Dems in San Diego: Calbuzz Poses the Big Questions


Three big questions hover over this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in San Diego:

1. Will Jerry Brown go negative on Molly Munger and the California Federation of Teachers?

2. Will Howard Berman keep Brad Sherman from getting the state party endorsement in the 30th Congressional District?

3. Will John Burton’s head explode when we ask him if his alleged ballot measure for an oil extraction tax is just a pipe dream?

Of course, there are other items to watch for: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might let us know what kind of resources she plans to raise for seats Democrats hope to pick up in Congress; Sen. Dianne Feinstein might tell us whether her bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act stands a prayer of passing in the Senate; Can Al Franken still tell a joke?

These are just some of the earth-shaking matters that the entire Calbuzz National Affairs, World Peace and Vodka Martini Desks will be watching for this weekend as we and about three other hopelessly addicted political glue sniffers follow the action in San Diego.

According to party spokesman Tenoch Flores, the Democrats – assembling under the banner “Battleground California” — believe they have a genuine chance of picking up a handful of congressional seats in 2012, helping to return Pelosi to the Speaker’s chair in the House. If that seems in the cards, it’s possible President Obama just might show up to rally the troops this fall in Sacramento, Stockton or San Diego instead of just using California as a cash machine in LA, San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Get off of my lawn:  Gov. Brown, who once was chairman of the California Democratic Party (before he ran for president in 1992 and before he dropped out of the party and rejoined), will speak to some 3,000 attendees Saturday morning, although none of his top advisers have a clue what he’s planning to say.

We’ll be watching to see if he takes on the competing tax-raising ballot measures sponsored by millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger and another by the California Federation of teachers, California Nurses Association and the Courage Campaign?

If he does, he risks getting booed by the left-liberal activists who tend to dominate CDP conventions, which some analysts will interpret was a sign of weakness and a suggestion that Gov. Gandalf is on shaky ground. (Others, btw, might well read this like Feinstein getting booed at the party’s 1990 convention for supporting the death penalty: in other words – get it on video for a future commercial showing Brown’s independence.)

On the other hand, if Jerry passes up an opportunity to call on California Democrats to reject competing initiatives and rally behind his ballot measure, he will look like he was afraid to seek support from the party faithful.

Thus far, Brown himself has not been particularly confrontational in public about the competing tax measures. But his top adviser, Steve Glazer, has warmed to the task. “Welcome to the circular firing squad,” he said the other day. “When voters are offered choices among competing measures, it depresses the support for each of them. The likely result will be all of them failing. That’s not just Steve Glazer’s theory of political life. It’s a truism.”

He’s not alone in this assessment. Mark Baldassare, the polling guru at the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Senate Democrats pretty much the same thing last week.

As he explained to Calbuzz: “It’s all about the perception that there might be a disagreement about what’s the best way forward. All tax and spending measures are confusing to people anyway and voters are looking for some semblance of agreement among experts that respect. If they don’t get it, then it’s very easy to say `no’ to all of it.”

Berman v. Sherman: As Calbuzz reported, in the definitive piece on the 30th CD to date, this is a race between a small-p politics congressman and a big-P Politics congressional macher for what’s essentially an open seat in a newly created district.

Sherman is a grassroots guy, who works the garden clubs and local Democratic Party barbecues while Berman is a heavy-hitter in D.C., with people like Jerry Brown and Steven Spielberg pitching for him. Sherman knows your daughter’s Hebrew name; Berman has no idea who you are but gets shit done.

Sherman’s consultant, Parke Skelton, is an accomplished campaign organizer, who understands how to get delegates to rally around his guy. Berman’s team, anchored by his brother Michael, of the Berman & D’Agostino campaign consulting firm, are specialists in mass mail (Calbuzzer/delegate OC Progressive tells us the tally so far in mail for Berman is Dolores Huerta, Antonio Villaraigosa, Gloria Molina, Betty Yee and Barney Frank.)

