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Archive for September, 2010

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.

Posted on Monday, September 27th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 24 Comments »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Republican Party | 3 Comments »

AG candidates spar over abortion rights

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for state Attorney General, held a news conference this morning to call upon her Republican opponent – Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley – to clarify his position on abortion rights.

Cooley “has consistently refused” to state his position, Harris’ campaign said in a news release, citing his refusal to answer NARAL Pro-Choice California’s questionnaire.

“NARAL Pro-Choice California is proud to endorse Kamala Harris for Attorney General. She will continue her long record of leadership to protect the right of women and their families to make personal, private decisions,” NARAL director Amy Everitt said in Harris’ news release. “California needs an Attorney General who is not afraid to lead, and who can take the time to return a phone call or fill out a questionnaire about one of the most important and fundamental rights that the A.G. has jurisdiction over. And California needs an A.G. who understands that choice is not a partisan issue. Steve Cooley has been silent on where he stands on a woman’s right to chose despite numerous phone calls, emails and letters.”

Harris’ camp says the state attorney general has statutory duties dealing with abortion rights, including implementation of new regulations surrounding federal health-care reform, enforcement of the California Freedom of Access to Clinic and Church Entrances (FACE) Act, enforcement of California’s laws ensuring timely access to emergency contraception, and more.

Steve CooleyBut Cooley’s campaign says her accusations are a load of balderdash: “The only problem with the latest Harris attack is that Steve Cooley is pro-choice. He’s always been pro-choice. Even worse, Kamala Harris knows it.”

Cooley’s news release says he didn’t answer NARAL’s questionnaire because it’s not a neutral organization “whatever claims they’ll make,” and “could be counted on to attack Cooley regardless of what our campaign did or didn’t say. Today’s presser proves it.”

“The bottom line: the trailing Harris is desperately trying to change the topic from her poor record on public safety and lack of support from law enforcement to something else. Anything else. So she is trying to manufacture phony issues with remarkably lame attacks,” Cooley’s camp claimed.

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley | 5 Comments »

Embattled child care groups take to the streets

Legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger say they’ve reached agreement on the framework for a budget deal that could be brought to a vote as early as next week.

And Bay Area child development centers say they’d damned well better see it through.

Agencies are taking to the streets next Wednesday, Sept. 29 for a march and rally to highlight how state-funded childcare agencies across California are scrambling to survive; the state hasn’t paid them since July 1, and their reserves and credit lines are quickly running out. And for many parents, no childcare means no work.

4C’s of Alameda County, BAHIA Inc., Bananas Inc., Child Care Links, Emergency Shelter Program, Estrella Family Services, Martinez Early Childhood Center, Parent Voices, San Jose Day Nursery and others will participate in the event, starting with an 8 a.m. march of an estimated 1,000 people along Mission Blvd. in Fremont, from the Fremont Sports Complex and to Fremont BART. These childcare providers, teachers, administrators, parents and children will then take BART to downtown Oakland for a noon rally at the Elihu M. Harris State Building on Clay Street.

Fremont-based Kidango is taking it a step further by actually closing its 41 child development centers in 10 Bay Area cities next Wednesday.

This “Closure for a Cause” is “a drastic action, as it interrupts the continuity of care of over 2,000 children and their families and incurs additional costs for the agency,” Kidango said in its news release. “Additionally, the private sector will be impacted, as parents will not be able to attend work, without their childcare. Kidango believes that drastic action is needed, as the voice of the childcare industry must be heard by the Sacramento politicians who are holding the most vulnerable people in California hostage.”

The situation is dire. BAHIA, one of the East Bay’s only Spanish bilingual child care programs, announced to parents this week that it would close on October 15 if a budget isn’t passed. And Oakland’s 24-Hour Child Development Center might be done sooner than that.

“And, by the way, the state child care licensing system has severely curtailed their activities and will no longer be accepting new applications from centers or family child care providers who want to get licensed to do child care,” said Arlyce Currie, program director at Bananas Inc., Northern Alameda County’s child care resource and referral service since 1973. “The infrastructure is crumbling.”

