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Archive for the ‘Steve Poizner’ Category



How Sacto Is Like Cairo: Why Difi Rivals Are Doomed

Monday, February 7th, 2011

One of the inherent strengths of local news operations, way too rarely exercised (see: newspapers, death of) is the daily opportunity to report how and why big global events matter to readers and viewers on the home front.

Tom Meyer, the blogosphere’s incarnation of  Thomas Nast, ofers a bit of this type of journalistic service with his latest take today, showing how the dramatic events in Egypt are a kind of real time Rorschach test which provide folks all along the political spectrum a chance to indulge in reassuring themselves, and insisting to others, that they’ve been right, right, right all along.

Underscoring the point, Frank Rich, the Pauline Kael of American politics, batted out a stinging indictment of the MSM this week, for its incessant braying of the clichéd claim that the crucial post hoc ergo propter hoc about the Egyptian populist revolt, which people there foolishly think is about their nation’s authoritarianism, economy and political corruption, is the role played in the events by…Twitter.

“Let’s get a reality check here,” said Jim Clancy, a CNN International anchor, who broke through the bloviation on Jan. 29 by noting that the biggest demonstrations to date occurred on a day when the Internet was down. “There wasn’t any Twitter. There wasn’t any Facebook,” he said. No less exasperated was another knowledgeable on-the-scene journalist, Richard Engel, who set the record straight on MSNBC in a satellite hook-up with Rachel Maddow. “This didn’t have anything to do with Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “This had to do with people’s dignity, people’s pride. People are not able to feed their families.”

“War,” Ambrose Pierce famously said, “is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” But it’s hard to escape the sad conclusion that the corporate organs of the MSM have failed to do much educating about events in the Mideast; those in search of more serious and substantial information could do worse than to check out the live streaming reportage of Al Jazeera’s English coverage.

Thanks to the cowardice of broadcast and cable executives everywhere, this news service currently is all but unavailable anywhere in the country, a state of affairs that the organization is trying to address with its February 10 “Meet-up to demand Al Jazeera on your TV,” an online campaign which,  paradoxically, mirrors the very demands for the free flow of ideas now being sounded in Egypt.

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Difi and the GOP: Since Calbuzz launched, our Department of Mission Statements and Corporate Branding Jive has churned out any number of cheesy memorable slogans in a pitiful attempt to justify our existence to help you, our loyal readers, understand who we are and what we do.

Shooting the Wounded,” of course, reflects the historical role of sofa-bound political writers and editorialists everywhere, while “Burning Our Bridges One at a Time,” reflects our own deep and abiding belief in the solemn constitutional responsibility of the press to hurl brickbats, cheap shots and childish insults wildly and randomly, without regard to race, creed, color, sexual orientation, partisan belief or political persuasion.

Another great ideal in which Our Founders believed deeply is this:  “Politics is the greatest spectator sport of all.”

So it was that we began trying to drum up interest in the 2012 Senate race before the ink was even dry on the statement of vote from the 2010 elections. In furtherance of this goal, we specifically have encouraged Republican gov race loser Meg Whitman to take a crack at venerable Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein next year.

Alas, however, our project has now been dealt a severe blow, with the release of a survey by Public Policy Polling that shows Feinstein crushing Whitman 55-35% in a simulated contest among voters – the same margin she holds over former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, who got stomped by Difi’s sister Senator-for-life, Barbara Boxer.

Other matchups: Feinstein over former Congressman Tom Campbell 51-37%; Herself over former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner 52-34%, and  Our Dianne smacking Darrell Issa (R-Car Alarm) by 54-33%, and crunching former Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle 59-25%.

(Weed whacking methodology alert) The only consolation for the potential GOP challengers (and for Calbuzz) is that PPP’s survey is an interactive voice response (IVR) poll, commonly known as a robopoll – in which a computer interacts with a respondent (like polls run by Survey USA and Rasmussen). And, heaven help us, Dean Debnam of PPP tells Calbuzz that their sample was taken from voter records (which would be fine if you were doing live calls and asking for that person) but the computer doesn’t know whether it’s interacting with the actual voter from the sample or someone else in the household. Sheesh.

