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, many Bernie Sanders’ supporters felt that Democratic Party leaders had improperly put their thumbs on the scales. Some of these Berniecrats quit the party in protest and registered as Greens. Others stayed in the party but vowed to become more involved in the process so that progressive values were better represented.

In California, much of the efforts of the Berniecrats who remained in the Democratic party were focused on winning seats during the biannual Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEM). During these meetings, 14 community representatives are selected in each district to become Assembly District Delegates (ADD). These delegates join elected officials and their appointees at the yearly State Convention to endorse candidates, take positions on ballot propositions, and establish the state party platform and party resolutions.

After making initial inroads into gaining representation in the party apparatus, California progressives are finding that the establishment is fighting harder this year to keep them out. Not content with the seats that their positions already give them, they are trying to take control of the ones that are supposed “to represent their community.” Grassroots efforts are being overwhelmed by flashy flyers and any other materials that piles of campaign cash can buy. Worse yet, this spending is not regulated by campaign finance laws and the funding source does not have to be revealed to the public.

Flyer marked up by progressive activists

Knowing that Sanders handily won the state of California in the last primary, Alex Padilla, Tony Cardenas, and Luz Rivas are trying to present their slate of relatives, staffers, and members of special interest groups as “progressive democrats.” They do so without detailing the values that they consider to be “progressive.” This is probably because being anti-union and supporting the privatization of our public schools are in direct opposition to the values of Bernie Sanders.

Roxann Nazario is part of this slate of so-called “progressives,” but serves as the Parent Engagement Coordinator for Speak UP. This group was formed to promote the candidacy of LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin and receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation, the founders of Walmart. One of Speak UP’s parent leaders impersonated LAUSD Superintendent Beutner on Twitter and the group used bigotry to block the appointment of Jackie Goldberg to the LAUSD School Board. Nazario supported Marilyn Koziatek in the last school board election, even after the candidate was exposed for having ties to anti-gay and anti-abortion groups. She opposed AB1505, a bill that brought more oversight to the operation of charter schools with the lie that it “could eventually lead to the closure of every charter school in the state”.

Xitlali Castro is also included on the slate of endorsed candidates even though she has been put forth by the charter school industry to express their views to the press. She opposed the call for a moratorium on new charter schools so that the financial impact of these privately run schools could be studied. Casto was also a supporter of Kelly Gonez, the pro-charter school LAUSD School Board President who has blocked the reinstatement of the district’s Parent Engagement and Special Education committees.

It is not clear how supporting the needs of Walmart and privately run charter schools represent the values of the Democratic party. They are definitely not progressive values. If establishment politicians Padilla, Cardenas, and Rivas want to usurp the neighborhood representation of the ADEMS, the least they can do is be honest about their slate’s beliefs.


Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

Parent, special education advocate and former LAUSD School Board candidate. Still fighting for the children. www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com

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