Archive for the ‘John Perez’ Category



Sifting the Detritus of the CA Dem Convention

Monday, April 19th, 2010

It’s a measure of the small bore political stakes of the California Democratic Party convention that the weekend’s only drama played out over an inconclusive fight for the party’s endorsement in an internecine contest for lieutenant governor — a conflict over a second-tier office that has far more to do with personalities than policy.

During a two-day convention when one officeholder after another pleaded with 3,000 activists to match the passion of the conservative Tea Party movement in the 2010 campaign, the convention remained a mostly sedate affair, with delegates wistfully recalling the sense of purpose in President Obama’s historic 2008 victory, while trying to get excited about candidates for insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, ferhevensakes.

“At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party (movement)” Senator Barbara Boxer candidly told reporters, “and I think it is absolutely a fact that we have to match that enthusiasm.”

This just in: in the long-awaited balloting in the Lite Gov’s race, S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom out-polled L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn, 52-to-42. According to a furious exchange of late-night spinning memos eblasted by the two camps, this was either a great victory for Hahn, for denying her rival the 60 percent needed for the endorsement, or a key tactical win for Newsom, who skunked his foe in her own back yard.

Zzzzzzz.

As a practical matter, the question of how much energy and enthusiasm the Dems can muster  — in a non-presidential election year, when the political winds now strongly favor Republicans, when the Donkey Ticket is led by two old war horses, aged 69 and 72, and when the GOP’s statewide entry is led by an Empire Strikes Back campaign bristling with more money than God -– will be a major factor in determining the size and make-up of the November electorate.

When handlers for Jerry Brown are only half-joking in telling reporters the party’s presumptive nominee for governor just needs to win by one vote, the question of turnout, and whether Democrats can expand the size of their base to pick up a sizable chunk of younger and independent voters, is crucial.

And you have to wonder how forward-thinking comprehensive a strategy the Democrats have for doing so, when party chairman John Burton says he thinks that a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana will be the key to motivating the under-30 crowd to come to the polls.

Brown insists he’s sanguine about his chances against Republican front-runner Meg Whitman, despite her surge in the polls and her clear intent to recycle many of the millions she pocketed from shady dealings at Goldman Sachs and other high-end investments. And, on one level at least, his unruffled display of patience is a reminder that it’s still very, very early in the campaign season – “I only have to win on one day,” he told reporters Saturday.

But facing a likely foe who’s equipped to outspend him by orders of magnitude, Brown faces a stark choice between spending his own resources defending himself over the summer, when either Whitman or fellow zillionaire wannabe governor Steve Poizner will surely be bashing him daily on the airwaves, or hanging on to his pile until fall, when voters will be more engaged.

Brown must hope that at least one of the several Independent Expenditure committees that have popped up with promises to help him – but have so far shown a far greater ability to trash Whitman than to raise cash to beat her – will gain enough traction to mount a serious summer TV campaign to go after the GOP nominee and watch Brown’s back.

IE operatives in the Calbuzz orbit tell us they believe they’ll have the money in place and a plan of attack to mount a TV-radio-internet-bus stop-anywhere-you-frequent campaign that will find like-minded voters — especially independents — during the summer, giving Brown some breathing room to husband resources for the fall. We’ll see.

“The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor,” Brown told Calbuzz. But the rules have changed — and Brown knows it.

Paging Pamela Harriman: In the absence of heavyweight political skirmishes at the convention, the sharpest competition played out over who put on the best party.

Speaker John Perez and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg tossed the Best Bash for the Masses, with their Saturday afternoon free Taco Truck Throwdown with mobile catering from such favorite as  Calbi Fusion (whose pulled pork was good but hardly Mexican)  and El Principio (which served up a killer carnitas).  Friday’s elegant soiree thrown by the  California Correctional Peace Officers union, with salmon caviar and free booze,  captured top honors in the Intimate Setting Category.

