What the heck are the ADEM elections — and why should you care?

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, January 11, 2021


The chief duty of a local Democratic delegate is to attend the California Democratic Convention, seen here from 2019, to vote on party leadership, to help decide on Democratic Party political endorsements for candidates and ballot initiatives, and to help shape the party platform. (Photo by Carey Wheaton)

Today is the last day to request a ballot for the ADEM election to vote for Democratic delegates to the California Democratic Convention.

Sonoma County is one of the bluest counties in California, voting overwhelmingly Democratic. But do most Democratic voters really feel like they have a say in how the Democratic party platform gets created and who decides which candidates locally get the official endorsement of the party?

In part these decisions are made by Democratic office holders, their appointees and Democratic county committees. But you can have some say in the matter by voting for Democratic delegates in the ADEM (Assembly District Election Meetings) elections, which are coming up at the end of the month.

Today, Monday, Jan. 11, is the last day to request a mail-in ballot for the upcoming ADEMs.  You can request a ballot online here: https://ademelections.com/?isCandidate=False (Note: the title of the page is a bit confusing, asking people to “Register to Vote.” In this case, it means register to vote for the ADEMs.)

Ballots must be mailed back and arrive by Jan. 27 or they won’t be counted.

The Democratic Party (like the Republican Party) is a private entity, so these are considered private elections, but any registered Democrat in the state can vote in their local ADEM election.

ADEM elections are held in 80 California Assembly Districts, including District 10, which includes much of southern Sonoma County, including Sebastopol, as well as all of Marin County.

There are 36 people running this year in District 10, and their candidate statements can be found at https://adem.cadem.org/assembly-districts/ad-10/.

You get to choose 14 candidates out of the 36 people on the ballot. (If you vote for more than 14, your ballot will be disqualified.)  A majority of the candidates are running as a part of one of two slates: the Progressive Slate and the Democrats United slate, but you vote for the candidates individually. You can vote a complete slate or you can pick and choose.

What do delegates do?

According to the FAQ page of the California Democratic Party (https://adem.cadem.org/), delegates vote and conduct California Democratic Party (CADEM) business at the yearly state convention, including:

  • They participate in the election of CADEM officers: chairman, two vice-chairs, secretary and controller. (These party elections happen in odd-numbered years after presidential elections— so this will happen this year.)
  • They participate in the election of 16-25 Regional Directors who function as liaisons between the California Democratic Party, County Central Committees, and Democratic Clubs in regions comprised of three to five Assembly Districts.
  • They help to decide on endorsements by the California Democratic Party for legislative and statewide offices in California, as well as ballot propositions.
  • They help establish of the official California Democratic State Party Platform (in even-numbered years)

A tale of two slates

The Progressive Slate

progressive slate

ADEM delegates make up one-third of the state’s 3,000-plus Democratic delegates. There has been a concerted effort by progressives within the party to move the Democratic Party leftward by voting for progressive candidates in local ADEMs — a movement that was given a boost by Bernie Sanders candidacy in 2016.

In the last ADEM election in 2019, members of the Progressive Slate in District 10 took 10 of the 14 delegate seats up for grabs. The folks on the Progressive Slate are hoping for a repeat performance.

Members on the progressive slate this time around include Caroline Banuelos, Lisa Bennett, Connie Barker, Ruth Carter, Elizabeth Escalante, Samantha Ramirez, Carey Caccavo Wheaton, Omar Figueroa, Daniel Levy, Perry Lloyd, Mark Malouf, Ralph Miller, Norman Solomon and Jerry Threet. (Jim Wheaton is also listed on the ballot, but he stepped aside so Threet could run.)

You can read about them here: http://theprogressiveslate.org/Our-Members/

Threet, Wheaton and Figueroa are from Sebastopol.

Threet, who’s running as a party delegate for the first time, said he’s running to become a delegate because “I believe we need stronger grassroots voices to push issues that are important to the many working class and poor people our party is supposed to support. Too often, our party puts the needs of rich donors and elected officials first, meaning we don’t address pressing needs until there is a crisis and sometimes not even then,” he said.

