Part of the Bay Area News Group

Catching up with Ashley Swearengin

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 at 12:18 pm in 2014 general

A barrage of attacks from her Democratic rival has Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s mayor and the Republican candidate for state controller, convinced her campaign is running strong.

Swearengin stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office Monday afternoon to chat about the state of the race. The Field Poll last week found Swearengin trailing Democratic rival Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, by 14 percentage points, though more than one in five likely voters remains undecided. Yee in recent days has attacked Swearengin’s stewardship of Fresno, and challenged her “Mayor/CEO” ballot designation.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Swearengin said Monday, adding that while Yee’s attacks are “so easily refutable,” they’re a sign that “they definitely take our campaign seriously.”

“My hope is that the other side continues to come at me with their inaccurate and misleading accusations,” she said.

Yee’s campaign has said that Swearengin’s Fresno is a place of fiscal disorder, unemployment, poverty and homelessness. But Swearengin defended her record saying she helped steer the city out of massive deficits exacerbated by the housing-market crash and recession; the city is now building its budget reserve and ranks among the state’s top job-creators, she said.

Yee was in Fresno last week seeking endorsements from the city’s police and firefighter unions, meeting with an agricultural group and holding a fundraiser. “She was definitely playing to the Sacramento insiders and those who support the status quo,” Swearengin said.

Despite several campaign events scheduled with other GOP statewide candidates, Swearengin continued to make her political independence a core talking point.

“I think Californians are tired of just checking the box for whatever their party affiliation is,” she said. “Most important to me is making sure that we’re reaching all the voters of Califonria, not just one party or the other.”

Reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office shows Yee has raised more money than Swearengin, but “we knew for certain we would be outspent,” Swearengin said.

“We’re working as hard as possible to get the resources we need to get the message out,” she said, adding her campaign will start its paid advertising soon. “We’ve got to make as much noise as possible and point out the importance of this seat and my qualifications.”

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Field Poll: Voters unhappier with own lawmakers

By Josh Richman
Saturday, September 13th, 2014 at 6:00 am in 2014 general, polls, U.S. House

California voters are growing less satisfied with their own members of Congress, a new poll shows – and that might be bad news for Democrats.

The Field Poll finds 40 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job their own House member is doing in Washington, while 36 percent approve. That’s a pronounced change from April, when 44 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved.

Polls often show voters are ready to “throw the bums out” of Congress – except for their own “bum,” whom they hold in somewhat higher esteem. But this drop in support for voters’ own House members means incumbents in close races could be at greater risk.

That spells trouble for Democrats, who hold all three of the California House seats deemed “toss ups” by the widely respected Cook Political Report. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, faces former GOP Congressman Doug Ose in the 7th Congressional District; Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, is opposed by Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell in the 26th Congressional District; and Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, is challenged by Republican Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman, in the 52nd Congressional District.

The numbers also probably aren’t welcomed by Bay Area’s only endangered incumbent, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who’s challenged by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont.

California voters’ overall view of Congress’ job performance remains predictably dismal, with only 13 percent approving and 75 percent disapproving. That’s similar to Field Polls dating back to early 2010, and is shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

When likely voters statewide are asked which party’s candidate they would likely support in November’s House elections, 46 percent say the Democrat while 38 percent say the Republican and 16 percent are undecided.

The Field Poll’s survey of 1,280 registered voters, conducted Aug. 14 through Aug. 28, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The sample of 467 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

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New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

By Josh Richman
Friday, September 12th, 2014 at 10:18 am in 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, water

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

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9/11

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 3:52 pm in Uncategorized

Rather than post any political proclamations or statements about today’s anniversary, I’ll instead offer just this video of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” written in reaction to that awful day.

Lyrics after the jump…
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CA17: Honda & Khanna comment on Obama & ISIL

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 2:19 pm in Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, gave rather similar assessments Thursday of President Obama’s speech on action against the Islamic State.

honda.jpg“The threat of ISIL is beyond anything we have seen in the last 13 years since the horrors of 9/11. We have seen that ISIL has no limits to their gross brutality,” Honda said. That is why I support the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, supporting local capacities in Iraq, and expanding humanitarian assistance, but without US combat troops on the ground.”

“Only an inclusive and united Iraqi government, in which the rights of all minority groups are respected and represented, will effectively defeat ISIL and extremism,” he continued. “We cannot afford to make the same mistakes of the past. As I have repeatedly said, any sustained military action should be brought to debate and a vote in Congress.”

Ro KhannaKhanna said “President Obama did the right thing in speaking directly to the American people and outlining our nation’s role in leading a coalition to degrade and eventually destroy ISIL.”

“I’m encouraged by his focus on building a coalition of nations and his decision to provide support to those already fighting ISIL on the ground rather than committing American soldiers,” Khanna said. “The next step is for Congress to vote on the authorization of force. That is the system of checks and balances that our Founding Fathers created. But it relies on members of Congress having the courage to take a position instead of sitting on the sidelines and ducking the tough decisions.”

