Newly appointed California Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Sen. Isadore Hall (D-South Bay) last week on a conference call has pledged to support caucus members who are under attack by their own political party.
“It’s unfortunate that we have different houses competing in different seats,” the Southern California Democrat said. “You have a senator challenging assembly members and that type of dynamic is unusual however, the caucus remains committed to making sure that all of our members are protected.”
Assembly members Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) and Mike Gipson (D-Carson) are facing unusual intraparty challenges from fellow Democrats. With the 2016 elections around the corner, Brown and Gipson are targeted to have their seats replaced; both happen to be Hispanic.
The two incumbents would normally receive the California Democratic Party’s endorsement automatically, but they are encountering objections from their own party. Brown is facing opposition from attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes and health advocate Marta Segura is challenging Gipson.
State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) a Reyes supporter, issued a letter urging Democratic leaders to support the 2014 Congressional candidate in the California Party Pre-Endorsement Conference for Assembly District 47.
“I have known Cheryl Brown for over a year and she would be the type of representative that I would usually support,” Sen. Leyva wrote. “It has been important and very needed to have representatives that reflect the communities we serve in; women and African Americans have been underrepresented. But, Cheryl Brown has sided with Big Oil and Big Corporations against working families in the region.”
Eighty percent of local delegates backed Brown at a pre-endorsement conference on January 30.
“I am endorsing Assembly Member Cheryl R. Brown for re-election because she has been a true champion for our community,” said San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis, according to a news release from Brown. “As our state representative, she has been dedicated to fighting for solutions to help our city move forward and build a strong local economy for our families. Her devotion and leadership to the City of San Bernardino has been invaluable and I’m proud to give her my full support.”
The 80 percent show of confidence in Brown exceeded the 70 percent threshold the statewide party considers the necessary benchmark upon which to award an endorsement.
“We’ve been working hard to bring Democratic unity to the Inland Empire, and today’s confirmation of support validates this effort,” Brown said.
Segura, a former member of the Los Angeles city Planning Commission, had a few words to say about Gipson.
“The incumbent won his seat in the last election with anything but a moral majority,” she said. “My opponent received fewer than 30,000 votes in a district with 217,000 registered voters and over 470,000 residents. That tells me he doesn’t represent the will of the people, who are suffering from contaminated air and water, sub-par public schools, rising unemployment, violence, and no voice at the political table.”
Speculators believe the challengers are backed by environmentalists seeking revenge for Senate Bill 350, the high-profile climate-change legislation that sparked controversy over whether the incumbents were being targeted because of their race.
Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) suspects environmental groups assisted in recruiting the challengers, due to changes made to SB 350. Inculpating the groups for using wedge politics.
“The environmental community, and the broader environment coalition, needs to figure out whether or not it’s going to be a collaborator and work with Black California on policy and shared political goals, or if it will be an adversary to selected representatives,” he said.
The California Legislative Black Caucus has 12 representatives, the caucus has never had this many members in the state’s history.
“We have two seats that are being challenged and potential three seats for pick-up. While we want to pick up seats our first priority obviously is to protect our members,” said the black caucus leader Sen. Hall.