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Posts Tagged ‘Secretary of State’



Budget War Looms; Why Backers Matter in CD36

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Racking up a big fat collection of political endorsements in an election doesn’t always mean much. But when it’s a low-information, low-turnout contest, where voters are looking for cues, endorsements can have a huge impact.

Which is why Democrats Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen have been scrambling like mad to snag as many as they can in the May 17 special election to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District.

Thus far, in the race for endorsements, Hahn, the LA City Councilwoman, is beating the pants off Bowen, the California Secretary of State.

There are, of course, other candidates in this contest including Democrat Marcy Winograd, the progressive left contender, and some Republicans, like Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin, Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, Realty Alert publisher Craig Huey and several others. Here’s the list of candidates and party preferences. In all there are five Democrat, six Republican, five “no party preference,” one Libertarian and one Peace and Freedom candidates.

But the real action – given the district’s partisan cast — is to see who’s gonna be the top Democrat.

The new rule under Proposition 14 is that the top two vote getters in the “primary,” regardless of party, face each other in the general election. But this is a special election and the rules allow that there’s only a runoff election between the top two contenders if no one gets 50%+1 in the initial balloting. And given the large field, it’s likely there will be a runoff on July 12. Whether that’ will be between two Democrats or a Democrat and a Republican depends on how the votes split on May 17.

All of which explains the frantic effort to win endorsements that tell voters who is allied with whose interests.

Bowen has won endorsements from the likes of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Democracy for America (run by Dean’s brother), the Beach Cities Democratic Club and the California Nurses Association. Click here for Bowen’s endorsements.

But Hahn has U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,  Assembly Speaker John Perez, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the LA Police Protective League and unions representing firefighters, longshoremen, electrical workers, letter carriers, laborers, steelworkers, plumbers, communication workers, steamfitters, operating engineers, iron workers, yada yada yada. Plus eight members of Congress, the LA Sheriff…the list goes on and on and on. Here are Hahn’s endorsements.

With her name ID as a statewide elected official and considerable popularity among Democrats in the region, Bowen is by no means a dead duck. But . . .

“That’s a huge, huge tell,” Nate Monroe, assistant professor of political science and an expert in congressional elections at UC Merced, said after hearing the endorsement lists. Not only does the list suggest the range of interests who think one candidate is better than the other, but “they raise the probability that a given voter is going to have a common interest with a given endorsement,” he said.

Bruce Cain, UC Berkeley’s Heller Professor of Political Science and public policy director of the University of California Washington Center, agreed that simply knowing that Dianne Feinstein is on one side and Howard Dean is on the other may be enough for many voters.

“You get into these low-information, low-turnout elections and there’s no question that endorsements matter,” Cain said, in part because voters who do turn out will be more highly informed than the average voter and they will know who the people and institutions are who are lining up behind different candidates.

Hahn’s endorsements, he said, may or may not tell you about her ideology, but they tell you about her strategy: “She’s got a more centrist base.”

Time to Revisit the Calbuzz Plan: “War cannot be avoided,” Niccolo Machiavelli, one of our all-time favorite political writers, famously said. “It can only be postponed to the other’s advantage.”

Old Nick’s sage advice to the Prince came to mind when we heard on Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had finally thrown in the towel on “negotiations” with legislative Republicans in an attempt to win a handful of votes to put tax extensions on the June ballot.

“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands,” Brown said.

“Let me be clear: I support pension reform, regulatory reform and a spending cap and offered specific and detailed proposals for each of these during our discussions.  While we made significant progress on these reform issues, the Republicans continued to insist on including demands that would materially undermine any semblance of a balanced budget.  In fact, they sought to worsen the state’s problem by creating a $4 billion hole in the budget.”

In addition to a written statement, Brown released a You Tube video of himself, dressed in a sweater, explaining his reasoning.

“The fact that the governor has now pulled the plug on any further budget talks says only one thing — the only immovable object in Sacramento is Jerry Brown,” replied California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

Brown’s extended efforts to use sweet reason to cut a budget deal, while laudable, were starting to make him look silly and weak anyway. The idea that legislative Republicans would ever negotiate seriously over a reality-based solution to California’s $27 billion deficit was probably always an illusion, but it was worth burning some political capital for Brown to at least try to treat them like adults.

But GOP leaders, with their puerile, 11th-hour, 53-point plan for undoing the 2010 election, made it clear that the whole notion that they were interested in helping to govern was a charade all along.