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Mike Honda urges Brown to sign Martins Beach bill

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 1:09 pm in California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Mike Honda, U.S. House

Rep. Mike Honda is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would re-open San Mateo County’s Martins Beach, the focus of a fierce battle between a billionaire who closed off the access road and surfers and advocates wanting to reach the beach.

The Legislature last month sent Brown SB 968 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would instruct the State Lands Commission to consider buying Martins Beach Road if it can’t cut a deal with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline near his sprawling property.

“The people of northern California have waited too many years to regain their historical access to Martins Beach,” Honda, D-San Jose, wrote in a letter to Brown dated Thursday. “The State of California has always recognized the importance of open spaces for its citizens and provided them access to the beautiful coasts in the Coastal Act of 1976. We must preserve this treasured public access to our state’s best resources.”

The beach isn’t in Honda’s 17th Congressional District; it’s in Rep. Jackie Speier’s 14th District. But Honda’s office says he’s been “a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career,” advocating for projects throughout the South Bay and Peninsula. (Speier’s office says she “supports public access,” but described no position on SB 968.)

“Protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy – it’s our obligation,” Honda wrote. “In my work, first as a County Supervisor, as a State Assembly member, and finally as a member of Congress I have continually fought to ensure public access to open spaces for all Californians to enjoy – equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value – and one that should be afforded to all, regardless of income.”

Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club will hold a news conference Friday morning outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Brown to sign the bill.

Brown, in a meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board a few days before SB 968 reached his desk, declined to comment on the issue: “I think that topic is being sufficiently contested, it doesn’t need any further comment from me.”

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Poll #s tanking, Props. 45 and 46 go on offense

By Josh Richman
Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 11:09 am in 2014 general, ballot measures, Uncategorized

As the Field Poll shows Proposition 46 all but done for and Proposition 45 struggling, backers of both those controversial, health-related measures went on the offensive Thursday by filing official complaints against their foes and challenging a big insurance company’s spending.

Prop. 46 author Bob Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed in 2003 by a drugged driver, filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission claiming the No on 46 committee violated state laws that require disclosure of major funders.

Insurance companies have contributed $42.8 million of the $56.5 million given to the No on 46 campaign, Pack says, and state law requires campaign committees to describe in descending order their major donors. Yet the No on 46 campaign committee is officially known as “No on 46 – Patients, Providers and Healthcare Insurers to Contain Health Costs.”

“How dare the insurance industry claim the mantle of ‘patients’ after blocking life-saving patient safety reforms for decades,” Pack said in a news release. “No on 46’s misleading attack ads, funded by mostly insurance industry money, pretend that they are a public campaign for patients. California’s TV and radio stations have a duty to the public to take these ads down until voters are told the insurance industry is really behind No on 46.”

Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice cases; require random drug tests for doctors; and force doctors to use an existing prescription database to weed out drug abusers.

The campaign for it is being run by Consumer Watchdog, a lawyer-funded nonprofit advocacy group that’s also behind Proposition 45, which would give the state insurance commissioner power to reject health-insurance rate hikes.

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court filed his own FPPC complaint Thursday arguing the No on 45 campaign’s name and radio ads don’t identify “health insurance companies” – the source of the $37.5 million to the campaign – as a major donor. But several insurers are listed by name, including Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Wellpoint Inc. and Blue Shield of California.

My read: This is a small-ball attempt to further publicize insurers’ role in the campaigns, a role that’s already been widely reported. Court said it himself in today’s story, describing why he believes Prop. 46 isn’t a lost cause despite cratering poll numbers among likely voters: “All we have to do is tell them that it’s the insurance companies on the opposing side lying to them.”

Court, California Nurses Association members and other Prop. 45 supporters will be rallying at 1:30 p.m. Thursday outside Blue Shield’s headquarters on San Francisco’s Beale Street to deliver 22,000 petition signatures decrying the insurer’s purchase of a costly luxury skybox at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Blue Shield’s decision to spend money on the skybox underscores the need for Prop. 45, they argue, so the insurance commissioner can reject excessive rate hikes that then pay for such luxuries.

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California Dems respond to Obama’s ISIL speech

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 8:02 pm in Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror

In a nutshell: Supportive, with a few sounding cautionary tones.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, the President laid out his comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and his case for the expansion of military action in Iraq and Syria.

“The Constitution requires Congress to vote on the use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President and any Congress.

“We must re-establish the checks and balances laid out by the Constitution.

“The facts are clear. We are no longer talking about limited strikes to prevent genocide and protect U.S. personnel. We are talking about sustained bombing and the use of military force.

“The threat from ISIS is serious. But before we take any further military action, Congress must debate the threats to our national security, the risks to American servicemen and women and the financial costs of waging another war in the Middle East.

“As the President said “we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together,” that is why I believe the President’s plan requires a thoughtful debate and vote by Congress.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California:

“I fully support President Obama’s decision to utilize his authority to begin a counterterrorism effort against the terrorist army ISIL. I applaud him for recognizing the seriousness of the threat and for going on the offense against this threat.

“As the president said, the United States will lead a coalition of nations against ISIL to include Gulf states and other countries throughout the Middle East, Europe and around the world.

