Archive for the ‘Ellen Tauscher’ Category

How to Save Millions On Elections

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

gautam-dutta2tedlieu1Let’s be blunt: Calbuzz has an abiding self-interest in elections – the more elections, the greater the pressing need for blindingly insightful political analysis, gossip, speculation and cheap shots. Even we, however, have a hard time defending the exorbitant costs of  the constant round of special elections triggered by musical chairs politics of California. With our interest in all manner of political reform, Calbuzz today offered space to the New America Foundation to discuss a modest proposal for electoral reform that  could save millions.

By Gautum Dutta and Ted Lieu
Special to Calbuzz

California faces a crater-size, $24 billion deficit – and we’re about to throw away millions more on three elections we don’t need. But here’s the good news: If we adopt Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV, for special elections, we can save that amount and more.

With IRV, taxpayers could save nearly $2 million July 14 (fittingly, Bastille Day).

On May 19, barely 18 percent of voters participated in a special election to replace Hilda Solis, who gave up her 32nd Congressional District seat to become labor secretary. Eight Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian ran in this contentious race.

Although she finished first, Judy Chu did not win outright because she fell short of a majority (50 percent plus one). The race now goes to a July 14 runoff election – but it won’t be between the top two finishers, who were both Democrats. Instead, the top Democrat (Chu) will square off against the top Republican (who placed fourth with 10 percent of the vote) and the top Libertarian (who barely mustered 1 percent).

Three things are certain in this race. First, Chu is the odds-on favorite in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. (Last year, 68 percent of its voters chose Barack Obama for president.) Second, taxpayers face a steep tab for this election. According to the Los Angeles County Clerk/Registrar Recorder, it will cost taxpayers over $1.5 million.

Finally, a minuscule number of fatigued voters (perhaps as low as 7 percent) will show up for the July 14 runoff. While the voters stay home, the taxpayers’ tab goes up: The cost of administering the runoff will approach a staggering $100 per voter.

Fortunately, there’s a better way to conduct special elections to fill vacancies. Using IRV would allow us to elect majority winners using one election, instead of two.

Under IRV, voters get to rank their choices (1, 2, 3).  If your first choice cannot win, your vote automatically goes to your second (i.e., runoff) choice. It’s like conducting a runoff election, but in a single election.

The recent special runoff was no isolated case. In fact, a whopping seven of California’s past 11 special elections for federal or state office have gone on to runoffs. In all of those elections, the top candidate from the majority party has always won the runoff.

These “special” elections have exacted a heavy fiscal toll. In the past two years, $9.3 million has been spent in Southern California alone on special elections. Of that amount, more than $3.6 million was spent on special runoff elections (including the upcoming July 14 Congressional runoff).

What’s more, this cascade of vacancy elections will continue unabated. By year’s end, voters in Ladera Heights will have been asked to vote a total of five times! In the fall, we’ll have races to replace Assemblyman Curren Price (now state senator-elect) and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Obama’s nominee for undersecretary of state). The tab to us taxpayers? More than $5 million.

IRV has already been adopted by San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis, Memphis and Santa Fe. In addition, Arkansas, Illinois and Louisiana currently use IRV for overseas voters. Recently, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors held its first hearing on IRV. What’s more, the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena are seriously considering IRV.

A number of leaders and civic groups have endorsed IRV, including Obama, Sen. John McCain, California Controller John Chiang, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Los Angeles City Attorney-elect Carmen Trutanich, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles League of Women Voters, California Common Cause, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Asian American Action Fund and Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

As part of the governor’s proposed budget solutions after the May 19 statewide budget election, he should include using IRV, as it would save critical funds and chip away at our dire $24 billion shortfall.

Let’s do away with our multimillion-dollar election madness. Let’s adopt IRV – and fill vacancies by electing majority winners in a single special election.

Gautam Dutta is Deputy Director for New America Foundation’s Political Reform Program. Ted W. Lieu is a California Assemblymember (53rd District).

Garamendi Jumps to Race for Congress

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

John Garamendi

The final tip-off that John Garamendi wasn’t going to run for governor came when Greg Lucas asked him on California’s Capitol this week about his first quarter fundraising and the lite gov gave some weasly, rambling, agri-answer about planting and reaping and sowing and harvesting or some such.

Last night, Garamendi spokesman Peter B. Collins made it official, announcing his guy would seek the 10th Congressional District seat being vacated by Ellen Tauscher, who got tapped for an administration job by Obama.

As for the political implications for the governor’s race of Garamendi taking a hike, well, there aren’t many, as Calbuzz reported a few weeks ago.

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