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Archive for April, 2010

Political events round-up

Here’s a round-up of upcoming East Bay political events:

Bay Point

The law offices of Ashe & Ramirez will be host three Contra Costa County candidates for a “Meet & Greet “ on Friday.

Bob Brooks, candidate for Assessor; Dan O’Malley, candidate for District Attorney; and, Brian Kalinowski, candidate for Sheriff, will be on hand to talk with visitors from 5-7 p.m.

The offices are located at 1975 Willow Pass Road in Bay Point. Appetizers and refreshments will be provided.


A coalition of elected officials will host a Financial Fitness and Family Support Fair from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday.

The free event will feature credit counselors, low income educational program providers, housing assistance professionals, free food programs, financial and tax services and consumer protection organizations.

Sponsoring officials include Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, State Controller John Chiang, Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

It will be held at the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza in Richmond.

Experts will offer programs such as how to talk to a financial planner, how to manager your money, math for finances, foreclosure prevention and loan modification programs.

Exhibitors include the Community Housing Development Corporation of North Richmond, Food Bank of Contra Costa And Solano, Head Start of Contra Costa County and the Internal Revenue Service.

El Cerrito

A West Contra Costa County ballot proposition and candidate event will be held Saturday in Richmond.

From 1-4 p.m. at the Postal Worker’s Union Hall, 402 37th St., a proponents of propositions 13, 14, 15 and 17 will speak.

Candidates for office in the June 8 election that have committed to appear include:

Attorney General — Alberto Torrico and Rocky Degaldillo

Superintendent of Public Instruction — Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson

Contra Costa County District Attorney — William “Dan” O’Malley, Elle Falahat and Mark Peterson

Contra Costa Sheriff-Coroner — Brian Kalinowski and Dave Livingston

Contra Costa County board of supervisors, 1st District — Mister Phillips and John Gioia.

Event sponsors include the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council, National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 1111, Contra Costa County Democratic Central Committee, West Contra Costa County United Democratic Committee, Contra Costa Central Labor Council, El Cerrito Democratic Club and Richmond Vision.

Walnut Creek

The Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center will sponsoring “Make a Bid for Peace,” a spring auction and fundraiser on Saturday.

The auction will be held from 2:30-5 p.m. at the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, 55 Eckley Lane in Walnut Creek.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will be the honorary auctioneer.

Items for sale include three carved Chinese warriors (c. 1860), works of art, gift baskets, gift certificates for restaurants, and local services provided by local experts.

Entertain will be provided by local musicians Stevie Keys and Bill Wentz and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Proceeds will support the center’s activities, including its lectures, art and writing contests.

Tickets are $20 per person at the door or $15 in advance. For information, phone 925-933-7850 or e-mail

Walnut Creek

Former U.S. astronaut Brian O’Leary will speak on “The Energy Solution Revolution” at the Tuesday meeting of the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

The lecture begins with a potluck at 6 p.m., followed by the speaker at 7 p.m., at 55 Eckley Lane in Walnut Creek.

O’Leary is former astronaut and physics professor who studies and promotes renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources.

He was a NASA scientist and astronaut during the Apollo program, the first to be selected for a planned Mars mission, and he participated in unmanned planetary missions a professor.

He currently lives in Ecuador, where he is building and opening a new eco-retreat center for peace, sustainability, the arts and new science.

The is $20 per person and a dish to share. RSVP online at

For more information, contact the Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center at 925-933-7850.


U.S. Senate candidate to speak: Republican Assemblyman and U.S. Sen. candidate Chuck DeVore will be the featured speaker at the May 13 evening meeting of the Blackhawk Republican Women Federated.

The event begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by the speaker at 6:30 p.m., at the Blackhawk Country Club, 599 Blackhawk Club Drive, in Danville.

The cost is $25 per person.

For reservations, send e-mail to or call 925-820-6452.

For more information, visit


The Lamorinda Democratic Club has invited Democratic candidates running for nonpartisan Contra Costa Countywide offices to speak at its May 13 meeting.

