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john_burton.jpgAs California Democrats head to Los Angeles this weekend for their state convention, the party's leader has declared neutrality in the two most competitive statewide Democratic primary fights: controller and secretary of state.

In an e-mail Wednesday to party activists, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said he has heard complaints that "my name's being used one way or the other or that people are being bullied one way or the other" by the campaigns of competing candidates.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, faces fellow Democrat Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, in the race for controller. State senators Leland Yee and Alex Padilla and former California Common Cause official Derek Cressman are Democrats running for secretary of state.

In his e-mail, Burton said he had asked the five in January to not seek the party's endorsement, with mixed success. Pérez and Padilla continue to push for the party's embrace.

"I thought it was in the best interest of the party not to have fights about endorsements between good Democrats. I still feel that way," Burton wrote.

"I've known John Pérez since he worked for the food and commercial workers, I've known Betty Yee since she worked on the Budget Committee in the State Assembly, I've known Alex Padilla since he was on the L.A. City Council, I've known Derek Cressman from his work with Common Cause, and I've known Leland Yee since we were volunteers on Nancy Pelosi's congressional campaign some twenty something years ago."

"They're all friends and they're all good Democrats. So I strongly resist efforts to pull me into one camp or another," he said. "What other members of the Party do is totally up to them. But at least you know now where I actually stand and why."

PHOTO: California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, left, talks with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Attorney General Kamala Harris after her remarks to Democratic delegates in April 2011 at the Sacramento Convention Center. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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