Part of the Bay Area News Group

Could-be 2016 U.S. Senate candidates keep circling

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 5:23 pm in U.S. House, U.S. Senate

After former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday that he won’t run for U.S. Senate in 2016, a couple of southern California politicos are making sure their names continue to circulate among those still possibly interested in the contest.

Xavier BecerraRep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, issued a statement Wednesday morning noting a lot can happen in the next 16 months before the primary election, and he respects Villaraisgosa’s decision.

“As for me, I take seriously my recent election to Congress in November and the responsibility it brings to address matters ranging from war against our enemies to economic security for our families,” Becerra said. “I will weigh just as seriously whether to run for the Senate, where I would continue my more than 20 years of work on behalf of my state and my country. There’s a lot of work and a lot of listening to do until I make that decision.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he thinks “there’s a real opportunity for a strong Southern California candidate to get into this wide open race. I’m continuing to have conversations with constituents and supporters, and hope to make a decision in the near future.”

The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, opened an exploratory committee for this race last week, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette opened one this week.

A Field Poll released last week found 30 percent would be inclined to support Schiff, and 28 percent would be inclined to support Becerra. (This wasn’t a head-to-head choice and those surveyed could say they were inclined to support more than one of 18 names offered). By comparison, 49 percent said they would be inclined to support U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Republican who has said she has no plans to run; 46 percent said they would be inclined to support Harris; and 35 percent said they would be inclined to support Villaraigosa.

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Who will skip Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 3:07 pm in Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Israel, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren

The Bay Area delegation is split over attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, March 3.

Democrats and the White House remain miffed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu unilaterally. The Israeli leader is expected to speak against the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, instead urging Congress to impose further sanctions; also, the address comes two weeks before Israel’s legislative election. For these reasons, and as some pro-Palestinian groups urge a boycott, some Democrats are choosing to skip the speech.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation shakes out:

Skipping the speech: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Attending the speech: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz

Undecided: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa

Didn’t respond to inquiries: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo

A few of them offered explanations, or at least, comments:

Lofgren: “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”

Huffman: “I call upon Speaker Boehner and Ambassador Dermer to do the right thing and postpone this speech. Once the election in Israel is over and the current P5+1 negotiating deadline has passed, they should respect protocol and confer with President Obama and congressional Democrats on a time for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress.”

Boxer: “Whether I wind up going or not, it was a terrible mistake by the Republican majority to play politics with this enduring relationship.”

McNerney, via spokesman Michael Cavaiola: “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”

DeSaulnier, via spokeswoman Betsy Arnold Marr: “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election.”

Honda, via spokesman Ken Scudder: “Congressman Honda regrets that Speaker Boehner ignored protocol in making this invitation. The speaker turned what should have been an important visit of one of our closest allies into a political stunt. Congressman Honda also has concerns about the potential political nature of this speech given Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away. Despite this, and the congressman’s disagreement with the Prime Minister’s opposition to the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, Congressman Honda is going to attend the address on March 3. The United States and Israel share strong cultural, economic and security partnerships, and he will attend the speech to hear firsthand what the Prime Minister has to say on these serious and complicated issues.”

Thompson, via spokesman Austin Vevurka: “We still don’t know what the Congressman’s schedule will be that week, but I will of course keep you posted as we know more. That being said, Congressman Thompson understands the importance of hearing from international leaders, but he is concerned that the speech has become overtly political. He hopes the speech is rescheduled and Netanyahu is invited back at a later date in a manner that respects long-established diplomatic protocol.”

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Hillary on Blackberries, Fitbits and tighty-whities

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 11:27 am in 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton

After Hillary Clinton finished her speech Tuesday at the Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women in Santa Clara, she sat for a Q-and-A session with noted tech pundit Kara Swisher. Before getting to more serious stuff, they took a quick run through gadgets, Fitbit guilt, and appearing in front of 37.3 million viewers in one’s tighty-whities:

SWISHER: So I want to ask the big question, iPhone or Android?

CLINTON: iPhone. (Cheers.) Okay, in full disclosure, and a Blackberry. And I think the president told you the same thing, because I think he really loves his.

SWISHER: Well, you know, it is –

CLINTON: There are reasons why when you start out in Washington on a Blackberry you stay on it in many instances. But, it’s also — I don’t know. I don’t throw anything away. I’m like two steps short of a hoarder. So I have an iPad, a mini iPad, an iPhone and a Blackberry.

SWISHER: You know, if you lived in, and I go to Washington a lot lately, my kids are living there, and you would think Blackberry was the biggest company in the world form all the people that — because everybody uses it. All right, second one, Apple Watch or Fitbit?

CLINTON: Well, you can tell I’m not doing Fitbit and I haven’t gotten into the Apple Watch yet. I’m not in a wearable frame of mind yet. You know, I mean three people have given me a Fitbit or a Jawbone, and I look at it and I think do I really want something telling me I should do what I know I should do? I mean I have enough stress in my life avoiding doing what I’m told I should do, so I haven’t jumped off the ledge yet.

