Posts Tagged ‘Henry Waxman’

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?

California Voters Turn Back the Angry Red Tide

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Fishwrap: Squishy, Dishy, Always Fishy

Friday, April 17th, 2009

When Prop. 1A hit man Peter Foy opened a can of whupass on wannabe governors Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman this week, his cruelest cut was calling them “squishy” on taxes.

The charge leveled by the GOP Ventura County supe, who’s toying with a run against the two objects of his ire, resurrected one of the most heinous ad hominem labels one Republican can tag on another. While using the adjectival “squishy” is, well, a little bit squishy, calling someone a “squish” is the GOP equivalent of trash talking someone’s mother in gangsta circles.

In a wide-ranging investigation including a couple of Google searches, multiple emails and an actual long distance phone call, the Calbuzz Linguistic Desk spared no expense in its effort to shed light on the origin and usage of the term.

“Very good question,” said Ken Khachigian, California’s dean of Republican wordsmiths. “I can’t honestly recall when it entered my vocabulary, though I’m sure I’ve used it frequently.”

Khachigian, who made his bones working in Dick Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, added that “using the word ‘squish’ is almost always in the context of questioning someone’s level of commitment or strength.”

Wiktionary defines a squish as a “political moderate (derogatory term used by conservative activists in the 1980s),” while conservative think tanker and journalist Amy Ridenour blogged this recollection on the web site of the National Center for Public Policy Research:

“’Squish’ was in frequent use in the College Republican National Committee office when I worked there in 1981 and elsewhere in conservative circles during the era. There was a much firmer line of demarcation back then within the GOP between conservatives and moderates (ed: that’s because there still were GOP moderates in 1981)

“Examples of prominent (perceived) ‘squishes’ circa 1981: Vice President George H.W. Bush, James Baker III,” Ridenour wrote. “I recall Baker being seen as the invisible hand behind many, many a squishie plot.”

In advance of the 2006 mid-term elections, a top (George W.) Bushman in the Justice Department used the phrase to ding Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., in an email that argued against extending campaign aid to the congressman’s re-election effort; the email was uncovered in one of L.A. Dem Rep. Henry Waxman’s probes of political chicanery at the Bush White House.

“My two cents,” Roveian hatchet man Kyle Sampson wrote at the time, “I wouldn’t choose a sort of weird, maverick squish . . . to team up with.”

But senior statesman Khachigian traces the possible derivation of squish much further back, at least to his first Nixon campaign: “Your younger readers won’t have any connection with one possible progenitor of the word, but back in the ’68 presidential race (yes, I was there), Ted Agnew accused Hubert Humphrey of being ‘squishy soft on communism.’”

Update: An email early Friday from William Safire, political lexicographer, famed columnist and ex-Nixon speech writer, buttresses Khachigian’s theorem: “It was popularized by Vice President Agnew in the 1970 mid-term elections as ‘squishy soft,” Safire says . . .

You can only pick one, Gavin: Scrolling through Gavin Newsom’s web site the other day put us in mind of the famous New Yorker cartoon in which an exasperated Charles Dickens sits in the office of his editor, who tells him: “I wish you would make up your mind, Mr. Dickens. Was it the best of times or was it the worst of times? It could scarcely be both.”

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Newsom’s version: “Mayor Newsom has organized an exploratory committee for Governor as an initial and technical requirement to begin organizing a potential campaign. Mayor Newsom has organized an exploratory committee so he can make the decision about a campaign for governor from a position of knowledge and strength.”

Brown outtakes, Take 1: At one point in Calbuzz’s recent interview with Jerry Brown, he spoke wistfully about maybe settling down on “a nice ranch that’s been in the family” for generations, near Colusa. So we asked him why the hell, at the age of 71, didn’t he just pack it in and kick back there with the lovely Lady Anne.

“That’s a good question,” he answered, before a rare pause. “You know something, and the more you do it, the better you get at it, and you derive a certain pleasure from it.” . . .

That’s -30-: Ex-Sacbeeman, the Rev. Jim Richardson, has started a blog for folks to leave their memories of the late, great LA Timesman Jerry Gillam. The blog is here if you want to leave a comment. Or you can email your recollections and photos for posting to Jim at revjimr@yahoo.com