With a June ballot measure — if one could be pushed through by majority vote — apparently now out of the question, Brown and the Democrats are left with basically one option: a November ballot measure which should, as we’ve argued, re-frame the debate. Now that Machiavelli says it’s clearly time to go to war, Brown ought to make it one worth fighting, by battling on behalf of something like the Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

As Peter Schrag shrewdly opined this week, Brown let himself get perilously close to being played for as big a fool by the GOP as did Barack Obama.  Three days after his inauguration, Obama memorably told GOP congressional leaders at the White House that “Elections have consequences and, at the end of the day, I won.”

Then he went out and acted like he’d lost.

Obama’s hideous political blunder was to allow himself to be strung along by bad faith for nearly a year in hopes of getting a bipartisan health care reform bill. All he got for his trouble was months and months of bookend cable chatter about how ugly the sausage-making process was; at the end of the day, he finally rammed through a Democrats-only bill, which he could have done much earlier, with much less damage inflicted by the right-wing echo chamber framing machine to the perception the country had about what was actually in the legislation.

Brown — perhaps too much a believer in his own ability to charm and reason –behaved in much the same way.

Our Department of Second Guessing advises that had he moved early and decisively to use the Democrats’ big majorities in the Assembly and Senate to push a tax-extension measure onto the ballot instead of wasting months on no-negotiation negotiations, he now would be in a stronger position to advocate for the revenue proposal and frame the debate, having already pushed the Legislature to pass the painful budget cut portion of his plan.

Instead he’s got nothing to show for his efforts but the cuts, and a clown car full of Republicans who are only too happy to play Lucy-and-the-football with an ever expanding and evolving agenda of DOA demands.

“This is basically trying to ram through an agenda that does not reflect the fact that we have a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature,” Gandalf flack Gil Duran said of the latest GOP move.

Well said and true enough, but we hasten to add that neither are the Democrats themselves acting like they’re a party that won a huge and sweeping statewide victory last November.

“One defends when his strength is inadequate,” as Sun Tzu, another of our old school fave political writers put it. “He attacks when it is abundant.”

Inquiring minds want to know: Perhaps the best measure of how unseriously California Republicans are taking their responsibility to help govern the state is the cowardly duck nearly all of them took on Brown’s bid to abolish redevelopment agencies in the state.

Lest some sensitive soul over at Flashreport start whining about biased Calbuzz sniping, we highly recommend having a read of Steven Greenhut’s excellent piece on the matter over at conservative Calwatchdog.com.

Redevelopment is about everything Republicans claim to loath: bureaucracy, debt, abuses of property rights, big government, excessive land-use rules, subsidized housing and fiscal irresponsibility. In California cities, redevelopment bureaucrats rule the roost and they leave a path of destruction wherever they go. They bully people and impose enormous burdens on taxpayers. The diversion of tax dollars to welfare queens mandates higher taxes, but the GOP sided with the redevelopment industry. They sided with agencies that run up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed indebtedness. They sided with government-directed stimulus programs, albeit local ones rather than federal ones…

The truth is California Republicans do not believe in limited government. They do not stand up for property owners. They are the party of corporate welfare. They oppose higher taxes, but that’s the only guiding principle of the party these days. And even that is suspect. Many Assembly Republicans, such as the pro-union members of the “no more cuts” caucus (Jim Silva, Brian Nestande and Paul Cook), vote in a way that virtually mandates higher taxes at some point. Then they get on their high horse and sign those bogus tax-fighting pledges. And you wonder why the GOP is fading away in this state?


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?

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

Stanford Movement: “Boot Condi for War Crimes”

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

US-CONDOLEEZZA RICEAbout 150 protest veterans, who led the fight 40 years ago to dislodge Stanford University from the War in Vietnam, on Sunday called on Stanford to sever relations with former Provost Condoleezza Rice, arguing that she committed war crimes while on leave as Secretary of State.

They understand it’s a long shot: Stanford relishes having a former Secretary of State on the faculty and is unlikely to conclude, as a Faculty Advisory Board would have to, that while on leave, Rice engaged in false statements, misrepresentation of sources and a pattern of egregious intellectual dishonesty. Unless, of course, Rice is actually prosecuted for overseeing and approving of torture – which would require the Obama administration and/or Congress to hold Bush administration officials responsible for breaking the law.

Whether this happens or not, the anti-war left wants Rice to go. As longtime campus peace activist Rachelle Marshall put it at a panel discussion on Saturday: “Stanford is harboring a war criminal.”

The former students, faculty and outside agitators who gathered at Stanford this weekend were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the April 3rd Movement, in which a nine-day take-over of the Applied Electronics Laboratory and ensuing street protests brought an end to secret military research at Stanford.