Still, the numbers are of a consistency and magnitude that they’re likely to discourage potential GOP contenders pretty quickly, particularly those pondering the wisdom of tossing $1 billion or so large into a rat hole.

To which Calbuzz says: Take heart eMeg. After spending just shy of $180 million to lose the governor’s race, why not pop for a real survey and find out if you’d have any shot against Queen Mum?

Because. let’s face it, this whole in-between-elections, public policy thing ain’t much except a guaranteed cure for insomnia, and we’d be willing to pay to cover a cage match between you and Difi. We’d even give you a second chance to go to dinner with us.

Reagan Agonistes: Amid the orgy of commentary and political posturing accompanying the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, here’s the half-dozen items atop our recommended reading list:

1-Most intriguing op-ed was penned for the Orange County Register under the byline of the aforementioned Difi . We’re not sure we buy her argument that RR’s greatest strength was his “bipartisanship,” but she’s been going on about the importance of “governing from the center” for four decades, so you’ve at least got to hand it to her for consistency.

2- The most authoritative source on all things Reagan remains the canon of  Lou Cannon, who started covering him as a Sacto correspondent for the San Jose Mercury News.

3-Best quickly assembled, 60-second guide to memorable Reagan quotes is found over at Huffpost.

4-Most interesting observations on what made Reagan a first-rate politician come from Ken Khachigian, who turned in a workmanlike job of first person reporting about the great man’s speechifying tradecraft. (H/T Flashreport).

5-Most stomach-churning self-serving effort to identify with Reagan comes from, who else, Sarah Palin. Sorry, Lady Sled Dog, “we’re on the road to ruin,” is just about as far from his politics as it’s possible to be.

6-Best single quote comes from Richard Reeves, via Joel Fox“Ronald Reagan is still president,” he said, meaning the country is living with a political philosophy set out by Reagan. True, true, true, unfortunately.

Bonus read on Reagan: ThinkProgress has a little gem of a piece that will set conservatives’ hair on fire, including factoids on Reagan’s record as a serial tax-raiser.

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.

Here’s to 2010: The Top 10 Stories of the Year

Friday, December 31st, 2010

As Tom Meyer presents his right brain look back at the political detritus of 2010, the left progressive brain types in our Department of Belles-Lettres and Fine Writing Done Cheap wish you all the best for a new decade with this update of our annual New Year’s column:

The hoariest cliché in the news business – besides  Where Are They Now, the Irrelevant Anniversary yarn and frying an egg on the sidewalk during a heat wave – is the end-of-year Top 10 list.

And at Calbuzz, we’re nothing if not hoary clichés. Or maybe clichéd whores. Whatever.

As you find yourself face down in a bowl of gelatinous guacamole on New Year’s morn, trying to remember why you’re wearing rubber underwear and Raider wrist bands, here’s some bathroom reading, the Calbuzz Top 10 stories of the year, a 2011 primer for those who got drunk and missed 2010.

(Click the cartoon  for a larger image)

GOP awakens the sleeping giant. From Steve Poizner’s demagoguery on illegal immigration  to Meg Whitman’s serial mishandling of her own housekeeper scandal, Republicans worked overtime in the 2010 campaigns to alienate Latino voters throughout California. In the end, their no-path-to-citizenship kow-towing to the right-wing  proved an utter disaster, as Democrats reaped big totals among the state’s increasingly crucial electoral bloc, which represented nearly one in four votes on election day.

eMeg’s secret diary. When a slow news day spurred our fervid imaginations to post a spoof version of Meg Whitman’s private thoughts, we had no way of knowing that it would become a case study of life in imitation of art. But her real-life treatment of the help, coupled with her corner-cutting business ethics and rules-don’t apply to me campaign style combined to transform the race for governor into a referendum on her character, which voters decided they didn’t much like.

