Advanced preparation helps you get the most out of your investment
If you view the State Convention within a larger context, it will help you better prepare for — and utilize — the convention so that it becomes a tool that helps strengthen your effectiveness as an organizer.
State Party conventions are not isolated events. They may be an annual linchpin event, but many other important gatherings and collaborative efforts take place around the state throughout the year — including Executive Board meetings (scheduled quarterly around the state), County Central Committee meetings, State Party Caucus work, Regional meetings (scheduled prior to Executive Board meetings) and all of the boots-on-the-ground work we all do year-round. To make Convention the most effective use of your investment, design the weekend to gather skills and training, and develop relationships that will help make the rest of the year more successful.
The annual convention is unique for a few reasons: 1) it is largest gathering of some of the most active Democrats from around the state; 2) it is the largest annual gathering of Democratic and Legislative leaders; and 3) due to the social nature of the convention (caucus meetings, hospitality suites, breakfasts, off-site events, etc.) important networking opportunities are available. In addition, the convention offers multiple training events.
It is helpful to strategically pick a couple of specific (and realistic) convention goals, for instance: network with folks from another part of the state who are focused on similar issues in order to share best practices, take advantage of particular training, or foster a mentor relationship.
If there are specific people with whom you would like to spend time, set a firm time and location in advance; making clear plans for the weekend beforehand increases your efficiency. A convention is a large gathering and it is easy to be overwhelmed or become distracted – plan in advance.
You may want to approach the weekend as a regional team to ensure all bases get covered. For instance, have a conversation with all of the local delegates in advance to make sure that any of the desired training events, Caucus meetings or networking are covered by at least one person in your group who will be responsible for providing feedback to your group.
It is also equally important to take this opportunity to engage with folks with whom you otherwise wouldn’t have face-to-face time. Consider stepping outside of your social comfort zone and use the weekend to build a new alliance, increase your network or discover a different (and perhaps more successful approach) in order to increase your local productivity.
Day by Day Specifics
The annual Democratic Party State Convention can be fun and productive, but daunting and chaotic as well. The following information will help you know what to expect and plan your convention weekend.
Credentialing & Registration
Registering in advance using the online registration form is the best option; it allows you to both save money and bypass onsite registration/payment lines.
NOTE: You must still sign in and pick up your credential during credentialing hours. If you do not arrive in time to be credentialed you may have to wait until credentialing re-opens the next day to retrieve your credential. You must be credentialed in order to vote at any point during the convention. Credentials are also required to enter general session.
Credentialing and registration begins at 3pm on Friday. Please check the schedule to make sure you are in line before credentialing/registration closes for the day. Lines in the early afternoon tend to be longer, so you may want to enjoy other convention activities until the lines are more manageable.
Caucus dues can also be paid in advance online. This will help avoid otherwise long (time-consuming) and crowded lines prior to caucus meetings.
Types of Credentials
There are different types of convention credentials; for delegates and the public at large there are three: Delegate / Proxy Delegate / Observer.
Delegate: An elected or appointed member of the State Central Committee and the voting body of the convention (all Delegates are finalized prior to convention.)
Proxy: A person representing an elected or appointed Delegate. A Proxy may be chosen from a specific pool of people, depending on the method by which the Delegate was elected or appointed. (Click here for more information on convention Proxy rules). A Proxy is expected to vote in a manner consistent with the Delegate they are representing.
Observer: A “guest” of an elected or appointed Delegate. An Observer may participate in workshops and Caucus meetings, social events and general session — but may not vote. There is a special seating section for Observers, distinct from the voting delegation.
Delegate credentials are labeled with name, state legislative and congressional districts and region, with a space for the delegate’s signature. (Proxy delegates will have the delegate’s information, not the Proxy’s) and include a “Proxy” sticker, although a Proxy signs their own signature on the credential.
Credentials are issued in a whole rainbow of colors, each indicating a different category, which include: staff, volunteers, press, exhibitors, honored guests, candidates and campaign staff.
You must have a credential in order to get into the general session so take care not to leave it at home or at your hotel this will be your pass for everyday of the event.
General Session Seating
General Session seating is divided into 20 Regions. Tall signs designate each region, with the region’s number. Delegates and proxy delegates sit in their regions; this is important for vote counting. (Remember that proxies are expected to vote according to the wishes of their delegate.)
