County Dems seek $$$ from would-be endorsees

An anonymous caller directed me to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee’s website, where candidates filling out an endorsement application are asked for a $50 contribution “to offset the cost of our endorsement process.”

“It just seems undemocratic,” said the caller (whom I assume meant that with a small “d”), acknowledging he’s running for a local office and so declining to provide his name lest he incur the party’s wrath. “I’ve been a Democrat all my life, and this is a little bit over the top; it’s not like I don’t already contribute to the president and other campaigns.”

Chairwoman Robin Torello said the county party started soliciting such contributions from candidates in 2010, although it just raised the suggested ante from $25 to $50 “because it was not covering our expenses, plus this is a bigger year with more races.”

Torello said her committee is looking at almost 200 Democrats running in more than 120 local races across the county this November. Vetting so many candidates for endorsement means spending on everything from printing, postage and phone costs to refreshments for the volunteer committee members who’ll be sitting through five full days of interviews, she said.

The process takes “dozens and dozens and dozens of hours, and we’re all volunteers except for one staff person, but one person can’t do all this,” she said, noting the $50 is just a suggested contribution. “We don’t not interview people if they don’t pay – it’s a donation to help defray the costs. And we’re just aligning ourselves with other county committees that have been doing this for years. We think it’s warranted.”

Contra Costa County Democratic Party officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on whether they charge such fees, too. (UPDATE @ 8:22 A.M. WEDNESDAY: They don’t, chairman Chuck Carpenter said in an e-mail last night.)

On the other side of the Bay, San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee Chairman David Burruto said his committee used to charge “a nominal fee just because we had to Xerox a lot of things,” but in this age of fast, cheap email has stopped doing so.

“We don’t charge anything,” he said. “The only thing we ask of candidates sometimes is if they want to be on a slate mailer.”

In the South Bay, chairman Steve Preminger said “at no point in our endorsement process does the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee state or imply that a candidate seeking our endorsement should make a financial contribution or pay any fees to the SCCDP.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Common Tater

    Most of the county races are for non-partisan offices. Does the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee endorse candidates for those offices, too?

  • David

    I’ve heard that this is happening with Democratic Party committees all across the country.

    And, yes, the ACDCC issues endorsements for everything from dog catcher down to PTA president, even if it’s a non-partisan office.

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    I’m sympathetic to the unseemliness mentioned by the caller. On the flipside of the coin, though, local parties — Democrat and Republican — provide a certain on-the-ground institutional base for any candidate running for local office, not just state assembly, state senate, congress or statewide/president. Too frequently, though, candidates treat the local parties as nothing more than an election-year-check-box. Pete Stark’s failure to pay DCCCC dues represents a good example of this writ large — sounds to me like the Alameda Democratic Party wants to get endorsed candidates in the habit of paying dues to the party early on.