What should we expect when Newsom, a Gen Z rep and Democratic drama take the convention stage?

Will Gov. Gavin Newsom try to enhance his national profile? Will the three California representatives vying for a U.S. Senate seat make headway with their party? How will Assembly Speaker-elect Robert Rivas be received by the state’s delegates? And where is the Democratic party headed before a consequential election in 2024?

These questions lie beneath the biggest gathering of Democrats this year – this weekend’s 2023 California Democratic Party Re-organizing State Convention.

Delegates, elected officials and activists convene Thursday through Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, with a spotlight on newly elected delegates, as well as high-wattage speakers. The state party will also honor Rep. (and Speaker Emerita) Nancy Pelosi.

The delegates will serve from 2023-2025, including a crucial election year for the state and national Democratic Party. Billed as an opportunity to organize in the face of “extreme MAGA Republicans who are working hard to roll back our effort to build progress,” the gathering is also sure to shed light on what the future of the state Democratic Party looks like, and the tenor of the political approach it and its players will take.

What are some of expected storylines?

Newsom: Campaign speech?

Newsom earlier this month unveiled his revised budget, which includes a $31.5 billion deficit. He has consistently denied rumors of a potential bid for the White House but has spent much of this year campaigning — if not officially for president, then at least for “democracy.”

His Campaign for Democracy political action committee tour took him to the Southern states of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and of course, Florida, where he spoke to Democratic leaders, activists and students about the PAC’s mission to “confront and defeat un-American authoritarianism.”

Will he use his platform at the convention to stick to California’s biggest issues? Or will he use the stage to go after his usual foes in the national political arena: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis?

Florida state of mind

Maxwell Frost, 25 was elected in the state in 2022, and made history as the first member of Gen Z to walk the halls of Congress as a representative. Frost was the organizing director for March for Our Lives, the gun reform movement started by mass shooting survivors in Parkland.

Frost is the the counter to DeSantis — young, progressive and a bilingual supporter of a Green New Deal and LGBTQ rights. A frequent DeSantis critic (much like Newsom), what message will the young Congressman have for Californians? What do Californians need to hear from a Florida Democrat?

Whatever his message may be, it will likely be delivered with Frost’s trademark generational humor.

In response to finding out that DeSantis will launch his presidential campaign in a Twitter space with Elon Musk, Frost responded with a succinct: “Lmao this is so lame.”

Focus on California progressives

The slogan for the convention this year is one Democratic organizers have heard time and again: “Don’t agonize, organize.”

Although the phrase is not new in organizing circles, it actually originated with radical, Black feminist and civil rights activist Flo Kennedy, who fought for abortion rights and an end to discrimination based on race and gender, and who refused to separate the movement to end racism from the movement to end sexism and misogyny.

How will the California Democratic Party — a party nearly split in two by its blue dog moderates and its young progressives — honor the legacy of Kennedy, who People magazine in 1974 called “the biggest, loudest and, indisputably, the rudest mouth on the battleground”?

Perhaps by giving a platform to some of its most progressive elected officials and representatives.

One is State Sen. Aisha Wahab, the Bay Area Democrat who came out of the gate her freshman year with a civil rights bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of caste. Wahab became the first Afghan American woman elected to public office in the U.S. when she won a seat on Hayward City Council in 2018, and she is currently the only Muslim state senator.

Sen. Aisha Wahab speaks to the crowd gathered during the Ramadan Iftar on Monday, April 10, 2023, at the state Capitol in downtown Sacramento. Ramadan, which began on March 23, 2023, is the Islamic holy month of self-discipline, charity, fasting, and spiritual renewal. Muslims end their daily fast after sunset with a meal known as iftar.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, the left-of-center candidate who beat billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat Rick Caruso for the mayoral seat last fall, will get the mic, too. She is the first woman elected mayor of Los Angeles. Former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff will also attend, speaking as the Interim Executive Director of Emerge California, a group that helps elect Democrat women to public office.

Speakers from other progressive movements — such as United Farm Workers, California YIMBY and the California Teachers Association — will bolster a progressive policy lineup, and by showcasing some of its diverse, progressive members and organizations, the party may well reach more young Californians who feel disconnected from it.

Rivas debuts as Speaker

The convention will coincide with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s final month as one of the highest ranking Democrats in the state. Salinas Assemblyman Robert Rivas told Rendon last May that he had secured enough votes to take over as speaker.

The heated race for the position overlapped with the 2022 election, and Rivas supporters launched a PAC to help elect candidates who would support a Rivas speakership. They included Central Valley Assemblywoman-elect Esmeralda Soria, who will also speak at the convention.

In a contentious November battle for the speakership, the Democratic caucus voted ultimately to elect Rivas , but also to allow Rendon to finish his final term.

Ideologically, the two are nearly identical. They differ in their temperaments and leadership styles, however, and some Assembymembers voiced frustration last fall with Rendon’s inability to get certain bills passed.

Both men will make appearances this weekend in Los Angeles; Rendon will be speaking, and Rivas will speak to the party’s rural caucus, and host a welcome reception on Friday night before he starts his new job in June.

Battle of the U.S. Senate campaigns

A gathering of all the state’s major Democratic players will be important for the three members of Congress vying to replace U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who will retire after this term.

Campaigns for Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee will each have a booth at the convention, and Schiff’s and Lee’s campaigns will each host a campaign event on Friday night.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., acknowledges supporters after speaking during her campaign launch rally to succeed Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate, at Laney College on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Oakland.

Pelosi, the convention’s star guest, came out early in support of Rep. Schiff, who became a Democratic Party darling when he oversaw both of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings. His convention campaign event — “A Comedy Intervention” — will coincide with Rep. Barbara Lee’s event, “CA to TN to DC: Barbara Lee speaks for me.” The Bay Area progressive is lagging in both polls and dollars compared to Schiff and Porter.