Sherman will be trying to get at least 60% of the delegates at a Saturday evening caucus of the 30th CD to vote for him. That’s enough for the state party endorsement – a highly prized imprimatur in a primary contest – even if this is an open, top-two primary. Berman will be trying to keep Sherman under 60%.

F**k you, you f**king f**k: Back in December when Krusty was telling reporters why it is important that there be only one tax measure on the ballot – his – Democratic Party Chairman John Burton was busy filing his own tax initiative — an oil severance tax to help fund higher education.

As John Myers reported, “Burton’s proposal (PDF) is pretty straightforward, and would assess a 12.5% tax per barrel of oil, with exceptions made for low-producing oil wells. But only one-third of the tax revenues would be earmarked for for higher education (including community colleges); the remainder going back in the state’s general fund, which would ostensibly float all boats — including the general fund’s contribution to colleges and universities. For the money specifically earmarked, the Burton initiative would establish a new oversight committee for higher education that would have a say in doling out the revenues.

“`It’s a statement of what we want to do,’” says Burton, who admits that the “we” is pretty much — for now — limited to him. However, the state Democratic Party has endorsed a so-called oil severance tax.

We asked Burton, through Flores, whether he will be seeking party support (he can’t get official approval because it wouldn’t be on the next ballot after this convention) for his proposed measure.

“It’s still in the Attorney General’s office awaiting title and summary,” Burton said. But will he raise money to get it on the ballot?  Said Burton: “You can’t raise money ’till you got something to raise it for.”


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There are 5 comments for this post

  1. avatar OC Progressive says:

    Betty Yee wins the booby prize for the worst piece of mail in the steady stream that has been going to delegates that leads with,

    “It would be insane, self-destructive and wrong.. horribly wrong for the Democratic Party to support Brad Sherman in CD 30. Somebody has to say this, and I guess it is going to be me. And I just did.”

    Oh and she wrote this nasty little bit,

    “Oh, if you want your back slapped, Brad may be your guy.If you want a Congressman to visit with, Brad may be your guy.”

    Betty wanted to move up from her spot on the Board of Equalization to a constitutional office. Calling grassroots Dems who support Sherman insane may not be the best way to do that.

    • avatar doughnut70 says:

      Maybe it’s a sign of how strongly she feels about the difference in ability of the candidates. The fact is that 23 out of the 25 members of congress who have endorsed in this race support Howard Berman as do all five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and virtually every other elected official who has taken a stand. The bottom line is that the people who know both candidates best and work with both of them overwhelmingly support Howard Berman.

  2. avatar LADem says:

    Calbuzz is saying that the Berman campaign thinks that Democratic delegates are the litte “p” and that Steven Speilberg is the big “P”. That is probably is a fairly accurate reflection of the perspective of the Berman campaign . The Berman campaign has encouraged the use of Super PACs in this solid blue district when there is a national battle that needs those Democratic donor dollars urgently. Rather than Berman telling those Super PAC donors to give that money to critical red-to-blue races and/or to support Obama, Berman is encouraging the money to be spent on him when he has the capacity to raise those funds himself through his campaign. Also, the Berman campaign has gone quickly negative attacking the intelligence and capability of Democratic delegates to make good choices this weekend. Berman has clearly embraced his inner Republican and it’s not a pretty picture. Democratic delegates need to send a message this weekend for the Democratic Party and vote for the candidate who reflects their values and their perspective. For me, that vote will be for Brad Sherman.

    • avatar doughnut70 says:

      How has the Berman campaign encouraged SuperPacs? As for going negative, I have seen a lot more attacks from the Brad Sherman campaign than I have from Bermans. The bottom line as I said above is that virtually every elected official who has worked with both candidates is supporting Howard Berman.

  3. avatar hclark says:

    I read that Kern County produces more oil than the state of Oklahoma. A fair 12.5% tax on this CALIFORNIAN resource could help.

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