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Why These California Democrats Express Skepticism About Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, And Bernie Sanders

Capital Public Radio

It’s still early, of course … but polls suggest the three leading Democratic presidential candidates in California heading into the first debates later this month are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Kamala (KAH-mah-lah) Harris. Yet when Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler sat down with four undecided California Democrats a few days ago, none of those big names came up. Yesterday, we heard the first part of their chat. Today, in Part 2, Ben asked them about those three frontrunners.

It was clear at last weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco that Senator Kamala Harris can’t take her home state for granted. Here’s Mimi Falcone, a 56-year-old small business owner from Irvine:

2A Falcone [00:19:27] I really was excited about Kamala when I came to the convention. … When she spoke to the general session I was not as impressed which really surprised me. In my opinion I don't think she has it to carry it nationally.” (0:14)

And here’s Joe Griego, a 54-year-old from rural eastern Inyo County. He’s the chief technology officer for a neighboring county’s office of education.

2B Griego: She did not inspire the passion or the emotion that I had hoped for.”

Ben: “Why do you think that is?”

Griego: That’s a great question. I heard Cory Booker speak and it was more inspiring…. He does a wonderful job of storytelling to think that's the America that we could be. And I didn't hear that from Kamala Harris, unfortunately.” (0:26)

27-year-old Keane Chukwuneta of Richmond, an organizer for a local health care union, hinted at deeper concerns…

2C Chukwuneta: “Kamala Harris, her record as the district attorney here in San Francisco and how she, her office related to working people kind of freaks me out a little bit. And I’ll kind of just leave it at that.” (0:10)

And even our roundtable guest who has a warmer opinion of Harris likes other candidates more. This is 55-year-old Rosemary Wrenn of San Luis Obispo County, a part-time college lecturer and doctorate student:

2D Wrenn: “I have a lot of respect for Kamala Harris. I find her to be a strong leader and I can picture her leading this country. She's not my first choice of candidate.” (0:12)

Biden campaigned in Ohio over the weekend instead of attending the convention. And perhaps that’s no surprise, because the party’s progressive activists aren’t exactly his base. Keane Chukwuneta has some real problems with the former vice president:

2E Chukwuneta [00:21:19] I feel like he discounts a lot of our pain and the issues that matter to us in ways that I think are extremely disrespectful — trying to say things like, ‘Oh well, you know, millennials, you know, they complain about this, they complain about that.’” (0:13)

And Rosemary Wrenn says she has a lot of admiration for Biden but called his missing the convention “a grave mistake.”

2F Wrenn: [00:25:50] I was extremely disappointed that he chose not to be here this weekend.”

Ben: [00:26:07] “Do you think he would have been booed if he had been here?”

Wrenn: [00:26:10] “That's possible. But we saw two candidates up there who had the fortitude to come up and say what they want. That what they believed in and they did get booed. But they were here.” (0:20)

As for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders … Mimi Falcone thinks he’s too polarizing to attract independents and Republicans upset with the president.

2G Falcone: “We have to get them to vote Democrat, and we do that by finding commonality. And maybe Bernie has that commonality. I'm not so sure.” (0:13)

And even a past Sanders voter, Keane Chukwuneta, isn’t sold on him this time around:

2H Chukwuneta:He put a lot of these issues on the map and he kind of broke through.”

Ben [00:23:09] But you're not necessarily looking at him looking to vote for him.

Chukwuneta [00:23:13] No because I also think Senator Warren might actually be doing a better job of fleshing out what some of these policy ideas look like.” (0:12)

So, who might our undecided Democrats vote for in California’s March primary? All four praised Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Two mentioned Sanders, and the other two named New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. But all of them said they’d vote for any Democrat against President Trump — even if it’s Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.

I’m Ben Adler.