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2010
Under: state budget | 1 Comment »

Where to watch or hear the gubernatorial debate

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown and Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman will meet for their first debate at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the University of California, Davis’ Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The debate is sponsored by Capital Public Radio, KCRA-TV (NBC) Sacramento, The Sacramento Bee and UC Davis; Southern California partners are Southern California Public Radio and La Opinión.

UC Davis will stream the debate live on the web, or you can see it live on KCRA, or you can listen in on Capital Public Radio.

Or, if you’re wanting to watch it with a crowd, political junkies of all stripes can drop in at the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies, 109 Moses Hall, at 6 p.m. to see the debate on a big screen and enjoy some light refreshments.

The San Mateo County Democratic Party and the California Teachers Association will gather to watch the debate on a big screen in the CTA’s main conference center, 1705 Murchison Dr. in Burlingame; doors open at 5 p.m. for refreshments, socializing and a brief meeting. For more details, call the county party headquarters at 650-581-1350.

I looked on the Republican central committee websites for Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco counties, as well as the Bay Area GOP site, but I found no mention of any Republican watch parties.

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2010
Under: 2010 governor's race, Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman | 8 Comments »

New poll numbers on Prop. 19

The campaign for Proposition 19 – the measure on California’s ballot next month that would legalize marijuana cultivation, possession and use – is citing new poll numbers it says show the measure is favored to pass.

From Public Policy Polling:

PPP continues to find Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in California, favored to pass. The margin in this week’s poll is 47/38 in favor, which does represent a tightening since July when we found it ahead 52/36. One thing that’s interesting about the marijuana polling is that it really doesn’t break down along party lines to the same extent most of the things we poll do. 56 percent of Democrats support it to 28 percent opposed and 30 percent of Republicans support it with 57 percent opposed. That’s a lot more division within the ranks of both parties than we’re seeing on a lot of stuff.

The PPP poll surveyed 630 likely California voters from September 14 through 16; the poll has a 3.9-percentage-point margin of error.

And from Survey USA:

Support for Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana and allow for its regulation and taxation, also remains essentially unchanged over the past 3 weeks. Today, 47 percent (of likely voters) vote “Yes” on 19, 42 percent vote “No.” Opposition to 19 is above 50 percent among conservatives, Republicans, tea party supporters, pro-life voters, and the oldest voters. Support is above 50 percent among men, younger voters, liberals, Democrats, pro-choice voters, higher-income voters, and in the Bay Area.

SurveyUSA – commissioned by KABC-TV Los Angeles, KPIX-TV San Francisco, KGTV-TV San Diego, and KFSN-TV Fresno – surveyed 1,000 California adults Sept. 19 through 21; 850 of them were registered to vote, and 610 of those were deemed likely to vote in next month’s election. The likely voters subset has a 4-percentage-point margin of error.

Prop. 19’s proponents are spinning this as good news, as the yesses outnumber the noes, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

Neither of these polls show the measure with more than 50 percent; the conventional wisdom is that a California ballot measure needs to be showing at well over a simple majority in the polls leading up to Election Day, as the election results typically underperform the polls. Prop. 19’s backers believe there’s a vast, untapped young electorate out there which will come to the ballot boxes in droves in order to support this measure; they’re very proud, for example, that the “Yes on 19” Facebook page has 177,836 friends. But not all of those friends are Californians or voters, and I’ll believe the invisible tide theory when I see it happen.

Also, the PPP poll shows the percentage of likely voters supporting Prop. 19 has slipped five percentage points since July, while the percentage opposed has grown by two percentage points; the SurveyUSA poll shows support has remained flat in recent weeks. Neither shows the kind of trending that would be good news for the measure, especially given the fact that the “Yes on 19” campaign hasn’t racked up many big-ticket donations (though it did get $50,000 this week from Facebook and Asana cofounder Dustin Moskovitz of San Francisco) and so probably can’t afford much of an ad blitz in the final weeks before the election.

