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CA progressives want Barbara Lee, Karen Bass or Nina Turner to be VP

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 7/20/2020 By Joe Garofoli

California Sen. Kamala Harris is widely believed to be on Joe Biden’s short list for vice president, but a group of Bernie Sanders supporters in the California Democratic Party wants the nominee-to-be to pick either Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee or one of two other Black women instead.

Lee, Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass and Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator, would make excellent running mates, Sanders delegates to the Democratic National Convention wrote in a letter to Biden that was obtained by The Chronicle.

“In order to meet this historic moment, Democrats must select an exceptional progressive vice presidential candidate who will both inspire the 90 million Americans who did not vote in 2016 to cast a ballot this November and lead America into a new era of equality, compassion, and economic justice,” the Sanders backers wrote.

The letter was signed by 145 of the 153 Sanders delegates who voted on the suggestion. Of the 495 state party delegates, a little more than half were awarded to Sanders after the March 3 primary.

It’s the latest instance of Sanders supporters wielding the power they gained in the California Democratic Party when the Vermont senator won the state’s primary. Last month, The Chronicle reported that they pressed to have Fremont Rep. Ro Khanna, a national co-chair of Sanders’ presidential campaign, head the state’s delegation to the Democratic convention, a role that typically goes to the state’s governor or top elected Democrat.

Eventually, Democrats settled on Khanna, Lee and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, a Biden favorite, to co-chair the delegation.

Earlier this month, The Chronicle reported that progressive, Black and Latino leaders demanded that the state party stop accepting campaign contributions from law enforcement unions. Party leaders said they would consider the proposal at their executive board meeting that begins Friday.

Biden has committed to picking a female running mate. Bass, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, has reportedly joined Harris on his short list. Lee, a co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who endorsed Harris in the primary, and Turner, who was a national co-chair of Sanders’ campaign, are not believed to be among the half dozen or so finalists.

Bass told the Sacramento Press Club last week that she will do “whatever it takes” to help Biden, including putting stamps on mailers at his headquarters. While she said she trusts Biden to make the right choice, she said it is important to pick a woman of color.

“I think it would be very important, especially at this moment in our country ... when we have a president who has been so divisive and has used race regularly, especially when he is in a hot spot,” Bass said.

The Sanders delegates’ letter did not mention Harris, whose mother was born in India and whose father is a native of Jamaica. She ended her own presidential campaign in December and endorsed Biden after he had all but wrapped up the nomination.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the top pick of members of the Progressive Democrats of America and young people surveyed in a new poll by GenForward, a nonpartisan organization that works in affiliation with the University of Chicago. Harris finished behind Warren in both surveys.

A Morning Consult poll last week found that 45% of Democrats said choosing a woman of color as vice president is important to them. That’s up from 36% who felt that way in April, before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the more than 2,000 racial justice demonstrations that ensued across the country.

But 54% of all Americans in the survey said Biden’s vice presidential choice would have “no impact” on their vote.

Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer. Email: jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @joegarofoli

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