That movement began in October 1968, when many of those now attending the reunion had nailed a document on the door of the trustees’ office demanding that Stanford “halt all military and economic projects and operations concerned with Southeast Asia.”

Recalling that moment, the veterans on Sunday delivered a petition from “Stanford Say No to War” that stated: “Our former Provost, current Political Science Professor, and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, Condoleezza Rice, should be held accountable for any serious violations of the law (including ratified treaties, statutes and/or the U.S. Constitution) through investigation and, if the facts warrant, prosecution by appropriate legal authorities.”

A3M leader Marjorie Cohn, now president of the National Lawyers’ Guild, said, “By nailing this petition to the door of the president’s office, we are telling Stanford that the university should not have war criminals on its faculty. There is prima facie evidence that Rice approved torture and misled the country into the Iraq war. Stanford has an obligation to investigate those charges.”

Rice didn’t help herself when she was asked, at an earlier meeting with students, whether waterboarding is torture:

“The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against Torture,” she replied. “So that’s — and by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency . . .By definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.”

As widely noted, her statement echoed Richard Nixon’s circular, self-referential Watergate logic: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” You can see the whole Rice exchange here.

Note: Calbuzzer Phil Trounstine was a member of A3M and participant in the 2009 reunion.

A Guy Who Studies Ballot Props for Fun, Friends and No Profit

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Pete Stahl, the Cincinnatus of California, may be the only man in the state opposing Prop. 1F who is not an elected official.

The measure on the May 19 special election ballot calls for a ban on raises for state officeholders in any year when the not-so-Golden State is in deficit. At a time when California politicians rank lower in public esteem than bankers, reporters and possibly lawyers, look for 1F to pass by a margin not seen since Kim Jong-il was last re-elected Dear Leader in North Korea.

The 49-year old Stahl is a Mountain View web designer who’s devoted a fair chunk of his adulthood to closely, if not obsessively, deconstructing California initiatives, then publishing his analyses as (warning to consultants: close your eyes) a public service. He considers Prop 1F a cheap shot; his hyper-developed good government gene was deeply offended when he read about it, so he dashed off a written argument to the Secretary of State.

“Legislators won’t change their voting behavior just because of a threatened salary freeze,” reads his 48-word statement in the voter handbook. “This petty, vindictive attempt to punish the Legislature will give us no relief from budget stalemates, while unfairly penalizing innocent bystanders such as the Secretary of State and Board of Equalization.”

Innocent bystander or not, SOS Debra Bowen miffed Stahl by allowing only one business day for arguments to be submitted for the hurry-up May 19 special: “One business day to submit arguments pro and against,” he complained, in a tone that someone else might use after, oh say, witnessing a hit-and-run. “This election was really slapped together quickly.”

Stahl plans to have his views on Props. 1A-1E posted on his web site, Pete Rates the Propositions, at least a month before the election. Given that the five budget-related measures are about as complicated as string theory, it’s good to know that somebody is taking the time to actually read and understand them, unlike the legislators who put them on the ballot.

His site is a kind of Hiram Johnson treasure trove, featuring recommendations for every state ballot measure going back to 1994. Among other things, he has a “best of” section which categorizes his views on memorable props in four color-coded categories, including an annual argument on one prop that he offers in the style of a different poet, including not only Blake, Coleridge and Poe, but also Masaoka Shiki, Ernest Lawrence Thayer and Dr. Seuss.

For Prop. 44, a March 2002 initiative about disciplining chiropractors, for example, he wrote a knock-off of W.S. Gilbert:

“Here we have the very model of a modern proposition,
One to which — as you’ll discover — there’s no cogent opposition.

We need laws to stop insurance fraud by doctors chiropractic.

But a ballot proposition? Seems a bit anti-climactic.

There are laws preventing fraud for both physicians and attorneys,

But not those manipulating patients’ muscles upon gurney.”

It goes on for a while, but you get the idea.

Stahl has been distributing his dissections of props since 1980, beginning with Xeroxes of typed pages given out to friends and family members (the process of scanning in his old stuff, he says, is “going to take me the rest of my life”).

“The first issue was 20 copies,” he recalled. “By 1985 the printing went to more than 100 people. I left them on library tables, passed them out to strangers and at a Stanford football game. Most people who bothered to read it said, ‘I need this.’”

These days, he gets about 20,000 unique visitors per election cycle who check out his stuff, which he thinks will be in demand in advance of the Einstein Election on May 19. “Fewer people will vote,” he said, “But more of those who will depend on my blog.”