The event will be held at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd., in Lafayette, starting at 6:30 p.m. with a social hour followed by a business meeting at 7:15 p.m. and the speakers at 7:45 p.m.

Democrats seeking nonpartisan countywide offices of Assessor, District Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer-Tax Collect have been asked to present their platforms.

Posted on Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Under: Political calendar | 1 Comment »

2010 primary campaign website directory

I’ve added a page, permanently linked under the “Pages” tab at the top of this blog’s right-side rail, listing websites of candidates for the East Bay’s primary elections. A few of them aren’t active yet, but are expected to be so soon. We’ll be adding and updating as needed, so if you find something new, let us know!

Posted on Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Toilet-paper prank targets Cal’s John Yoo

One of the many activists protesting University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a, well, creative new way to voice displeasure with him.

Students using the restrooms at Cal’s Boalt Hall Law School today reportedly found “Yoo Toilet Paper,” printed with text from the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Los Angeles-based activist/artist Matt Cornell said the prank was meant to remind law students that “Yoo helped turned human rights laws into toilet paper.” At the bottom of each roll is a reminder that “this toilet paper was made by possible by John Yoo, Professor of Law.” He also said his toilet paper is both softer and better than that provided by the budget-crunched university, and that it contains “valuable reading material” for students.

(I’ll assume that the “Josh Wolf” listed in the video’s production credits is the very same UC journalism student who keeps getting in trouble with various authorities as he blurs the line between journalism and activism.)

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, War on Terror | 8 Comments »

Should Poizner merit a new look if the next polls show he’s cut deeply into Meg’s lead?

So what happens if the next polls show Steve Poizner has cut deeply into Meg Whitman’s lead, as internal polling appear to be showing?

Whitman’s campaign is likely to dismiss it as something they expected all along. No way could they have sustained their 50 percentage-point edge. To its credit, Whitman’s team has publicly treated poll numbers with caution all along, consistently downplaying the large margins.

But all the hallmarks of supreme confidence — basically ignoring Poizner’s calls for debates, showing few signs of angst over refusing to engage with the state’s political press — show they’ve been bolstered, to put it diplomatically, by their poll numbers.

If, however, the next Field poll and Public Policy Institute of California survey reflect internal polling and indicate a significant shift — say, cutting Whitman’s 50 percentage margin to 20 or 25 — would it be incorrect to say the dynamics of the Republican primary have altered enough to take a second look at the competitiveness of the race?

Poizner’s team would be at least somewhat justified if it demanded a new look. A precipitous drop is, after all, precisely what they have been predicting all along.

Poizner’s team has paid the price for laying low: having to watch helplessly as top supporters defected to Whitman, withstanding ridicule among the punditocracy, and, until recently, the indignity of being ignored by Whitman.

Up until now, its strategy of holding fire until the final two months of the campaign, of waiting to strike with heavy ad buys only when it deemed voters were paying attention, has been seen as disastrous. Poizner’s obituary has been written many times — even as recently as today by the Wall Street Journal; his game plan mocked as the blueprint of a wrong-headed strategy, especially when employed against a juggernaut political machine of a billionaire.

What does it say, now, however, if Whitman’s lead has shrunk by 10, 15, or 20 points? That her lead was thin in the first place? That her large lead meant only that people were seeing her face more on TV? That there was no real substantive connection between Meg and Republican voters, no real loyalty of any depth?

If her support was just inch-deep, should she have been given all the political accoutrements of a front-runner all these months? Should she have been able to wrap herself in an impetentrable shield that is usually accorded a popular incumbent, rather than a first-time candidate who had to prove herself by facing up to tough questions and vigorous opposition?

Maybe she was within rights — 50 points is 50 points, no matter how thin — to take the front-runner’s lap, a luxurious waltz down the gilded path. But now that Poizner might be showing some signs of life, and Republican voters appear ready to take a closer look — you can thank Poizner’s most recent ads roughing up Whitman on immigration and her previous support for liberal U.S. Sen Barbara Boxer for jolting GOPers out of their stupor — maybe the media will clear its jaundiced eye and begin to take the race seriously.

