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Archive for 2009



As The Gov’s Race Turns: Jack O’Connell Surfaces

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

The real battle during spring training season in the Democratic primary for governor is between all the candidates not named Jerry Brown who are seeking to emerge as the new wave, Obamarama foil to the Oracle of Oakland.

At the moment, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has that position all to himself, and he’s taking advantage of it, scurrying around the state, Facebooking deep into the night and hobnobbing with big-foot DC journalists while holding forth on the virtues of new clean energy, as opposed to old dirty energy. (And, we hear, he’s burning through cash like Sherman through Georgia.)

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (who’s actually No. 2 in the Field Poll behind EGB Jr) is currently hamstrung by the inconvenient truth that it would look unseemly to launch even before getting sworn in for his second mayoral term in July.

Then there’s Jack O’Connell, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and former two-term state senator and six-term Assembly member.

You Don’t Know Jack has been below the radar for months, but we caught up with him to ask about the state of his gubernatorial ambitions Wednesday, when he checked in by cell after a school tour he was doing in Shasta County.

From this, Calbuzz concludes that O’Connell may be the first politician in history to say he’s “exploring” a possible race for governor who actually is, um, exploring, rather than junketeering and basking in the alleged cheers of unbridled encouragement from The People.

“I’m not going to run for the exercise,” O’Connell told us, adding candidly that “funding is a big obstacle.” (The termed-out O’Connell also flatly denied a rumor that he may run for lite gov; he said he wouldn’t seek any down-ballot office).

The position of schools supe has not exactly been a traditional springboard to top-level statewide office (see Rafferty, Max and Honig, Bill). O’Connell nevertheless said he’s actively “trying to get commitments” from donors, though he has yet to file a declaration of intent that would allow him to start raising money. He said that in making the rounds to assess how much dough he could raise he’s getting one of two basic answers: 1)Count me in or 2)I’m with Jerry.

Well, duh.

No offense Jack, you’re a handsome fella and all, but at 2% in the Field Poll (without Dianne Feinstein in the field), it doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point to compete with Herself for the Window Shopper of the Year Award. If you’re running, it’s generally a good idea to let the voters in on it.

We’re just sayin’.

Wednesday Drive-By: So What If Garamendi Bolts Governor’s Race?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Hoping to signal firm intentions, the John Garamendi for Governor campaign sent out releases this week to trumpet the news that he’s hired two new staffers — a new communications guy and an internet guru.

The announcements followed the bail-out of Silicon Valley consultant Jude Barry from the lieutenant governor’s 2010 bid, and came amid swirling rumors that Big John may switch races to seek the 10th district congressional seat given up by Ellen Tauscher.

Calbuzz says: BFD

Our Garamendi sources say Gov Lite is “still focused on the governor’s race,” but we’re not so sure. Those new hires — liberal radio yakker Peter B. Collins and web whiz Brian Young — could work for a congressional campaign just as easily as one for governor. Which got us wondering: Who benefits if Garamendi does ditch the governor’s race? Place your bets.

1. Attorney General Jerry Brown, because he could pick up some of those older, traditional Democrats* who otherwise might be attracted to old party warhorse Garamendi.

2. Not Jerry Brown, because he wants as big a Democratic field as possible so he can ride hold-over name recognition to victory in a crowded primary.

3. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (aka Tony Villar), because their geographical bases would have greater impact in a smaller field.

4. Not Villaraigosa, because he’d like a field jammed with Northern California white guys.

5. It doesn’t matter – Garamendi had, at best, 8 percent of the vote in the last Field Poll (without Lady DiFi in the mix) and this little slice of the electorate gets dispersed across the field.

Our money’s on Scenario No. 5, because Garamendi has little hardcore support, isn’t raising any money to speak of and has no compelling message.

* Speaking of “older traditional Democrats,” we note with amusement Newsom consultant Garry South’s swipe at the AG on Facebook Tuesday, where he gleefully wished “Jerry Brown a very happy 71st birthday today! Imagine being born when FDR was president!”

Photo lifted from Jerry Brown’s Facebook


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.”

A Big Role for Silicon Valley in California Governor’s Race

Monday, April 6th, 2009

The Tech Companies That Candidates Most Resemble
By Calbuzzer Jude Barry

Silicon Valley is known around the world as the epicenter of technology and innovation. For political candidates, it’s a good place to raise money and, perhaps more importantly, establish yourself as the Next Big Thing. This is particularly true for presidential candidates. In the mid-‘80s, Gary Hart tapped into Silicon Valley; his 1984 logo even had a Silicon Valleyesque digitized look.

In the ‘90s, Bill Clinton was the hot new start-up. He trumped George H.W. Bush with high-profile endorsements from Silicon Valley CEOs during the homestretch of the 1992 election, demonstrating that an Arkansas governor, not the incumbent president, understood the problem was “the economy, stupid.”

As president, Clinton emphasized the association by seating Apple CEO John Sculley next to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the 1993 State of the Union.

Al Gore furthered his connection to Silicon Valley as VP, 2000 presidential candidate and now as a Nobel-prize-carrying private citizen continues to remain active in the community as an Apple board member, Google adviser, and venture capitalist.

