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Posts Tagged ‘Calitics’



36th CD: The Jane, Janice, Debra and Marcy Show

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The most interesting thing about the special election race for L.A.’s just-deserted 36th Congressional District seat is that it will be the first high-profile campaign in California to be played out under the new “jungle primary” rules.

Three under-the-radar legislative specials covered by the new, top-two primary system are coming up in the next few weeks, but  none will attract even a hint of the widespread state and national interest already focusing on the contest to replace the departing Representative Jane Harman, a hardliner on Israel and national security issues, and the only Blue Dog in L.A.

The top contenders eying a run to replace her array from center to left to far left, all but ensuring one of those “battle for the soul of the Democratic party” deals, as they position themselves to win one of the two spots in the playoffs, in what is likely to be an all-Democrat run-off.

The coastal district became one of the most gerrymandered in the state in the 2000 reapportionment, when the big chunk of Republican voters in the Palos Verdes peninsula got cut out. Democrats now hold a 45.3 to 27.6% edge in registration, and Obama carried it by 30 points in 2008.

Intriguingly, the top-two primary rules make it possible that a Republican could make it into the run-off; they’d get totally clobbered, of course, but the fact that district lines will soon be redrawn by the new and unpredictable citizens reapportionment commission is yet another wild card factor that offers ambitious GOP wannabes a chance to raise their profiles this time out.

“This will be one of those races where (the candidates) are out every night, and every community dog beach association will have a forum,” said one veteran operative not working in the campaign.

Here’s the Calbuzz early line on the players:

Janice Hahn – The L.A. City Council member was Harman’s guest at last month’s State of the Union address; the fact that she announced her candidacy and had endorsements lined up about 12 seconds after Harman publicly made it known she was leaving, leads to the surmise that she’s the favorite of the imperious departing incumbent. But Hahn isn’t much of a fundraiser, as she proved in her losing primary campaign for lieutenant governor against Gavin “Lt. Starbuck” Newsom. She has all the charisma of a rutabaga, but she’ll be the closest thing to a moderate in the race; more importantly, she’s already put together a veteran campaign team including L.A. consultant John Shallman, pollster John Fairbank and redoubtable media strategist Joe Trippi. The incendiary Garry South, an old friend of Hahn’s who ran her campaign for Lite Gov, is whispering backstage  as an unpaid adviser.

Debra Bowen – The incumbent Secretary of State was a popular Assembly and state Senate representative of much of the district from the early 1990s until she ran and won her current job in 2006. Termed out in 2014 (she has added incentive to go for Congress because her husband works in Washington) she has some key organizational assets: state Democratic chairman John Burton signaled his approval by putting out a statement noting she was “the only candidate” who had notified the party she was running; the netroots/Calitics crowd just loves her (she quickly put up an “Act Blue”  fundraising page) and her strategist is Parke Skelton, a solid pro. Question that she’ll have to answer: Isn’t there something optically askew about a sitting Secretary of State overseeing a special election in which she’s a candidate? Just askin’.

Marcy Winograd – An L.A. teacher and anti-war activist, Winograd challenged Harman in the last two Democratic primaries, winning 41 percent of the vote last year. Her anti-war on terror positions and pro-Palestinian tilt drives many crazy (see: Waxman, Henry) but there’s no denying she’s got a base in the district that makes her a factor in the “top two” system. Winograd recently moved to Santa Monica, about a mile outside the district, which doesn’t really matter much, and so far has played coy about her intentions; she says she wants to ask Bowen some “tough questions” before making up her mind (which we assume will be along the line of, “Do you favor melting down all U.S. military weapons and turning them into windmills?”) but we’ll be surprised if she doesn’t run.

Republicans – For reasons cited above, GOP pols have reason to run for more than just the exercise, and a batch of them are already panting at the prospect. Any Republican would have to be one helluva’ attractive candidate to matter, though, and Mattie Fein, a communications consultant whom Harman smushed last November; Mike Webb, running from that historically great political stepping stone of Redondo Beach city attorney; and (maybe) former Stanford footballer Damon Dunn, last seen wearing a construction helmet at the Republican state convention, for reasons that remain unclear, don’t make the cut.

A final word: Harman has never been one of our favorite people, not least because of her overbearing air of wealthy entitlement, and we can’t help but suspect her think tank deal has been in the works for some time, given that her predecessor announced he was leaving last May. So we agree with Huffpost blogger Richard Grenell that G.I. Jane ought to pay the cost of the damn special election to succeed her. What better way to spend some of Sidney’s zillions?

