Archive for 2015

Round-up: Harris, Sanchez, Glazer & Kim K’s Butt

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

kamalaharrisBottom line on the new Merv and Mark Poll: Kamala Harris looks strong, but far from inevitable, in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer.

With only 531 shopping days until the 2016 election, the Field Poll out this week shows Attorney General Harris, who’s been a candidate for what feels like a year already, leading the field with 19 percent. Democratic rival Loretta “Big Whoop” Sanchez, who jumped in last week, has 8 percent, and the other declared wannabes are running for the exercise.

The vast majority of voters said they more greatly favor: a) the NBA playoffs; b) stories about coffee as an aphrodisiac and c) additional tweets of Kim Kardashian’s big butt.

Bird’s eye view: When we bumped into our old friend Rose Kapolcynzski, who managed all four of Boxer’s successful campaigns, at last weekend’s DisneyDem convention, she told us she’d been impressed with Queen Kamala’s “shock and awe” entry, aimed at clearing the field early.

“Despite a year of speculation about a Boxer retirement, only Harris was ready to run when Boxer announced in early January,” she said. “Clearly she was planning for the possibility of an open Senate seat long before Boxer announced.”

(We were kind enough not to point out that Rose herself may have been responsible for others being lulled, given that she was denying as late as September 2014 that Boxer was retiring).

The Field numbers largely reflect little but name ID, and it’s worth keeping in mind that Harris benefits from having run a successful re-election race just last fall, spending about $4 million versus 12 cents by a Republican stiff.

Rose Kapolczynski“To be fair to others,” Kapolcynzski (common spelling) added, “Harris had just wrapped up a statewide campaign 60 days before Boxer’s announcement and had an infrastructure in place and a statewide organization of donors and volunteers.”

Rose is one of the most professional, decent and least full of, um, herself consultants in the business, and we’re sorry she won’t be playing in her fifth consecutive Junior Senator from California Election Sweepstakes. The good news is that, because she’s freed of full time spinning duties, we’re able to consult her as a disinterested and well-seasoned campaign cognoscente.

“This race is wide open for the entry of other credible, well-funded candidates,” she concludes.

Paging Xavier Becerra…

Sifting the entrails: The most risible feature of Steve Glazer’s 10-point victory in Tuesday’s special election in the 7th state senate district, was the speed with which organized labor’s spinners, led by our friend Steve Mavigilio, aggressively tried to discount it.

Such whining we’ve not heard since all the rug rats were here for Christmas:

This low turnout special election was a special circumstance where a Democratic candidate was able to pander to Republican voters to gain an edge. Our opponent received less than 30 percent of the Democratic vote, which will not be sustainable in future elections in a Democratic-leaning district. His campaign was bankrolled by a record-shattering $5.1 million in spending; $2 million from a Los Angeles developer more and than $1.3 (sic) from a PAC funded in part from the tobacco industry plus millions more from corporate education interests that we were unable to match.

catchThis just in: if the Niners had won only eight more games last season – or if it was 1981 – they’d be Super Bowl champs today. Super Bowl champs today!

Hard to believe, but Maviglio was just getting warmed up:

This election was not about the soul of the Democratic Party. It was a craven political strategy designed by corporate special interests and Republicans to clear the field of credible Republican candidates and then spend records amount of money to keep Democrats away from the polls.

No word yet on the craven political strategy designed by labor special interests and Democrats.

Calbuzz gets results: The plain fact is, the anti-Glazer crusaders clumsily and consistently misplayed their hand, as we explained, with vigor and blinding insight, six weeks before the election:

Those are valid reasons to oppose Glazer, Orinda mayor and Gov. Jerry Brown’s longtime political strategist, and to support Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, the other Democrat in the May 19 run-off election in Senate District 7….

