(CN) – In the afternoon session of the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco on Saturday, which featured many of the second-tier candidates outside of the top three in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, Cory Booker and Jay Inslee distinguished themselves from the pack.
Booker, a Senator from New Jersey, in particular riled up a crowd that sat politely if unenthusiastically through many of the other candidates’ speeches that began after lunch at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco.
“This is about more than one guy and one office,” Booker said. “This election is a referendum on who we are and what we must be to each other. Beating Donald Trump is our floor, not our ceiling. Our ambitions must be greater than that.”
Booker also extemporized about the shooting in Virginia Beach on Friday which resulted in the death of 12 people, saying part of the Democratic mission should include “crushing the NRA.”
Booker left the stage to a standing ovation, one of the only of the day.
Washington state Gov. Inslee also earned the approval of the audience in delivering his speech focused on the environment, climate change and the creation of a green energy future.
“We are the only party willing to face the existential threat to the United States of America — the climate crisis,” Inslee said. “We are the party of science and the party of confidence to build a clean energy future for the United States.”
While Inslee’s speech was popular, he also had the benefit of following John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, who elicited a chorus of boos when he criticized socialism.
“If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve our goals, socialism is not the answer,” he said.
Hickenlooper also criticized Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and left the stage under scattered boos and a paucity of applause.
Kirsten Gillibrand, senator from New York, failed to energize the convention crowd during her seven-minute speech. Her campaign is widely believed to be flailing and the senator didn’t do much in San Francisco to dispel the perception. Her message of being the candidate best positioned to fight against Trump’s war on women didn’t gain much traction with the gathered delegates.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, found more approval during his stint as he talked about his ability to return the deindustrialized Midwest to the Democrats combined with a capability to lead the country into the future rather than present an obsession with a vanished past.
“In these times, Democrats can no more promise to take us back to the 2000s or 1990s than conservatives can promise to take us back to the 1950s,” Buttigieg said, taking a shot not only at Trump, but perhaps a veiled knock on Joe Biden who was absent from the proceedings.
The crowd responded most favorably to his support of public education and teachers.
“We need a secretary of education who believes in public education,” the mayor said to big cheers.
Eric Swalwell used his time to play up his California roots, touting the Golden State as a hub of innovation, problem solving and unflagging energy.
“California helped spread reality TV to the world,” the congressman said. “But, California, we’re going to help remove a reality TV star from the Oval Office. This series is cancelled.”
While Swalwell’s line vied for the punchiest of the day, Amy Klobuchar got huge laughs by appealing to her working class roots.
“I don’t come from money but I have grit,” she said, reminding the audience she has won every election she ever ran in despite having a smaller war chest in many of them.
In one election where money was particularly tight, Klobuchar said she set a fundraising record that remains unmatched.
“I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends,” she said.
Tulsi Gabbard, who brought sizable contingent to the convention, sought to carve out her space as the peace candidate, criticizing America’s foreign wars and what she characterized as a persistent lust for regime change.
“I would end our longstanding policy of costly regime change wars which has cost far too many lives and undermined our national security,” she said to a receptive audience.
From the long list of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, only three remain to address the delegates at the convention on Sunday, headlined by Senator Bernie Sanders.
Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Julian Castro, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama, are also slated to speak.