Forest Baker’s 15 minutes of fame?

I received the following missive today from Forest Baker, the Republican nominee to challenge Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 13th Congressional District. Is he feeling bitter? Sanguine? Gloomy? Jocular? I’m not entirely sure:

Forest BakerWe were told several months ago by one of the senior political journalists here in the Bay Area that “Forest Baker might be the best politician in America since Ronald Reagan… but he won’t get elected as a Republican in Congressional District 13, so it really doesn’t matter.”

In the artist, writer and fashion designer communities there is always an urge to discover the next emerging star. It is part of the American myth that anyone might aspire to such greatness. Andy Warhol made great fun of such possibilities by declaring that eventually everyone would become world famous for exactly 15 minutes. Other deep thinkers are somewhat more cynical.

During the 1960’s it became popular to imagine that anyone who could stretch a canvas and hold a paint-brush could declare himself to be an artist and he would indeed be creating art…no matter how untrained he was. His work was classified as naïve and if he was astoundingly charming then he might get a show in New York. Sometimes he was a one-trick pony with one thing that was pretty interesting. More often he was nice to look at and enjoyable to talk to. The art press would fawn over him for one season and then he would disappear. This went on for a number of years but we don’t do that so much with painters today.

Similarly, professional writers who make their living (with a day job) as journalists have been hard put upon when their newspapers and magazines have suffered from competition with the new social media and the bloggers. Happily, blogging is in decline as readers have grown exhausted with the total rubbish these angry fringe dwellers insinuate into the national conversation. And we yearn for the intelligent prose of the professional writers once more.

Emerging fashion designers are in the worst spot of all. They occupy a position in the industrial foodchain where they create margin (profit) opportunities for the factories managers who manufacture their goods and for the boutique owners who take their stuff on consignment. However, there is no place for them to actually make any money themselves. Therefore, they literally always fail in two years and are replaced by the next crop of aspiring young design school graduates bankrolled by Daddy.

The fashion magazine editors understand how this business works, yet they are tasked with validating their glowing reviews of those established brands that purchase $75,000 full page ads… by talking excitedly about fresh designers every month. But it does not matter one little bit: who. So they “discover” someone attractive and charming, usually fresh out of one of the important design schools and sometimes the American myth engages so that a total amateur with no formal training but who is making handbags out of duct-tape and safety-pins will be featured on the pages of Lucky Magazine just as if she had some idea of what she was doing. Because it just doesn’t matter. A young designer could be the next Coco Chanel. But if she is living in a loft in Williamsburg and she is not working for Gucci then her stuff is never going to get into Barneys and it just doesn’t matter. She might just as well be working in duct-tape instead of leather as far as the people at Conde Nast are concerned.

So here we are in Bay Area politics… dominated by the Democrats and with Republican politicians operating out in the radical fringe. Your business at the newspaper is to entertain readers. Charming candidates, validating the myth that anyone here in America can do anything at all, if he wants it bad enough and in spite of the fact that he only just recently thought about politics and otherwise never prepared himself to do any of the actual work. In the year of the Tea Party that story has traction and entertainment value. People want to believe that populist politicians… however painfully naïve… are competitive. It’s not true, of course, but it doesn’t really matter if Yves Saint Laurent is going to win on November 2nd anyway.

The 13th Congressional District – which includes Alameda, Fremont, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro and Union City as well as the unincorporated San Lorenzo area, much of Sunol and part of Cherryland – is registered about 54.07 percent Democrat, 16.83 percent Republican and 24.58 percent decline-to-state. Stark’s closest electoral race was his first, in 1972, when he won 52.9 percent of the vote; he has received more than 70 percent of the general election vote in each of his last six re-elections.


U.S. Chamber launches new ad against Boxer

On the eve of the second debate between U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Republican senatorial nominee Carly Fiorina, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today launched a “28 Years of Barbara Boxer” television ad in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California to highlight the incumbent’s “tax-and-spend voting record, which has helped drive away California jobs,” according to the chamber’s news release.

“America is going broke because Barbara Boxer has voted to raise taxes and add trillions to the national debt during her nearly three decades in Washington,” said Bill Miller, the chamber’s national political director. “Her burdensome policies are making California businesses less competitive, costing the state jobs.”