Posted on Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, marijuana | 42 Comments »

Political events roundup

Check out these upcoming political events in Contra Costa County:


Candidates for Martinez mayor and City Council will participate in an Oct. 5 breakfast forum sponsored by the Martinez Chamber of Commerce.

Mayoral candidates include incumbent Mayor Rob Schroder and challengers Michael Alford, Ed McGee and John Fitzgerald.

Council candidates seeking two open seats include incumbents Lara DeLaney and Michael Menesini, along with challengers Gay Gerlack, Scott Alstad and Kathi McLaughlin.

Contra Costa Times political editor Lisa Vorderbrueggen will moderate the free and public event, which begins at 7 a.m. at the Martinez Adult Education auditorium, 600 F St., Martinez.

Vorderbrueggen will ask the candidates questions on major town issues, and residents are invited to submit questions in advance to the chamber via e-mail at or at the event.

Allied Waste and Marty O’s will supply a continental breakfast.

For more information, visit or call 925-228-2345.


The Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center seeks nominations for its annual peace and justice award.

Last year’s winners included Arne Westerback, Sheila Pedersen, Barbara and Ed Tonningsen, Louise Clark and Bob Hanson.

To be eligible, an individual or group must be based in Contra Costa County, address a local peace or social justice need, show evidence of long-term commitment and leads and motivate others to participate.

Download a nomination form at The deadline is Oct. 28.

Winners will be honored at the Give Peace a Dinner Dance on Nov. 13.

The gala features a full-course gourmet meal, raffle prizes and dancing to the Big Bang Beat.

Tickets are $60 for the public and $50 for m embers, and can be purchased at or 925-933-7850.


Fred LaCosse, producer of dramatized talks with the nation’s Founding Fathers, is the featured speaker at the Oct. 20 dinner meeting of the Ygnacio Valley Republican Women Federated.

The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Oakhurst Country Club 1001 Peacock Creek Road in Clayton.

The cost is $35. For reservations, contact Barbara Allen at 925-672-5061 or e-mail


State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is the featured speaker at the Oct. 1 luncheon of the Contra Costa Council.

DeSaulnier will offer an update on the California budget and other state matters.

The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 45 John Glenn Drive in Concord.

The cost is $35 for council members and $45 for others. Download the reservation and payment form by Sept. 28 at or e-mail For more information, call 925-674-1654.


Kevin McGary, author of “Instanity!”, a book on communicating conservative values, is the featured speaker of the Oct. 7 evening meeting of the Blackhawk Republican Women.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Blackhawk Country Club, 599 Blackhawk Club Drive in Danville.

The cost is $25 and includes hors d’oeuvres and no-host cocktails.

To reserve a seat, send a check payable to Blackhawk Republican Women, Federated by Oct. 5 to Mrs. Wright, 2000 Victorine Road, Livermore, CA 94551-9400. For information, contact Wright at or 925-828-0771.


Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will lead an Oct. 2 rally and precinct walk of the West County Democrats.

The “Walk the Talk” event will start at 10 a.m. at the Democratic Party’s offices at 11760 San Pablo Ave., Suite A, in El Cerrito.

Volunteers will walk neighborhoods and deliver door hangers followed by a barbecue at the offices.

For more information, call 510-395-4823.

Posted on Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Political events | 2 Comments »

O’Malley earns high-profile endorsements



In a high-profile but partisan-flavored move, Democratic Reps. George Miller and John Garamendi have endorsed Contra Costa District Attorney candidate Dan O’Malley.

The District Attorney seat is nonpartisan but O’Malley is a Democrat and his opponent, Mark Peterson, is a Republican. Both parties view even nonpartisan posts as key to building a bench for partisan candidates and typically promote the candidates of their respective branches.

On the other hand, O’Malley has plenty of Republican endorsements including those of outgoing District Attorney Bob Kochly, Sheriff Warren Rupf, Supervisor Mary Piepho and former GOP state Sen. Richard Rainey.

