Long Beach prepares for massive Democratic convention: Here’s what you need to know

This weekend Long Beach will be the epicenter of the Democratic party.

The city is, for the first time, hosting the four-day California Democratic Party Endorsing Convention, which includes a nationally televised forum featuring eight of the Democratic presidential contenders, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Well-known names are sure to be roaming the streets of Downtown, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Rep. Adam Schiff.

Roughly 5,000 delegates, guests, observers, volunteers, staff and media are expected, not to mention a bevy of protesters, lobbyists and others. Hotels near the convention center are booked solid, restaurants are expecting a crush of customers, banquet rooms will be filled and police will be out in force.

“This is a huge event for the city of Long Beach,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a recent interview. “It’s a testament to the city’s growth and prominence across the state.”

It will be a huge economic boom, particularly in the Downtown area, said Garcia, who is hosting events and delivering opening remarks at the start of general session on Saturday morning.

The stakes at the convention itself are high: California moved its primary election up to March 3, which means the country’s most populous liberal haven will have a far greater say than in past years over who will be the Democratic nominee.

Here’s everything you need to know about the convention.

Inside the convention

The convention officially begins Thursday morning, with the general session for the state’s 3,000 delegates beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

The complete schedule, which is still being updated as events are planned, is available here.

The state party will vote on and finalize its platform for 2019-2020, and will endorse in congressional and legislative races across the state.

In addition to deliberations and voting, a number of caucuses affiliated with the party—representing every group from kids to women to veterans and LGBT—will gather in various corners over three days to likewise discuss their agendas and platforms.

Candidates across the board, including several running for president, will solicit support in speeches on the convention floor and will lobby before specific groups.

The convention participants will also attend to more mundane matters, like registering delegates, dealing with finances and adjusting party rules.

Presidential forum

The highlight of the convention will be a forum Saturday evening hosted by the party and the largest Spanish-language television network, Univision.

The event, from 4 to 6 p.m., will take place in the Long Beach Arena. Candidates slated to participate include: Sen. Cory Booker, Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sanders, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. The forum will air live at 4 p.m. on Univision/KMEX Channel 34.

Two of the top presidential contenders, Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are not attending, prompting state party Chair Rusty Hicks to urge them to reconsider “your misguided decision to publicly snub” the convention.

The Long Beach event is not a debate, former acting party chair Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker said earlier in a statement. “It is a forum that will focus on issues important to Californians and to the Latino community,” she said.

“We think it will be a fantastic addition to that convention and will once again highlight the importance of the Latino vote and California’s impact in the Presidential Primary.”

Security

City public safety officials have been meeting for months to prepare for security risks posed by having a number of high-profile people in town.

The convention is being treated as a “large-scale” affair, on par with an event the size of the Grand Prix, said Arantxa Chavarria, spokeswoman for the Long  Beach Police Department who has been involved in the planning.

Officials from police, fire, health, public works and disaster preparedness have undergone specific training and worked through contingency plans for different types of potential incidents.

The specifics of security aren’t being disclosed, but the convention will be staffed at a higher than normal deployment level, she said.

“This has taken a lot of planning,” she said. “We are confident that we are going to be able to support a safe event. We’re definitely ready.”

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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