“If you want to know why California can’t create or keep new jobs, the answer lies at the doorstep of career politicians like Barbara Boxer,” he said. “Our ad reminds Californians of Boxer’s anti-jobs record and urges the Senator to stop supporting ballooning budget deficits.”

The union-backed U.S. Chamber Watch issued a statement today saying that, “As usual, it turns out the ad is just an empty political attack reel at the behest of anonymous corporate interests and the shadow Republican Party. The Chamber’s attacks on Boxer simply reflect its own agenda.”

U.S. Chamber Watch’s release said the chamber supported policies that led to the financial crisis, such as softening derivatives regulation; supports extension of all of the Bush tax cuts, which would add to the federal deficit; fought health care reform; and opposed both a bill to crack down on off-shoring of U.S. jobs as well as the “Buy American” provisions of the 2010 jobs bill.

The chamber had launched other ads attacking Boxer earlier this month, airing in Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and San Diego.

Meanwhile, the “Vota Tus Valores” (“Vote Your Values”) 10-day statewide bus tour of Latino community leaders supporting Fiorina will be in the East Bay even as the debate occurs tomorrow:

  • Noon – Concord Community Park
  • 1:30 PM – Main St & Navy Way in Alameda
  • 3:15 PM – Hillview Park in San Jose
  • 4:45 PM – Central Park in San Mateo
  • A Field Poll released Friday found Boxer leads Fiorina among Latino likely voters, 48 percent to 29 percent, with 23 percent undecided; that’s a wider margin than Boxer’s lead among all likely voters, which was 47 percent to 41 percent with 12 percent undecided.


    AD15: GOP drops cash on Wilson





    The California Republican Party dropped a total of $142,000 today and Friday into the candidacy of GOP Assembly candidate Abram Wilson, according to state campaign filings of contributions in excess of $5,000.

    I’ve been wondering when someone was going to spend some money on this race, viewed as one of the most competitive of Assembly contests in the state.

    In 2008, Wilson and the successful Democratic nominee, Joan Buchanan, and their respective supporters, spent a staggering $3.4 million.

    And now, here it almost October and voting by mail starts Monday, and the money adds up to just under $1 million combined between the two candidates.

    It’s expected to be a tough year for Democratic incumbents. The state still doesn’t have an approved budget. The economy is in the dumps. People are angry and frustrated with political gridlock in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

    But Buchanan has a couple of things going for her in the 15th District.

    The Democratic Party’s registration lead over Republicans has expanded to 6 percentage points, up from 1.7 points in 2008. If Democrats show up to the polls, and that’s not a sure thing, she will have an advantage.

    Buchanan, of Alamo, could also benefit from the fact that her opponent is the mayor of San Ramon, a city that pays its manager, Herb Moniz, more than any other city executive in California, according to a recent League of Cities compensation survey. (Three other cities reported higher total payments in 2009 than San Ramon but the figures included retirement payouts.)

    Wilson has steadfastly defended Moniz’ pay, citing San Ramon’s solid fiscal standing as just one example of the executive’s valuable skills. The mayor also accurately notes that the compensation figures were self-reported to the league and many did not include health insurance and other benefits, making direct comparisons difficult.

    Nonetheless, in the wake of the Bell scandal, where the city manager earned $800,000 a year and he, along with a half-dozen individuals, were indicted on criminal charges related to misuse of public funds, the voters are undeniably sensitive to the issue.


    Steve Cooley swipes at Jerry Brown, CARB chair

    I spoke today with Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Republican nominee for California attorney general, for an article on the AG’s race that we’ll run in the next few weeks. During that chat, he took a dual shot at current Attorney General Jerry Brown – also the Democratic gubernatorial nominee – and California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols.

    Steve CooleyCooley was speaking about the role he believes the attorney general should take in setting and enforcing policies that don’t hinder job creation and economic development; he said businesses too often get negativity from state agencies and end up delaying their development or settling in other states as a result.

    I asked him if he was saying the attorney general shouldn’t enforce the law of the land, including environmental protections and business code laws, especially as he’d just asserted to me the importance of the attorney general enforcing existing law as it pertains to same-sex marriage. He acknowledged the AG must enforce the law, but said those laws must be examined to make sure they’re applied in a fair, unbiased manner without conflicting messages between state agencies.

