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Signs waved, insults flew and upsets occurred as rival Democratic campaigns went head-to-head for coveted endorsement recommendations at the state party's annual convention in San Diego.

The battle royale of the Saturday night balloting was the vote for the 30th Congressional District, which pits Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman against one another.

The two exchanged verbal blows in front of a crowd of several hundred delegates assigned to the district gathered to make a recommendation for Sunday's full floor vote.

Sherman came out ahead with 54 percent of the 128 votes cast, but failed to hit the 60 percent threshold needed to win a slot on today's consent calendar. While talk of a challenge was rampant last night -- Sherman declared he had a handwriting expert on hand in case the integrity of some ballots were in question -- the current "no endorsement" stance from the party is expected to stand.

Assemblywoman Betsy Butler defeated fellow Assembly District 50 candidate Torie Osborn for a recommendation. Butler, who moved into the district to run for re-election, has the backing of Speaker John A. Perez and many other members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Osborn told reporters after the vote that the outcome was influenced by the ability of legislators and others in the party to appoint some delegates to vote in any district. An attempt to reopen the debate on the floor was voted down by a committee Sunday morning.

Senate Democrats suffered an upset last night as their top recruit for the targeted 31st Senate District was out-balloted by former Democratic Assemblyman Steve Clute. Despite a public appeal and intense lobbying by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Clute edged out retired Air Force Major General Richard Roth for a spot on today's consent calendar. Winning that swing district is considered key to Senate Democrats' effort to win a two-thirds majority in the upper house.

The endorsement recommendations, which will be ratified by a vote of all eligible delegates today, were made this weekend for 16 congressional and state legislative races where no clear position emerged in regional pre-endorsement meetings held last month.

The party's seal of approval could be more crucial to campaigns than in years past due to the first run of the state's new primary system, which will send the top two vote-getters of a June contest between candidates of all party affiliations to the November general election.

Here are the endorsement recommendations for districts up for debate at the convention:

Assembly District 09: Richard Pan
Assembly District 36: Steve Fox
Assembly District 47: No recommendation
Assembly District 50: Betsy Butler
Assembly District 51: Jimmy Gomez
Assembly District 57: Rudy Bermudez
Assembly District 69: No recommendation
Assembly District 72: Joe Dovinh
Assembly District 56: Manuel Perez
Senate District 15: No recommendation
Senate District 31: Steve Clute
Congressional District 08: Jackie Conaway
Congressional District 26: No recommendation
Congressional District 30: No recommendation
Congressional District 35: Joe Baca
Congressional District 52: No recommendation

Editor's note: This post was updated at 10:55 a.m. with a full list of endorsement recommendations. It has also been updated to correct the spelling of Betsy Butler's name.


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