California Young Democrats (CYD)

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Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, State President

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History of CYD

For almost a century, CYD has played an important role in California politics. The history of CYD is full of fascinating stories and persons. Many prominent leaders in California history – past and present – can trace their leadership beginnings to this statewide network of Young Democrat clubs. CYD is the official youth organizing arm of the California Democratic Party.

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1948

1953

1960s

1995

California Democratic Council formed

The YDs were a powerful group in the party, helping to create the California Democratic Council, a statewide organization of Democratic clubs founded in 1953. CYD leader Joseph Wyatt Jr. served as an officer on the first board of the CDC. At the time, the CDC could endorse candidates for primaries, while the state party itself could not.

1960s

California College Democrats merge with CYD

In 1995, the California College Democrats merged with the California Young Democrats under the leadership of Sarah Szalavitz, CCD president from 1994-95. CCD is now a permanent CYD caucus.

Lionel Steinberg helps secure President Tuman's election

During the close 1948 Presidential election, a young liberal grape grower from Fresno named Lionel Steinberg helped organize a last minute whistle-stop train ride through California’s Central Valley that helped Harry Truman carry state by only 17,000 votes – the same margin Steinberg delivered for the Democrats in Fresno County alone. After the 1948 election, Steinberg began organizing young people he had met on the campaign. He later became the first table grape grower to sign an historic contract with Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers in 1970.

1953

Henry Waxman and Howard Berman lead reform faction to redefine the organization

As the organization moved into the 1960s against a backdrop of the anti-Vietnam War and free-speech movements, Henry Waxman and Howard Berman (who were both later elected to Congress) led a Young Democrats reform faction that wrested control of the organization, despite the wishes of the Democratic Assembly Speaker Jess Unruh. Now under progressive leadership, CYD supported the civil rights movements and took a strong, open stand against the Vietnam War.

1953

1960s

1995

1995

2000 and beyond…

Check out California Young Democrats on their

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CYD maintains a dedication to empowering youth

The California Young Democrats continue to work towards developing future leaders. The organization is also a vehicle to help Young Democrats, especially in an era of term limits, to advance towards political careers. A main focus continues to be developing Democratic messages that specifically emphasize youth issues, support for candidates backing youth issues, and politically educating young people. In pursuit of these goals, the Young Democrats strive to empower young people and to significantly influence the Democratic Party. The California Young Democrats are dedicated to building a bloc of young voter for Democrats. With young voters voting in record numbers since 2004, CYD is the only youth political organization organizing young people through Peer-to-Peer, the only mobilizing tactic proven to increase young voter turnout on Election Day. 

Culbert Olson elected governor

CYD members organized a campaign to elect Culbert Olson governor in 1938, California’s first Democratic governor of the century.

1938

Photo by Eli Beckman