But in the end, Calbuzz can report with complete immodesty, the most entertaining event was the Second Annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack’s Hack and Flack dinner at Café Pinot, where Brown Himself and heavyweight consultant Garry South got into a cage match battle over electoral strategy at one table, with LA political wheelhouse Donna Bojarsky and political analysts Sherry and Doug Jeffe in the mix. At another table Boxer strategist Rose Kapolcynski, Brown’s Steve Glazer, L.A. premier blogger Kevin Roderick and Laurel Canyon media meisters Julie Buckner and Celia Fischer all compared notes on the political landscape and the chocolate mouse gateau. Other Calbuzzers kicking around strategic insights included poll taker Ben Tulchin and his wife consultant Laurie Biejen,  Kaufman Campaigns’ Richard Stapler, plus reporters from the Chronicle, Media News, KQED and more, who dined on a choice of duo of beef, pan roasted Jidori chicken and Atlantic salmon.

Although Dr. H briefly considered hiring a couple of leg breakers to go after a couple of confirmed guests who were no shows (we know where you live) and one gate crasher, there were no injuries.

Paging Mr. Bartlett: Brown’s three best weird comments of the weekend:

1-“The menu is not the meal,” a big-think overview of where the governor’s race stands today. 2-“I believe in the  papal doctrine of subsidiarism,” a reference to his belief that government authority should be pushed back to locals from Sacramento. 3-”The sherpas will meet soon,” his proposal for a process of arranging debates between him and his Republican rivals.

We’re just sayin’: Can the Democratic party staff please arrange for Burton to have a makeover? The unbuttoned red safari shirt look makes him look like a cheesy Vegas weekend low-roller from Cleveland.

Key Questions Emerge as Dem Party Confab Opens

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

As the Calbuzz National Affairs desk settled into our sky box high above the floor of the California Democratic Convention, our battalion of political correspondents buttonholed delegates, honored guests and party hacks alike to answer the 10 key questions looming over the weekend events:

1-Will Jerry Brown manage to stay awake for the Young Democrats party? With Brown’s unopposed stroll to the party’s nomination for governor sucking all drama from the proceedings, Crusty’s job this weekend is to energize the several thousand activists on hand, who are in a grumpy frame of mind because of Meg-a-Million’s fast start on the Republican side. The under-30 set, who weren’t born the last time Jerry was governor but whose enthusiasm will be important come November, are in particular need of wooing; alas they don’t start partying until 9 p.m. tonight, and the 72-year old Brown’s handlers must hope he hasn’t slipped into his jammies by then.

2-Can Dr. H avoid the paparazzi? The second annual Dr. P.J. Hackenflack Democratic Convention Dinner is scheduled for tonight at a hush-hush exclusive location, with a celebrity-packed A list roster of glittering guests. But in the land of TMZ, a fish as big as Dr. H will be hard-pressed to protect his privacy.

3-Will United States Senator Barbara Boxer Herself stalk out when some rude blogger calls her “Ma’am”? At last year’s convention, California’s junior senator looked like a mortal lock for re-election, but things seemed to start to unravel for her when she famously condescended to a top military officer at a committee hearing not long after. Now the episode has become a metaphor for Boxer’s arrogance and sense of entitlement after 18 years in office, amid the worst political atmosphere for arrogant, entitled incumbent Democrats in a generation.

4-Has Jerry improved his salsa steps? The headline act of the weekend is Los Lobos, which will be performing at the L.A. Convention Center on Saturday night. Political observers will be watching closely to see if Brown’s awkward moves have improved from the ’70s when he was kicking it with girlfriend Linda Ronstadt at Lucy’s El Adobe.

5-Will this be Nancy Pelosi’s last state convention as Speaker? Talking to the most liberal crowd outside of Cuba, Pelosi will no doubt be hozannaed to the heavens, if not nominated for sainthood, for her leadership in passing health care reform.  She should enjoy it while she can, since the legislation is viewed considerably less favorably by voters in the districts of dozens of Democratic members, whose defeats could trigger a Republican takeover of the House.