Press Clips: Sarah Palin, Wikileaks and RIP CRP

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Whither the GOP II: Word for word, the greatest headline ever written was “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” the New York Post’s slammer  on its story about a gruesome decapitation murder committed at Herbie’s Bar, a Queens strip club, on April 13, 1983 (memo to obsessive copy desk types: spare us your email, “Ford to City: Drop Dead” ain’t even close).

With its punchiness and taut economy of language, the hed came to mind as we culled the web for posts pertaining to our oft-commented-on piece story offering some prescriptive advice to the dog-ass California Republican Party, and stumbled upon this trenchant analysis by Robert Cruickshank over at Calitics.

In short, California Republicans are fucked.

While one word longer than the Post’s iconic hed, and lacking its sheer wordsmithing poetry, the Oracle’s powerhouse proclamation nonetheless wins the Calbuzz “Herbie” Award for cut-to-the-bone storytelling, at a time when the uncertain future of the state Republican Party is the subject of far more wordy fulmination across the internets.

The data point of departure for most of the discussion is the L.A. Times/USC poll which found, among other things, that one in five voters say they would never vote for a Republican under any circumstance, and that large majorities of voters express principled contempt for GOP policies on key ideological issues like environmental regulation and immigration.

To our surprise, we found  few offerings that suggest a pathway back to relevance for the GOP, in the positive and upbeat manner of, oh say, Calbuzz (“Issue Oriented – Solution Driven”) itself.

Among such scant offerings, a brave effort by Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy (who we early on did our best to gin up as a possible contender  in the governor’s race) rose to the top of the heap. Writing over at Flashreport ,Foy noted the bevy of anti-government ballot initiatives just passed by voters and suggested that Republicans can attract them with “policies consistent with our conservative values and…new leaders who can inspire a new generation of California voters.”

Besides this murky proposal, what was truly notable in the piece was how Foy correctly pointed the finger directly at Meg Whitman’s crucial role in the party’s 2010 failure.

In 2010, I campaigned all across the state and met thousands of voters.  While I didn’t sense open hostility towards Meg Whitman, her campaign generated a sort of hard-to-describe unease.  Republican activists were detached from her candidacy.

While Whitman pledged to do many right and necessary things as governor, many felt her to be a stranger, despite seeing hundreds (if not more) of her campaign commercials.  Paradoxically, the more ads they saw, the more ambiguous Whitman became.  Try as she might, she appeared analytical and calculating, rather than heartfelt and energized…

This year, the Whitman campaign executed a corporate-style branding strategy with the most extensive communications effort in memory backed by more money than any state campaign in history.  It utterly failed.

I believe it lacked any consequential connection to the public’s view of our state.  It tried to entice voters, rather than engage them.  And it tried to sell them on a product rather than persuade them in an ideal.

Beyond Foy’s manly effort, however, it appears that many among the still-sane sector of the CRP share the same view as Cruickshank, albeit more politely. Chief among this contingent is veteran GOP operative and analyst Tony Quinn who portrayed the plight of state Republicans in harshly stark terms:

Today’s California Republican Party is a regional party with declining registration and a lack of any presence at all in the San Francisco Bay Area and in all but a sliver of Los Angeles County.  That is half the state where the Republican Party no longer exists.

The days of Republicans winning statewide office – other than with an Arnold Schwarzenegger – has certainly past.

Ouch.

Does this woman ever shut up: All right-thinking people agree that Sarah Palin couldn’t find her ass with two hands if she had a map. That being said, it greatly pains and baffles us why the mighty MSM and the Beltway Big Feet insist on treating her endless self-serving tweets and Facebook postings as if they were news, instead of third-rate press releases

When the media on Monday trumpeted coast to coast Palin’s insipid comments bashing Obama for the latest Wikileaks document dump, we at first thought our head would explode (Fortunately we averted disaster by breathing deeply and assuming Bikram yoga posture #15 – “Wind Removing Pose” – until regaining our emotional balance).

Here’s the thing: Whether Palin is defending childhood obesity , attacking Mark Halperin, backing her 16-year old brat’s use of homophobic slurs or mixing up North and South Korea doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that the nation’s newsrooms and political press acts as if it does, as Huffpost blogger Mitchell Bard properly noted:

The real story, though, isn’t that Palin said “North” instead of “South.” Let’s be honest: Vice President Joe Biden could have just as easily blown a line like that.

No, the real story is that Palin was discussing a complex, precarious, highly dangerous issue as if she were an expert, even though she clearly isn’t.

