In a fairly impressive feat of organizing, Marcy Winograd, the progressive challenger to Jane Harman in California’s 36th District, was able to pull Harman’s state party endorsement after amassing enough objections from state party delegates. From the press release:

Congressional Candidate Marcy Winograd (CA-36), working with the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party (CDP), successfully pulled opponent Jane Harman’s Party endorsement prior to the April 16th-18th CDP convention in
Los Angeles.

This means neither candidate will go into the convention with a pre-endorsement — and that a floor debate is likely over which candidate to endorse in the 36th congressional district race. Harman was the only incumbent to have her endorsement pulled by delegates to the California Democratic Party.

After calling delegates throughout the state, the Winograd for Congress campaign, working with leadership of the Party’s Progressive Caucus, Women’s Caucus, Rural Caucus, and Veterans Caucus, collected 329 delegate objections, more than the bylaws’ requirement of 300 to pull a local pre-endorsement of Harman by elected officials, appointed delegates, and others [...]

Winograd raises pertinent questions, “What does the California Democratic Party stand for? Who do we endorse? Someone who rushes us to war, covers up illegal wiretapping,
and votes with Wall Street to make it easier for banks to foreclose? Or someone committed to global diplomacy, the Bill of Rights, and an end to run-away greed on Wall Street? I look forward to this debate on the floor of the California Democratic Party convention as we
continue the fight for the heart and soul of our Party.”

Let me take a stab at explaining this. Nobody gets an endorsement from the state Democratic Party until the convention, which is next weekend. But delegates attend “pre-endorsement” conferences to state their preferences, I believe out of a desire to make things tidier at the CDP. However, this means that the delegates in the particular district, not the entire state party, really makes the early endorsement decision, even though the whole state party’s resources and imprimatur eventually go with that endorsement.

Harman won that pre-endorsement conference with around 70% of the vote. But there’s an option in the bylaws where an opponent can collect 300 signatures – about 1/6 of the entire state party delegates – to pull the pre-endorsement. In this case, that means that the Winograd/Harman endorsement will be fought out on the floor of the convention on Sunday. I believe Harman would actually need a lower threshold to win the endorsement than Winograd will, given her status as the incumbent.

Now, the question arises, does the CDP endorsement matter? Well, any endorsed candidate can get their name on slate mailers and door hangers sent out by the CDP. They typically get an increased amount of organizing from CDP precinct captains. It’s a quick, cheap and easy way to boost advertising and give a patina of authority.

Harman, one of the richest members of Congress, won’t need the financial aid of having the CDP doing her mail campaign. But if this ends, as is likely, with no endorsement, that’s a pretty big victory from Winograd’s perspective, as Harman would be the only incumbent member of Congress in the state not endorsed by the CDP.

In addition, this represents a real organizing victory. Winograd got these 329 objections in a little less than a week. I know I received dozens of emails about it (I’m a former state party delegate who actually served with Marcy). The Winograd campaign showed their ability to realize a goal and turn out supporters quickly, using volunteers and staff. If they can bring the same kind of tenacity to turning out voters, she has a chance at the upset.

In addition, I can tell you that some incumbent state legislators joined the grassroots activists in signing the objection, suggesting that Harman’s establishment support is not monolithic.

Ultimately, the endorsement doesn’t mean a ton, but as an example of good organizing, Winograd proved her mettle. And the fight on the floor should be interesting (although if I had to guess, based on the rules involved I’d say “no endorsement” is the most likely outcome). Not only will I be at the convention next weekend, but a certain Jane Hamsher is attending as well.