(But) Steve Glazer is a lifelong progressive, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-working class, Jerry Brown Democrat. The campaign to brand him as a traitor to Democratic values is beyond scurrilous.

tonyquinnThe best post-election piece we saw is at Fox and Hounds, where Tony Quinn penned a spot-on analysis attributing the result to labor’s failure to understand the top-two primary, its over-reliance on sleazy, old-school mailers and its apparent inability to comprehend that most district voters agree with Glazer on outlawing BART strikes.

Mindful of the millions they spend electing Democrats, the public employee unions expect legislators to act like the old Soviet-era nomenklatura, compliant toadies who do what they are told. So when one gets out of line it’s a big deal.  Democratic special election candidate Steve Glazer dared do so, and labor spent $3.5 million trying to keep him out of the State Senate.  Last night Glazer won… with and labor lost.

Nice touch, that nomenklatura, Tony.

Further reading: Steve Greenhut’s comparison of the Bay Area 7th district race to an Orange County Assembly special; Cathy Decker’s take on how Steve Westly’s bid for governor may look like Glazer’s senate campaign; and John Wildermuth’s good piece on how Maviglio-style pissing and moaning “ignore(s) the changes taking place in California elections” are all worth checking out on this very important race.

art_pulaskiEating their own: Glazer’s win came amid signs of a certain political desperation by labor. For starters, organizers felt compelled to run a GOTV phone bank backing his rival, Susan Bonilla, during 17.5 of the 30 hours of activities at last weekend’s state convention. And they listed it in the official convention program.

Then Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer and CEO of the California Labor Federation, in his convention speech attacked by name Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, for not opposing President Obama’s controversial Pacific trade legislation, the only California Democrat to take that stance.

“It’s time to call them out,” Pulaski said angrily, claiming Bera had “bowed to corporate interests and kneels at the altar of profits.”

“Our message is this – you’re choosing sides,” he thundered, adding that come next election, “we’ll choose sides” against Bera.

“Let’s kick ass together.” Really?

Kim-Kardashian--ma_1911525aSure it’s true that labor poured considerable resources into Bera campaigns in three straight cycles, but the threat to punish him still seems short-sighted for several reasons: a) after losing in 2010, Bera won election by very narrow margins twice in a tough swing district, barely knocking off GOP incumbent Dan Lungren in 2012 and, last fall, defeating former GOP congressman Doug Ose by 50.4-to-49.6 percent; b) he’s the only Indian-American member of Congress, a still small but increasingly significant and politically active bloc of voters; c) as things stand, it’s unlikely Democrats will even need Bera’s vote, given Obama’s decidedly uphill fight in the House, so they could give him a pass.

Aren’t there any, you know, Republicans for labor to oppose?

Nomenklatura, indeed.


How ‘Ululation’ Entered California Political Lexicon

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

newsreporter02Last word on Dems: The dopey little story that Loretta Sanchez told to an audience of Indian-American Democrats, and that generated several zillion words of reportage while offending every person west of the Mississippi, was just so weird that it brutally challenged the descriptive talents of every political writer on scene.

It was hard enough recounting what happened, and why Sanchez was in trouble for it.

To limn the specific behavior which ignited the kerfuffle: a journalistic test of epic proportion.

The SacBee’s Chris Cadelago and David Siders, the Splash Brothers of California political reporting, broke the story online late Saturday, reporting that Sanchez “mimicked a racial stereotype of American Indians” by “holding her hand in front of her mouth and making an echo sound,” a long and winding description that took 20 words.

By the next day, they’d whittled it down to 13 words, saying that in a cloudy iPhone video, she “holds her hand in front of her mouth and makes a whooping sound.”

Not long after, the AP’s Michael Blood, with a veteran wire reporter’s economy of language, called what she’d done a “whooping cry in reference to Native Americans,” a mere eight words; around the same time, LA Timesman Michael Finnegan, in one of the 6,000 yarns he filed over the weekend, more expansively referred to Sanchez “tapping her hand to her mouth in an imitation of a war cry” in one, while calling it “a stereotypical Native American ‘war cry’ gesture” in another.

The Chron’s Melody Gutierrez, settling on a comprehensive contextual explanation, wrote that the Senate wannabe “attempted to explain the difference between American Indians and people whose ancestors were from India by putting her hand over her mouth and mimicking a war cry.”

