Veronica Boulos, a student at Sacramento State University and an active participant in party politics, emphasized the importance of holding elected officials accountable. She stated, “We’re going to make sure in November that they represent us and they hear us.”
The tensions surrounding the conflict in Gaza are heavily influencing the race for an open U.S. Senate seat previously held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. While candidates Schiff and Porter have rejected calls for a cease-fire, Lee has demanded one, aligning herself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
This weekend, Democrats will vote on their preferred Senate candidate during the convention, although it is unlikely that any candidate will reach the required 60 percent endorsement threshold. Porter and Schiff have aligned themselves with the Biden administration’s position, which supports humanitarian pauses to provide aid to civilians in Gaza but does not support a cease-fire.
Despite mounting pressure from progressive groups, including at the party’s home-state convention, both candidates have refrained from calling on Israel to stop its military operation. Schiff emphasized the importance of Israel’s right to defend itself and the need to protect innocent civilians.
While he supports the administration’s efforts, he did not comment on whether the Israeli government is doing enough to minimize harm to Palestinians. Lee, on the other hand, has emphasized her progressive credentials by calling for a cease-fire, which differentiates her from her competitors.
Barisha Spriggs, a convention delegate, explained that she chose to support Lee over Porter due to their differing stances on the conflict. Spriggs became disillusioned with Porter after discovering her lack of support for a cease-fire, which she viewed as not being progressive.
Spriggs stated, “Barbara Lee is the only candidate calling for a cease-fire. That’s a stance on the right side of history.” During the convention, around 100 protesters held a sit-in and disrupted speakers before entering the main convention area.
Their chants of “cease-fire now!” were countered by party chair Rusty Hicks, who encouraged attendees to “organize to win.” Although Governor Gavin Newsom was not present at the convention, protesters chanted his name. Newsom, who visited Israel shortly after the attacks, has not called for a cease-fire.
Naomi Goldman, a board member of Democrats for Israel California, expressed disappointment in the lack of consequences for the disruptors, some of whom chanted “from the river to the sea.” While Palestinian activists view this phrase as a call for freedom and equality, many Jews see it as a call for the destruction of Israel.
Goldman, wearing a T-shirt that said “Nice Jewish Girl,” noted the Democratic Party’s previous condemnation of hate speech against other groups and questioned why there was no similar support for the Jewish community during the conflict. Although some speakers called for a cease-fire during the convention, their remarks did not reflect the official party position.
The California Democratic Party maintains its stance, which calls for a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and independence, sovereignty, and dignity for Palestinians. The party had anticipated disturbances at the convention and implemented stricter security measures to address concerns following past incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
Party chair Rusty Hicks downplayed the risk of Democrats withholding their votes due to the party’s handling of the Gaza conflict, stating that there is still plenty of time until the November 2024 election.