Does anyone outside of Palin’s relatively small group of smitten followers honestly believe that she is competent to act as an expert on Korean policy? That she knows the intricacies and risks of engaging with the North Koreans? That she understands the possible leadership struggle going on there? Do you think she has the first clue about the history of Korea over the last century? Do you think she’s ever heard of Syngman Rhee, the Bodo League massacre, the Battle of Inchon, or National Security Council Report 68, or that she knows about the decades of Japanese rule in Korea? Do you think she’s ever read about the role the propaganda efforts of the post-Stalin Soviet government played in the eventual armistice that ended the fighting?

…That’s the real story about the Palin flub about North Korea that the media isn’t covering. It’s not that she misspoke, but that anyone cared what she had to say on the issue in the first place.

While many in the national GOP privately  view with horror the specter of a Palin candidacy, few of them have the stones to denounce her, fearful of the wrath of her base among Jerry Springer Republicans. So it was refreshing to see MSNBC yakker and former congressman Joe Scarborough stand up and take her on:

Palin is not a stupid woman. But like the current president, she still does not know what she does not know. And she does know how to make millions of dollars, even if she embarrasses herself while doing it.

That reality hardly makes Palin unique, but this is one Republican who would prefer that the former half-term governor promote her reality shows and hawk her books without demeaning the reputations of Presidents Reagan and Bush. These great men dedicated their lives to public service and are too good to be fodder for her gaudy circus sideshow.

If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.

But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.

Good for Scarborough, but we’re unconvinced that the spectacle of a Palin presidency is all that beyond imagination.

The plain fact is that Palin is a truly dangerous person, a narcissistic, anti-intellectual demagogue playing on the fears and prejudices of modern Know-Nothings for no substantial purpose beyond her own self-aggrandizement and thirst for power.

Democrats – and serious Republicans – who chortle and mock her chances of winning the presidency in 2012 do so at their peril, particularly if the race gets complicated by the entry of an independent, like Michael Bloomberg (or Palin, herself, after losing the GOP nomination) and the matter gets tossed to a House of Representatives controlled by right-wing Republicans.

Calbuzz, Web Partners Ask Gov Rivals to Debate

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Three of California’s leading political websites have invited the two major-party candidates for governor to participate in the state’s first Blogosphere Debate.

Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, in partnership with the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley, today sent a letter outlining the debate to Mike Murphy and Steve Glazer of the campaigns of Republican nominee Meg Whitman and Democratic nominee Jerry Brown.

Here’s the letter that was emailed today:

Dear Mike and Steve,

On behalf of Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, we are pleased to invite Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to participate in a two-person, first-ever California Blogosphere Debate. The College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley will also serve as debate sponsors.

As you may know, the Washington Post has named Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics the three leading political web sites in California. Collectively we provide on a daily basis a full range of political perspectives and analysis, from conservative to moderate to progressive.

We have secured Morris Dailey auditorium at San Jose State University for the afternoon and evening of Monday September 13th (with back-up possibilities on the 14th and 15th). The specific time of the debate would be decided later in consultation with the campaigns, but we anticipate a 60-minute event, scheduled at a time between 4 pm and 7 pm. The format, with final details to be determined, would likely include the following:

– Moderator: John Myers of KQED (pending approval from KQED)
– One questioner each from Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics
– Two-minute opening and closing remarks from candidates
– One question for both candidates from each panelist with two-minute responses
– Two questions for each candidate from each panelist with two-minute responses
– One minute rebuttal from each candidate for each question
– Introduction, follow-ups as permitted by moderator and closing statements.

This means each candidate would field six questions: three common questions for both candidates and three questions specific to each candidate. Both candidates would have an opportunity for rebuttal on every question.

We envision candidates standing at podiums with television lighting. Neither candidate would use scripts, notes or props although they may take notes during the debate. A pre-arranged coin toss would determine the order, with the candidates given the option of opening first or closing last. We would offer a live feed to any television or radio station or online broadcaster interested in carrying the debate. We anticipate one pool camera crew to shoot the debate.

As you’re aware the news industry is in a state of radical transformation, with the internet steadily playing a larger and more significant role in setting the public agenda. We believe that our proposal offers a unique and historic opportunity for your campaigns to play an important role in shaping that agenda, and we hope you will give this invitation your most serious consideration. Please respond by 5 p.m., Friday, June 25.

Very truly yours,

Phil Trounstine, Jerry Roberts, Jon Fleischman, Brian Leubitz, Robert Cruickshank

Why Worry? CA Pension Shortfall Just $500 Billion

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Tom Meyer this week casts his jaundiced eye on the spectacle of California’s three big public pension systems, which were reported in a Stanford study to have a collective shortfall of $500 billion, more than six times the value of California’s bonds and multiple times the amount previously reported.