Sanchez herself, oddly enough (surprise, surprise), threw accuracy to the wind in the apology embedded within her convention speech by saying she was sorry because she “said something offensive.” Say what?

la-me-indian-americans-sidebar-20150518The beat goes on: On Monday morning. Calbuzz went our own way; focused on our vast audience of elementary school baseball fans, we chose a pure phonetic construction, spelling out “woowoowoo!” while citing the “inexplicable Chief Wahoo moment” of Sanchez.

Finally, Peter Jamison, an LAT metro desk hand summoned from the bullpen to pitch in on the widening war whoop scandal, hit upon what seemed the top show-don’t-tell phraseology.


He alluded to the Great Woman’s “ululating Native American ‘war cry,’” a phrase Finnegan reused several hours later, and which, by now, surely is on a save-and-recall string at the paper.

Still no word why no one tried out “Democratic ululation convocation.”

P.S. Jamison’s ululation story is worth a read for another reason: he not only discloses that Uduak-Joe Utuk, the Long Beach delegate and Indian American Caucus member who shot the offending video with his phone and first posted it on You Tube, previously raised money for Sanchez rival and front-runner Kamala Harris, but also that he lied about it when first contacted by the paper Saturday night. Curiouser and curiouser.

Words, words, words: Speaking of cunning linguists, Lite Gov Gavin Newsom gets major props from this corner for his short but punchy speech, notable for the classiness of his references and the richness of his vocabulary. Prince Gavin became the first American politician who, in a single address, not only quoted Plutarch and Michelangelo, but also brandished the phrases “our destiny is not immutable,” “an unsustainable contradiction” and “we didn’t listen to the dystopians.”

No such florid turns of phrase for party chair John Burton, who introduced Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on Saturday with his signature locution: “She is the fucking champion of the American people.”

And then there was Treasurer John Chiang, who bizarrely adopted the loud, tub-thumping tone of Huey Long while delivering the following line: “Puerto Rico debt cost 8.7%…when I sold our debt last week I sold it at 3.27%.”

burtoncropBy far the best quote of the weekend came from the unidentified man of the cloth (whose name we managed to miss because we were too busy gossiping with somebody) who gave Saturday’s invocation; on behalf of the eternal souls of the assembled, he prayed for collective strength “never to confuse our perception of truth with the truth itself.” Political consultants take heed.

Calbuzz gets results: Press Clips mega-kudos to the aforementioned Finnegan, who aggressively pressed Sanchez at her Sunday press conference to promise publicly that she will not abandon her Senate bid at some point in favor of seeking re-election to her congressional seat; this scenario, endorsed by at least half of your Calbuzzards, was published first in this space, although we again were too busy gossiping with somebody to help out as the crafty Timesman doggedly asked the question about 12 different ways:

With her U.S. Senate campaign off to a bumpy start, Loretta Sanchez refused Sunday to rule out the possibility of running instead for reelection to the House of Representatives…

stubborn-kidAsked then whether there was any chance she’d opt to seek reelection to the House next year if her Senate campaign appeared to be in trouble, the Santa Ana lawmaker responded, “Let me be very clear: I am running for the United States Senate. Thank you.”

Asked to specify whether she was ruling out a run for reelection, Sanchez said: “I am running for the United States Senate, and we’re running full bore to talk to people up and down California, and we think that by the time we finish, and [the June 2016 primary] rolls around, we’re going to be moving into the general election.”

Ululate that, Kamala.


Disneyland Democrats: Happiest Race on Earth

Monday, May 18th, 2015

lorettarunning2-1On Saturday night, as hundreds of California Democrats and reporters in various stages of drunkenness packed the Anaheim Hilton’s atrium lobby bar, the shrill cry of war whoops –“woowoowoo!” – occasionally pierced the roar of collective conversation.