SWISHER: Okay. President of the United States, running for President of the United States or host of the Oscars next year, both jobs are open it seems?

CLINTON: Yes. Well, and both jobs are really painful from my own personal experience and observation. I don’t think I could do the “Birdman” man imitation. That goes back to the Fitbit conversation. I just couldn’t do that.

SWISHER: What about the president thing?

CLINTON: You know, there have been a lot more Oscar presentations than there have been presidents. So the pressure is probably somewhat less. It’s a one-night gig. And for many it’s just one night. And the other one it’s like a many-year commitment.

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Carly Fiorina’s first presidential video

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 at 8:42 am in 2016 presidential election, Carly Fiorina

While Hillary Clinton was in Santa Clara on Tuesday calling for gender equity in Silicon Valley, one of the tech industries foremost female ex-CEOs was launching her first presidential campaign video.

Carly Fiorina, who led HP from 1999 to 2005 and was California’s 2010 Republican U.S. Senate nominee, talks in the two-minute video about her career, America, family, faith and conservatism – with nary a demon sheep in sight.

The video is from the newly formed super PAC Carly for America, which the Washington Post reports is laying the groundwork for a potential candidacy. It coincides with Fiorina’s scheduled appearance Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a four-day event in Maryland featuring a slew of possible presidential contenders.

Fiorina – no longer a Californian, having moved to Virginia a few years ago – has been setting the stage for a campaign for the past several months by speaking at conferences, visiting early-primary states, and wooing potential contributors and staffers.

So far, she’s having trouble finding traction and name recognition; most polls of the potential Republican field don’t include her. It’s very early, of course, and she has time to get her name out there – but if she’s actually angling for something other than the Oval Office, it might be useful to remember Fiorina about a year ago joined the advisory board of a pro-Rick Perry “dark money” group.

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Ex-GOP chair forms Senate exploratory committee

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 at 8:22 am in U.S. Senate

Former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro has formed an exploratory committee for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Tom Del BeccaroDel Beccaro, 53, of Lafayette, was among the first possible candidates to express interest in the race after Sen. Barbara Boxer announced last month that she won’t seek another term. “This next step allows me explore these possibilities further and raise a limited amount of money to help with that process,” he wrote Tuesday morning on Facebook.

He sees his run as a means to discuss important conservative issues, he told the San Diego Union Tribune on Monday.

“The combination of the California state and federal economic policies, including lopsided income tax codes and environmental policies that have gone too far, are resulting in economic stagnation for too many Californians,” Del Beccaro told the Union Tribune. “We need a better balance of regulations and pro-growth policies designed to encourage the private sector to promote economic growth throughout the state. If I run, I intend to offer those policies.”

Del Beccaro chaired the state Republican Party from 2011 to 2013, a period that proved financially difficult for the GOP.

The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, opened an exploratory committee for this race last week.

A Field Poll released last week found 21 percent of likely voters would be inclined to vote for Del Beccaro, while 46 percent would not be inclined and 33 percent had no opinion. The early poll was largely based on name recognition – not a strong point for a former party official who has never run for elected office before. By comparison, 49 percent said they would be inclined to vote for former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while 39 percent were not inclined and 12 percent had no opinion – but Rice says she’s not interested in running.

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Field Poll: Gov. Jerry Brown still riding high

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 at 12:05 am in Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, polls

If he maintained poll numbers like this, California Gov. Jerry Brown would be hard to beat for a fifth term.

That’s impossible under the state’s term limits, of course. But a new Field Poll finds Brown – who already has served as governor longer than anyone in the Golden State’s history – remains remarkably popular.

Jerry BrownThe poll found 56 percent of California voters approve of Brown’s job performance while 32 percent disapprove and 12 percent offered no opinion. That’s within the poll’s margin of error from Brown’s all-time high during this second go-around as governor; he hit 59 percent approval in April 2014.

Even more California voters – 69 percent – agreed Brown “has the right experience to deal with the problems facing California,” the Field Poll found, a sentiment that extends across party lines: 79 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of nonpartisans and 55 percent of Republicans agreed.

Majorities also agreed Brown “has the vision to lead California into the future” (54 percent) and “deserves credit for turning around the state’s finances” (53 percent).

However, when asked to consider three negative statements that have been made about Brown, 57 percent agreed with one of them: that he “favors too many big government projects that the state cannot afford right now.” (Hey, high-speed rail and Delta tunnels – they’re looking at you.)

Brown’s approval ratings are highest in the Bay Area (69 percent) compared to other regions of the state; among voters with post-graduate education (64 percent) compared to other education levels; among African Americans (67 percent) compared to other races/ethnicities; among ages 40-49 and 65 or older (59 percent) compared to other age groups; and among men (59 percent) compared to women (53 percent).

