Boxer, Feinstein to lead Senate committees

California’s two U.S. senators have been named to powerful chairmanships.

Per the New York Times political blog, Sen. Barbara Boxer will become chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works while Sen. Dianne Feinstein will lead the Rules Committee.

Here’s the text of Feinstein’s press release that arrived in my e-mail just minutes ago:

Washington, DC – In the wake of the Democratic takeover of the United States Senate, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is poised to become the first woman Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Senator Feinstein will also retain her membership on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Democratic committee assignments for the 110th Congress were made today and will go into effect when the new Congress begins in January.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee
“I look forward to taking the reins of this important committee and working with the ranking
member in a bipartisan way on an agenda of reform,” Senator Feinstein said. “My top two priorities will be ethics reform and election reform. We’ve got to address the gross misconduct and influence peddling that surfaced in such a serious way in the last Congress and ensure every American citizen’s vote is counted in a fair and accurate manner.”

On ethics reform, Senator Feinstein plans to move ahead with a comprehensive bill that:

Closes the revolving door, toughens public disclosure of lobbyist activity;
Bans lobbyist gift and travel;
Shuts down ‘pay-to-play’ schemes like the ‘K-Street Project;’
Helps ensure that earmarks are not added in the dead of night without full scrutiny from the House or Senate;
Requires all earmarks to be publicly disclosed.

On election reform, Senator Feinstein plans to introduce legislation to help ensure the accuracy of future federal elections by requiring that electronic voting machines print a paper record which can be verified by the voter and is subject to an independent audit to help ensure that the machines are secure from error.

The Senate Judiciary Committee
“It is my hope that under Senator Leahy’s leadership we will be able to move forward on many
critical measures, including a gang bill, comprehensive identity theft legislation, and a bill to ensure that FISA remains the exclusive authority for domestic surveillance of U.S. persons,” Senator Feinstein said.

Senator Feinstein is expected to chair the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. In this capacity, she will have the ability to work on her priorities and make sure that the government has the tools it needs to fight the war on terrorism and protect Americans from identity theft.

She intends to convene a series of oversight hearings examining how technology and human resources can be better used in the war against terror. Additionally, she will continue her work to give a federal hand of assistance to communities fighting gang violence, ensuring that the agriculture industry has the workers it needs, and protecting the intellectual property rights of artists and inventors.

The Senate Intelligence Committee

“I look forward to a Committee that will conduct detailed reviews and ask pointed questions to
make sure that the Director of National Intelligence is implementing the necessary intelligence reform. Senator Feinstein said. “Changes begun in the wake of intelligence failures on September 11 and prior to the Iraq War must be completed.”

Senator Feinstein’s top priority will be to invigorate Congressional oversight over the 16 agencies
that make up the U.S. Intelligence Committee.

Senate Appropriations Committee
“I will continue to fight for California’s fair share,” Senator Feinstein said. “California is a donor
state, providing more in taxes than we receive back. So I will work to fund our State’s priorities
including for rebuilding levees, keeping our nation’s streets safe, and reimbursing local communities for the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens.”

Senator Feinstein’s top funding priorities for the Appropriations Committee include:

Increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, specifically the National Cancer Institute;

Increased funding for college preparatory programs, and increasing the maximum Pell Grant loan amount to offset the escalating cost of college;

Restoring and rebuilding California’s aging levee system;

Protecting and promoting California agriculture through the programs like the Specialty Crop Block Grant program;

Providing the State and localities reimbursement for incarcerating criminal aliens through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program;

Restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through the CalFed Program; and cleaning up perchlorate in municipal water supplies.


Contra Costa races still tight; results coming soon

Candidates in a half-dozen tight Contra Costa County races, such as the Richmond mayor and Antioch City Council, may not know their fates until early December.

An unprecedented number of absentee ballots turned in at the polls has left election officials with 40,000 ballots — about 13 percent of all the ballots cast — to count this week.

It’s a time-consuming task: Clerks must verify signatures on every absentee ballot before placing them in an optical scanner that tallies the results.