The triumph of St. Ignatius. When a national political reporter asked Jerry Brown early in the campaign how he would deal with eMeg’s mega-bucks spending, the governor drew deeply upon his Catholic  education and sniffed that he would respond with “Ignatian indifference.” His subsequent decision  to essentially ignore Whitman’s summer-long assault on him, along with the aid of some independent expenditure advertising by labor allies, made Saint Iggie look like a genius as Krusty wrote yet another new chapter in the half-century saga of his political evolution.

Scientists measure standard quantum limit of money. Along with the rest of the political world, Calbuzz watched in endless fascination as Her Megness shattered all previous records for a self-funded candidate; desperate for a metaphor to help measure its ultimate impact, we turned to the field of theoretical physics. When the deal went down, Herself forked out more than $200K every 24 hours for every day she was in the race, and the only ones who had much to show for it were the vast legions of consultants and hangers-on who took her to the cleaners.

California’s got the blues. In a mid-term election when national Republicans opened an extra-large can of wupass on Democrats, contrary Golden State voters proved solid gold for the party of donkeys and jackasses. Amid waves of wise and well-intentioned advice on what they might do differently, state GOPers decided to double down on idiocy as they shunned candidates who might actually be electable and turned Senate wannabe Carly Fiorina into an angry, snarling parody of a right-winger mouthing political stands more befitting the state of Utah and proving anew  that ideology is more important to Californians than gender.

Truth, no consequences. After death panels, the birther movement and the consistently sensational ratings of Fox News, we shouldn’t have been surprised that California’s airwaves filled to bursting with misrepresentations, half-truths and lies. Naifs that we are, it took a while to understand that we were witnessing nothing less than the death of truth in politics.

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass. There were few better examples of the truth-is-always-fungible politics than Governor Schwarzmuscle’s endless exertions aimed at portraying his years in office as an era of splendid success. In case you missed our in-depth one-word analysis of his record – FAIL – you can find more dispassionate and detailed, but no less damning, takes on the matter here, and here.

Tree huggers ascendant. Amid 12+ % unemployment in the state, some cynical smokestack types tried to reignite the economic growth vs.  environmental protection conflict. California voters not only saw through the either-or argument on climate change but also broke off their brief flirtation with offshore oil drilling after the Earth Day Deepwater Horizon disaster led Arnold to abandon his ill-laid plans to award the first state lease in more than 40 years.

Reform on life support. Amid a trove of smart proposals for political, governance and budget reform,  all the good ideas went exactly nowhere. Fueled by corporate cynicism, the contradictory views of voters and the steady transformation of democracy into a plutocracy the forces of the status quo won out yet again.

ABC: Always Believe Calbuzz. Reporting more than 3 million page views in 2010, an analysis by our Department of Weights and Measures advises that along with the heavily-hyphenated-meat-and-potatoes-sizzle-and-steak-cheeseburger-and-fries-day-in-day-out political coverage our readers look for, loyal Calbuzzers also count on our special-brand-of-journalism-you-won’t-find-it-anywhere-but-here-world-exclusive scoops, whether it’s the inside story of Jerry Brown’s secret eyebrow makeover, prize winning reporting on John Burton’s foul mouth or world-class forecasting on Major League Baseball (Giants win!).

With all best wishes for a happy and safe amateur night celebration, we thank you all for reading. See you in 2011.

Untold Story: How the Latino Vote Hit Critical Mass

Monday, November 15th, 2010

By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

Back in 1992, the first “year of the woman,” both Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were on the ballot for election to the United States Senate.  They both won.  The Los Angeles Times exit poll calculated that they each received 52% of the Latino vote.

In 1994, then-Governor Pete Wilson put Proposition 187 on the ballot.  It was the nation’s first anti-immigrant initiative.  The hallmark of the campaign was the famous television ad with images of undocumented people running across the border.  The announcer intoned, “They keep coming.”

If he only knew!

In the just concluded election, Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer captured 65% or 80% of that vote (depending on which exit poll you believe). More importantly, it was a bigger pie – 3 times larger than back in 1992. It was one of the major factors that kept the red tide out of California – and a factor that will only get bigger.