The poll of 1,241 California voters was conducted Jan. 26 through Feb. 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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‘Draft Condi’ petition starts, but is it a ‘scam PAC?’

By Josh Richman
Monday, February 23rd, 2015 at 6:11 pm in U.S. Senate

A conservative PAC is gathering petition signatures online to draft former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice into California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Rice, who a recent Field Poll found ranked highest among those for whom Californians would be inclined to vote, has said she’s not interested in running. The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee.

The Conservative Action Fund, based in Virginia, has established a webpage to gather petition signatures calling for Rice to enter the race. Chairman Shaun McCutcheon then sent out an email urging supporters to sign it “and then make a generous contribution of $25, $50 or even $100 to the Conservative Action Fund, so that we can convince Condi to enter the race and ensure we’re ready to maximize her impact and help propel her to victory!”

The email offers more red meat for conservative voters.

“Friend, you know the Obama Democrats consider California their own private political preserve — the soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat permanently held for the next Big Government, nanny state liberal in line,” it reads. “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a host of left-wing special interests will pump tens of millions into holding the seat — by demonizing any Republican who dares to run.”

“That holds especially true for a tough, accomplished African American woman like Condi Rice — it’s their worst nightmare!” the email continues. “That’s why we need your help to encourage her to enter the race and ensure she has the support she needs to run a successful campaign!”

But whether or not there’s a genuine grassroots groundswell for Rice, potential donors might want to beware.

The Conservative Action Fund seems to be the poster child for what some are calling “scam PACs” that spend a lot more money on their own fundraising, salaries and other administrative costs than they give to or spend on behalf of candidates. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, this fund spent about 73 percent of its money in the 2014 cycle on fundraising and administrative costs.

UPDATE @ 10:32 A.M. WEDNESDAY: Apparently the Black Conservatives Fund – a somewhat more reputable PAC that spends more supporting candidates than on itself – also is launching a drive to draft Rice.

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SD7: IE money for Republican who dropped out

By Josh Richman
Monday, February 23rd, 2015 at 5:12 pm in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla

The independent spending that’s flooding the 7th State Senate District’s special election has taken an odd turn, as a committee known for backing Asian American Democrats spends on behalf of a white Republican who dropped out of the contest weeks ago.

The Asian American Small Business PAC has reported spending $46,380 on research, polling and mailing on behalf of Michaela Hertle. And that’s bad news for the candidate whom Hertle endorsed: Democrat Steve Glazer.

Steve Glazer“It’s gutter politics,” Glazer charged Monday. “There’s no Asian-American in the race, and the Republican has withdrawn and endorsed me. It’s clearly an attempt to confuse the voters and smear me.”

Glazer, Orinda’s mayor and a former campaign advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, has set about courting Republican votes, as he’s more centrist than the contest’s other two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

But when Hertle dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer Feb. 2, it already was too late to remove her name from the ballots. By spending money to tout her now, the PAC effectively is sapping votes from Glazer.

The mailer already is hitting registered Republicans’ mailboxes across the district. On the front, beside a photo of Hertle apparently cribbed from her Twitter profile, it asks, “Why settle for less? Let’s elect a real Republican to stand up for us in the State Senate.” On the back, it says the community “needs a real reformer in the State Senate who can break the partisan gridlock and produce results for us.”

Click to enlarge:
Hertle flier front

Hertle flier back

“Unlike the other candidates, Michaela Hertle is an independent leader who owes no favors to the special interests paralyzing our state government. We can trust Michaela to fight for reform and for us,” the flier says, praising her as fiscally conservative and a government reformer.

Bill Wong, the PAC’s political director, insisted this truly is a pro-Hertle effort and not an attempt to sap votes from Glazer to benefit Bonilla or Buchanan.

“Michaela is still on the ballot and there’s an option for people to vote for her,” Wong said, noting about 41 percent of the district’s voters are Republicans or independents. “She thought she couldn’t raise enough money to run a legitimate campaign, so we figured we’d throw in this money and see how it goes.”

The PAC mostly gives money to Asian American Democrats – it gave only to Democrats in the 2013-2014 cycle, and all but one of the 17 were Asian American. But Wong said it has given to a few Republicans in the past, including Michelle Steele and Alan Nakanishi for the Board of Equalization in 2010, so supporting Hertle isn’t unprecedented.

She’s the candidate most aligned with the PAC’s ideals, he insisted: “Everyone else is kind of a career politician.”

Who’s putting up the money remains an open question.

Despite the PAC’s name, it gets most of its money from big companies and unions. Its biggest contributors in 2013-14 were Comcast Corp. ($46,800); International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers Local 39 ($40,000); California State Council of Service Employees ($30,000); AT&T ($27,286); Professional Engineers in California Government ($20,000); Eli Lilly & Co. ($15,000); and the State Building and Construction Trades Council ($15,000).