Inevitably followed by cackles of laughter, the sound was often triggered by the viewing of a brief and murky iPhone video of congress member and insurgent U.S. Senate wannabe Loretta Sanchez, skillfully offending a caucus of ethnic Democrats with the worst party ice breaker in the history of the world.

Sanchez’s inexplicable Chief Wahoo moment, however, was only one of several outré episodes by the Dems’ current and potential Senate contenders, perhaps influenced by the close proximity of the state party convention hotel to the non-stop amusements of Disneyland Park.

By the time the 3,000 delegates left town Sunday – after Sanchez portrayed Pocahontas, Kamala Harris channeled Cersei Lannister and Xavier Becerra performed the Dance of the Seven Veils throughout the convention center – it was clear that the 2016 Senate race holds considerable promise as blockbuster political entertainment.

Here are some highlights:

lorettawhoopNot exactly a classic campaign start: Bill Carrick, Loretta’s newly-minted chief consultant,  returned home from a late afternoon run in L.A. on Saturday to find a stack of more than three dozen messages concerning his client’s big surprise OMG You Tube blunder in Orange County.

A brief summary, for those who may have been on a self-imposed social media moratorium: Sanchez on Saturday appeared before a group of Southeast Asian Indians, with whom she tried to ingratiate herself by doing a little war whoop, in the style familiar to pre-schoolers everywhere, by way of acting out a stupid story of having mistakenly believed an Indian she was to meet with was actually a Native American. Ha, ha.

By 9 am on Sunday, an hour before Sanchez was to address the convention, Carrick had arrived on the scene, striding into the convention hall uttering a characteristically laconic patter of drawling spin – “once again the California press corps has exercised its news judgment based on the first person they can find with a cell phone video” – before escorting Sanchez behind the speaker’s curtain in the reassuring manner of a South Carolina country doctor making an emergency house call.

Shortly after, Sanchez recited a brief apology, 10 minutes into her 18-minute speech – “So, in the crazy, exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive, and for that I sincerely apologize.” (Calbuzz apology critique: the impact is diluted by 1) the suggestion that she be excused because she was running around like a madwoman all day; 2) a follow-up, self-regarding defense of her record on equal rights – “UNASSAILABLE,” as she described it, with the word in all caps on her teleprompter copy; 3) a bridge-too-far line that she is “proudly part Native American on my mother’s side.” Grade: C-. But we digress).

A few minutes later, she showed up in the press room to answer a couple of questions from the few reporters still on hand, but stubbornly refused to respond to further inquiries on the tempest in the iPhone matter. So there the matter lies for now.


War Whoopgate was the second screw-up in less than five days for Sanchez, and her rocky start under the singular pressures of a California statewide campaign does not bode well. Part of the problem is that she begins well behind chief rival Harris, in money and organization, and is trying to rev from zero to 100 in days, not months, as Carrick tries to staff up while serving as a one-man band.

The broader, and far more serious issue, however, is Sanchez herself; her balls-out energy and loose cannon style represent both a strength and a weakness as a candidate.  As we wrote when she announced, her “antics are one thing for an entrenched House member but another for a statewide candidate, and if her past behavior proves a prologue for the Senate race, it will be trouble.”

Bottom line: Regardless of how many party activists she may have charmed with her manic pace of appearances over the weekend, it’s hard to imagine many potential donors being assured by her performance of the past few days.

kamalacerceiMake way, make way, peasants: At first glance, Attorney General Harris had a hugely successful convention weekend: she nicely delivered a well-crafted, red-meat speech on wealth inequality and social justice to an enthusiastic response from the volunteer class; the headline speaker, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, gave Kamala big props in her own speech, for allegedly helping to protect mortgage foreclosure victims as AG; the L.A. TV footage of a stunned Harris reacting to word of Wahoo Sanchez is priceless and sympathetic.

But just below the surface – meh.

For starters, Queen Kamala strutted around the convention escorted by a Hillary-size hoard of hangers-on,  bodyguards, retainers and gofers. The symbolism of such self-importance stood in stark contrast to Sanchez and Rep. Becerra, who hung out and spoke with delegates, as well as reporters, in small groups or one-on-one, without the need for handlers shouting “Huzzah, huzzah, make way, make way,” as they strolled the hallways and lobbies.