Here’s the story of how that happened…

Beginning in 1994, California began to change.  The numbers of immigrants who became citizens grew exponentially each year.  According to the Department of Homeland Security’s statistics, prior to Proposition 187, the number of new citizens in California each year had been a steady 50,000 to 60,000.  In 1994, the number jumped to 118,567.  In 1995, it was 171,285.  In 1996, 378,014. You get the idea.

Also in 1994, a husband and wife team, Miguel Contreras the leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Maria Elena Durazo, then the leader of the Hotel Workers in Los Angeles (now Miguel’s successor at the Labor Fed) began something new: they linked organizing immigrant workers to organizing immigrant voters.  And they hired a young immigrant-rights firebrand, Fabian Nunez, as he protested Proposition 187 by carrying the Mexican flag down Broadway in Los Angeles.

Nunez served as L.A. Labor’s political director and eventually became the Speaker of the Assembly.

The campaigns we developed broke new ground, organized new union workers, and increased the political impact Latino voters have had on California politics – simultaneously tripling their number of registered voters, increasing the Democratic share of that vote by 50%, and doubling the percentage of the total votes cast in California from Latinos.

Through the rest of the 1990′s our campaigns focused on legislative races in Los Angeles.  We succeeded.  But it was all small.

In 2000, Maria Elena pushed for something bigger…

In 2000, our message was controversial (until it worked).  “If you want to make a difference, voting isn’t enough.  Don’t bother voting unless you sign our pledge to get 100% of your family to vote.”  Latino turnout rose… and accounted for 14% of the votes cast according to the State’s voter registration and voting history records.

In 2005, over dinner with some friends, Maria Elena heard a successful Latina businesswoman bemoaning the low Latino turn-out for Antonio Villaraigosa in March of 05. The woman told Maria Elena that it was “Imperdonable” (Unforgivable).

The City’s voting records show that the L.A. Labor Fed’s “Imperdonable” campaign increased Latino turn-out in the Mayoral run-off by 50%.

In May this year, Maria Elena called us together.  Her message was clear.  Latinos would end up voting for Jerry Brown.  That would be easy.  The challenge was how to motivate them to vote at all.

Fortunately, the Republicans in Arizona wrote a new law.

When we conducted focus groups, people brought the issue up to us.  When we polled it, we found 93% of California Latinos knew about it, 84% said it was more about profiling than immigration, and 73% thought it could happen in California. That view became more  believable when Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner in the Republican primary tried to outdo one another as anti-immigrant politicians.

So instead of a campaign where our candidate was a 72-year-old white guy, Maria Elena and the L.A Fed ran a campaign on behalf of “Tuesday” – Martes – and against an opponent – Arizona – that research told us Latinos were motivated to defeat.

And Fabian?  After he met with Maria Elena this summer, he decided to fund the “Martes Si, Arizona No!” television ad campaign. [Which not coincidentally included a pitch in favor of Prop. 25, the measure for a majority vote on the state budget -- Ed]

Latinos accounted for 22% of the votes cast in California.  None of us know how much bigger this trend will be.  We do know that Pete Wilson’s TV ad got one thing right… they keep coming… to the polls.

Editor’s note: For more on labor’s 2010 mailings to Latinos, including prayer cards of Jerry Brown with Mother Teresa and Cesar Chavez, check this out.

2012 Opener: Why eMeg Should Take On HRH DiFi

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Senator Dianne Feinstein is normally the most coy and flirtatious of politicians, famously performing the Dance of the Seven Veils whenever some rumpled reporter asks if she’s planning to run in some future election.

So it spoke volumes when California’s Queen Mum stomped all over a campaign event for colleague Barbara Boxer a few days before last week’s election to shout from the rooftops that she, The Great and Wondrous Difi, would — da-da-da-daah — be running to keep her precious seat in 2012.

It’s clearly a sign of the times, as incumbent Democratic Senators become more endangered than snowy plovers, that the professionally neurotic Dianne is evincing more political anxiety than usual. And it’s telling that the first trial balloon about the race took flight just one day after the election, as Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner felt compelled to issue an aw-shucks non-denial denial about a (heaven help us) Twitter message pimping his chances as the anti-Dianne.