And after absentees have been rounded up, officials must count another 9,000 provisional ballots. These are ballots in which the voter believes he or she is eligible but whose name does not appear on the voter roll. The voter fills out the ballot and clerks check for eligibility after the election.

What does all this mean?

In races where a few dozen or even a few hundred votes separate winners from the losers, it could take weeks to finalize the results.

But in most of the close races, Contra Costa Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir hopes to have answers by Thursday or Friday.

“We’re hoping to finish the absentee counts by Thursday or Friday and we’ll update our results,” Weir said.

In exceptionally tight races, however, the provisional ballots may affect the outcome. The clerks probably won’t finish counting these ballots for several weeks. Under state law, counties have until Dec. 5 to certify the election results.

In particular, the 900 provisional ballots in Richmond could be a factor in the outcome of its mayor and council races. Residents unwilling to vote at a community center in the Iron Triangle contributed to the higher-than-usual numbers of provisional ballots in the city, Weir said.

Races still undetermined include:

Richmond mayor: Gayle McLaughlin leads incumbent Irma Anderson by 192 votes.

Richmond: Myrna Lopez has a 160-vote margin lead over Corky Booze in the competition for the third opening on the City Council.

Antioch: Reggie Moore holds an 83-vote lead over Manny Soliz for the second slot on the City Council.

Concord: Incumbent Helen Allen has a 258-vote lead over Ron Leone for the third opening on the City Council

Pinole: Mary Horton and Betty Boyle are battling it out for the third opening on the City Council, with 102 votes between them.

West Contra Costa County Unified School Board: Incumbent Charles Ramsey holds a 360-vote lead over Antonio Medrano for the third seat on the board.

Close contests also exist in the Knightsen Police Protection District, Los Medanos Community Healthcare District, Rodeo Hercules Fire Protect District and the Bethel Island Municipal Improvement District.

It’s unclear why so many absentee voters waited until Monday and Election Day to cast their ballots.

Weir attributes heavy pre-election publicity for the significant drop in ballots that arrived too late to count, however. In June, 2 percent of all ballots arrived after the polls closed. That figure is less than 1/2 of one percent in this election.

Officials urged voters that did not mail their ballots by the Friday before the election to bring them to the polls or to county’s Martinez office.

By the time all ballots have been counted, Weir estimates that Contra Costa’s voter turn-out was 63.4 percent, about average for a gubernatorial general election.

For the second election in the row, absentee voters comprised more than half of the results: 52 percent of the ballots were absentee while 48 percent were cast at the polls.


McNerney’s win, in a historical perspective

Jason Bezis, a Lafayette lawyer and an amateur political history, sent me a fascinating historical look at the election of Congressman-elect Jerry McNerney in congressional District 11.

Here’s what he tells us:

Jerry McNerney’s victory in California’s 11th Congressional District is a once-in-a-generation political phenomenon:

San Joaquin Valley
Richard Pombo is the first congressman to lose a general election in a San Joaquin County district since 1978, when Norman D. Shumway (R-Stockton) defeated eleven-term Rep. John J. McFall (D-Manteca). That district included San Joaquin, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mono and Tuolumne counties and part of Stanislaus County.

Jerry McNerney is the first Democrat to unseat a Republican in a San Joaquin County congressional district in a half-century. In 1956, Manteca attorney John J. Fall (D) defeated seven-term Rep. Justin Leroy Johnson (R-Stockton) in the 11th Congressional District, which then encompassed all of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

McNerney is the fourth successful challenger in a general election for a San Joaquin County
congressional seat in the past century. Incumbent congressmen lost general elections in San Joaquin County districts in 1932, 1956, 1978 – and now 2006.

East Bay
Pombo is the first congressman to lose an election in an East Bay congressional district in a
decade. In 1996, businesswoman Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Tassajara Valley) ousted two-term Rep.
William P. Baker (D-Danville) in the 10th Congressional District, which then included parts of
Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

McNerney is the ninth successful challenger ever in an East Bay general election for Congress.
Incumbent congressmen lost general elections in East Bay districts in 1882, 1884, 1894, 1934, 1944, 1954, 1958, 1996 – and now 2006.

