Archive for the ‘John Laird’ Category



Chris Finnie: Missing the Point About the Grassroots

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

By Chris Finnie
Special to Calbuzz

Calbuzz recently highlighted a link to Talking Points Memo, headlined “Meg Whitman Copies Obama Playbook,” in which writer Christina Bellantoni argues that eMeg’s $150 million campaign for governor is effectively cloning the president’s 2008 operation.

Sorry boys, but Christina’s clueless.

Whitman may be trying to duplicate some of the tactics of Obama’s game plan – appealing to Latino voters in Spanish, targeting young professionals and spending a lot of money (none of it, notably, raised from the grassroots as Obama’s was).

But like so many other politicians before her, she is missing the essence of the matter: she doesn’t have an emotional connection to voters. And that makes all the difference

Where’s the passion?

Before Obama, the new Internet Age, from-the- ground-up campaign was pioneered by Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential race. Political pundits were agog at his online organizing and fundraising; suddenly every candidate wanted Meetup groups and web organizing tools.

But they were often disappointed with the results, because they mistook the map for the territory.

I volunteered with both the 2004 Dean campaign and the 2008 Obama campaign. In both, many of the volunteers felt passionate about the candidate and connected with the other volunteers we worked with. Both campaigns did a great job of fostering those connections. And they persist to this day.

The Obama campaign did a masterful job of using technology, not as an end in itself, but to harness and organize this grassroots fervor. When I worked phone banks in Boulder Creek, California, the communication from Chicago was always quick and seamless. And the personal acknowledgements to volunteers were frequent and effective.

California Rep. Maxine Waters, D-L.A., highlighted this point at the state Democratic convention in April. Speaking to grassroots activists at the annual “Red to Blue” fundraising dinner to support Democratic candidates in Republican strongholds in California, Waters said campaign strategy is too often all about money, specifically the money that campaign consultants make on media buys.

She said that as long as the primary way consultants make money is by buying media, candidates will be increasingly distant from voters, and office holders isolated from the people they represent.

Harkening back to the days of real town hall meetings, Waters spoke of the passion generated when candidates meet in storefronts with local volunteers who walk and phone for them – not as a staged media event, but as a central part of their campaigns.

What Whitman lacks

Meg Whitman may have as many paid staff members on her communications team as the Obama campaign fielded in all 50 states. But I doubt she’ll attract many people to sit in a neighbor’s living room and make phone calls to support her.

She will continue to burn through vast amounts of money on media buys but never achieve the grassroots support Obama was able to mobilize.

She will not have anyone like the woman in Florida who rented an office and recruited volunteers, then presented the whole thing to the Obama campaign when they finally made it to her state.

The Whitman campaign may boast of having volunteers, but they’re little more than a prop. The plain fact is that there is no space in her corporate-style marketing campaign for personal communication or authentic interactions with the candidate. Heck, she won’t even talk to the media. As Rep. Waters told us, this approach will increasingly isolate her from the people she needs to reach.

Whitman also will not gain that support because California voters simply don’t like her. Not even the Republicans, which the Field Poll numbers show clearly.

Sure, they’re willing to let her try to buy the election; the party is grateful that she’s spending her money, and not theirs. But she doesn’t have a message that grabs anybody and nearly all of what she’s proposing has been tried by Schwarzenegger and hasn’t worked.

Most importantly, she has no emotional connection to voters.

Unfortunately for us Democrats, Jerry Brown’s campaign has been nearly as lackadaisical in building grassroots support, and is just beginning to reach out to volunteers.

John Laird = Obama Playbook

As Brown begins to do this, he would be well advised to look to the effort of former Assemblyman John Laird, who’s running in the special election race for the coastal 15th state Senate district.

Laird has volunteers setting up phone banks for him on their own all over the state. Community groups that came together through Organizing for America groups are making calls, as are statewide volunteers from Democracy for America.

Groups all over the state are organizing themselves, or working as a group to support Laird’s bid, because they feel passionately about his progressive ideas and having him in the Senate to enact them.

Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee may have more money, with millions from big oil and insurance companies, and a big assist from Whitman, but Laird has the sort of people-powered campaign every politician should hope for.