Given the magnitude of the problem, not to mention the blind eye California officials seem to have on the issue, we think Meyer was remarkably restrained in holding his violent streak in check.

Update: On the other hand, The Oracle of Cruickshank over at Calitics argues that the numbers in the Stanford study are overblown.

Swap Meet: Dr. H & eMeg Conquer Time & Space

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

We regret the whole thing: It’s hard to believe, but your Calbuzzards were just a couple years too young to cover the dramatic political events that unfolded in California in January 1860. As a result, we missed our chance to interview Lt. Gov. John Downey, or we would have known that he, not Jerry Brown, is the youngest governor in state history.

Here’s a full report from our Dr. P.J. Hackenflack who was on the scene:

Born June 24, 1827 in Rosscommon County, Ireland, , the late Gov. John Gately Downey constitutionally ascended to the governorship just five days after the inauguration of Gov. Milton Latham.

Milt, it turned out, coveted the chief executive post primarily so he could appoint himself to a seat in the U.S. Senate. It became open when incumbent David C. Broderick was  shot and killed in a duel by state Supreme Court Chief Justice David Terry, a month before in San Francisco. Their dispute was either over slavery or a bunch of trash-talking,  depending on who you ask.

In any case, Downey was just 32 when he stepped up, as Latham split for Washington less than a week after being sworn in. Downey not only captures youngest governor honors, but also owns the historic distinction of being the first foreign-born chief executive of the state; move over Arnold Schwarzenegger. (It seems likely that members of the Legislature were greatly relieved when Latham left town: his inaugural address droned on for 4947 words, while the youngster Downey brought his in at a crisp 206 words. But we digress).

The claim that Brown was the state’s youngest governor when he was first elected at the age of 36 in 1974 has been widely disseminated and a standard part of the journalistic narrative about him for years. But wrong.

With a big HT to alert L.A. Times reader Henry Fuhrmann, we apologize for the confusion.

Make way, make way for Her Megness: Meg Whitman did a round of live feed interviews from a studio on the Stanford campus with TV stations around the state this week, one more weapon in the carpet bomb strategy she’s using to fight a two-front war against Brown and Commish Steve Poizner, along with her ubiquitous broadcast ads, web attacks and staged meeting with voters.

With eMeg sitting for a one-shot in front of a “Meg Whitman 2010” backdrop, she uplinked to local newsers around the state, some of whom preceded mysteriously to pretend she’d come by the studio for an excloo.

“Meg Whitman stopped by today,” one interviewer began.

“I’m happy to be here,” responded our Meg, a moment later.

At one point Wednesday,  she did a 9:07 stretch with KNBC’s “Raw News” in which she not only covered all her tiresome talking points but also dropped this bombshell:

“You have to veto everything that isn’t on the focused agenda,” Whitman said, vowing twice not to sign any bills passed by the Legislature that don’t conform to her agenda of creating jobs, improving schools and cutting spending.

Really? Veto everything?

As we may have mentioned once or twice, eMeg’s major downside is that she appears not to understand that politics is a give-and-take, give-some-to-get-some business, that legislators are also elected by the people, and that the Capitol is a teeming cacophony of conflicting interests, not the site of an Imperial Governorship. In the KNBC interview, she made quite clear that she sees the role of lawmakers as secondary, when she graciously said they’d be welcome to serve on her “jobs team” or her “schools team.”

“Where do I sign up?” Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is no doubt asking.

If Her Megness does manage to get elected, it’ll be interesting to see how  smoothly the confirmation process goes for her nominees – “the appointment process is incredibly important,” she noted duhhly in the interview – when she swaggers into the Capitol and announces her game plan to “veto everything.”

And thank you for that.

Press Clips: Most interesting take on Roy Ashburn, the Republican state Senator who was outed after getting busted for drunk driving the other night, comes from his hometown Bakersfield California. Seems the Californian interviewed Ashburn previously about his sexuality but didn’t print anything because the editors decided it wasn’t relevant.

They outed their own well-considered, if overly cautious, decision in their follow-up story on Ashburn’s arrest for drunk, a very complete piece with lots of background, context and detail, as the paper hustled to focus what became a national, and then a viral, story through a local news lens for their readers…For more on the subject, check this smart post by Brian Leubitz over at Calitics…Worth a look: a one-minute history of the world of media – including What It All Means – from Columbia J-School chrome dome  Richard Wald.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: When in Rome…