And perhaps Whitman will actually engage Poizner. The first signs of vulnerability appeared when she went after Poizner with her own attack ads harkening back to his support for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race.

Who knows? If her internal polls start showing further shrinkage — it will probably take a second poll cycle to solidify the perception of a shift —  maybe it will be Whitman calling for an extra debate or two. Perhaps, there could be an invite to Jerry Brown, for that stunt three-way, in the offing. Precipitous drops have a way of humbling candidates — perhaps even billionaire ex-CEOs.

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Obama to visit Bay Area on Boxer’s behalf

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s re-election campaign has just announced that President Barack Obama will visit the Bay Area next month to attend a joint fundraising event for her campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, much as he did yesterday in Los Angeles for Boxer and the Democratic National Committee to the tune of an estimated $3.5 million.

Per the Los Angeles Times, President Obama and Boxer spoke at two receptions at the California Science Center at Exposition Park, where donors had paid from $100 to $2,500 to attend; they later headlined a dinner at the Museum of Natural History, where tickets went for $35,200 per couple.

No word yet on the date and place for next month’s Bay Area visit, but stay tuned here…

UPDATE @ 2:48 P.M.: This just in from Republican National Committee spokesman Jahan Wilcox: “The jet fumes of Air Force One haven’t even cleared and already Barbara Boxer is begging for an encore. Obviously the internals in the Boxer campaign indicate that she is going to have the fight of her political career.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Criticizing stunts is a dangerous field

It may well be that Jerry Brown’s call over the weekend for three-way pre-primary debates was a stunt, which is what Meg Whitman’s team called it after refusing to accept the offer. But for the Whitman camp to call anything a stunt with a straight face struck Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer as darkly ironic.

“Whitman has spent more than $50 million in an unprecedented barrage of slick TV ads,” Glazer said in an e-mail missive sent out late Monday. “From the fake town hall she filmed for her infomercial (coming soon to a station near you) to the 48-page photo album she calls a ‘plan’ and using a business group as a front for attack ads, Meg Whitman has run a campaign wholly based on stunts.”

Glazer appealed once again for her to accept the debate offer, knowing full well the utility of the offer is simply to deepen the impression that Whitman’s campaign is acting more like a marketing firm building a brand than a campaign aiding sober candidate seeking office.

“Meg Whitman should come out from behind her million-dollar ads to have a real conversation in front of the voters,” Glazer said.

Brown’s debate gambit was a hit partly because it caught everyone by surprise — Democratic delegates, Whitman, the media, lobbyists, consultants and anyone else you can think of who’s actually paying attention to the campaign this early.

But the true value of the offer may be that it reinforces the populist theme that Brown will likely ride for the entire campaign: that the billionaire ex-CEO of eBay and Wall Street executive is hiding behind glossy ads and the machinations of her high-priced consultants in an attempt to buy the election.

Of course, the danger in creating such a shallow image of Whitman is that the bar will be so low that when she finally does get on stage with Brown (assuming she gets past Steve Poizner in the primary) and can actually string a sentence together without sounding like a blue blood (George W. Bush pulled it off, didn’t he?), the  caricature will collapse.

It’s a fine line, but Brown’s campaign is betting that voters’ resentment of Wall Street CEOs will be the undercurrent that carries him.

Posted on Monday, April 19th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Fact-checking Carly Fiorina’s phoner

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina held a conference call with reporters a short while ago to trash-talk President Barack Obama’s visit to California today to raise money for incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., but not all of her facts stand up to scrutiny.

“The president is out here today because Barbara Boxer is vulnerable and the Democratic establishment is working overtime to prop her up in a way it has never done before,” Fiorina said, noting that along with last week’s announcement that Dianne Feinstein is chairing Boxer’s re-election campaign, “we are witnessing a rescue mission in action.”