Chris Finnie sits on the Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee, serves as a delegate to the California Democratic Party, and is a member of the CDP Organizational Development Committee. She became a political activist in the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 and has since served on campaign staffs with Cegelis for Congress and McNerney for Congress. She also volunteered in the Obama campaign in 2008, and has acted as a volunteer consultant with several other campaigns. She ran for chair of the California Democratic Party in 2009 as what Calbuzz called the “bran muffin” candidate. In her spare time, Chris works as a freelance marketing copywriter.

Shady Sam’s Sham Oil Stance Meets Mariachi Meg

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Sam Blakeslee, the San Luis oilman Californians just can’t trust, is trying to steal a victory in a state senate special election next week by posing as a moderate Republican environmentalist who loves sea otters even more than snowy plovers.

The blunt truth of the matter, however, may be found in 1) the lavish oil industry contributions shoveled into committees that have forked out more than $1 million to back Blakeslee’s play in the 15th State Senate district and 2)  the photograph posted at the top of this story, which shows exactly where the San Luis Obispo GOP assemblyman stood on offshore oil drilling in California – before that whole Gulf of Mexico thing made it really, really unfashionable.

The ex-Republican assembly leader is locked in a fierce battle with former Democratic assemblyman John Laird for the seat representing a vast, coastal district that was held until recently by Lite Governor Abel Maldonado. It’s up for grabs in a special next Tuesday that Governor Schwarzmuscle carefully scheduled to benefit Blakeslee.

Laird just now is getting his brains beat in on TV, as BP, Chevron and other oil companies have rushed to finance pro-Blakeslee independent expenditure committees that are paying for a barrage of ads portraying the Democrat as a crazed socialist considerably to the left of Hugo Chavez.

As we predicted a year ago hardliner Blakeslee now is falsely positioning himself as a pro-green centrist, in an effort to capture a majority vote in the June 22 primary, which would make a scheduled August run-off unnecessary.

“I have been an environmental Republican throughout my service,” Blakeslee told Paul Rogers of the Mercury News. “I’ve never wavered on my protection of the coast.”

Excuse us while we build a tower big enough to hold our laughter.

In claiming he’s against offshore oil, Blakeslee tries to hide behind the skirts of a group of Santa Barbara environmentalists, who pitched the controversial Tranquillon Ridge offshore project, just off the coast of the southern end of the 15th SD, as a way to trade new drilling now for less in the future (for those who’ve been hanging out on Uranus for the last year, our primer on T-Ridge is here).

In truth, Blakeslee’s history on the issue is strongly at odds with the greens who originally co-sponsored the plan with the Houston-based oil company PXP; his record shows a drill-baby-drill determination to ram through the offshore project via a series of backdoor legislative schemes intended to overrun the opposition of the State Lands Commission, which rejected T-Ridge and which, oh yeah, for decades happens to have had sole jurisdiction over state oil leases.

After the lands commission turned down the project in 2009 – saying its promise to end future drilling was unenforceable because the power to do so ultimately resided with the scandal-ridden federal Minerals  Management Service, Blakeslee plotted with fellow knuckledragger assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Orange County to end run the commission, a move that the enviros who originally backed the proposal categorically opposed.

First, the dynamic duo tried to pass AB23*, a DeVore bill that was gutted in the Senate and amended to approve PXP’s T-Ridge project by creating a special exemption and removing it from the jurisdiction of the lands commission.

On July 24, 2009, the measure was heatedly debated in the Assembly and defeated with only 30 of the house’s 80 members supporting the drilling plan.

Within hours, however, the official record of that vote was expunged, in what appeared to be a Blakeslee maneuver to remove his fingerprints from the pro-drilling bill. Despite the insistence of Blakeslee flacks  that he had nothing to do with erasing the vote, the reliable Anthony York of Capitol Weekly shortly after the deal went down cited sources who traced the move to the then-Republican Assembly leader.

For those still pondering the mystery of that expunged vote, Calbuzz is pleased to provide an historic photo of it, which clearly shows Blakeslee among the small minority of those who backed the special interest legislation to expand drilling off the coast.

Two months later, Blakeslee was back at it, this time gutting one of his own bills in an effort have his way on behalf of the oil industry, which would have liked nothing more than to use T-Ridge as a foot in the door to overcome California’s four decade opposition to any new leases authorizing more drilling in state water.

