SAN DIEGO (CN) –Thousands of California Democrats gathered in San Diego Saturday for the state party’s annual convention where the unifying message was resisting President Donald Trump’s administration.
California Democratic Party leaders, including Sen. Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, took to the main stage ahead of endorsing caucuses later Saturday night to drum up support for building a unified “Blue Wave” aimed at taking control of the House of Representatives in the November election.
Democratic leaders hope to usher in progressive Congress members and take back 14 seats currently held by Republicans. If California Democrats take back those seats, the party is likely to gain control of the House.
Waters, a popular figure in the Democratic Party, spent much of her speech berating Trump’s policy priorities – from building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to his administrative appointments.
“Give me a break,” Waters said. “Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, this woman has never seen the inside of a classroom. All her efforts have been to eliminate public education in favor of privatization.”
She also said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, should be sent “back to the hospital where he can do some operating.”
The convention erupted in cheers when Waters invoked her famous “reclaiming my time” phrase she coined during a House Financial Services Committee meeting.
Waters repeatedly accused Trump of “lying” throughout her speech.
“This president promised to drain the swamp yet this president is swimming in the swamp … After all we have learned after a year as president, it’s time to get ready for impeachment,” Waters said as she received a standing ovation while leading an “Impeach 45” chant.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who was elected in 2016 and is considered a contender to run for president in 2020, told California Democrats they need “to think about 2018 as the most important year of our lives.”
She spent much of her speech on the need to pass a clean Dream Act before the deadline runs out on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for children brought to the U.S. illegally. The program is set to expire in a little over a week on March 5.
“There is a very real crisis brewing and it’s about the very real futures for the 220,000 Dreamers who call California their home,” Harris said. “The only way to win this fight is if we are clear about the values we are fighting for. Our Dreamers should not be pitted against their parents; they should not be treated as bargaining chips.”
Harris said the Democratic Party needs to “remind Americans we have so much more in common than what separates us” and that progressives need to fight the rhetoric that “blames ‘others’.”
While the Democratic candidates vying to replace Gov. Jerry Brown largely agree on major platforms such as education and housing, another California political race is shaping up to get ugly.
Current state Sen. Kevin De Leon, challenging longtime U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein who has served in the Senate for over two decades, said Saturday he respects Feinstein’s service, but that “California’s greatness comes from acts of human audacity, not Congressional seniority.”
De Leon, who was greeted by the deafening cheers of his supporters, challenged Feinstein’s voting record on supporting school vouchers, supporting prosecuting minors as adults and voting for a law allowing intelligence agencies to spy on Americans’ communications without ever naming her.
“Real leadership, moral clarity, is always doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” De Leon said. “It’s time to export California’s values to Washington, not the other way around.”
Feinstein focused her address on reviving the Senate bill to ban assault weapons in light of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week, calling it her “quest and mission” and saying she is “absolutely committed” to seeing the ban signed into law.
The senator spent so much time talking about gun control, she didn’t get to discuss her other campaign positions and was cut off by loud music signaling her time was up.
Some De Leon supporters held up campaign signs and screamed “Your time is up,” as Feinstein walked off the stage.
Senate race underdog Pat Harris called out the Democratic Party “establishment” and said the party can’t build a platform based solely on “bashing Donald Trump.”
“We’re not winning because we give up the very values that make us the party of working men and women,” Harris said, spending a significant portion of his address underlying why he does not take corporate donations.
“This is the fight of our lifetime and we cannot continue to take corporate donations and then expect different results in Washington,” Harris said.
The California Democratic Party is expected to endorse a Governor and Senate candidate sometime Saturday night. The convention was going through Sunday, when the party will adopt its 2018 party platform.