Fiorina then said Boxer is vulnerable due to policies such as health care reform – “a cynical and partisan piece of work that was hastily written” – that President Obama has pushed with her support. But Fiorina doesn’t seem to grasp where most Californians stand on this. A Field Poll last month – just before the legislation passed – showed voters evenly split in their assessment of Obama’s handling of the issue of health care (45 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving), an improvement from January when more voters disapproved by a 53 percent to 39 percent margin. Even the latest poll from the somewhat rightward-leaning Rasmussen Reports shows that support for the health care reform plan is stronger in California than it is nationwide, with 50 percent of California voters thinking it’ll be good for the country – that’s 11 points higher than results found on the national level – while 41 percent think it’ll be bad.

Fiorina also noted public frustration over a national debt that has reached record levels under President Obama, yet failed to mention that the debt grew from about $5.73 trillion to about $10.63 trillion under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, due in part to his tax cuts for the wealthy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fiorina challenged Obama and Boxer to explain to voters exactly how the economic stimulus bill they championed is helping California. But Boxer has been proudly doing that for about a year; her website is replete with pages and news releases touting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s tax relief, infrastructure spending and job creation for Californians.

Fiorina cited California’s still-high unemployment rate, 12.6 percent. But as the Obama supporters at Organizing for America would note:

jobs graph

“I don’t think the people of California are in any mood to extend Barbara Boxer’s contract to work for them in Washington to 34 years when her first 28 have been a total failure,” Fiorina concluded, saying she believes Californians are “angry and frustrated that these policies will do nothing but feed the growth of government by increasing taxes and costing jobs.”

I asked her how President Obama’s fundraising for Boxer is any more desperate than the fundraising that U.S. Sen. John McCain, whom California and U.S. voters rejected in Obama’s favor just 18 months ago, did for Fiorina here in California just two weeks ago.

“I think the president’s time is quite a bit different than any senator’s time,” she replied, noting she’s embroiled in a heated primary while Obama is stumping for Boxer way before the general election season. “I think his visit speaks for itself and I think the polls speak for themselves too.”

But those polls look better for Tom Campbell, Fiorina’s GOP primary rival, and for Boxer than they do for Fiorina.

Posted on Monday, April 19th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, U.S. Senate | 13 Comments »

CD11: NRCC covering its bases

The National Republican Campaign Committee sent three nearly identical email news  releases announcing that three of the four GOP 11th Congressional District primary candidates have been placed on its “On the Radar” list.

Elizabeth Emken of Danville, Brad Goehring of Clements and David Harmer of Dougherty Valley can each claim inclusion. There is no mention of Tony Amador of Lodi, the fourth Republican on the ballot.

Here’s the fill-in-the-blank quote from the NRCC:

The NRCC is committed to working with CANDIDATE as HE/SHE continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions. “CANDIDATE’S record as an accomplished, independent leader who will fight to create jobs and rein in government spending puts HIM/HER in a position to succeed in this election. I am confident that Republicans will wage a strong fight against Jerry McNerney, a loyal Democrat who has repeatedly put his partisan agenda before a healthy economy.”

The “On the Radar” is a lower level of recognition in the NRCC’s “Young Guns” candidate promotion program, a fundraising tool. Most of the “Young Guns” are Republicans running in uncontested primaries. But the “On the Radar” list includes a number of candidates competing with each other in congressional districts across the country.

Probably not coincidentally, the announcement comes after the latest campaign finance reports released last week, where Harmer, Goehring and Emken ranked one, two and three, respectively, in raising money.

Here is a money breakdown by candidate:

Harmer, attorney, Dougherty Valley: Total raised — $390,595. Cash on hand — $326,699. Debts — $60,478. Total contributions include $1,606 from candidate. Total raised other than from candidate — $388,989.

Goehring, owner, Goehring Vineyards Inc., Clements: Total raised — $1.4 million.  Total expenditures — $297,565.  Cash on hand — $437,228. Debts — $456,678. Total contributions includes $1.07 million* in loans from candidate. Total raised other than from candidate — $285,357. (*Goehring has repaid $625,000 of his campaign loan, for a net personal contribution of $450,000.)