It’s instructive that when Laird kicked off the 15th SD special election campaign by whacking Blakeslee on offshore drilling,  the Republican a) began trying to finesse the issue by touting his purported environmental credentials and b) changed the subject, unloading a barrage of ads assailing Laird as a menace to society on fiscal issues.

Among other crimes, it seems, Laird accepted pay raises that, um, Blakeslee also took (Jon Coupal, the doctrinaire Howard Jarvis acolyte who’s plugging Blakeslee in the IE ads, might want to check out some of Sam’s squishier statements on tax increases here and here).

Then again, if Shady Sam is willing to masquerade his environmental record to get elected, why should anyone be surprised that he’d gussy  himself up on other issues as well?

eMeg proves she has no shame: Guess who’s nowhere to be found on Meg Whitman’s new website Latinos for Meg or in her new Spanish language TV commercials? Former Gov. Pete Wilson, her campaign chairman and iconic diablo among Hispanics in California.

Gone is the “tough-as-nails” Meg Whitman who sternly warned “No amnesty. No exceptions” as she vowed to send the National Guard to the border, crack down on sanctuary cities and generally lower the boom on illegal immigrants.

As Calbuzz predicted a couple of weeks ago: Whitman, now desperate to capture Latino voters she didn’t give a rat’s ass about in the Republican primary, suddenly is all about jobs and opportunity, sunshine and inclusiveness. Oh puhleeeese. What a fraud.

The only uncertainty, as we noted before: “…we don’t know whether, by spending untold sums on campaign propaganda, Whitman will be able to obliterate the collective memory voters might otherwise have of her lurch to the right.”

Oh, and Meg dropped another $20 million into her war chest this week, bringing her personal “investment” to $91 million.

Now, Mariachi Meg is emphasizing that she was never for Proposition 187 (although its chief advocate is her campaign chairman) and she opposes Arizona’s check-their-status law. Maybe – after spending serious money to make the point that she opposes amnesty – she’ll go back to arguing for a guest worker program where people “stand at the back of the line and pay a fine.”

So far no one is up on TV countering Whitman’s hypocritical drive to round up Latino voters. But the Democratic Governor’s Association did create a 90-second video in Spanish called “Send Pete Packing.”

As Tenoch Flores, on behalf of the California Democratic Party,  argued:

“Apparently Meg Whitman forgot that we live in the age of ‘the internets’ – ironic for someone who touts her eBay experience. She sincerely believes a Spanish language advertising buy is going to gloss over the fact that together with her mentor Pete Wilson, and her rival Steve Poizner, she engaged in the greatest Republican Party anti-immigrant hate-fest this side of the California-Arizona border.”

The CDP also reprised Meg’s “Tough as Nails” radio ad and even offered up a Spanish translation. Said Flores:

“Latino voters in California haven’t forgotten about Pete Wilson’s anti-immigrant crusade, and that was over ten years ago. They certainly won’t forget that Whitman used them as foil to get herself through the GOP primary less than a month ago.”

Unless Whitman’s beyond standard quantum limit spending can wipe away all memory.

* In an earlier version of this post we had a typo that labeled AB23 as AB32 — a super mix-up since AB32 is the famous climate-change bill.

Right Thinking: Musings of a True Conservative

Friday, June 18th, 2010

By Jon Fleischman
Special to Calbuzz

You kids get off my lawn! As a daily reader of Calbuzz, it’s easy to start calling Jerry Brown “Krusty.”  But lately he really has been living up to the name.

Between the Goebbels-Whitman comparison, and telling reporters that he’ll talk about his economic plans after he’s elected, you get the impression of a codger who should be retiring and taking it easy.  Certainly not someone running for the state’s top elective office.

Portsiders dominate the B minus: I was on a panel last Wednesday with Stuart Leavenworth, the opinion page editor of the Sacramento Bee, talking to a room full of Republican candidates.

It was rather amusing to hear him acknowledge to all assembled that the total number of Republicans on the Sacramento Bee editorial board is… zero.  But then again, if you keep an eye on their editorials, that isn’t too surprising.