Observers and media have clearly designated separate seating sections. Volunteer ushers work throughout the general session to ensure that people are sitting in the correct section and to direct people as needed and to make sure the aisles remain clear at all times. (If you want to have a conversation, you will need to do so away from the region seating section.)
Workshops / Caucus Meetings
Workshops and caucus meetings take place both Friday and Saturday at the Westin Bonaventure, and most workshops run twice. If a workshop interests you but conflicts with a caucus meeting, check the full agenda to see if it’s repeated. If all workshops are “don’t miss” topics to you, remember your delegation will work best as a team to cover all of the events — and take notes.
As a Delegate, part of your responsibility is to bring home what you’ve learned. Plan a post-convention presentation to your local club, County Committee or sub-committee. In fact, pre-planning will help your focus during convention and make you a better Delegate. The Delegate is responsible to represent their local organizations as well as to keep their local activists apprised of information, direction and education. Your role as a Delegate helps us build a stronger and more effective Party.
Friday and Saturday evenings include late-evening hospitality suites by hosted candidates and groups. There is usually some kind of nosh and beverage provided, and these are good opportunities to network and socialize. They generally run after 10:30 pm until midnight and most delegates visit many if not all of the suites.
General Session: Saturday There two general sessions: Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon as well as a Sunday morning session – all at the Convention Center. General session formally “opens” and “closes” the convention, and include Standing Committee reports, Officer reports and are where floor debate and resulting votes take place. On Saturday, expect the Chair to address the delegation, as well as various office-holders.
Reminder: you cannot get into general session without a credential, which means you cannot vote without a credential. Even if you have pre-registered, you must be wearing a credential in order to vote or get into general session.
Endorsements: Depending on the outcome of pre-endorsement conferences taking place throughout the state in February, endorsing caucuses may be held at convention.
Platform: This year the California Democratic Party will be adopting a new Platform. Click here to see the current platform. The draft 2014 Platform will be available by Jan 15, 2014. If you want to amend it, you have until February 10, 2014 to submit your amendments.
Convention Rules: Convention Rules are the guidelines that govern the process of our Convention. They cover everything from voting, endorsements, platform adoption, credentialing, to where you sit. To learn more click here.
CDP Lunch and Dinner
Saturday Lunch Saturday morning’s General Session is followed by a luncheon hosted by the CDP, which will be held in the Convention Center. This event requires a ticket, which may also be purchased in advance. There are also many places around the hotels and Convention Center to eat.
Saturday Dinner The State Party hosts an annual dinner Saturday evening, usually with a very interesting keynote speaker and will be held at the Westin Bonaventure. This year there is also no-host bar. The dinner often sells out so it’s best to purchase your ticket early online.
DEM2014 — Donate Every Month: the small donor program with big rewards! This small donor program, developed by State Party Controller Hilary Crosby, gives grassroots activists a meaningful way to financially participate in the Party. For as little as $5/month, you can become a DEM2014 member and be a part of our large, grassroots donor block. Become a DEM2014 member online, or onsite at Convention at the DEM2014 booth.
Helpful suggestions / things you may want to bring to convention The Los Angeles Convention Center is located within convenient distance of many eateries and the building is designed with many entrance/exits, so getting in and out is fairly easy. However, it is still a large venue and taking a detour may not be especially convenient if you have two events that otherwise would be very near one another. A convention is very tightly scheduled, with many overlapping events, so consider:
- Water / thermos drink
- Snacks (apple, string cheese, nuts)
- Wear comfortable shoes — you’ll do a lot of walking!
- Pad of paper / pen
- Business cards / pre-written contact information
- Your group’s contact information on a 3×5 card
- Cell phone (make sure your group has phone numbers for one-another)
- Scarf, vest or sweater (room temperatures vary widely)
- A method for comfortably carrying stuff (backpack or small rolling cart); you will probably acquire stuff during the day as well as what you bring with you.
- Plan on having a preset reunion location among your group. (Getting separated is easy.)
We hope this quick overview of what to expect at this year’s convention is helpful. Keep an eye out for email updates and notices to give you better ideas of what to expect as well as any late announcements regarding speakers or events.