Perata tucks into a heaping plate of crow

So state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, pulled the plug late Wednesday on his effort to have state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, recalled from office. From our story:

The abrupt move came, he said, after deciding that a recall of the Merced Republican would directly affect his ability to negotiate a budget with Republicans, who have assailed him for pursuing the recall.

He said he told Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno, that “I did not believe this kind of politics cast against the huge problems we’re having in the state made a lot of sense.

“You get to the point where you just have to say you gotta see what matters most,” Perata said.

“And I don’t want to go through what we went through last year. The state can’t afford it. You know how things are at the end of a campaign. They get uglier and uglier, tenser and tenser, and it made no sense.”

To recap: Perata couldn’t see what mattered most until Wednesday, when he realized pursuing the recall made no sense.

So what took him so long?

In trying to recall Denham — a move Perata essentially acknowledged was as much (if not more) about pushing Senate Democrats closer to the two-thirds majority needed to pass budget bills as it was about Denham’s voting record — Perata embraced the very tactics of which he and many other Democrats complained so stridently during the 2003 gubernatorial recall.

denham.JPGAlso, even as he abandoned any pretense to owning the moral high ground (as if there’s any in politics, anyway), Perata also has made a martyr of Denham — a martyr who gets to stick around and make the most of his martyrdom. Denham’s supporters say he’s a moderate, Perata and his supporters say Denham campaigned as a moderate but legislated as an arch-conservative. Whatever Denham is, he’s also now the guy who can truthfully say he faced down a recall threat from someone supposed to be California’s most powerful Democrat; that’s a line you’ll surely hear in campaign ads if Denham ever seeks statewide office.

If you don’t buy that, fine. For another view — a staunchly liberal Democratic view — of how Perata made a train-wreck out of this, check Calitics, where a recall supporter reams Perata for wussing out on a noble cause:

“A real Senate leader would have broadened the race into a referendum on state Republicans and would have done very well. You either do something like this full-speed or you never start it in the first place. This half-step just furthers the narrative of Democratic weakness.


“(Y)ou now let everyone off the hook because you’ve proven you can be bullied by a Republican hissy fit and tut-tuts from the conventional wisdom crowd in the media. No Republican will EVER take a Democratic threat seriously in the near future, crippling the leadership of Darrell Steinberg. And all the leverage on getting legislation passed in the Senate just ended.

“Great friggin’ job, Don. If you want to just go ahead and quit now and let any stray cat from Berkeley finish out your term, that’d be just fine with me.”

Wow, there’s just no love for Perata on this one. Methinks the Pro Tem isn’t covering himself in glory in his final months at the Legislature’s helm; read Perata’s statement as e-mailed to reporters, after the jump, and judge for yourself…

perata.jpg“Like all of you, I’ve been worried a lot about the economy – falling home prices, rising gas prices – and how hard it’s getting for people to find a job.

I’ve talked with both Treasurer Lockyer and Controller Chiang about the state’s cash situation – and the need to do everything we can to reach an agreement on the budget.

A long stalemate is the last thing we need. Without a budget – we run out of cash – the richest state in America gone broke!

We won’t be paying our bills – and we won’t be giving our schools, our emergency rooms and our police the resources they need.

So I met with Republican Leader Dave Cogdill – and I asked him how we could clear the decks and start making some progress.One issue kept coming up. The Denham recall.

So today – in the spirit of putting politics aside to solve problems – I’m ending the recall campaign.

You’re bound to ask, so let me tell you – there was no deal, no quid pro quo.

This is my call – and my best judgment about how to stop the long, slow slide into another long stalemate.

I hope it pays off. Because the same old rhetoric won’t get the job done.

Let me also say this to the people who have devoted so much time and effort on the recall: thank you. You’ve already changed things for the better.

The vote we couldn’t get last year to close the tax loophole for yacht owners – we got that vote.

The vote we couldn’t get to help homeowners facing foreclosure – we got that vote.

You put everyone here on notice – and I don’t think people are going to forget that anytime soon.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Suffering in Oakland

    Perata has a new target. He wants to bully Oakland mayor Dellums out of office this year, two years short of a full term. Perata has threatened a recall, got involved with a more-cops initiative, and wants to plant Kerry Hamill, who was his chief of staff, on the city council in the at-large seat. Unfortunately, labor’s candidate Rebecca Kaplan can’t beat Hamill.