Read through for the full press release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 6 Comments »

Brown has new ad attacking Whitman for tax plans

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has come out with a new ad today, and he takes a big populist swing at Meg Whitman, his Republican opponent.

Brown takes aim at Whitman’s wealth, saying her economic plan would not only help her wealthy friends but herself, too. He has made it a point in previous comments that he believes her plan to eliminate the capital gains tax is the “worst case” of conflict interest in a campaign that he’s ever seen.

He effectively uses experts and media reports in the ad to show that her plan would blow a hole through the state deficit, already at $19 billion. Eliminating the capital gains tax, he has said, will cost $5 billion in a bad year and $10 billion in a good year.

The most effective line, courtesy of a Los Angeles Times analysis, is that her plan is a “pure handout to the rich.”

The ad, by the way, comes less than a week away from the first debate between Brown and Whitman. It’s an attempt to take ahold of the narrative after the infamous Bill Clinton ad (still on the air) drove the campaign chatter for a couple weeks.

It also comes on the same day the Whitman campaign released a new positive ad. It will presumably (checking) run concurrently with the Clinton ad, though it is doubtful it will get the same run.

Interestingly, in Whitman’s new ad, which touts her plan to restore California’s economy, there is no mention of her plan to eliminate the capital gains tax.

Posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

CD11: McNerney fires back at Harmer

In the latest television ad in the 11th Congressional District race, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney is hitting GOP opponent David Harmer on the challenger’s occupation as a former lawyer in the banking industry.

The Democrat hopes to paint Harmer as shady lawyer who engaged in unscrupulous predatory lending practices and benefited from federal bailout program that the Republican now opposes.

While many may view a lawyer who worked for a credit card company as unworthy of admiration or a vote, McNerney’s claims fall considerably short of the truth. Here’s fact-check.

What it says: “The file on David Harmer isn’t pretty.
A corporate lawyer for a credit card company fined millions
Even deceiving seniors. An executive for predatory lenders.”

Is it true? Yes, Harmer’s employer engaged in nefarious practices for which it paid fines but Harmer had nothing to do with them. Harmer did not join Providian until September 2001, a year after the company paid a $305 million fine related to charges that it tricked customers into buying products they did not want. For example, Providian approved credit cards for poor people and subsequently imposed fees and limits that trapped them into debts they could never repay.

Harmer says he was part of the clean-up team hired to whip the company into shape. “It was unconscionable what (prior Providian managers) did,” Harmer said. “The entire top management tier was fired and replaced. But I was part of the solution.”

Undeniably, media and regulatory investigations into the entire credit card industry in recent years has revealed a number of predatory practices such as excessive interest rates and a failure to disclose to customers that making minimum payments would never allow retirement of the debt.

But blaming Harmer for an entire industry’s failings is at least as questionable as blaming McNerney for every one of Congress’ shortcomings.

What it says: “…  Harmer’s bank got billions from the Wall Street bank bail out.”

Is it true? Yes, JPMorgan Chase received federal bailout money but there is no evidence that Harmer benefited from it.

Providian was sold to Washington Mutual, where Harmer continued to work as a vice president and associate lawyer in its credit card division. When Washington Mutual’s home lending division bankrupted the company, federal regulators orchestrated a purchase by JPMorgan Chase in September 2008, Within a few months, JPMorgan closed down the credit card division and Harmer was laid off in January 2009. He was paid $485,779 between Jan. 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009, in salary, severance and bonuses.

JPMorgan received received $25 billion from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program roughly two weeks after the FDIC conducted the sale of Washington Mutual. But there is no evidence that JPMorgan Chase, which had just bought Bear Stearns, needed or used the TARP funds to buy Washington Mutual or pay the salaries or severance packages of Harmer and the other employees the new owner sent packing.

JPMorgan Chase repaid the TARP money with interest as soon as federal authorities allowed it.

Here is the ad:

Posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 27 Comments »