At one point, Harris and a half-dozen of her posse entered a packed meeting room where the Latino caucus heard from candidates. One veteran insider rolled his eyes at the sight of Harris surrounded by guys with wires in their ears and talking up their sleeves: “Is she that afraid of us?” he whispered to a reporter, who tried but failed to suppress a laugh. At another point, her elbow-wielding entourage nearly toppled a decrepit Calbuzzard, a story for another day.

Harris also dodged having her own You Tube 15 seconds of fame. As she stood outside the hall to address her “Cookies with Kamala” reception, some protestors, most displeased with her handling of the very foreclosure case for which Warren had sung her praises an hour before, started chanting, and the AG soon beat a retreat. No cell phone video yet, but hey it’s early.

And while it may not much concern anyone outside of Calbuzz and our cohort, the reporters who actually cover this stuff are not overly enamored of her media operation. Harris has ducked serious interviews and sessions with reporters since announcing her candidacy in January, and her Saturday press conference was a joke.

Team Harris packed the press room with boosters and people lining up for selfies; then they turned the proceedings over to a 12-year old twit named Nathan Click, whose amateur-night arrogance reminds us of several other press shop sycophants we’ve recently encountered. Pencil Neck then proceeded to call on a series of drop-ins and journalistic tourists, who, no doubt coincidentally, lobbed up such softballs as whether Herself plans to run for president (no, she informed a doubtlessly disappointed republic). Also, this just in: The Empress of River City is distressed to learn that traffic on the 405 is bad.

Xavier-Becerra-defiende-constitucionalidad-de-acciones-ejecutivas-de-ObamaThe Mr. X factor: The biggest winner in the weekend Senate sweepstakes seemed to be a guy who hasn’t decided if he’s running or not: L.A. Rep. Xavier Becerra.

Thanks to an MSM colleague, the Calbuzz National Affairs Desk joined three other political writers for an hour long, Friday night sit-down with Becerra at Mix. We’d not met the guy before, and came away impressed by his intelligence, thoughtfulness and easy manner. Decisiveness? Not so much.

Becerra has been doing an annoying, full-on Hamlet act about running for Senate ever since Barbara Boxer announced in January she was calling it quits; now he says he probably won’t make up his mind until late summer. Oy.

Okay, so it’s not an easy choice.  Becerra was first elected in 1992 and now is Democratic Caucus Chair, the party’s number four leader in the House; the three members ahead of him – Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn Jr. are age 75, 75, and 74, respectively, so actuarial odds alone make him a good bet to move up the ladder before the sun sets on many more congressional sessions.

But the best case in that scenario is that he ends up as Minority Leader, given that the Democrats have zero chance of winning back the House until after the next reapportionment and probably not much more than that after. But being a U.S. Senator from California, particularly if the Dems take back the Senate in two years, now that’s a job for a political passionista.

Problem for him is, while Xavier dithers, front-runner Kamala keeps running ’round and ’round the fundraising track, putting him further and further behind; now, Loretta’s entry has complicated the whole matter of him campaigning as a pioneer Latino candidate.

He’s too smart, and too much the party loyalist, to say it, but it must gall Becerra that Harris stands on the brink of coronation for Senate without having paid the kinds of dues he has. On Friday, he went so far as to prod the reporters at the table to get tougher with Queen Bee in sussing out her weaknesses on federal issues.

“What would she do? What are her values on these issues?” Becerra asked.

“Do you want to know how she would vote on an Iran nuclear deal? Do you want to know where she’ll stand on how we deal with transportation infrastructure funding? Do you want to know where she stands on intelligence surveillance?”

“… If you don’t know that, then that means the voters probably don’t know that, either,” he added. “If you’re in the race – tell people where you are.”

Here’s another, slightly different construction: If you’re in the race, tell people you are.