6-Will Mickey Kaus collect any items for his blog? Kaus, the Mr. Crankypants blogger who’s mounted a symbolic centrist challenge to Boxer, has been banned from speaking to the convention by Democratic Party Minister of Annoyance John Burton.  Mickey writes some of the smartest contrarianisms on the web, so hopefully he’ll at least pick up some stuff for his site.

7-How many times will the words “Goldman Sachs” be uttered from the podium? Even before theSEC’s legal move against the giant investment bank on Friday, Goldman Sachs was emerging as a leading villain of coming Democratic rip jobs on eMeg, whose seamy history as a board member challenged the limits of ethics, if not the law. Brown previewed the line of attack late Friday, when he combined a shot at Whitman’s Wall Street connections with her effort to buy the election: “The rules of democracy are not changed just because a billionaire decides she wants to be governor…You can’t have a hostile takeover of the democratic process.”

8-Will Gavin Newsom and Garry South make it pistols at 10 paces? Political consultant South has done some serious trash talking about Prince Gavin, who quit the campaign  for governor that South was running and now is running for Lieutenant Governor, against South’s new client, L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn. The pair got within a few feet of each other at a convention bash last night, but Gavin wouldn’t even look at Garry: “He’s conflict and confrontation averse,” said South.

9-Will anybody top the spread put on by the CCPOA? The California Correctional Peace Officers Association– thank you Michael Flores –  set a high bar with their Friday cocktail party reception honoring Speaker John Perez: salmon-caviar canapés, satay chicken, crab cake balls, fresh shrimp, pot stickers, egg rolls and an open bar. Today’s “Taco Truck Throwdown,” presented by Perez and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg could mount a serious challenge. Rest  assured Calbuzz will be there to do some Actual Reporting.

10-Will live blogging drive traffic or drive away traffic? Calbuzz will be indefatigably bringing every minute of non-stop action from the podium, assuming we get up in time.

P.S. Late Friday Calbuzz stumbled onto an oddity: Newsom’s reception — sponsored and approved by labor unions — was catered by non-union restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.  At first, Calbuzz thought this might have been a bonehead,  rookie mistake at the all-union-all-the-time Demo convention. But it turns out steady hand Cal Strat consultant Jason Kinney, who worked his butt off to organize the event, got the whole deal sanctioned by all the key state and local labor groups. And in fact, the sponsors of the event included the teachers, nurses, faculty and farm workers unions.  On your behalf, Calbuzz tested the martinis and the chocolate at Newsom rival Janice Hahn’s and found them far superior to Puck’s potato chip, red licorice and crudite spread. But, Newsom’s event at the Target Terrace above the Grammy Museum had live entertainment with Lisa Loeb, Benji Madden and Steven Weber while Hahn just had a boom box.

Mr. Speaker John Perez: All Cattle, No Hat

Monday, January 4th, 2010

perezbrownAs the Legislature returns this week, John Perez is poised to become the new Speaker of the Assembly, assuming the office with  ambitious reform notions –- and few of the institutional political tools needed to achieve them.

If Willie Brown was the Assembly’s Ayatollah, Perez is inheriting a speakership whose powers more closely resemble those invested in the  King of the Belgians. Despite the steep decline in influence of what once was the second most powerful office in California, Perez said in an interview that as Speaker he intends to tackle a host of reforms, from revamping the tax code (including a re-examination of Proposition 13) to seeking an escape from the straight jacket of term limits (and an out-of-control  initiative system).

“This is not a small task,” Perez told Calbuzz. “The challenges are monumental. If we fail to engage fully, the problems will only be pushed onto future generations.”