“Now that a strategy has been outlined, it is critical that Congress and the American people come together in solidarity to support the president and our armed forces. On such an important matter of national security, we must show ISIL we have the political will, the military might and the strength of a united country.

“In my 14 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have not seen a terrorist organization with the brutality and capabilities of ISIL. The group already occupies large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and poses a direct threat to the entire Middle East. ISIL has also repeatedly expressed its intent to attack the United States, most recently during the beheadings of two American journalists.

“Anyone with a sense of humanity cannot be passive in the face of this organization. It has killed, tortured and kidnapped thousands, beheaded children, raped women, crucified those it considers apostates and aspires to commit widespread genocide.

“ISIL is pure evil, and the time has come to end its reign of terror.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“Tonight, the President showed what a real leader is-a President who understands the threats we face and that America must not face those threats alone.

“ISIS is a threat to the world and that is why I am so proud that President Obama has put together a broad-based coalition so that civilized nations can work together to degrade and defeat these terrorists.

“President Obama recognizes that in order to do this, we must remember the tragic mistakes of the past and conduct this operation without American combat boots on the ground. Instead, we will rely on trained and vetted forces in the region that have the most at stake from the ISIS threat.

“ISIS has already murdered two innocent Americans and has vowed that there will be more American bloodshed. These terrorists have threatened our embassies across the globe and said that ‘every American citizen is a legitimate target.’ They have also threatened our allies and all those who disagree with their demented ideology.

“There is no way the international community can stand by in the face of the beheading, crucifixion, and stoning of innocent men, women, and children by a terrorist group that numbers in the tens of thousands and has the finances to continue their campaign of carnage until they are stopped.

“Congress must stand behind the President in this effort by acting swiftly to provide funds so that the vetted Syrian rebels can take the fight to ISIS in Syria.”

Lots more, after the jump….
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Next week’s Commonwealth Club politics panel

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 5:00 pm in Uncategorized

Please come join me, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci and San Jose State University Professor and political analyst Larry Gerston at the Commonwealth Club of California’s “Week to Week” political roundtable and social next Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 in Palo Alto.

Moderated by club vice president John Zipperer, we’ll be chewing the fat about Tesla’s decision to site its battery “gigafactory” in Nevada instead of California; the campaign against Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s effort to split California into six states; and other hot political topics and campaigns.

We’ll be in the Schultz Cultural Hall at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, 3921 Fabian Way in Palo Alto; a wine-and-snacks social starts at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for club members or $20 for non-members and are available online; students get in free with valid ID.

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Holder praises ex-Oaklander leaving Justice Dept.

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 12:41 pm in Obama presidency

Here’s what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today about Tony West, the former Oakland attorney who’ll step down next week as the Justice Department’s third-in-command (to take a job at Pepsico, Bloomberg reports):

Eric HolderAlthough this is an occasion I’ve been dreading for quite some time, I must say it’s a privilege to join so many friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests in publicly thanking Associate Attorney General Tony West for his dedicated service to this Department, and to our nation, over the last five years; in celebrating the many invaluable contributions that Tony has made during that time; and in wishing him well as he opens an exciting new chapter in his extraordinary career.

I’d like to extend a special welcome to Tony’s wonderful wife, Maya Harris, and their remarkable daughter, Meena – who, as an associate at my old firm, Covington and Burling, is already following in the footsteps of her highly-accomplished parents. It’s great to have you with us today.

I understand the rigorous toll that jobs like Tony’s can exact – and the sacrifices that his high-profile roles have demanded – from the entire family. I know the many significant achievements that have characterized his tenure would simply not have been possible without your patience, your love, and your constant support.

I also know that it hasn’t always been easy. But I want to thank each of you for your service during Tony’s time in the Civil Division and the Associate’s Office. His hard work, his passion – and his steadfast commitment to our shared mission – have meant a great deal to this Department, to the American people, to the President of the United States, and to me. And your love and support have meant the world to him.

Now, we’ve still got Tony for a few more days – and we intend to make the most of that time. But I’m glad we could take this opportunity, while he’s still officially in office, to give him the sendoff that he richly deserves.

When Tony returned to the Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, in 2009, I was immediately struck not only by his skill and intelligence as a lawyer, his inclusive manner as a leader, and his capacity to motivate his team – but also by the empathy, the excellent judgment, and the seemingly boundless energy that he brought to every challenge that was laid before him.

Over the past five years, these characteristics have been clearly evident in the sense of direction he has provided, and the work he has inspired, in his colleagues and counterparts – but perhaps never more so than during the discussions leading up to the Administration’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

I’m sure neither of us will ever forget those meetings, the careful analysis and reflection that went into that decision – or the historic steps forward we have seen since then, thanks to the courage of citizens like Edith Windsor. And I will always be grateful for the sound advice and wise counsel that Tony provided at every step along the way – and that he has brought to countless other pressing issues, both before and since.

Whether shaping national policies, standing up for consumers – or helping to lead the national fight for equal rights, equal dignity, and equal justice – the impact of Tony’s work over the years has been clear. And it has been powerful.

More, after the jump…
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