Threet, an attorney and the former head of IALERO (a watchdog organization that oversees the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office), is currently doing a review and report on Sebastopol’s Police Department policies. His long-standing interest in criminal justice is part of why he’s running.

“My focus will be pushing the party to support 1) greater transparency and accountability for law enforcement and correctional agencies; 2) prioritizing equity and support for the poor and BIPOC communities; and 3) building self-sufficiency and sustainability for local communities in the face of the devastating effects of climate change,” he said.

Asked why he chose to run as a part of the Progressive Slate, he said, “I’m running with the Progressive Slate because we share values that prioritize grassroots organizing over big money fundraising, and because we support policy solutions that prioritize the needs of ordinary people over big money donors,” he said.

Carey Wheaton, a grassroots organizer and voting rights activist from Sebastopol, has been a delegate to the California Democratic Party for four years now and has gone to the California Democratic Convention twice as a member of the Progressive Slate.

She’s proud of the changes the progressive wing of the party has managed to make over that time.

“Members of the Progressive Slate have brought historic, positive reforms to the party, in democratizing the way it is run and the way delegates are elected (not just appointed),” she said. “Our goal is a less top-down and more just, inclusive, and effective Democratic Party that can lead and inspire the country in caring for all, including the most marginalized among us.”

She described the Progressive Slate’s policy positions this way: “Promoting a 58-county strategy to win elections, improving the platform to be more progressive and take stronger stands on these and other issues: climate, energy, healthcare, civil rights, criminal justice, racial and economic (in)equality, student debt, homelessness, elder rights, disability rights, money in politics, voting rights and quality education for all.”

Find out more about the Progressive Slate at http://theprogressiveslate.org/.

The Democrats United Slate

democrats united slate

Susan Bolle, a branding consultant from Tiburon, is seeking her second term as a delegate with the Democrats United slate.

“I want to be a delegate because I really feel like there’s so many priorities that we need to address to make sure that the California Democratic Party moves forward with the change that we need in our country and to set the gold standard for the rest of the country for how it looks when the Democratic Party works together to make that change happen,” she said.

She described the Democrats United slate this way: “We are trying to unite Democrats around the same issues that the other slate is working toward: the climate crisis, affordable high-quality health care, stabilizing our economy after COVID,” she said.

Bolle described Democrats United as a diverse group of Democrats passionately interested in different Democratic issues. Bolle, like Wheaton, has spent the last several years doing voting rights activism, but she said all the members of her slate have different issues they’re devoted to.

Max Perrey, who works in communications for Redwood Community Health Coalition, is also running as part of the Democrats United Slate. Perrey sees the Democrats United Slate is more about inclusivity, diversity and effectiveness, than about any particular policy positions.

Perrey said that personally he comes from the progressive wing of the party (he was a Bernie supporter in 2016), but he described Democrats United as more interested in maintaining a big tent.

He said he believes policy making is the role of elected officials. He sees the role of party delegate as something quite different.

“Our role is to build the party, and to make it an effective outreach, fundraising, volunteer-driven, grassroots-driven machine to elect Democrats and actually see policy proposals move forward and to do it in a united fashion where we (Democrats) are not attacking each other but instead we’re lifting each other up.”

Perrey said that the policy positions of different members of the Democrats United slate vary but are generally more progressive than average, just because Marin and Sonoma County have more progressive politics than the rest of the state.

See the Democrats United website at https://democratsunitedad10.nationbuilder.com/.

Members of both slates were careful not to bash the other slate. Things got a little tense during the last ADEMs and both groups are eager to avoid that this time around.

If you’re a devoted Democrat, this is your chance to have a say in who represents you at the next Democratic California Convention. You have until 11:59 pm tonight, Jan. 11, to request a ballot for the ADEM election in District 10.