Brown wielded extraordinary power during his generation-long speakership, the last undiluted by the impact of term limits. More transactional than transformative, however, Brown’s actions most often focused on doing deals, refereeing economic battles between big special interests and reaping massive amounts of campaign cash on behalf of Democrats in the bargain. By contrast, Perez now seeks to accomplish big, substantive policy changes, at a time when the Speaker’s power to reward, punish and instill fear has been sapped since Brown left town in 1996.

In an interview a few days before New Year’s, Perez said that although the intractable budget fight will necessarily be his top priority, he intends to take on and “struggle with these big structural issues.”

gordian knotRefusing to take a position on major reform initiatives already being pushed by California Forward and the Bay Area Council, Perez suggested state lawmakers should pursue their own efforts to cut the Gordian knot of dead-end, deadlock politics that has dominated the Capitol in the post-Brown era: “The Legislature never intended to abdicate its responsibility” on such issues, he said.

“The most fundamental difference (between now and Brown’s tenure) is that there’s no ability for people to work with each other over time,” he added, acknowledging the difficulty of achieving political success amid the Capitol’s gridlock and every-member-for-him/herself environment. He insisted – despite the massive weight of evidence to the contrary – that he can “find Republicans who want to do what’s in the best interest of the state, not drive it off the cliff.”

A former union organizer from L.A., the 40-year old Perez as Speaker will become the highest-ranking, out-of-the-closet gay person in California history. As he completed his first Assembly term in December, he prevailed in a very public Democratic political brawl, overcoming a challenge from fellow Latino Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon, after Speaker Karen Bass abdicated amid constant rumors of an impending coup.

vasco

Mindful of lingering political sensitivities and the need to mend fences, Perez nervously objected when Calbuzz addressed him as “Mr. Speaker-elect” – “I’m not Speaker-elect yet” – a small but endearing display of modesty and humility that bodes well for his ability to massage the outsize egos of his constituency of 80 members. Perez strikes us as very intelligent if overly earnest, as he melds policy speak with New Age psychobabble that made us wonder if the disembodied aura of John Vasconcellos was lurking around the next corner of the Capitol.

“My job is to create a space where it’s safe for members to do their jobs and have an honest discussion of the impact” of policy decisions, he said. “The majority of members of both parties really care.”

Here’s a look at what he said on key issues:

Taxes: Perez bashed the Parsky Commission for coming up with a “political proposal” that would tilt California’s tax structure to favor rich people, instead of developing a “policy driven discussion” that presented a set of well-crafted options to put before elected decision makers. He said the Legislature should pursue its own rewrite of the tax code, a process in which “everything is on the table” – including Prop. 13.

Term limits: Perez pointed to term limits as the most fundamental factor underlying the dysfunction of Sacramento. With at least one initiative on term limits headed for the ballot, he said the current system encourages lawmakers to make policy choices without regard to their future impact and should be “eliminated any way we can do that.”

Reform proposals: Perez ducked questions about his views on both the constitutional convention initiative package backed by the Bay Area Council, and Cal Forward’s more incremental reform initiative. “Both are well-intentioned,” he said, “both need more public hearing and discussion.”

Working with Republicans: Perez called the temporary budget fix passed last June a “tremendous display of bipartisanship.” While favoring the repeal of the two-thirds budget vote requirement, he insisted “a large number” of GOP Assembly members are “not ideologues (and) really care about having an honest discussion of the impact” of budget cuts.

gay_marriage_210Gay marriage: The state’s first gay Speaker said that while public opinion is steadily if slowly shifting in favor of same sex marriage, an effort to pass a new initiative in 2010, just two years after the Prop. 8 ban on it, would be a serious tactical error, would likely lose and set back the cause for years.

Calbuzz Bottom Line: Like Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, Perez appears to be a very sharp guy. As with Steinberg, the key question will be whether he has the requisite ruthlessness and resourcefulness to make real change from a position of institutional weakness. In any case, we applaud him for trying and wish him all the luck in the world. He’ll need it.