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Archive for the ‘Bill Lockyer’ Category



Notebook: eMeg, DiFi, Gay Rights, Pensions, Districts

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The week’s most distressing political post comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, reporting that Meg Whitman says she is “definitely not” running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Say it ain’t so, Meg.

As the rumor mongers who first proposed the notion that Her Megness should challenge Dianne Feinstein for Senate in 2012, we were disappointed beyond measure to read the piece, filed by Cari Tuna of the Journal’s San Francisco bureau. Beyond our pride of political authorship on this one, let’s face it, a Herself vs. Herself match-up between these two would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime campaigns we’d pay to cover.

Although eMeg threw cold water on our dream scenario, a close reading of the WSJ piece shows that she didn’t slam the door shut, either. Consider:

1-“Definitely not” ain’t exactly a Shermanesque statement, and it leaves her plenty of wiggle room down the road.

2-Even at that, there’s no full quote from Whitman saying she won’t run. The headline and the lede both attribute the fragment phrase “definitely not,” to eMeg, but she doesn’t utter those words inside the story.

3-In fact, her quotes suggest she remains quite interested in public office:

“I want to stay involved in public policy,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview Friday evening. “Now I see things in a way that I” had not prior to running for public office, she said.

4-The aforementioned Ms. Tuna went to Yale, ferhevinsake.  Boola frickin’ boola.

Yeah, we understand that taking on DiFi at this point looks like an absolute  fool’s errand. She’s the most popular pol in California, and the only survey taken on potential match-ups shows her skunking every possible Republican foe, including eMeg, 55-to-35 percent. Plus, the current lineup of loony tunes, losers and snoozers in the GOP’s 2012 presidential field won’t make such a run any easier.

But  eMeg is and, to us, always will be, a special case. Some key factors that make a Senate bid worth her consideration:

1-Despite spending $144 million to lose to Jerry Brown, Whitman’s net worth stayed steady, as the reliable Seema Mehta reports, leaving plenty more where that came from.

2-While Feinstein eked out a win against mega-bucks Michael Huffington in 1994, she still has scars from that campaign, and the prospect of another year-long brawl against a free-spending zillionaire at this stage of her career is not a happy one.

3-Whitman doesn’t have to hire Mike Murphy this time.

4) While eMeg got badly burned in the governor’s race because she illegally employed Nicky Diaz, Feinstein back in the day had her own, murky,  undocumented worker situation, as the late, great Susan Yoachum reported, which could neutralize the issue in a second Whitman statewide run.

5-Whitman’s business record, from eBay to Goldman Sachs, got a pretty fair airing last year, but it’s been a while since reporters and Republican oppo types took a close look at the financial dealings of Feinstein hubby Dick Blum, which could make for some interesting campaign reading, not to mention TV attack ads.

6) Most importantly, a Senate run would afford Her Megness a splendid second chance to have dinner with Calbuzz, thereby reversing the biggest blunder of her failed campaign for governor.

We’re just sayin’.

DiFi update: Feinstein meanwhile has been staking out a very high-profile position on behalf of gay rights. Our old friend Hank Plante, the former longtime political editor of KPIX-TV, reports:

“Senator Feinstein on Wednesday introduced legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a target of the gay rights movement since it was passed in 1996.

The law, which DiFi voted against when it was enacted, blocks the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples:

‘My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that,’ she said.

Her move is the latest twist in her long evolution on the rights of gays and lesbians. Feinstein was one of the first San Francisco politicians to actively court gay voters when she first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1969.

In 1982, as the city’s mayor, however, she angered many in the gay community by vetoing the city’s first domestic partners’ bill, saying the bill was poorly drafted.  Later in her term, however,  Feinstein’s AIDS budget for S.F. was bigger than President Reagan’s AIDS budget was for the entire nation.

‘Of all the big-league Democrats in the United States, Feinstein’s was undoubtedly the most consistently pro-gay voice,’ the late Randy Shilts wrote in “And the Band Played On,” his history of the AIDS epidemic.

In 2008, Feinstein became the most prominent political voice opposing Proposition 8, the ban on California’s same-sex marriages. She said that her views on gay marriage had ‘evolved’ over the years from originally not supporting it, to enthusiastically supporting it today.

At her Wednesday press conference, DiFi cited the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in California before Prop. 8 passed. DOMA prevents those couples, and other legally married lesbian and gay Americans, from receiving survivors’ social security benefits, from filing joint federal income taxes and from taking unpaid leave to care for a sick partner.

Her bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein is a long-time member.”

New Field Poll: California voters now believe pension benefits for public employees are too generous and strongly support a host of reforms – but oppose the idea of taking away their collective bargaining rights as part of a budget deal.