The doctor is in: If the California Medical Association backs a Democrat pickup of Assembly District 5, where Republican Roger Niello is termed out, that means only one thing: the CMA is pushing for a two-thirds Democratic majority in the legislature.

The fact that a doctor is the Democratic candidate really is irrelevant.  The fact that Doctor Richard Pan is a hardcore liberal does matter.

Family feud: Either former Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines will be the GOP nominee for Insurance Commissioner, or he won’t.  But if he is, he will have a big challenge ahead of him.

Most Republicans supported Brian FitzGerald because of his superior ballot title (“Department’s Enforcement Attorney” to Villines’ “Businessman/State Assemblyman”).  But many Republicans voted against Villines because of his unrepentant role as an architect of the largest tax increase in California history.

Time for retirement: If we are going to solve our state’s public pension tsunami problem, two bold ideas are going to have to be on the table.

First, we need to move public employees to a 401(k)-style retirement plan in which the government, as an employer, pays out each year but is then done with its obligation; responsibility for the management of that employee’s fund, and for the decision of when it is valued high enough to retire, should be on the individual employee.

The other point: you can’t solve the problem by simply changing the rules for new hires.  Current employees will need to have a new, less generous benefit for their remaining years of service, such as the 401(k)-style account.

Insiders and outsiders: The apparent victory of Minuteman founder Tim Donnelly in Assembly District 59 is heartening to conservatives.

Not only because it is cool to know that you can win the GOP nomination in a Republican seat with just $22,000 and a lot of volunteers – but because the voters will be sending a strong voice to Sacramento to oppose the kind of insider, tax hiking deal that led to incumbent Anthony Adams’ retirement in that very seat.

Coastal views: This Tuesday’s special election to fill the vacancy in Senate District 15 presents a stark contrast to voters.

Democrat John Laird is so liberal that he makes his moderate Republican opponent, Sam Blakeslee, look like a right-winger.  What is the differentiating issue that matters?  Laird wants to raise taxes so the government sector can grow (or shrink less), Blakeslee wants to keep taxes low, so that the private sector can recover and produce more jobs.

Memo to Frisco: A note to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who are implementing a new regulation out of concerns of radioactivity coming from cell phones: It’s not the phones, it’s the drugs and your status as an international magnet for freaky people that are the causes of strangeness in your city.

Kudos to a pal: Congratulations are really in order to my longtime friend Jeff Randle.  Jeff and I came up in politics at the same time, though on different paths within the Republican Party.

All of these years later, I’m happily publishing a website.  Jeff, on the other hand, is playing a lead role in the election of the next Governor of California.  Very impressive, Jeff.  You deserve much credit – the next round of beers are on you (what you do pays better than what I do).

Jon Fleischman is editor and publisher of FlashReport and Vice Chairman, South of the California Republican Party.  His views are his own.

Team eMeg Brags on Poll; John Laird Strikes on Oil

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s top campaign strategists convened a conference call with California political writers Tuesday to claim they were on the cusp of victory in the race for the Republican nomination for governor.

Beating their chests over a new internal poll* they said shows eMeg skunking Steve Poizner by 26 points, campaign advisers Mike Murphy and Jeff Randle not only boasted of having “an integrated campaign” machine bristling with more weapons than the Empire’s Death Star but also bragged that their latest TV ads brilliantly succeeded, if they do say so themselves, in effectively vanquishing their GOP rival.

“This is quite a comeback for Meg Whitman,” Murphy said. “There’s no doubt the race is now breaking very strongly in Meg’s favor.”

Mike Murphy

Jeff and I said on the last call we did like this with you all that we would – that voters were confused – by the misleading and in many areas highly inaccurate Poizner/Democratic attack campaign and we would endeavor in the Meg Whitman campaign to unconfuse them.

And so we took a lot of action: Meg is working hard on the stump, some new television ads, some new radio ads. All of which we put into effect about two weeks ago and I’m very happy to say those ads have had an extremely positive effect. Voters are becoming unconfused…

While their triumphalist tone was slightly modulated by some CYA boilerplate – “There is no complacency in the campaign” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) – it seemed pretty clear that Murphy and Randle genuinely believed that what they were saying is true. Which led us to wonder about one nagging question:

Why are they telling us this now?