John Kerry benefited greatly from the Clinton-Gore network and his own, out-raising President George W. Bush in Silicon Valley by approximately $5 million to $2 million in 2004.

Candidate Barack Obama was the prototypical Silicon Valley contender in 2008. He personified a disruptive technology company: new, young, and a challenge to the status quo. This, of course, translated into dollars. Obama not only raised significant money in Silicon Valley (by the end the primary season, he raised more in Northern California than Southern California), he used Silicon Valley technology and social networking to shatter all fundraising records, raising half a billion dollars online.

While it’s clear that many presidential candidates have used the cash and cachet of Silicon Valley to establish themselves as serious challengers, the high tech imprimatur hasn’t worked as well in statewide California elections.

Former Congressman Ed Zschau, a product and representative of the tech community, narrowly lost a 1986 U.S. Senate race to Alan Cranston (who, for all his liberal credentials, had authored the first bill to cut the capital gains tax – a favorite Silicon Valley cause). Tom Campbell, who served in Zschau’s congressional seat and as a state senator, lost badly in a 2000 U.S. Senate challenge. Former Controller Steve Westly, an early eBay executive, narrowly lost the 2006 Democratic primary for Governor.

But 2010 will be different. The Republican primary now boasts three candidates from Silicon Valley: Campbell, Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a former high-tech entrepreneur. Without a dramatic new entrant, the Republican gubernatorial candidate will have roots and a message based in Silicon Valley.

Whitman is laying the early claim to technology leaders with high-profile endorsements like John Chambers (Cisco) and Carol Bartz (Yahoo).

On the Democratic side, no candidate has similar connections or the network that naturally forms from working in Silicon Valley. But the candidates need not cede either Silicon Valley money or image. With the economy being an ascendant issue, as it was in 1992, Democratic candidates should borrow something from the Bill Clinton campaign playbook and demonstrate to Californians that they understand, as any governor must, one of the important economic engines of our state.

Further, Silicon Valley is morphing into the clean-tech capital of the world. Last year in the U.S., more silicon was used for solar panels than computer chips. Any candidate who recognizes that and can articulate how this will be a solid foundation of California’s economic future where jobs improve, not degrade, the environment, will have a strong appeal to voters.

Who will be the Silicon Valley candidate in 2010? Many candidates have the potential. So here’s a look at the likely gubernatorial candidates and some thoughts on how they might personify certain companies. You decide whose stock will rise or fall.

Democrats:

Jerry Brown – Apple
No Silicon Valley company has re-invented itself more successfully than Apple. From Lisa and Macintosh to Ipod and Iphone, Apple has changed with the times and frequently led the market. You can say the same about Brown and his political career. The one-time leftist, futurist California Governor became the centrist, realist Oakland Mayor.

Gavin Newsom – Facebook
Gavin hasn’t announced he’s in the race for governor yet. And Facebook hasn’t launched its IPO. But Gavin is counting on the same type of young, social-network energy that made Facebook successful. He has more Facebook supporters than any political figure in California.

Antonio Villaraigosa – Yahoo
Yahoo and Villaraigosa have had rough going lately. Yahoo has a new CEO and is laying off workers. Villaraigosa had weak showing in his mayoral re-election last month. But both have terrific market share. Yahoo despite its challenges remains one of the most visited sites. Likewise, the mayor of LA, despite questions about viability is the best known political figure in the largest media market in the state.

John Garamendi – Sun Microsystems

The Lieutenant Governor has been a party standard bearer for decades and is known as a solid and competent Democratic leader who has made policy contributions from health care to workers comp reform. Sun is not a household name, but in Silicon Valley the company has a reputation for strong technology contributions (workstations and Java). However, both are lagging. Garamendi trails known Democrats in the polls and Sun stock is at historic lows.

Republicans:

Meg Whitman – eBay
She’s eBay, of course. She led the online auction company from start-up to new-economy poster child and grew revenue from millions to billions. But eBay isn’t just about selling stuff you find at garage sales. The company created a real online community and a new economy. Whitman will talk about this as much as the jobs she helped create. Like eBay, she will have the marketing budget to just about tell any story she wants.

Steve Poizer – Intel
Poizner made his money and name in Silicon Valley by starting SnapTrack, a company that put GPS receivers in cell phones – over 700 million of them. That’s almost as ubiquitous as Intel, the chip-maker that dominates its market. Like Intel, Poizner isn’t known for being particularly exciting – just everywhere. While he may not have the CEO support that Whitman does in Silicon Valley, he has been cultivating the Republican grassroots both here and around the state.

Tom Campbell – Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati
Campbell served on the Harvard Law Review board, clerked for the Supreme Court and was a tenured law professor at Stanford at the age of 34. We know he’s smart and thoughtful. He demonstrated his legal and financial skills in Congress and in Sacramento as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finance director. Given his intellectual prowess, he would be the premiere Silicon Valley law firm: Wilson Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. Both the firm and Campbell are wired throughout Silicon Valley’s tech companies and venture firms.

Jude Barry is a Democratic political consultant from Silicon Valley and was, until last week, working for John Garamendi’s prospective campaign for governor. As of this writing he is unaffiliated in the race.