McNerney will be the first resident of the Livermore-Amador Valley (Livermore-Pleasanton area)
ever to serve in Congress.

Santa Clara County
Pombo is the first congressman to lose a general election in a Santa Clara County district in 68
years. In 1938, John Z. “Jack” Anderson (R-San Juan Bautista) defeated three-term Rep. John J. McGrath (D-San Mateo) in the 8th Congressional District, which then generally stretched along the coast from San Mateo to Monterey counties.

McNerney is the first Democrat to unseat a Republican in a Santa Clara County congressional district in 74 years. In 1932, John J. McGrath (D-San Mateo) defeated six-term Rep. Arthur M. Free (R-San Jose) in the 8th Congressional District, which then generally stretched along the coast from San Mateo to Monterey counties.

McNerney is the fifth successful challenger in a general election for a Santa Clara County
congressional seat in the past century. Incumbent congressmen lost general elections in Santa
Clara County districts in 1918, 1920, 1932, 1938 – and now 2006.

Other noteworthy items:

Next January, California’s 53-member congressional delegation will include 34 Democrats, the most Democrats in any state’s delegation in history. The only state delegations to include more members of single party were Pennsylvania’s 36 Republicans elected in 1924 and Pennsylvania’s 35 Republicans elected in 1928.

According to the California Secretary of State, as of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday Jerry McNerney had received more votes than 32 of the other 52 victors in California congressional races. [McNerney garnered more votes than the winners in the following congressional districts: 2nd (Herger), 13th (Stark), 16th (Lofgren), 17th (Farr), 18th (Cardoza), 19th (Radanovich), 20th (Costa), 21st (Nunes), 23rd (Capps), 24th (Gallegly), 25th (McKeon), 26th (Dreier), 27th (Sherman), 28th (Berman), 29th (Schiff), 31st (Becerra), 32nd (Solis), 34th (Roybal-Allard), 35th (Waters), 37th (Millender-McDonald), 38th (Napolitano), 39th (Linda Sanchez), 40th (Royce), 41st (Lewis), 43rd (Baca), 44th (Calvert), 45th (Bono), 47th (Loretta Sanchez), 48th (Campbell), 49th (Issa), 51st (Filner), 53rd (Davis).


San Francisco lawmaker moves to limit use of city’s name

Memo to San Francisco 49ers: We can’t stop you from going but don’t forget to leave the name behind.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, just dropped this press release:


SACRAMENTO —Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced today that he is looking into introducing state legislation that would prohibit a professional sports franchise that is not headquartered or does not play its games in the City & County of San Francisco from using the name “San Francisco” in its name, unless the Board of Supervisors and Mayor specifically authorize it to do so.

“The name San Francisco has cachet all over the world as a number one destination spot,” stated Assemblyman Mark Leno, who represents the eastern portion of San Francisco in the State Assembly, including the area where Monster Park is currently located. “I don’t think San
Francisco’s name should automatically be able to be used by a franchise that is not located in
the City,” he said.

The idea comes in the wake of the San Francisco 49ers owners’ surprise decision to break off
talks about the construction of a new stadium in San Francisco, which also potentially imperils
the City’s bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. After further research, the bill would be
introduced in the next legislative session, which begins in December.


Pombo speaks at Wednesday press conference

I’ve posted a story below that didn’t make it into our print paper due to a communication glitch on Wednesday. (We probably ought to have a formal name for what happens the morning after the election, something like Post-Election Sleep Deprivation Disorder.)

I have had a few inquiries from folks who wanted to know if Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, conceded the election to Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton or if the congressman called the victor.

Yes, he held a press conference in Tracy on Wednesday afternoon and wished McNerney luck. The men never spoke although Pombo tried to call McNerney’s cell phone on Wednesday. As you might imagine, McNerney’s phone rang nonstop that day

Here’s the story that Alameda Newspaper Group reporter Paul Burgarino wrote:

TRACY — Flanked by solemn-faced campaign workers and family still surprised about election results, a subdued Richard Pombo wished luck to Congressman-elect Jerry McNerney Wednesday.