As California Republicans proved anew last week that they ain’t exactly deep off the bench with contenders, the Calbuzz Department of Prognostication, Dowsing and Divining Rods prepared a first, long-off gaze at the GOP Senate field. And it looks now that there’s one, and only one, possible answer for the Party of Lincoln. Here’s the early line:

Steve Poizner – The Commish was one of our first and most loyal advertisers, so it pains us to say that the crazed lunge to the right on immigration issues by this previously perfectly rational Republican moderate during the primary made us question the scruples, if not the sanity, of our old friend. John Seymour long ago proved the folly of a garden variety right-winger challenging Dianne, and Poizner himself showed against Meg that he can’t match up in the paint with a big woman who towers over him. Candidate Rank: 4.

Orly Taitz – The Birther Movement whack job , who’s never categorically denied she’s a space alien, has kept a low profile since delivering heart palpitations to establishment Republican types by making a run at the party’s nomination for Secretary of State in the June primary. But in the current atmosphere of right-wing madness and all-around political weirdness, who better to make the GOP case for incoherent, conspiracy-based, constitutional creationist Palinism? Perhaps the California Republicans, still nursing the wounds of being hit by a bus, could warm to an authentic Mama Grizzly?  Candidate Rank: 2.

Carly Fiorina – A slightly more moderate version of Orly Taitz (same hair salon?), the former robber baron CEO of Hewlett-Packard lost a squeaker big time to Sen. Barbara Boxer, despite iCarly’s innovative platform calling for debtor prisons, the death penalty for abortion docs and open carry laws for assault rifles on airliners. While Californians came to love her rare combination of mean-spirited condescension and patronizing arrogance, word is Hurricane Carly is eying a move to Idaho, where she’ll feel politically more at home. Candidate Rank: 5.

Darrell Issa - One of the more widely-respected car alarm magnates south of the Tehachapis, Issa has already played an outsized role in California politics by financing the 2003 recall of Gray Davis and getting beat by, um, Matt Fong, in his one try at a statewide GOP nomination. Now, however, he’s positioned to grab national headlines in his role as a White House-investigating demagogue House committee chairman; who knows how popular he can become once he waterboards David Axelrod in public?  It’s not like anybody’s going to bring up his sketchy Army record or the stolen Dodge,  Maserati and Mercedes. Or the hidden handgun, either. Candidate Rank: 3.

Tom Campbell – A moderate Republican who…oh, never mind. Candidate Rank: 6.

Meg Whitman – Sure, she’s feeling beat up, bruised and unappreciated right now, but don’t forget it was none other than Dianne Feinstein her ownself who showed that before you can get elected to the U.S. Senate, you have to run for governor and lose. Dianne paved the way, winning her Senate seat  just two years after a bitter defeat to Pete Wilson in 1990. If she’s got the heart, eMeg could trace a similar political career path and keep hope alive for her dream of becoming the first woman president.

Seasoned and toughened by a brutal statewide race, she needs to find a high-profile perch at a think tank, private charity or public policy-oriented non-profit shop to keep her hand in the game, secure in knowing that the character issues which tripped her up this year – Goldman Sachs, sweetheart IPOs and her treatment of her illegal housekeeper, for starters – will be old news by the time 2012 rolls around.

Time to start spending some of that Whitman/Harsh foundation money on something other than protection of the valley floor around her Skyline Ranch in Telluride. Memo to Meg: a) Don’t forget to invite the press corps along when you go to vote next year. b) Go to dinner with Calbuzz this time and (here’s two words we bet you seldom hear) – we’ll pay.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, Calbuzz acknowledges that we get a thrill up our leg at the image of Dick Blum choking on his wallet when DiFi announces she’ll need 150 Large for the re-elect. Candidate Rank: 1

This Week’s Standings
1-Meg Whitman
2-Orly Taitz
3-Darrell Issa
4-Steve Poizner
5-Carly Fiorina
6-Tom Campbell