Democratic convention

California Gov. Jerry Brown , left, is applauded by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom after delivering the state of the state address in January. They are expected to join state Democrats for the party's convention in L.A. on Friday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / January 24, 2013)

Thousands of California Democrats will descend on downtown Los Angeles on Friday to kick off their annual convention, largely a celebration of the party’s dominance in state politics, but also a showcase of some internal spats that leaders tried unsuccessfully to keep hidden from public view.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who last week filed to run for reelection, is expected on Saturday to outline the rationale for his bid for an unprecedented fourth term.

National figures such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will also address delegates. And they'll meet with potential donors -- critical relationships they must forge if they plan to run for higher office.

O’Malley is weighing a presidential bid in 2016, and Castro is considered a rising star in the party.

California, taken for granted in presidential elections because of its cobalt blue tilt, nevertheless remains a top source of campaign dollars for Democrats across the country. Billionaire Tom Steyer, a new and significant player on the national donor scene from the Bay Area, will also speak.

California officials who are believed to have an eye on higher office plan to address delegates. They include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom, known for throwing the most coveted convention parties, is hosting a “Winter of Love” soiree Saturday night, featuring gay couples who wed a decade ago when he flouted state law by allowing San Francisco to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as the city’s mayor.

Earlier in the day, a transgender ordained minister will offer an invocation to kick off the convention.

But for all the celebration, fissures in the party will be highlighted in nearly a dozen endorsement battles. Nine of the competitions involve congressional and legislative races; two involve statewide contests.

Party chairman John Burton tried unsuccessfully to silence some of the fights.

"It's important that all our candidates conduct their campaigns in a way that does not weaken the Party and damage [other] Democrats," he wrote in January to Democratic candidates for controller and secretary of state.

"Involving the Party in multiple contested primaries would squander our resources early, ultimately hurting all our nominees come November," he said. "The State Convention is a time when we need Democrats to come together with the goal of electing all our nominees in November."

Most, if not all, of the candidates ignored his call and will be campaigning heavily for the party’s backing. Endorsement announcements are expected Saturday evening and must be confirmed by a floor vote on Sunday.

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSeema