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Jessica Morse wins state Democratic Party endorsement

Heated effort by opponents to challenge vote falls short
By: Graham Womack, Staff Writer
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When Jessica Morse learned Saturday that she’d cleared the 60 percent of delegate votes needed to secure the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in her run for the state’s 4th Congressional District, it didn’t end the drama for the weekend.
Because Morse received 44 of 67 delegate votes at the state convention, held last Friday through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center, she fell just shy of the 66 percent support needed to prevent anyone from challenging her endorsement during a floor vote Sunday.
Supporters for two opposing candidates, Regina Bateson and Roza Calderon then attempted Saturday evening to gather the 300 delegate signatures needed to challenge the endorsement. While this effort ultimately proved fruitless, it led to an incident that showed how heated the Democratic race has become.
Kara Aley, a volunteer for Bateson’s campaign, said she’d just started gathering signatures with a Calderon volunteer when she was approached in short succession around 8 p.m. Saturday by Tuolumne County delegate Deborah Baron and an El Dorado County delegate, who each yelled at people not to sign her petition.
Aley said she then summoned a security guard, who took a walk with the El Dorado delegate, though enforcement appears to not have escalated.
Representatives for the San Diego Police Department and the convention center’s security team said there were no arrests or reports filed. The state Democratic Party also retained its own security firm for the convention, United Security, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Bateson referred to the incident in a Facebook post Monday as an “instance of physical assault — which resulted in intervention by security guards.” Aley said the incident stopped short of assault, though it represented harassment to her.
“I would just like this not to happen anymore,” Aley said.
Morse said she reached out to Aley in the days following the convention “to see if there was anything I could do to be supportive and helpful.” Morse denied that her campaign played any role in orchestrating or engaging in the incident.
“I want to make it clear to everybody that that’s not a standard we try to uphold,” Morse said.
Baron called Aley to apologize after the convention, as did the El Dorado delegate, though Baron said the behavior during the incident was acceptable within bylaws and that conventions can get rowdy.
“Those of us who have been to other ones (know) it has been more raucous than that,” Baron said.
The El Dorado County delegate didn’t respond to a message left less than 24 hours before press time, so they aren’t being identified at this time.
In the days following the incident, Aley tweeted at state Democratic Party leaders including Christine Pelosi, chair of the party’s Women’s Caucus.
“It’s really critical that people remember they’re an ambassador for the campaign,” Pelosi said by phone Wednesday.
Ultimately, it was just the latest incident in a primary race that’s intensified since Morse received 55 percent of the vote at a pre-endorsement conference in January. 
That signaled Morse — who’s raised more money than any Democratic candidate in the district since 2008 — as most likely to receive her party’s endorsement.
In recent weeks, Morse has faced a Sacramento Bee story suggesting she’d embellished her decade of experience working in the federal government as a national security strategist. Bateson and Calderon also released a joint statement last Thursday urging that the party endorse no candidate ahead of the June 5 primary.
Morse said she stood by her work record and that she was hanging tough through the attacks.
“It’s really allowed us to practice and prepare for what we’re going to get from McClintock,” Morse said.
Bateson and Calderon have each indicated in Facebook posts since returning from the convention that they intend to stay in the race. They had previously promised to abide by the party’s endorsement.
Calderon, who received four votes from delegates at the state convention, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Bateson defended remaining in the race after getting 13 delegate votes.
“I think that most people here don’t vote according to what the state-wide and national Democratic Party thinks,” Bateson said. “I think people here want a representative who’s a homegrown, independent leader. I think they want to vote for a person of good character, that they can trust and I think that’s why I’ve seen an outpouring of local support since the convention.”
As it stands, the primary could feature five candidates, including five-term Republican incumbent Tom McClintock and another Republican, 26-year-old Roseville resident Mitchell White.
Under state law, the two candidates who receive the most votes June 5 will, regardless of party, appear on the ballot for the general election Nov. 6.  In other words, if Morse, Bateson and Calderon split the vote in June, McClintock and White might receive the most votes and make the November ballot.
Aley said she was putting Saturday’s incident behind her.
“We should focus on defeating Tom McClintock,” Aley said. “I would say that to everybody.”