The new findings are certain to sharpen the Capitol debate over public pensions, which not only  is a key issue in negotiations between Governor Gandalf and Republican lawmakers, but also the focus of a war of words between Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Little Hoover Commission, which recently recommended many of the reforms tested in the Field survey.

Field honcho Mark DiCamillo reported that a 42% plurality of voters believes that pension benefits for public workers are too generous, while 34% say they are about right and 14% that they are not generous enough. This represents a marked shift from 2009, when just 32% of registered voters told Field benefits were too generous, 40% said they were about right and 16% not generous enough.

Significantly, however, 50% of voters oppose combining a deficit reduction measure with legislation that would take away some collective bargaining rights of unionized public sector workers, a move that was taken by Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and set off a volatile political battle between labor and Republican politicians across the country. In California, 42% say they would support an effort to limit public employee collective bargaining.

The complete Field Poll can be found here after about 6 am today.

Partisanship and Redistricting: While Republicans squawked at the notion of hiring Karin MacDonald of the  nonpartisan Statewide Database at UC Berkeley to draw new district lines, they’re suddenly silent about the only other candidate for the job — Republican Douglas Johnson,  a fellow at the conservative Rose Institute and the head of National Demographics, Inc. Wonder whyHere’s an idea: hire them both and make them split the contract and agree on a proposal — like newspapers do when they hire a Democratic and Republican pollster.

Lockyer: Both Parties Must Bend to Repair California

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, one of the most experienced and durable Democratic politicians in California, was the keynote speaker at the 2010 governor’s race post-mortem hosted by the Institute of Governmental Affairs at UC Berkeley. Here’s the text of his lucid prepared remarks, delivered Jan. 22, 2011 at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley.

By Bill Lockyer

Several years ago, Thomas Frank wrote a book titled “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”  The book was Mr. Frank’s attempt to explain, from his admittedly liberal perspective, the American heartland’s attraction to conservatism.

After the 2010 elections, I would not be surprised to see a conservative writer pen a book entitled “What’s the Matter with California?” in an attempt to explain how and why the Republican tidal wave broke at the California border. It’s a question worthy of exploration.

Why were the California results so unique?

There was a Democratic sweep of every statewide constitutional office; there was not a single loss of a California congressional or Senate seat held by Democrats; and there was a pick up of one Democratic seat in the Assembly.

My explanation starts with one counter-intuitive fact: The California results were not the result of some hyped-up turnout in the Democratic base or of a depressed Republican turnout. An examination of the actual election results, as opposed to the exit polls or post-election polling, shows that the 2010 turnout in every demographic group were within a percentage or two of the 2006 turnout . . . with a few exceptions.

One interesting exception was 18-24 year-old voters, who turned out at a 6.4 percentage points higher level than in 2006. And 25-34 year-old voters also improved their turnout by 3.6 percent. At the same time, Republicans increased their overall turnout by 3.6 percentage points and DTS (decline to state) voter participation expanded by 3.4 percent.

Exit polls in other states do show varying degrees of higher turnout among Republican base voters along with some depressed numbers in the Democratic base. But, in California, we simply had a decent turnout among all voters.

So, if turnout doesn’t explain California’s Democratic exceptionalism, what does?

I believe California has a structural firewall that protected Democrats against the Republican “shellacking”.

Democrats continue to win substantial majorities of women, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, younger voters, gay and lesbian voters, coastal voters, liberals, and college educated voters. You combine that coalition with the majority of “moderate” and DTS voters who express their preference for Democratic candidates in almost every election and you have to ask: “Who the hell is left to vote for the Republicans?”

Simply answered, Republicans are the party of older white voters from inland California, a base too small to win in 21st Century California. These demographics have been with us for 20 years now and show no sign of changing.

This electoral reality deeply impacts how we govern in California. The shrinking Republican Party is so dominated by conservative voters that competitive Republican primaries damage Republican nominees who have to work their way through the litmus test minefield of taxes, immigration, abortion, gay rights, and the environment, and let’s not forget the “John and Ken primary ” test.

Remember, the most successful Republican candidate in recent years, Arnold Schwarzenegger, never ran in a competitive Republican Primary.

For Democrats, the challenge is not how we put together a successful campaign coalition, but how we govern successfully. And, for Democrats, at this moment in history the challenge of governing is how do we restore fiscal reality to our state budget and, at the same time, grow our state’s economy.

Democrats run for public office because we believe that government should play an active role in improving the lives of its citizens. Very few Democrats run for office because they want to shrink the size of government.