Dressed in jeans, button-down shirt and cowboy boots, the seven-term congressman once again turned rancher talked to the press outside of a Tracy storefront.

Pombo said he had tried to call McNerney several times, but had not reached him yet.

“I just wanted to come out here and wish the Congressman-elect from the 11th District, Jerry McNerney, congratulations on his victory,” he said, adding he would work on the transition of issues he had worked on to McNerney’s office, including transportation and economic

“It was a hard fought campaign down to the end and I wish him luck, it will be interesting, there’s a lot going on,” he said.

Congressional activity that would affect the 11th District in the next two years included $100 million in transportation projects, building of infrastructure and a $2 billion farm bill next year, he

At the press conference, Pombo was asked if he took the Pleasanton wind consultant’s candidacy seriously.

“We took it seriously and knew it would a national race, (a lot of groups) spent a lot of money on this race,” he said “It didn’t change what I did, but I think I was caught in the wave that was
coming across the country.”

Pombo also said that the 11th Congressional District is a split district, and that one of the challenges McNerney will face is the difference in economies.

“If there’s any advice I would give, it’s stick to the things he believes in and fight for them,” he said. “ I hope he does a great job representing my district, this is my home, my family’s been here for four generations, this is what I care about.”

As for his future plans, Pombo said he never left being a rancher.

“I’m going to go home, I still have responsibilities for next couple onths and I’ll do as much as possibly can,” he said.

As for trying to get his seat back in 2008 ?

“I have no idea, don’t even ask me that right now, especially in front of my wife,” he said.


Bloggers play role in Pombo’s defeat

The appearance of web sites and blogs devoted to the ousting of Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, as early as four years ago may have been the proverbial canary in the mine.

Pombo lost his seat Tuesday to Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, a feat political analysts considered unlikely in the Republican district until a few months ago.

Scott Restivo, who lived in San Ramon until a recent move to Benicia, started VotePomboOut.Org in 2002 when Democrat Elaine Shaw challenged Pombo.

But he is far from alone.

There’s Pombo Watch, and Say No To Pombo and Progressive 11th and CA 11. That doesn’t count the numerous posts on sites such as Daily Kos.

“The bloggers helped organize and coalesce people behind the scenes,” Restivo says. “It wasn’t just people griping. It was all about getting information out. We were a virtual watering hole, a place where we could sit around and plan the next activity.”

The sites offered multiple viewpoints on the candidates and the campaign. Their organizers also possessed large e-mail lists and they blasted their recipients with the latest developments CD11 and news of the campaigns.

It’s a relatively cheap and regulation-free means of getting out the word. The Federal Election Commission has determined that such citizen-operated sites and blogs are not required to file as campaign committees, which would almost certaintly stifle the Internet marketplace of ideas.

Restivo started his site after redistricting in 2001 shifted him from Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s district into Republica Pombo’s.

But his site, and others, began to see heavy traffic after Pombo began moving aggressively on his conservative agenda as chairman of the House Resources Committee in 2003.

“When Jerry said he would run in 2004, that really started moving people and we started to see more traffic and the appearance of more sites,” Restivo says. “But my take on it is that Pombo did it to himself. Pombo was generating a lot of heat and people wanted to know, ‘How do we get rid of him?’ ”

The blogs and web sites were sparks, Restivo says.

But it was McNerney and the anti-Pombo campaign on the ground, Restivo said, that fueled the fire.

“You can have all the sparks you want but without the kindling and firewood, you can’t do anything,” Restivo says.

Restivo wrote an e-mail summarizing how he saw the bloggers’ role in the campaign:

The most important point is that none of us did this for fame or glory or because we were paid operatives or anything like that, such as Pombo imagines.

We did this as ordinary citizens who saw something was wrong and wanted to change it. Jerry included. I think that in itself is quite remarkable.

Somehow, Pombo and crew always seemed to ascribe ulterior motives to us, but it was much simpler than that. We went to bat for what we believed in, and are now happy to return to “ordinary” life.