The PAC had $55,064 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, so either it has mostly cleaned out its coffers with this spending, or it has received more contributions since the start of the year. Any such new contributions won’t have to be reported until well after this March 17 special primary election.

Either way, because it already had more money banked than it spent on this election, its mailer need only identify the PAC and not any new major donors.

Among those listed as officers on the PAC’s filings are California political and public affairs consultants James Santa Maria and Lucy McCoy; also listed is Jadine Nielsen, a longtime Democratic political operative, former Democratic National Committeewoman and former Los Angeles deputy mayor now living in Hawaii. None of them returned phone calls Monday.

Glazer says he’s pretty sure he knows who’s funding this “pro-Hertle” effort.

“It’s all being orchestrated by the BART unions and friends,” he said. “This is a front group for nefarious interests that don’t want to be known.”

It’s no secret the unions hate him. Glazer burned his bridges with labor first by consulting with JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, to support centrist Democrats like himself beat labor-backed Democrats in 2012’s elections. More recently, he crusaded for legislation to ban transit-worker strikes like the ones that stilled BART in 2013.

Labor unions at the start of this month created Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015. In the past week, that committee has received $35,000 from the California Teachers Association, $25,000 from the California Federation of Teachers, $25,000 from the Professional Engineers in California Government, and $25,000 from the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO – a total of $110,000. And it has spent almost $64,400 so far on anti-Glazer research, polling, mailing and a website, KnowGlazer.com.

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73% of California voters disapprove of Congress

By Josh Richman
Saturday, February 21st, 2015 at 12:05 am in polls, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Californians still hold a dismal view of how Congress is doing its job, and more believe that Republican control of both chambers is a bad thing than a good thing for the nation, a new Field Poll found.

The poll clearly reflects the state’s heavily Democratic leaning; 43 percent of California’s voters are Democrats, while 28 percent are Republicans and 23 percent declare no party preference.

nobody likes CongressNearly three-fourths – 73 percent – of California voters now disapprove of Congress’ job performance, while 18 percent approve and 9 percent had no opinion, the poll found. Sadly, that’s not even close to the worst it ever has been – disapproval peaked at 86 percent back in September 2011, shortly after that summer’s debt-ceiling crisis.

Californians have a brighter, albeit still negative, view of the job congressional Democrats are doing – 53 percent disapproval and 35 percent approval, with 12 percent expressing no opinion. That’s roughly the same as where the Field Poll has pegged it over the past five years, and heavily influenced by party affiliation – only 35 percent of Democrats disapprove of how Congressional Democrats are doing, while 79 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of nonpartisans disapprove.

Similarly, 67 percent of Californians disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing while 23 percent approve and 10 percent have no opinion, a ratio that hasn’t changed much over the past eight years.

But unlike their Democratic counterparts, a plurality of California’s Republican voters – 47 percent – disapproves of the job being done by congressional Republicans, while only 40 percent approve. Disapproval of congressional Republicans increases to 82 percent among Democrats and 63 percent among nonpartisans.

Finally, the poll found 49 percent of registered California voters believe Republican control of both houses of Congress is a bad thing, while 37 percent think it’s a good thing. Democrats heavily lean toward believing it’s bad (71 percent to 15 percent), while nonpartisans are more split (49 percent to 34 percent). Republicans think it’s a good thing, 73 percent to 17 percent.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,241 California voters Jan. 26 through Feb. 16; the poll has a margin of error or plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

By Josh Richman
Friday, February 20th, 2015 at 2:09 pm in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla

Independent expenditure money continues to rain down upon the 7th State Senate District’s special election’s Democrat-on-Democrat showdown.

Competing to succeed Mark DeSaulnier (now a congressman) are Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin.

Since my last report, in which I detailed the big independent spending that the California Dental Association has done on Bonilla’s behalf, other Bonilla IE benefactors have materialized as well. The California Professional Firefighters IE PAC has spent about $118,000 for mailers, postage, data and polling since last Friday, Feb. 13, while the California Medical Association IE PAC has spent about $83,400 on mailers.

But weighing in against Bonilla and Buchanan is JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce political action committee, which on Tuesday reported spending about $21,000 on research and mailers. Glazer was a consultant for JOBSPAC back in 2012 – one of the ways in which he has burned his bridges to much of the Democratic Party and the unions that support it.

And Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield – a patron of centrist Democrats who buck their party and labor – has spent about $75,000 more on Glazer’s behalf beyond the $104,000 I reported last week, bringing his total so far to almost $180,000.

Meanwhile, among the more significant new endorsements, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the California Nurses Association and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges endorsed Bonilla this week; former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin endorsed Buchanan; and former state Controller Steve Westly and former state Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti endorsed Glazer.

The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.

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