Romney rolls out California leadership team

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, completing a campaigning and fundraising swing through California today, announced his leadership team for the Golden State.

Former governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian will serve as honorary statewide chairman, while the statewide chairs will be 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee and current HP CEO Meg Whitman; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield; Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista; Rep. Mary Bono-Mack, R-Palm Springs; Rep Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita; congressional candidate and state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark; and 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina of Los Altos Hills. McCarthy’s and Fiorina’s endorsements were announced yesterday.

“It is an honor to have so much support from such distinguished leaders in California,” Romney said in a news release. “This is further proof that my pro-growth message is resonating with voters and that Californians want a conservative businessman to replace President Obama. I look forward to their counsel in my efforts to bring back jobs and restore fiscal sanity in Washington.”

Wilson said this election “is too important for our party to nominate a candidate without the real-world economic experience and proven track record that Mitt Romney has demonstrated throughout this campaign and throughout his life.”

“The members of his California Leadership Team have already been hard at work spreading his pro-growth message and working to ensure that President Obama is defeated in November,” Wilson added. “I am proud to be a part of this team and encourage my fellow Republicans to unite behind the one candidate we know can beat President Obama and create an economic climate that will bring jobs back to California.”

Romney did a campaign event yesterday morning in San Diego before holding fundraising events there and in Redwood City. Today, he’s doing fundraisers in Stockton, Irvine and Los Angeles, and will appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Five California polls conducted in the past seven weeks have shown Romney establishing a strong lead over his competitors Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

For additional Romney leadership team members, read on after the jump…
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Romney, in CA, endorsed by McCarthy & Fiorina

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who’s campaigning and fundraising in California today and tomorrow, this morning announced the endorsements of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and 2010 Republican U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina.

“Kevin has been a leading voice in the effort to cut spending, reduce burdensome regulations, and make government more accountable to the taxpayers,” Romney said in a news release. “I share this vision for our country and look forward to working with Kevin on these issues so that we can fix our economy and get the country back on track.”

Kevin McCarthyMcCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said that “(a)fter a long and grueling primary, it is clear that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to face President Obama and fix the mess of his one and only term. Republicans need to unite and work together if we plan to take back the White House and put in place policies that will get our nation back on a path to prosperity by reducing taxes, shrinking government, and empowering the private sector. I am proud to support Mitt Romney and urge my fellow Republicans to do the same.”

At the California Republican Party convention last month in Burlingame, McCarthy had said the GOP must attract California’s Latino and Asian-American voters “if we ever want to be the majority,” and is poised to do so by touting conservative policies on the economy and education. But “we’ve got a long way to go in the process,” he said, acknowledging the party must find a way to address immigration and a path to citizenship for people already here.

He also had said he believes social issues will take a back seat to energy and the economy in this election, and that the GOP’s nominee will emerge battle-tested and ready to challenge President Obama. “Are we better off than we were three years ago? No, we are not.”

Romney said he’s “extraordinarily proud” to have the support of Fiorina, the former HP CEO who was the Republican nominee defeated by incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010.

Carly Fiorina“She is a strong conservative with a long record of accomplishment in the real world,” he said in a news release. “I am running for President to bring these same much-needed qualities to Washington. In the months to come, I look forward to her counsel and advice as we look to reverse Barack Obama’s disastrous economic policies and restore America’s promise.”

“While I also admire his opponents, it is now clear that Mitt Romney is the candidate most able to defeat Barack Obama in November,” Fiorina said in Romney’s release. “Mitt Romney’s unique experience in both the public and private sectors prepares him best for the challenges that face our nation. As his track record amply demonstrates, he will focus on the real reforms we so urgently need in Washington and work to restore economic opportunity for all Americans. This election is too important to lose and that’s why I urge my fellow Republicans to join me in supporting Mitt Romney.”

Romney did a campaign event this morning at NuVasive Inc. in San Diego, at which he railed against President Obama’s health-care reforms; he has a luncheon fundraiser scheduled in San Diego as well; and he’s scheduled to attend a fundraising reception this evening at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City. No press will be allowed into the fundraisers. Tomorrow he’s doing fundraisers in Stockton, Irvine and Los Angeles, and will appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Rick Santorum, another of the remaining Republican presidential candidates, also will visit the Bay Area this week, with visits to Fairfield and Alamo scheduled for Thursday. Santorum, who won Louisiana’s primary on Saturday but is expected to have a tougher road ahead, said today that despite the heated criticisms flying back and forth between him and Romney, he’d be open to being the vice-presidential nominee on a Romney ticket.


Money race for open East Bay Assembly seats

The East Bay’s open-seat Assembly races are seeing some fierce financial competition, according to campaign finance reports due yesterday.

In the 18th Assembly District, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, a Democrat, raised the most from Jan. 1 through March 17 – $76,066.30 – and has loaned his own campaign $7,500; spent $94,323.96 during that period; and had $142,087.82 cash on hand as of March 17. Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, another Democrat, raised $64,929.24 and has loaned his campaign $13,650; spent $43,991.95; and had $132,944 cash on hand as of March 17. And AC Transit Director-at-Large Joel Young of Oakland raised $32,645.00 and has loaned his campaign $50,000; spent $42,566.85; and had $161,919.94 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Rhonda Weber of Alameda, that race’s sole Republican.

In the 20th Assembly District, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, raised $32,174.70 and has loaned his campaign $96,000; spent $40,916.18; and had $130,435.08 cash on hand as of March 17. Hayward optometrist Jennifer Ong, another Democrat, raised $33,699.00 and has loaned her campaign $48,100; spent $119,021.85; and had $91,266.06 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by New Haven Unified School District Trustee Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat; Hayward Councilman Luis Reynoso, a Republican; or Union City Mayor Mark Green, a nonpartisan candidate.

In the 11th Assembly District, Oakley Councilman Jim Frazier, a Democrat, raised $58,008 and has loaned his own campaign $2,500; spent $91,901; and had $90,543.67 cash on hand as of March 17. Union negotiator Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista, also a Democrat, raised $19,866.56; spent $34,991.11; and had $15,614.53 cash on hand as of March 17. Retired fire chief Gene Gantt of Vacaville, another Democrat, raised $14,570 and has loaned his own campaign $3,000; spent $26,941.89; and had $16,142.19 cash on hand as of March 17. Suisun City Vice Mayor Mike Hudson, a Republican, raised $40,078.19, spent $40,763.95 and had $594.10 cash on hand as of March 17. Former Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, a nonpartisan candidate, raised $19,488.99, spent $6,291.50 and had $13,547.49 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Democrat Charles Kingeter, a programmer from Suisun City.


Calif. House Dems urge probe of Trayvon’s death

Two dozen California House Democrats wrote to express support for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of whether the Feb. 26 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a self-styled neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., “was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime.”

“The family of Trayvon Martin deserves to know the truth and the American people expect justice to be served,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, which was sent to Holder yesterday.

The letter cites unresolved questions about what led to Martin’s slaying by George Zimmerman, 28, and the Sanford Police Department’s failure to make an arrest.

“It is in the best interest of our constituents and the country that you conduct a thorough investigation that also determines whether this was motivated by racial bias and therefore a hate crime,” the lawmakers wrote. “History has shown that investigating these crimes and enforcing our laws against them bring the issue to light and help our society progress.”

Among those who signed the letter are Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

President Barack Obama said Friday it’s “imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” and noted the case makes him think of his own kids. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”


Don Perata & friends paid by Prop. 29 campaign

Former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata, who helped conceive, introduce and raise money for the tobacco-tax ballot measure on this June’s ballot, has a lot of friends who are making money from the campaign, new reports show.

Don PerataPerata’s “Hope 2012” ballot-measure committee began raising money for what’s now known as Proposition 29 way back in 2009, and has transferred $488,500 to Californians for a Cure – the primary committee backing the measure, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and a group of cancer research doctors. Prop. 29 would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, and equivalent tax hikes on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research; Perata is a cancer survivor.

Now Perata himself has received $5,792.17 since July from Californians for a Cure, including $2,607.19 for “meetings and appearances” and $2,508.36 for travel expenses.

One of Perata’s current employees also has been paid by Californians for a Cure. Anne Willcoxon, 58, of Moraga, has been paid $27,760 since last May, with the lion’s share of that – $15,000 – paid in the first two months of this year under the designation “campaign consultants.”

Anne Willcoxon’s LinkedIn profile lists her position since January 2011 as “charges d’affaires” at Perata Consulting LLC – that’s a French term for a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an absent ambassador or minister. She ranked high among Perata’s 2010 Oakland mayoral campaign staffers. And her husband, Michael Willcoxon, is general counsel for Dublin-based DeSilva Gates Construction; founder Ed DeSilva for years has been among Perata’s most generous political contributors.

The rest of Californians for a Cure’s expenditure list reads like a who’s-who of former Perata aides and consultants:

    The Sacramento consulting business of former Perata staffer Sandi Polka has been paid $53,887.03 since the beginning of 2011.
    Chris Lehman, a former Perata staffer, has been paid $47,196.04 in the past year, mostly for campaign consulting, including more than $19,000 so far in 2012.
    Maurice Williams, another of Perata’s state Senate aides, has been paid $32,000 by Californians for a Cure since last June, including $7,000 in this year’s first two months, for campaign consulting and fundraising.
    Rhys Williams, who was Perata’s mayoral campaign press secretary, is now the ballot measure’s online campaign director; he has been paid $60,250 since last June, including $18,250 so far in 2012.
    Stephenie DeHerrera, who worked on Perata’s mayoral campaign while a fellow at The Organizing and Leadership Academy in Oakland, has been paid $13,073.34 since November for campaign consulting and fundraising.
    TOLA is run by veteran political consultant Larry Tramutola, who helped run Perata’s 2010 mayoral campaign. Californians for a Cure has paid Tramutola $86,546.00 since last June, mostly for campaign consulting.

Polka, Lehman, Williams and other former Perata aides also were paid generously by Perata’s Hope 2012 committee as he got the initiative off the ground in 2009 and 2010.

Questions and eyebrows arose in 2010 when Perata’s Hope 2012 committee gave money to two nonprofits – neither of which had anything to do with cancer – led by his former campaign treasurer, a close confidante whom some said had been romantically involved with Perata. Earlier, Hope 2012 in 2009 had paid $25,000 for campaign consulting by Oakland Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente, a longtime Perata ally and political lieutenant.

And there were also questions in 2010 of whether Perata was thought to be leveraging the nascent tobacco-tax campaign to widen his name recognition as he also campaigned for mayor.

Perata and some of his political associates were the subjects of a five-year-long FBI corruption probe, which ended in 2009 without anyone ever charges ever filed.


Assembly OKs anti-Citizens United resolution

The state Assembly voted 48-22 today to urge Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution as a means of overturning a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that unleashed a deluge of unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.

If the state Senate passes it as well, Assembly Joint Resolution 22, co-authored by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, will put California amid a national grassroots movement. Hawaii and New Mexico have passed similar resolutions, as have more than 100 cities across the nation including Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Fairfax.

Today’s vote was along straight party lines, with all the ayes from Democrats and all the nays from Republicans; 10 members were absent or not voting.

Bob Wieckowski“The Citizens United decision is judicial activism run amuck,” Wieckowski said in a news release. “For more than a century, Congress and the Supreme Court have recognized the need to differentiate between people and the vast amount of wealth at the disposal of large corporations. The floodgates were opened by this ruling and now a small number of very wealthy interests are having a greater influence on our national politics than ever before.”

The Supreme Court’s holding that the First Amendment bars the government from restricting political spending by corporations and unions led to the creation of the “Super PACs” – often funded by a just few wealthy donors – that now essentially serve as shadow campaigns for the presidential candidates, but without any fundraising limits.

Groups including Public Citizen, Common Cause, the California Public Interest Research Project (CalPIRG), California Church Impact, California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association, California Professional Firefighters and the California League of Conservation Voters support AJR 22.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign, said this movement has percolated up from the streets. “It is because of the work of dedicated activists throughout the state that California’s elected officials are joining them in taking a stand to say that democracy is for people, not for corporations.”

Public Citizen helped lead the introduction of similar resolutions in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maryland, and has supported activists’ and lawmakers’ efforts to introduce similar resolutions in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and New York.