Think about it: If you’re pitching a no-hitter, ahead by 12 runs with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth, do you suddenly step off the rubber and scream – “I’m really, really winning by a lot now! – to the fans in the stands?

We’re just sayin’.

In seeking an explanation, Calbuzz turned to our Staff Psychiatrist, Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, who posited five possible reasons for Team Whitman’s behavior (solution below):

a) Murphy is like that guy who takes a little blue pill, then calls up his friends and starts yelling,  “Dude – it’s been FOUR HOURS, man!”

b) Henry Gomez ordered them to do it after Meg complained that all the horse people at the Woodside Starbucks were saying she hadn’t got her money’s worth for her $68 million.

c) Meg demanded that her handlers go out and explain to those ruffian reporters that the 60-second ad she had personally written had magically turned the whole thing around.

d) Murphy’s jammed up for cash, and is hoping he’ll get his $500K win bonus a little early.

e) The Whitman campaign badly wants to discourage and depress Poizner, so that he doesn’t complicate their lives in the next two weeks by going to the wallet for another $5-10 million.

Calbuzz sez: a) and e).

*McLaughlin & Associates, paid by the Whitman campaign, says the race is 53-27% after surveying 600 likely GOP primary voters May 23-24, margin of error +/- 4%.

Sam Blakeslee

Laird Draws First Blood on Blakeslee in Maldo’s Old District

If you go to Republican Sam Blakeslee’s campaign web page for the special election in what was Abel Maldonado’s SD15 you’ll find out he’s committed to schools, reforming the state budget, strengthening the economy, energy efficiency, public safety and ethics. What you won’t find is that the Assemblyman from San Luis Obispo was the No. 1 water carrier for the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling proposal.

But his Democratic opponent, John Laird of Santa Cruz, today launches a TV campaign to remind voters in the district that “even as the oil slick harms the Gulf Coast, politicians like former Exxon executive and current State Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee are still saying, ‘Drill baby, drill.’”

John Laird

Which has the effect of raising  two things Blakeslee is apparently not too keen on mentioning: 1) his background as an Exxon executive who fought for PXP’s proposal to  expand offshore oil drilling in Santa Barbara and 2) that he actually is an Assemblyman (his ballot designation will be “independent business owner”).

Blakeslee’s web site does say that after getting his PhD from UC Santa Barbara in geophysics, he “worked as a research scientist at Exxon’s research lab in Texas, where he received a patent for inventing an innovative technique for imaging geological formations. Later, he moved into management and became a strategic planner where he was responsible for creating and managing Exxon budgets.”

It doesn’t mention that he actually joined Exxon’s Production Research in the Borehole Geophysics Group. Maybe that sounds a little too much like an oil driller. (We can just see the tag line, inspired by Dianne Feinstein’s ad against Michael Huffington in 1994: “A San Luis oilman central Californians just can’t trust.”)

If you are one of those Calbuzzers who follows legislative intrigue, you may recall that we noted in September 2009 that “fingers were pointed at Blakeslee last month when Capitol Weekly disclosed that the Assembly vote on the PXP measure had been expunged from the record.” He denied it, but everyone in Sacramento was pretty sure he was the guy – as minority leader — who had the slate wiped.

Laird’s ad buy – about $350,000 in Salinas, Santa Barbara and on cable in San Jose – is likely enough to inject offshore oil drilling into the contest. Armed with a new FM3 survey showing the race a dead heat – each candidate with about a third of the vote – Laird is banking on a finding that 56% of likely special election voters are opposed to allowing more offshore oil drilling.

Blakeslee has his own ad up – a nice positive in which he pledges to “fight to stop the waste and turn California around.” Not one mean word about what a liberal, special-interest, job-killing tree-hugger Laird is. So there’s no question: Laird is firing the first shot here.

It’s his sad good fortune that offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has raised to an extraordinary level an issue on which he actually has fought most of his political career. As he says in his ad:

Enough is enough. I’m John Laird. Protecting California’s coastline is crucial to our economy and our way of life. That’s why I’ve always stood up to the oil companies and worked to prevent more drilling off our coasts. Because the risks to California’s future are just too great.

That’s powerful stuff.