In 2011, and beyond, Democrats will have to defer their historic ideological mission for another time and accept the responsibility of cutting government spending now. This duty will inevitably put a Democratic governor, Democratic constitutional officers, and a Democratic legislature at odds with some Democratic constituencies and interest groups.

And, these Democratic elected officials cannot shrink from this responsibility.

California voters overwhelmingly have chosen Democrats to lead them out of this economic crisis and, if we fail, the political consequences in future elections will be profound.

Gov. Brown has opened this debate by coming forward with an honest budget based on real numbers, free of phony accounting gimmicks. Its basic premise is that half of the answer to erasing the deficit should come from cuts in spending and half should come by extending taxes that are scheduled to expire. This is both sound policy and good politics.

As political leaders and as voters, if we do not support and follow this path and close our budget deficit, the consequences will be profound and Draconian.

The question is: How does our legislature respond?

Our inability to create bi-partisan compromises in our state’s budget has resulted in an endless shell game that has mired California in a persistent and ever-growing budget deficit. Too often the expedient has trumped the prudent.

Democrats must prove that they are willing to make substantial cuts in government spending to have credibility in this debate with voters and with Republican colleagues. The fact is that voters are likely to reject (again) the governor’s call to extend expiring taxes unless they see real budget cuts passed by the legislature.

Republicans must begin to participate fully in the governing of California and Democrats should welcome their participation. If Republicans fail in their responsibility, they will continue to be a shrinking minority party.

Republicans must negotiate with the governor and their Democratic colleagues in good faith and take the litmus tests off the table. This will begin to make the Republican Party relevant to the future of California.

To my Republican friends, I ask a simple question: “What good has all the political posturing done for the Republican Party?” When you can’t make political progress in California during a national Republican landslide, it is time to try a new approach.

No Relation to Grover Norquist

When Grover Norquist, a professional anti-tax activist based in D.C., demands every California Republican legislator sign a no tax pledge, a pledge that he insists includes denying the people the right to vote on the path forward, we really are in the Twilight Zone.

If Republicans are hostages to their litmus test politics, they won’t be at the table that works out the budget fix. Republican voices and ideas will not be a part of the solution.

Now, let’s talk about the “elephant” in the room. Democrats cannot expect Republicans to commit political suicide in order to pass a budget. That is why Democrats must be prepared to negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts that last as long as the tax hike extensions. Should either party come out of budget negotiations declaring victory, California will be the loser.

Democrats and Republicans can choose another way. Together, we can turn California around.

Fifty years ago this week, in his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy spoke words, in another context, that apply to this day and this time.

“United, there is little we cannot do. Divided, there is little we can do.”

Final Thoughts on IGS 2010 Gov Race Conference

Monday, January 24th, 2011

In the end, the weekend conference on California’s just-concluded campaign for governor looked a lot like the race itself: Meg Whitman refused to talk to an audience not of her choosing, got trashed for it and ended up the biggest loser for her selfish and self-absorbed behavior.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies confab, held every four years, drew its largest crowd ever, an eclectic collection of media and political hacks, earnest students and academic chrome domes, professional pollsters and political wannabes, all drawn by the opportunity to hear, first-hand from the operatives who ran the campaigns, the inside story of how the deal went down.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value for an audience of obsessed political junkies, the conference in the past also served the more serious purpose of establishing a permanent record of the process by which Californians chose their chief executive, an important resource for scholars, authors and journalists. But the 2011 version was unfortunately flawed by two big shortcomings:

First, not a single member of the mighty Legions of eMeg had the courage, concern for history, not to mention common courtesy, to show his or her face; despite heroic efforts to represent the Republican perspective by top-rank GOP pols who didn’t work on the campaign (about whom more later) this left a huge hole in the record, given that Herself and Her Money, in many ways, became the story of the campaign.

Second, there was way too much spin and way too little candor by too many of those who did participate – an unfortunate departure from past years, which will leave a distorted and incomplete record of what was one of the most important campaigns in recent decades: “It just wasn’t the real story of the campaign,” one prominent political scientist complained at a post-conference reception. (Suggested reading for future scholars: this and this.)

That said, there still was value in the event, even if it was often to be found in the bar of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and around the tables of nearby Berkeley restaurants, where war stories and unvarnished opinions were more frequently to be found. Some observations:

Most Valuable Player – The MVP of the conference was Jim Bognet, manager of Steve Poizner’s losing GOP primary effort. Funny, smart and honest, Bognet offered a sense of what it was like day-after-day to go up against a rival funded by $180 million (Meg’s spending “created its own center of gravity”) and displayed how personal the battle got between the Republicans (“never was so much spent on so many for so little”). He also provided – in the form of advice to students in the room thinking about going into politics — the best single riff of the weekend, defining the ethical rot at the center of Team Whitman that led to the most expensive disaster in the history of American politics:

When you’re getting paid a lot of money – and there were many consultants in this race that got paid a lot of money – it gives you an incentive not to speak truth to power. It gives you an incentive not to tell them what they don’t want to hear as candidates. You are more valuable as a campaign staffer and as a human being if you’re willing to say to the person who is paying your paycheck, “You are wrong. You need to talk to the press. You need to go out and answer these questions. You need to answer for why you switched your position.” It is a conflict of interest because the same person that is paying you, you have to give hard advice and talk about things, personal things that are not comfortable to talk about. So I would say, you have to fight against that continuously in order to add value to your candidate.

Least Valuable Player – The LVP of the conference was Peter Ragone, representing Gavin Newsom’s short and stunted primary bid for governor. Ragone is a nice guy and a competent operative, but his endless, obviously phony spin on behalf of the new Lite Governor had the audience groaning and looking for barf bags.

Newsom, it seems, is a politician of uncommon moral courage, motivated by only two idealistic factors – his unstinting and unselfish determination to do what is right and true and good for all the rest of us (after trashing the office of lieutenant governor, he changed his mind and ran because “he decided this was where he could the most good”) and the high moral courage that drives him to put his family above all else (no mention of him boinking the wife of his chief of staff in the mayor’s office). Self-interest never figures into it, Ragone would have us believe. Enough to make a hog puke. No matter what new UC Regent Newsom wanted, IGS should have invited Garry South and Nick Clemons, his actual gubernatorial campaign directors.

The missing characters –  The transcript of the proceedings will be turned into a book which purportedly will serve as the final word on the governor’s race. Puh-leeze. Consider this: the three most important behind-the-scenes players in the race – Brown’s wife Anne Gust, Whitman major domo Henry Gomez and top strategist Mike Murphy – didn’t figure in any of the discussions and, unless we missed it during a trip to the head or the cookie table, their names were never even mentioned. That’s like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

Kudos to the stand-ins. While eMeg’s minions cowered in fear far away from Berkeley, former state chairmen Duf Sundheim and Bob Naylor, along with veteran strategist Jim Brulte, did a terrific job of describing the GOP perspective, their limited contacts with the candidate and her turf-conscious consultants, and how the establishment watched in horror as Whitman melted down.

“As Republicans, we were really concerned as the primary went on because since they were so close on the issues, it was really going to come down to a very nasty, personal fight,” Sundheim said. Said Naylor: “When the dust settled in the primary, the Whitman campaign was over.” And Brulte, who with his commentary reaffirmed his position as the sharpest Republican mind in the state, observed that except for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – celebrities who transcended politics – California voters have always wanted  an experienced hand as governor. By spending so much money on television without a break, Whitman undercut her own ability to be the next best thing, he argued. “By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face.”

Message trumps money – Since we’re kvetching about others for a lack of self-criticism, Calbuzz should acknowledge that our own coverage may have suffered from putting too much focus on the extraordinary spectacle of Meg’s crazed spending, which at times led us to the misassumption that she could make up for her lack of a clear and consistent winning message by throwing money at the problem.

“I never understood it,” said Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. “Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of (Whitman) ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”  The Whitman campaign never had a compelling message, agreed consultant Rick Claussen: “Tactics is just a way to talk to voters.” You can spend all you want reaching out to voters, but if you don’t have something worth listening to, it’s a huge waste of money.

Brown was both lucky and good – In the final session of the conference, Brulte put his partisan perspective aside and offered his bottom line: Brown “ran a picture perfect campaign,” he said, a strategy built on keeping its focus on fundraising, using the office of Attorney General to keep him in the news and steering their own course no matter how much the winds emanating from Camp Whitman tried to blow them off course.

In Jim Moore, Brown had the best pollster in the race, the best ad man in Joe Trippi and the most disciplined manager in Glazer; their game plan to hold their fire until Labor Day, while many top Democrats and the political peanut gallery were hollering for them to answer eMeg’s summer assault, made all the difference. But Brown’s strategists also admitted that they benefited from missteps by eMeg. Said Glazer:

The one worry that I had when we went through that (2009) fall period into the new year was that Meg Whitman was going to use her resources to use Jerry Brown as the foil to be a stronger Republican . . . I thought that she would — even before the new year struck — that she would start to use Jerry Brown and start to raise our negatives by running against us as the presumptive Republican nominee. And I expected that all the way through until the primary day. I was very surprised that that actually never happened.

Once the primary was over, Trippi’s greatest fear was that Whitman would “go dark” over the summer, giving voters a respite from her 24/7 invasion of their living rooms and allowing her to re-emerge as a fresh face in the fall. Instead she essentially turned herself into the incumbent in a year when voters wanted change.

As Bognet had put it earlier: “She built herself a $180 million brand. Unfortunately, by the time the general came around her brand was, ‘She’s the woman with the money who won’t get off my TV.’”

Panelists also agreed that Whitman made a huge error by trying to portray Brown as a traditional tax and spend liberal, which simply misstates his record. As Republican Naylor, who served in the Assembly during Brown’s first turn as governor, put it: “Tax and spend doesn’t stick with Jerry Brown.”

Tone matters – Trippi correctly observed that the relentlessly snarky tone of Whitman’s relentless attack ads didn’t resonate with voters – “failure has followed him everywhere” he intoned — because they have a much more complex and long-running, if not always fond, relationship with him. Better for the Whitman people, Trippi said, to have been respectful to Brown by crafting a  more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger “gold watch” message, saying that he had performed valuable service to the state but adding that it was simply time for him to go, and to elect a “governor for the 21st century.”

Trying to avoid the press was a huge blunder — Speaker after speaker pointed to Whitman’s strategy of stiffing the media as a costly error for several reasons: it sent a message to voters that she thought she was too good to go through the usual hoops candidates for high office have always faced; it established a narrative that Whitman was secretive, and must have something to hide; it was a clear affront to the working press of the state, and their frustration showed up in the stories. As Poizner’s Jarrod Agen put it: “It never works to avoid the press.”

Bill Lockyer is the Diogenes of state politics — California’s treasurer was the keynote speaker of the conference and he turned in a boffo performance that provided a full-on and utterly frank look at the state of the state’s finances. Ask Lockyer what time it is and he’s liable to tell you how to make a watch, so some of his discourse on the niceties of the municipal bond market were a bit windy, but he’s smart, funny and seen it all. We’ll be running the text of his speech later this week.

Worst advice – The model for a California GOP comeback is Chris Christie in New Jersey, said Republican Tony Quinn. Sustained attacks on public employee unions and bloated government are the key to victory, he said. When Calbuzz rose to note that Whitman had done exactly that, he replied that she hadn’t done it very well.

Immigration sunk Whitman – Even before Meg’s Nicky Diaz housekeeper scandal, the immigration issue was a huge problem for Whitman. As Glazer explained, she had many liabilities on the issue even without Nicky – from shifting positions on a path to citizenship to her opposition to the Dream Act. Poizner’s hardline position in the primary forced her to move far right, which made her efforts to get back to the center in the general look pathetically calculated. When the Nicky story erupted, it merely personalized the hypocrisy and brazen opportunism of her political stances.

As Poizner’s Agen explained:

If we’d gotten into the general, it would have been a policy debate between Steve and Governor Brown on the policy issue of immigration. Jerry Brown would have had one stance on immigration, Steve would have had the other. But it would have been a policy discussion on immigration . . . What ended up happening, though, was immigration turned into a character issue and that is what ultimately hurts the Republican Party hugely is if immigration is a character issue. If it stays a policy issue, people are going to disagree with it and we felt that if you get to the general election, we’ll have it out, we’ll have that debate with Jerry on immigration, we’ll see how people, where people stand.

Best line – The strategists were asked at one point to name one thing they would have done that they didn’t do. “Telephone operational training,” said Glazer, a big laugh reference to Brown’s failure to hang up the phone when leaving a message with a law enforcement union, which led to the flap over someone in Brown headquarters (hello, Anne) referring to eMeg as a political “whore.”

Best fights – Field Pollster Mark Dicamillo ripped off the face of robopollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA (in the nicest possible way), who responded with a furious defense of his methodology, a screed that included some whacks at Calbuzz. The Cage Match of the pollsters was only matched for excitement when Democratic operative Bob Mulholland and Tony Quinn got into a finger-pointing duel about the rules and political significance of the new “top two” primary system. Talk about don’t-invite-ems.

The new Whig party — A number of speakers at the conference strongly argued that the California Republican party is essentially dead. Brulte for one said there was no way Whitman could have won the race because of the structural and demographic political landscape of the state, while Sundheim said “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.” Speaker after speaker noted how the Republican hostility to Latinos and other minorities, coupled with tired messaging that has nothing for younger voters, has made them an isolated and marginal party of old white people. Most seemed to have read and adopted the Calbuzz Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different.

Speaking of Whigs — Sacramento consultant Ray McNally, proving that there’s not much new in American politics, read from an 1840 confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln that laid out a complete organizing strategy for the “overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country,” which included everything from polling and GOTV to voter contact and fundraising. Example: “3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.” You can read it here.

The two minds of the voters – Political scientist Kim Nalder from Sac State honed in on the most fundamental factor driving state politics today: the disconnect that voters feel between demanding high levels of service and their determination not to pay taxes. Lockyer underscored a Calbuzz report that voters think 48% of the money the state spends is wasted –  a high hurdle for Brown to overcome if he is to sell his cuts-and-taxes budget plan to fix the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall.

Deep thoughts: Thad Kousser of UC San Diego made some points that cut against the notion that California is forever blue (an argument that effectively lets the Armies of eMeg off the hook). A panel of political scientists agreed that “campaign effects” are marginal – but that marginal effects matter big time in close races, so the Whitman-Brown race could have been close – “Nothing was inevitable in this campaign.” And a note to future mega-spending candidates: “Campaigns can’t tell voters what to think, but they can tell them what to think about.”

Nice work — There were too many journalists from the LA Times on the program (although we were wrong to say two of the three didn’t cover the governor’s race: only one did not) and not enough from other major papers or news agencies. But the four who participated — Mark Barabak, Cathy Decker and Anthony York of the Times, and Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star — did a fine job of moving the conversation along.

Cocodrilo Tears re Latinos & a Sad Farewell to Truth

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We had to laugh when we saw Rob Stutzman, one of Meg Whitman’s top strategists, telling columnist George Skelton that Republicans in California need to demonstrate some “empathy” for Latinos if they hope ever to convince them to vote for one of their candidates.

Not because his comments were funny, mind you, but because they were breathtakingly ironic.

For under his guidance, Stutzman’s candidate eMeg:

– Kicked her Latina housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, to the curb when she confessed she was an illegal immigrant, eventually calling for the woman’s  deportation.
– Flipped-flopped on whether undocumented immigrants should have a path to legalization (concluding they should not).
– Endorsed Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law (for Arizona, not California, a distinction that meant little to Latinos).
– Told a young Latina honors student she was taking up space at Fresno State that rightfully belonged to a California citizen.
– Relied on former Gov. Pete (“Hijo de Puta”) Wilson as her campaign chairman and third-party validator.

No wonder Latinos voted 80-15% for Brown over Whitman, 75% had an unfavorable view of her and 65% said they didn’t even consider voting for her, according to the USC/LA Times post-election survey.

But what’s got to worry Stutzman and every other Republican going forward is this: 34% of Latino voters told the USC/Times they “would never consider voting for a Republican.”  That’s one third of the Latino vote that is off the table even before they hear what the candidate has to say.

As Calbuzz noted throughout the election, in plenty of time for Whitman and her campaign geniuses to take it seriously and even after Nicky Diaz made news, Whitman made a strategic error by opposing a pathway to citizenship – a position that at least eight and perhaps as many as nine in 10 Latinos view as a threshold issue.

What that means is this: if a candidate is opposed to allowing undocumented workers an opportunity to go through a process to become legal residents, Latinos don’t even care what their position is on the economy, jobs, education or anything else. They can’t get past the threshold.

It’s not about “empathy” — it’s about concrete stands on real-life issues. Which is why Calbuzz gently suggested the California GOP needs to change its position on a pathway to citizenship if it ever hopes to become relevant.

Just as the Republican Party was the Northern standard-bearer for the abolition of slavery in the 1850s and 1860s, so could the California Republican Party become the advocate for citizenship for honest working men and women who have come to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Another reason we laughed when we read Stutzman’s argument: “We’ve got to stop looking at it as purely a legal issue . . . If you want to make it a moral issue, we should appreciate the virtue of men and women trying to make the best life possible for their families.”

At least Stutzman has the cerebros y cojones to face up to the problem, unlike numbnuts like Michael Der Manouel, Jr., who wrote over at FlashReport:

I think there are plenty of Republicans and conservatives, like me, that appreciate all hard working people, regardless of country of origin and skin color.  Making a case that this is somehow a gateway to getting Hispanic votes is not only simplistic, but ignores the fact that 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics seems to be, well, just as leftist as leftists . . .

And this nonsense about ignoring our immigration laws in order to curry favor with one voting block (sic) is just nonsense.  I guess if we really needed the Muslim vote Stutzman would be advising us to go soft on terrorism too . . .

It seems to me that a pattern of voting for the wrong person has emerged in the Latino community.  Until they truly feel the pain of their poor decision making, we are at their political mercy.  Instead of “appealing to them” we should spend what few dollars we have on a permandent (sic) educational campaign highlighting the conservative platform, to all voters, including Latinos.  This would be much more effective than “understanding” people.  Give me a break.

This is exactly the kind of stupid, dead-elephant thinking that will continue to render the California Republican Party a permanent minority.

Mr. Scopes, Meet Mr. Fleischman: The fact that a majority of Republicans still believe in the “theory” of creationism, positing that God put humans on earth within the past 10,000 years, is the clearest evidence yet that facts, science and rationality are increasingly lacking to political debate in the U.S.

The new Gallup Poll research demonstrating widespread disbelief in the science of evolution, coupled with a just-released University of Maryland study showing that Fox News viewers become more ignorant the more they watch Fox News, suggests that Neo-Luddism will only grow more popular when the GOP takes control of the House next month, empowering political giants like Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, who’ll bring his climate change denial stance to the Science Committee; Ron Paul, poised to demand a return to the Gold Standard as an overseer of the Federal Reserve and Peter King, who plans to launch a wide-ranging investigation of American Muslims as chair of the Committee on Homeland Security.

Alas, this distressing trend, part of a broad political shift which Calbuzz has dissected as the Death of Truth, flourishes as well in California, where the hate-government crowd routinely substitutes opinion for fact in decrying our fiscal woes, recklessly asserting that the state stands on the brink of bankruptcy because of an orgy of public spending, a huge, bloated government bureaucracy and a vast exodus of businesses fleeing a blood-sucking burden of regulation.

Now comes Treasurer Bill Lockyer, joined by economist Steve Levy, to put the lie to each of these canards, in a splendid op-ed that should be required reading in the re-education of every yahoo in Sacramento:

Critics have suggested the state will default on its debt payments, that it is addicted to spending and that it has a hostile business climate. The criticism is long on inflammatory rhetoric, but it lacks any evidentiary foundation…

Our critics say we are addicted to spending. But the numbers show that isn’t true. Thirty years ago, general fund expenditures totaled about $7.43 for every $100 of personal income. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, that ratio was almost $2 less, at $5.52 for every $100 of personal income. In the current fiscal year, per capita general fund expenditures will total $2,246, less than the $2,289 spent 10 years ago and roughly equal to the inflation-adjusted level of 15 years ago.

Moreover, state and local government has grown slimmer relative to California’s population. In 2009, the state had 107 state employees per 10,000 residents, the fourth-lowest proportion in the nation and 25% below the national average. California also has the sixth-lowest combined number of state and local government employees relative to population, 12% below the national average and 16% below Texas.

Sadly, demonstrable fact matters little to the know-nothing dervishes whirling in the mosh pit of ape dance debate over state finance, a lamentable state of affairs spanning a nation beset by the strange triumph of failed ideas.

Queen Kamala II: Those lusty screams that shattered windows on the executive floors of Calbuzz World Headquarters came from loyal fans of Attorney General-elect Kamala Harris, who expressed the view that our dispassionate analysis of Herself’s transition operation was somewhat, um, asymmetrical (Lock up the kids, Maude – there’s hyperbole on the internets!).

Deeply committed as ever to doing all we can to lower the temperature on the kind of inflammatory, name-calling, ad hominem cheap shot politics and media that makes our blood boil and which we oppose with every fiber of our beings, we encourage readers to avail themselves of an opposing view about the matter. All hail the Empress of River City!

California Voters Turn Back the Angry Red Tide

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, pounding Democrats in states throughout the South, Midwest and Northeast, but the raging red wave that swept across the country crashed against the Sierra Nevada and washed back, as California voters rejected Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate.

The crushing victories of Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in the nation’s largest and most diverse state –with an electorate that is increasingly younger, more Latino and more non-partisan — represented a counterpoint to the Beltway notion that America is in the throes of a massive and structural shift to the ideological right.

As of midnight, when Calbuzz first posted this report based on exit polling and partial vote counts, neither Whitman nor Fiorina had yet conceded. But as Brown told his supporters at the Fox Theater in Oakland: “They haven’t got all the votes in yet but hell, it’s good enough for government work. So it looks like I’m going back again.” (Whitman conceded a few minutes after midnight.)

Despite the most expensive race ever run in any state, Whitman, 54, the former CEO of eBay with the platinum resume and gold-plated consultancy was unable to overcome a crusty, former two-term governor who, at 72, will be twice the age he was when first elected in 1974.  At the last accounting, eMeg had spent more than $160 million, including $142 million of her own fortune, while Krusty the General had raised $32 million, supplemented by $25 million spent on his behalf by labor and other Democratic interests.

With his bare-bones staff and his flinty resolve not to start spending money until after Labor Day, Brown accomplished the one political challenge that eluded his father, the late Edmund G. “Pat” Brown — a third term. Pat Brown lost an attempt for a third term to a political newcomer in 1966: Ronald Reagan. (Term limits were adopted after Jerry Brown had already served twice.)

Brown’s “knowledge and know-how to get California working again” proved a compelling argument to voters who saw in the Attorney General and former mayor of Oakland, a candidate with both a hard head and a soft heart. Whitman, who fired her illegal immigrant housekeeper and ran a relentless barrage of negative ads against her opponents, was seen as hard-headed but hard-hearted, too.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday night before Whitman had conceded, Brown talked about the impulses, honed in his long-ago training to be a Jesuit priest and his study of theology, that drives him back to Sacramento.

“I take as my challenge forging a common purpose, but a common purpose based not just on compromise but on a vision of what California can be . . . We’re all God’s children and while I’m really into this politics thing I still carry with me my sense of kind of that missionary zeal to transform the world and that’s always been a part of what I do,” he said. “So I understand the political part but I also understand what it’s all about – the vision. And I’m hoping and I’m praying that this breakdown that’s gone on for so many years in the state capital and we’re watching it in Washington – that the breakdown paves the way for a breakthrough.”

And Fiorina, 56, who clutched as tightly as she could to the same policies and politics that carried conservative Republicans to victory in smaller states, was unable to dislodge 69-year-old Boxer, one of the most durable liberals in the Senate.

“The Giants beat the Texas Rangers and we beat the Texas polluters tonight,” Boxer told her supporters as she claimed victory before the final votes were tallied.

Certainly, the elevation of Tea Party favorites like Senator-elect Rand Paul in Kentucky – who said we are “enslaved by debt” and will have the singular power to plunge the world economy into darkness by filibustering raising of the U.S. debt ceiling limit – is a resounding victory for the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

But the anger propelling the Tea Party is less a positive vote for any Republican agenda than it is a vote to punish President Obama and the Democrats for the perceived failure to bring about the change they promised in 2008. It’s a vote to “just say no.”

Whether the new members of Congress and the Senate — which remains under Democratic control — will be rewarded for obstructionism or not remains uncertain. But as they seek re-election, Obama and the Democrats will now have the recalcitrant Republicans to blame for gridlock in Washington – an argument that Bill Clinton and his party made in 1996 with considerable success after their losses two years earlier.

The biggest loser among California Democrats, of course, is soon-to-be-former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who oversaw a crushing defeat that cost her the leadership mantle she had historically claimed in another mid-term just four years ago. Along with her, House committee chairs like Representatives Howard Berman and Henry Waxman were reduced to minority status by the Republican sweep that rolled through other states.

On the other hand, Southern California Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Buck McKeon and Jerry Lewis are in line to become chairmen of powerful committees in the House under speaker-presumptive John Boehner of Ohio. Issa, the conservative car-alarm magnate who lost the GOP nomination for Senate in 1998 and who has dedicated himself to opposing Obama and his policies, was all over TV Tuesday night promising a new era in Congress.

The weepy Boehner along with Eric Cantor of Virginia, Issa and other triumphant Republicans spoke over and over Tuesday night about “the message sent by the American people.” Apparently Californians, who represent one-eighth of the nation’s population, aren’t included among the American people.

Democrats in California and their progressive allies also won two important victories by rejecting Prop. 23,  which would have overturned the state’s ground-breaking law to roll black greenhouse gas emissions and by approving Prop. 25, which will reduce to a majority, from two-thirds,  the vote required in the Legislature to approve the California budget. These represented huge political statements by the voters on behalf of the environment and in favor of streamlining the budget process in Sacramento.

As expected, Prop. 19, the measure to legalize personal use of marijuana, went up in smoke.

Although Democrats and their progressive allies did not carry every office or measure,  the Brown win at the top of the ticket, which came despite high unemployment and despair about the direction of the state, suggested that voters have grown tired, at least for now, of divided government in Sacramento as they rejected Whitman’s mirror-image candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s just four years ago.

[Updated 7:30 am] The only Republican statewide candidate who appeared to have a chance for victory early Wednesday morning was Steve Cooley who was slightly behind Kamala Harris in the race for Attorney General. Gavin Newsom was well ahead of Abel Maldonado in the race for Lieutenant Governor; Debra Bowen was crushing Damon Dunn in the race for Secretary of State; John Chiang was way ahead of Tony Strickland in the race for Controller; Bill Lockyer was cruising to victory over Mimi Walters in the race for Treasurer, and Dave Jones was crushing Mike Villines in the race for Insurance Commissioner.