LOS ANGELES - As the California Democratic Party opened its annual convention here Friday, candidates in the two most competitive statewide primary contests - controller and secretary of state - set up satellite offices and flooded the convention hotel with volunteers.
But as they circled each other at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, it was not the candidates' own credentials that filled the air, but a question about whether the party should endorse any Democrat in these races at all.
"Party unity is the way to go," Stephanie Ng, a volunteer for state Sen. Leland Yee, told passers-by she stopped in the hall. "So, no endorsement."
Yee is one of three Democrats running for secretary of state. The others are former California Common Cause official Derek Cressman and state Sen. Alex Padilla, whose name was emblazoned on room keys at the hotel.
Padilla is pushing for an endorsement.
"We're Democrats," he said, "and this is a Democratic process."
John Burton, the party's chairman, asked the candidates for secretary of state and controller not to seek the party's endorsement, but Padilla and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who is running for controller, pushed ahead.
The other Democrat running for controller, Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, said she can "see it both ways." She expects some activists in Los Angeles this weekend will be "very uncomfortable" with the competition between members of the same party.
On the other hand, she said, endorsing candidates is a "primary responsibility of delegates."
PHOTO: State Sens. Alex Padilla (top) and Leland Yee (bottom) work the crowd at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders