Democratic endorsements, or the lack thereof

There were some interesting Bay Area results from the California Democratic Party’s “pre-endorsing conferences” this past weekend, at which members of the party’s state central committee, county committees and local Democratic clubs got together to vote on who should get the nod for the June 6 primaries.

A candidate would’ve needed 70 percent of the vote at one of these meetings in order to secure a place on the consent calendar at the state Democratic convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 in San Diego.

In some places, redistricting has pitted former friends and allies against each other; such is the challenge Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is mounting against state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento had signaled his support of Hancock months ago, and – unsurprisingly – I hear she got 136 votes (86 percent) at the local conference while Swanson got only 21. However, I hear Swanson had enough local labor heavy-hitters behind him to guarantee he’ll have some boots on the ground in the run-up to the vote.

Swanson is term-limited out of what has become the new 18th Assembly District, where Democrats including Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal are vying to replace him. Bonta got the most votes but Young trailed just behind, with nobody anywhere close to the 70 percent threshold.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is term-limited out of the new 20th Assembly District, where Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk got the pre-endorsement nod over fellow Democrats Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, and New Haven Unified School District Sarabjit Cheema. (Union City Mark Green ditched his former Democratic affiliation and is running as an independent.)

The only vacant Bay Area House seat is the one created by the impending retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, fired off a news release noting he got 69 votes – more than all the other candidates combined – highlighting “the strong grassroots support of my campaign from throughout this entire district.” But his closest competitor, progressive activist Norm Solomon of Inverness, got 41 votes – enough to block any endorsement in this race.

And in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was solidly endorsed over an upstart challenge by Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. I hear that a staffer for state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, cast her vote for Stark rather than for “no endorsement” – a sign that Corbett, who’d at first said she was raising funds to seek this seat in 2014 but later said she was re-assessing the option of jumping in now, perhaps has decided not to go for it this year. Corbett herself couldn’t cast a ballot, because she doesn’t live within the new district’s lines.

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.

  • Elwood

    “in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was solidly endorsed”

    Yay! Let’s hear it for the 80 year old 39 year incumbent who lives in Virginia and is hardly ever seen in his district and lockstep dimmiecrat stupidity!

  • lars54

    The Stark endorsement is just ridiculous, Stark is 81 years old – not in all that great of health, he spent a month in the hospital last term as I understand it.
    I think it’s time for Stark to hang up cleats. 81 is O-L-D. As I understand it he claims to be running for a final two year term. So he is now lame duck, he will be ignored in the next Congress by fellow Representatives. Normally you let fellow members know you will be leaving at latest possible moment – being a lame duck seriously impacts a Congressman’s clout.
    Stark, however, came up with this final “farewell tour” to placate voters in his district, voters can readily see he’s ancient, that maybe it’s time to go with younger a person in this job, but by hinting that this will be final term Stark can “squeeze” one more term out of skeptical voters. If he’s re-elected, he can then possibly “squeeze” another term our of voters too in the following Congressional term.
    That’s my perception of what’s going on with Pete Stark, bottom line he doesn’t want to leave Congress, even though he’s been in office 40 years. But he has gotten very old – voters can see it – Stark has to deal with this, so he has put together a kind of “long goodbye”. Stark is telling younger aspirants for his job – like Corbett and Rho Khanna “I’ll be out soon, don’t worry, be patient”, but Stark really holds all the cards. If he get’s re-elected this time he can probably squeeze out another term. Basically Stark is planning a lifetime in Congress, whether voters like it or not.
    In fact, it makes no sense to elect the 81 year old Stark to the newly drawn 15th district. This is the time for him to get out, to retire gracefully before mental faculties slip real bad and more serious health problems happen, but Pete Stark just doesn’t want to give up the perks and the bennies of being a Congressman. He’s hooked on being a Congressman, and it doesn’t matter to him that he can barely do the job anymore due to his age and health problems.
    As a prospective constituent of the 15th district I think it’s a bad idea to have an ancient, clout-less, lame duck Congressman going though the motions of the job in his twighlight years. That may be a tough assessment, but that’s my read. In fact, Stark has never been a particularly good Congressman, he’s lazy, flaky, legendary for rarely visiting his district, not highly regarded in DC, prone to make nutty statements and getting in verbal brawls with fellow members.
    Democratic voters, in fact, have another alternative, and that’s 32 year old Dublin Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Erik Swallwell. He’s a heckuva candidate for this job, in my view. Why not elect Swallwell? He’s got strong ties to the district, an impressive resume, he’s a young go-getter, I mean this looks like the better alternative to me than Stark, who wants to stay in Congress just to continue to get in on the perks and bennies.

  • Lars54

    As a follow-up to my remarks I’d like to see Josh Richmond maybe start asking some penetrating questions of Stark for a future story on the Stark-Swallell race. Will this be the 81 year old Stark’s last term if he’s re-elected? Is it a good idea for a Congressman to run for a Congressional term while simultaneously announcing he is leaving? My old professors at Chico State would say no. I think Josh should also ask if Stark’s in good health? People are often in poor health when they are 81, I’ve observed. Another question, is he only running to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker or majority leader? Stark is reliable vote for her, I think. Another question I’d ask is this; if this is going to be his final term, is he going to work hard? I’ve noticed people often goof off on the job after they have given notice, which is what he appears to being doing by hinting this will be final term.
    These issues about Stark’s age and health are highly relevant to his ability to do his job, I think. I recall many years ago when Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas got very old – he had some small strokes – he refused to retire. I recall vividly Douglas being wheeled into the Supreme Courts chambers, he couldn’t really talk anymore, was on oxygen, had a colosotomy. Douglas, despite his health problems, refused to retire. It was a surreal scene, as I remember it. The Supreme Court, of course, is a lifetime job, so those who thought it a good idea Douglas retire could do much about it.
    Fact is, sometimes people don’t want to retire, even when it becomes apparent to everybody they should. Is this what’s going on with Stark? That’s my question. From just looking at things it appears to me Stark is running for another term – a term he claims may be his last – because he thinks he can get away with it. While this is great for Pete, what about us voters. Isn’t this final term for Stark really a kind of golden parachute? I mean if he get’s re-elected, how hard is he going to work?
    I feel real strongly the Times ought to be jamming Stark on all these things, health, age, and so forth, but Josh is just saying stuff like… well Stark has got $800,000 in his campaign coffers, and the state Democratic party has endorsed him (routine for incumbents), he’s got it in the bag, the election of Stark to his 20th term is a lock. It’s all fait acompli, elections don’t matter… As a possible future constituent of Stark I want to know what’s going on here, will our future Congressman be healthy enough to do his job. I’m not the only person to notice how old Stark has gotten. Wouldn’t it be better to have a young guy in the job? I mean the Democratic party isn’t asking these questions, but I am and the CC Times ought to asking them as well.

  • Elwood

    “Wouldn’t it be better to have a young guy in the job?”

    My goodness, what a wonderful idea Lars54.

    Do you have anyone in mind?

  • Truthclubber

    @3 — Lars54 said a mouthful with this revelation, er, slip of the digital tongue:

    “…My old professors at Chico State would say no….”

    That just about says it all about HIS mental clarity to pick winners and losers, I dare say…

  • Lars54

    Elwood, I am a blue collar worker, we have no 81 year old guys working at our plant. I’m one of the oldest guys at 57, that’s just the reality of the work place, me and another guy. They only keep me around because my bosses are big NBA fans, I have bottomless pit of knowledge of NBA trivia. Additionally, I never miss work, some of the young guys sometimes get their paychecks and will go on two day benders, but I never do because I’m leery I can get another job at my age in this market.
    In raising the issue of Stark’s age – 81 – I’m only asking the basic questions any sensible person would ask. Isn’t Stark a little old for Congress? How’s his energy level? Isn’t there a younger guy than can do this job? I mean if I was doing the hiring and I had a pile of applications on my desk I think the 81 year old guys application would not get a lot of consideration.
    I mean Stark wants me to hire him as my next Congressman – in this newly redrawn district – the 15th district which encompasses the tri-valley, Freemont, Hayward, and I am looking him over and thinking to myself, “Let’s go younger”. But the politicians, the newspapers, Politico magazine – they are all claiming Stark is just perfect for the job! I think maybe we need some blue collar sensibility here, which I have.
    Another issue is this. Has Stark or the US Congress done a good job lately? Are they on a roll? Geez, we’ve had this total “wipeout” of the middle class the last decade – Pete Stark’s last five two year terms. Shouldn’t Stark and a lot of other Representatives get a pink slip? I think so. Too many people out of work, to many jobs moved overseas, taxes too low for plutocrats. Let’s get some new blood in Congress.

  • Truthclubber

    @6 —

    Lars54 — so you’re in favor of blatent age discrimination, eh? “I mean if I was doing the hiring and I had a pile of applications on my desk I think the 81 year old guys application would not get a lot of consideration.”

    And yet you fear that others will do unto you what you would willingly do unto others: “I’m leery I can get another job at my age (57) in this market.”

    Man, what a hypocritical, selfish, narrow-minded piece of $#!+, er, work YOU are — some “we are all in this together, brothers and sisters” Democrat YOU are — NOT.


    If you are an example of what Swalwell supporters are like, it’s a cakewalk for Stark this November…

  • Lars54

    TruthClubber, I am not working on any campaign, not Stark’s or Swallwell’s. Let me clear about that. I’m just an interested voter, I’d like to see the Times pay more attention to the Stark -Swalwell race. That’s why I’m blogging on this topic. Normally I blogg only on the 49ers and Warriors, but this Congressional race is really interesting, you have the younger generation challenging the older generation, it’s a classic confrontation. It just so happens Stark is really O-L-D, and his challenger – Swallwell is pretty young. Stark is a flamboyant fiery liberal motormouth, and this Swallwell is a modest more conservative Democrat, a guy who will barely say a bad thing anybody. Such a contrast in candidates, age wise, in philosophy, I mean we’ve got a real interesting race here, but the Times has crowned Stark the winner before we’ve had an election. Let’s have a real election, let’s discuss the issues, let’s compare the candidates! Democracy rocks Truthclubber.

  • Elwood

    @ Lars54

    OK, you’re not working on Swalwell’s campaign.

    You just feel compelled to repeatedly point out that the sun rises and sets in his rectum.