Kamala Harris flexes endorsement muscle ahead of California Democratic convention

By Stephanie Ramirez

/ CBS News

DNC announces new debate rules

Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign is flexing some California muscle this week, announcing on Thursday that 33 State assembly members were endorsing her presidential candidacy, after one report observed that she does not have her home state "locked up."

California will have a bigger footprint in 2020 presidential contest than it has in past years, when its nominating contest has take place at the very end of the primary process, usually well after the party's nominee has been determined.

"Traditionally, California has been treated as something of a political ATM. There's fundraising, that happens of course in California, in the tech industry and in Hollywood. Those are major generators of funds for Democratic candidates. But we really haven't seen the traditional level of campaigning and engagement with voters," California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin told CBS News' Alex Tin.

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That will change this year, thanks to legislation Mullin co-authored, bumping California's 2020 presidential primary up three months to March 3, or "Super Tuesday," the day when the largest number of states will be voting in their primaries. Early voting begins on February 3, the same day as the Iowa caucuses.

"It totally scrambles the way things are done in at least Democratic President politics and it's the reason why more than half of the field is here in San Francisco this weekend for the state convention," said CBS News' Ed O'Keefe on Friday.

As the most populated state, California has more than 400 delegates to award. Those delegates will be awarded proportionally, meaning that a number of candidates could walk away with delegates.

At least fifteen 2020 contenders, including Harris, Sanders and Warren, are attending the California Democratic Convention this weekend.

Endorsements from state lawmakers may not necessarily translate to support from primary voters. They do, however, indicate that Harris still enjoys support from the state's Democratic Party establishment. Her list of 33 State Assembly endorsements represents more than half of the state's 61 Democratic Assembly members. Among those state leaders is California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Rendon is a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, who also endorsed Harris in her 2016 Senate race against Loretta Sanchez, who was a Southern California congresswoman.

Another significant Harris endorsement came from Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, who had endorsed Sanders in 2016.

"2019 looks very different than 2016," said Carrillo in a statement to CBS News. "My belief is that most Americans aren't coming from the left or the right, we're coming from the bottom up and want to be inspired by a candidate that can unite our country, to me, that candidate is Senator Kamala Harris.

"I supported her Attorney General race, her U.S. Senate race and now proudly support her Presidential race and deeply believe that this campaign is about people and the pursuit of the American Dream, values that California continues to lead on."

Harris also has announced endorsements from a number of the state's 53 U.S. representatives, including Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu, Katie Hill, Julia Brownley and Nanette Barragan.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also from California, has no plans to endorse a candidate in a Democratic primary, said an aide.

Absent in the list of names is California Sen. Diane Feinstein, who has not officially announced an endorsement but has voiced support for former Biden. The former vice president is not attending the convention and instead speaking at an Ohio Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday.

First published on May 31, 2019 / 7:12 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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