Emken, former government relations director at Autism Speaks and financial manager at IBM, Danville: Total raised–  $506,137. Total expenditures — $152,087. Cash on hand — $253,049. Debts — $200,000. Total contributions include $300,000* from candidate. Total raised other than from candidate — $206,137. (*Emken has repaid her campaign $100,000, for a net personal contribution of $200,000.)

Amador, retired U.S. Marshal, Lodi: Total raised — $176,482. Total expenditures — $94,640. Cash on hand — $81,593. Debt — $62,010. The total raised includes $63,256 from the candidate. Total raised other than from candidate — $126,197.

Posted on Monday, April 19th, 2010
Under: congressional district 11, Republican Party | No Comments »

Brown, holding forth

 It’s an axiom that if you get Jerry Brown to talk long enough, you’ll end up with mind-stretching stuff, or at least the kind of material that his opponents will try to use to resurrect the specter of Governor Moonbeam.

Brown stopped by the press briefing room for a midafternoon chat Friday with some press folks at the Los Angeles Marriott on the first day of the state Democratic Party’s annual convention. Here are some passages:

Brown, in responding to a question about whether fundamental reform is necessary in California’s government:

“I’m wary about fundamental changes. Have you ever tried fundamental change yourself? I have and it doesn’t work very well. Fundamental change of oneself, one’s body, one’s spirit, or in the body politics is a mistake. I think incremental change consistently worked on is the way forward.”

I didn’t get to ask what fundamental change he tried that didn’t work, but my first thought was the Buddhist Temple he lived at for months during the 1980s. But the key message was his conservativek minimalist approach to change — in keeping with his view of government.

Brown spoke with a liberal’s expansive heart on education, saying that overcoming failing schools begins with addressing economic inequities  — not stricter testing standards.

“If you go to a place where there’s a single parent where they’re making in a year what some of the candidates are paying their consultants in a week — these families are in distress and these kids show up and they don’t have a big appetite for algebra or chemistry and that is difficult. Where, as a family that has a good solid job and a future and a pension, health care, they’re doing a lot better.

“It’s a myth,” he continued, “to say you can increase inequality, you can export millions of jobs and then, through a testing regime, you can reverse the devastation of joblessness. (Understanding this is) something the Democratic party has always stood for … and that certainly would be my spirit.

“There’s a lot of stress out there, and that’s what we’ve got to deal with. It means you need good jobs. You can’t try to weaken the trade union movement. They’re an important player. You need to have a vibrant public sector within a very vibrant private sector. That’s really my theme.”

Brown might veer from Democratic leadership, which is pushing the ballot measure that would eliminate the two-thirds vote on budgets. He already opposes, as do Democratic leaders, eliminating a two-thirds vote on taxes.

“If you have the majority to spend, but two-thirds to raise revenue, will that exacerbate our problems?” he asked. “I kind of like the idea. I see the attractiveness. But … if you lower one but don’t lower the other, you can increase spending.”

On whether he should start spending money now on campaign ads:

“I can tell you September and October are key months in the campaign. I can tell you that and you can write it down in your book and you can feel very confident that what I say is true. Now does that mean that something that happens in May might not (have an impact on the race)? No.”

And, here’s an echange between a reporter and Brown on whether he harkened back to the past too often:

“Is there a fine line between talking about your experience?”

“Yes, there’s a fine line, and we’ve probably exceeded it. I won’t talk anymore about it. Thanks for reminding me.”

For more on the Democratic convention, here’s my story.

Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Garamendi pushes for Highway 4 money

It’s YouTube meets Earmarks.

Rep. John  Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has posted a YouTube video of his testimony in Washington, D.C., before the House Appropriations Committee where he speaks in favor of sending $40 million to Contra Costa for Highway 4 expansion.

Garamendi has submitted 22 earmark requests, which he lists on his web site. He barred from consideration all requests directly from for-profit companies, a source of frequent consternation for other colleagues who receive campaign contributions from people tied to earmarks.

Of course, asking and getting are two different things. Every member of Congress has a big list of his or her own.

For the masochistic wonks out there, click through for Garamendi’s full news release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010
Under: Congressional District 10, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Transportation | No Comments »