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Calif. Democrats express optimism, poised for 2012

Judy Lin

California Democrats on Sunday wrapped up their annual convention in Sacramento feeling optimistic and poised to lead the nation in returning President Barack Obama to the White House in 2012.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who lost her position as House Speaker last fall amid a Republican surge, exhorted Democrats to take back Congress to protect middle-class values, health care for seniors and education for the nation's youth. She addressed the party faithful through a pre-recorded message, saying she was unable to attend the state party convention for the first time in 35 years because her husband was being honored by Georgetown University.

"Democrats will not allow Republicans to end Medicare. We won't balance our budgets on the backs of our seniors and our children," Pelosi said. "We will honor our commitment to the American people to create jobs and grow the economy. We will continue fighting to make it 'Made in America' to create good paying jobs. And we will always protect the collective bargaining rights of our union."

She urged the party faithful to be poised for next year's presidential battle.

"Your grass-roots effort will lead the way because California Democrats know how much is at stake," Pelosi said. "Together we will succeed in making the state and our country more prosperous, more fair and more free. We will move forward with hope and optimism guided by the leadership and vision of President Obama and here in California with Gov. Jerry Brown."

Throughout the weekend, Democrats celebrated their strong showing in November, when the party swept every statewide office and expanded its majority in the state Legislature. Democrats also defended U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's post.

California Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro said while Democrats did win in 2010, their policies _ led by Brown _ are taking the state in the wrong direction.

"Without a signature achievement in four months as governor, Brown and the Democrats should stop celebrating yesterday and do the hard work today that we need done in California to secure our future," he said in a statement.

On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein told the Democrats that they must work to retake the House of Representatives next year or risk deep GOP budget cuts that would hurt seniors and poor people the most.

Brown canceled a scheduled appearance Sunday after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his nose. His spokesman Gil Duran said the governor was "doing just fine."

California Democratic Party chairman John Burton said Brown was recovering from reconstructive surgery related to the cancer removal.

"He thanks us all from the bottom of the heart for the great work that we did in helping him (get elected)," Burton said. "And now we're helping him, trying to pass the state budget and get the Republicans to ... do something."

For Brown, the state deficit continues to dominate his work at the state Capitol. The Democratic governor has been unsuccessful at securing the two Republican votes he needs in each house to place his tax extension proposal on the ballot to extend temporary income, sales and vehicle taxes for five years.

After approving billions in spending cuts and transfers earlier this year, California's projected deficit remains at $15.4 billion.

Republican lawmakers are demanding pension benefit changes and a state spending cap to help balance the budget. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that while it is possible to achieve pension reform without breaking promises to public workers, Democrats want a balanced approach on the budget rather than all cuts.

"This is California. This is not Wisconsin, and it will never be," Lee said. "We will protect workers' rights. We will respect collective bargaining. We will not solve all our problems on the backs of working people because we are Democrats."

Also Sunday, delegates passed a package of resolutions that reflected those Democratic values. The party passed a resolution supporting workers and their rights to collective bargaining, opposed cuts to Planned Parenthood, and backed expanding the state's right to collect the sales tax in online purchases.

They also passed a resolution condemning Orange County Republican central committee leader Marilyn Davenport for circulating a cartoon depicting the president as a chimpanzee. The party urged the GOP to remove Davenport from her post.

California Republicans condemned the Democratic resolution on Davenport.

The Associated Press