Congressional Candidate Dr. Rita Ramirez, Ph.D., alleged at a February 24 endorsement caucus for the 8th Congressional District at the Democratic Convention in San Diego that her opponent, Marge Doyle, “illegally” paid delegate fees as well as their proxies’ dues, registration, meals, transportation and lodging in exchange favorable votes to secure her endorsement from the California Democratic Party (CDP).
California’s 8th Congressional District, which includes the eastern portion of San Bernardino County, is currently represented by Republican Paul Cook.
At a pre-endorsement caucus held early this year, neither Ramirez nor Doyle received 70 percent of the vote. According to CDP by-laws, if no candidate receives 70 percent at a pre-endorsement caucus, the candidates then participate in an endorsement caucus at the Democratic Convention.
According to a memorandum obtained by The Voice/Black Voice News dated March 12, from the CDP Compliance Review Commission (CRC), at the Democratic Convention endorsement caucus for the 8th Congressional District, Doyle received 28 votes, representing 73.7 percent of the vote. Ramirez received 10 votes, representing 26.3 percent of the total. Doyle received the CDP endorsement.
Votes at the pre-endorsement caucus are made by qualified delegates who have paid their delegate fees. Votes made at the endorsement caucus during the convention can be presented by a proxy representing the delegate.
Once a candidate has the majority vote at the endorsement caucus, the CDP provides their endorsement and that successful candidate is considered the “official candidate.” The losing candidate is expected to withdraw so the CDP speaks with “one voice.”
The CDP website explains, “Local Democrats make the decisions about which local and statewide candidates to endorse, so candidates reflect voters’ values.”
On March 1, Ramirez, with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Masters Degree in Curriculum/Political Science with a minor in Business, challenged the endorsement caucus results to the CDP. She alleged the proxies for the 8th Congressional District “were not announced during the roll call vote,” making it unclear whether “the delegate or a proxy voted.” Secondly, the proxies who voted for Doyle were recruited and “paid for by Marge Doyle as a part of her campaign,” actions that “violate the principles and By-laws of the CDP and the Federal Election Act.”
Ramirez submitted two Facebook postings as evidence of Doyle’s offer to recruit and pay the proxies’ expenses to attend the endorsement caucus. Ramirez explained that, normally, if a delegate cannot attend the convention, then they arrange for their proxy to attend the event. In this case, the candidate recruited and paid proxies on behalf of delegates.
One Facebook post by Natalie Brown dated February 1 announced, “Hey guys! Marge Doyle (running for Congress) needs our help! Two delegates that were going to the California Democratic Convention this weekend to endorse Marge are unable to go suddenly and her campaign is looking for delegates in our district who can be their proxies! Housing, transportation and meals will be taken care of so if you are 18 or older and want to head down to San Diego this weekend for a good time (or know two people who do) get back to me ASAP!!” A similar Facebook post on February 21 was posted by Resa Barillas.
In response to a March 4 email from former CDP Executive Director Chris Myers that “paying the dues and/or registration of delegates or their qualified proxies is not against the rules,” Mr. Ron Cohen, on behalf of Ramirez, alleged this offer by Doyle to pay for housing, transportation and meals was “vote buying” which is “any reward given to a person for voting in a particular way or for not voting” and violates federal election law.
Title 18, United States Code Section 597, expenditures to influence voting states, “Whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and whoever solicits, accepts, or receives any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote—shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
However, according to Judith Ingram, Press Officer, Federal Election Commission, the federal rules are not very clear regarding delegates and proxies.
As to the roll call vote, CRC explained, “Not announcing the proxies in the roll call vote is something that is not mandated either in our Bylaws or the instructions provided to the conveners.”
CRC concluded, Ramirez “failed to achieve the standard needed to invalidate the results.” Therefore, CRC was rejecting “the request to overturn the endorsement result.”
In response to a request for comment by The Voice/Black Voice News, Marge Doyle for Congress Campaign Manager Barbara Ferris explained, “We have never been notified by the California State Democratic Party of an violations, issues, concerns or infractions with respect to Marge Doyle, RN, Democrat for Congress CA 08 and her campaign team prior to, at, or after the annual State convention in San Diego.”
Ferris concluded, “It is clear that Marge and her team of 300+ volunteers out-campaigned her opponents.”
The Voice/Black Voice News will continue to follow this story.