    I noted that the AG’s office doesn’t necessarily have dominion over how all state agencies enforce the regulations they promulgate; as an example I cited the various bodies enforcing air-quality regulations. He seized upon that, and called out Brown for failing to dig into what he says could’ve been malfeasance at CARB.

    In a nutshell, CARB staffer Hien Tran – who authored a statistical study on diesel soot effects on which the board was basing stringent, controversial new regulations – lied about where he’d obtained his Ph.D. Per the San Francisco Chronicle last December:

    State researchers must redo a report that concluded 3,500 people prematurely die each year due to diesel pollution – a finding that was used to justify imposing the nation’s strictest regulations on diesel engines.

    The California Air Resources Board ordered a new report after the employee who wrote it was found to have lied about his academic credentials. That decision was made Wednesday after an air board hearing on the rules, which critics want to delay because of concerns over the cost of retrofitting and replacing the polluting engines.

    The head of the air board, Mary Nichols, apologized for not telling all board members about the problem with the report’s author, Hien Tran, who claimed he had a doctorate in statistics from UC Davis, when he actually had obtained the degree from an unaccredited distance learning school. Nichols knew about the problem before the board voted on the regulation.

    Tran has since been demoted. One air board member asked that the regulations be suspended, but that idea was turned down.

    Cooley today said Brown should’ve jumped in.

    “This is a person who falsified his credentials and Mary Nichols concealed that from the Air Resources Board … a major bureaucratic failing on her part, not to notify people who had to make policy decisions based on her report,” he said. “Jerry Brown just looked the other way, I’d have been knocking at her door asking questions.”

    Brown’s office at first said he was unavailable until 5 p.m. today, so I told them I wait until 6 p.m. before posting this; they then said a few minutes ago that they still couldn’t reach him, so they’d decline to comment.

    An e-mail sent to CARB earlier this afternoon wasn’t answered.


    A judge by any other name?





    Contra Costa District Attorney candidate Mark Peterson is asking a court to bar his opponent’s use of the title “judge” from campaign materials and signs.

    District Attorney candidate Dan O’Malley was a Superior Court judge for just shy of six years before he resigned his judicial position in order to pursue private practice, and ultimately, political office. In a recent press release, O’Malley identified himself as “Judge O’Malley,” followed by a disclaimer of “retired.” His Facebook name is “Judge O’Malley.”

    Once a judge, always a judge?

    O’Malley argues that he is a retired judge. California judges become eligible — or vested — for retirement benefits after serving five years, he said, although they collect a much smaller level than judges who sit for 20 or more years.

    “This is a campaign strategy, a tactic to take up my time and money responding to lawsuits when I could be out making appearances and raising money,” O’Malley said. “If Peterson was so concerned about it, he should have brought it up months ago when we could have resolved in a timely manner.”

    Peterson’s camp views the use of “judge” alone as misleading unless the candidate displays in the same font size the word of “retired” or “former.”

    The timing is critical for O’Malley.

    If he goes ahead and puts out signs and mailers that say “Judge O’Malley,” with a smaller disclaimer, and a judge rules against him, it will hurt his campaign. But if he waits until the case is resolved, he loses valuable time he needs to put his name before voters.

    Vote-by-mail ballots start going out next Monday and it’s unclear when the courts will settle it. O’Malley’s wife is a Contra Costa Superior Court judge, which means the case will have to move out of the county.


    GOP foes will appear together Saturday

    Del Beccar

    Del Beccaro



    The two candidates vying for the chairmanship of the California Republican Party will appear together Saturday at the Republican Round-up, a gathering of GOP candidates at the Livermore ranch of Robert Rao.

    California GOP Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and former Assemblyman Guy Houston, both running for the party’s top job, are scheduled to speak on the future of the GOP.

    I suspect the men will hold hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya, though. Del Beccaro has been running for the chairmanship for several years, while Houston only recently announced plans to usurp the vice chairman’s presumed ascension.

    Rao, an entrepreneur who made his money in the automobile sales business, will host the bash at his spectacular spread in Livermore. (I interviewed Rao at his ranch when he ran, unsuccessfully, in 2008 for the GOP nomination in the Assembly District 15 primary race. And it is a lovely place.)

    The event is open to the public. Read on for details and the list of confirmed attendees, per the Alameda County Republican Party.

    Continue Reading