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Archive for November, 2012

On the retirement of a journalism icon

I attended a surprise retirement party this morning at KQED in San Francisco for Belva Davis, whose last episode of “This Week In Northern California” will air at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Belva DavisI’ll not recount her long, storied career here; we’ve already carried a great story this week about her amazing contributions to journalism. But I’ll tell you what I told her today: Whatever I’ve done so far in my career, and whatever I do in the future, having worked with Belva Davis will always be among the honors and privileges of which I’m proudest.

Calling her a trailblazer – while certainly true – doesn’t adequately describe the honesty, integrity, professionalism and kindness she has brought to her work every day over these many decades. As some speakers at today’s party said, she embodies the “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” credo of journalism, but never in a mean-spirited way – she has had a keen sense of the right questions to ask, and the unerring bravery to ask them.

Her retirement, while so very well-deserved, will be a loss felt by so very many journalists and viewers all over Northern California. She can be succeeded, but never replaced.

Posted on Friday, November 9th, 2012
Under: Media | 2 Comments »

10 observations at the end of this election week

1.) One party’s strategy this year involved getting far more people to vote, while another’s seemed to involve having fewer people vote; the more democratic approach prevailed.

2.) Meg should’ve told Mitt: Money helps, but it ain’t everything.

3.) It’s not just W who calls Karl Rove “turd blossom” now; a lot of rich, anonymous donors must be clamoring for their money back.

4.) You can read, watch or listen to your news from whatever outlets you want, but eventually reality comes crashing in.

5.) Picture an empty chair, on which sits a binder full of women who ride horses and carry bayonets; now think of in whose favor all of these campaign memes worked.

6.) A slow adjustment, with small changes marking the way from old to new, is evolution; an overnight change is more like mutation.

7.) When a party leader talks tough – even in the heat of battle – about picking up 25 seats, and in the end only picks up seven, there are consequences.

8.) Even 40 years of incumbency can’t save a candidate from himself.

9.) Don’t mess with Jerry Brown.

10.) Donald Trump is an a—hat.

Posted on Friday, November 9th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 presidential election | 57 Comments »

Who’ll decide the future of marriage in California?

I and my colleague Howard Mintz wrote an article today about how four other states’ votes in favor of gay marriage this week might or might not affect California’s situation on that issue. Here’s a tidbit that didn’t make it into the story:

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, it might not fall to activists alone to make a renewed electoral push for same-sex marriage in California, suggested Rick Jacobs, chairman of the Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based progressive activist network claiming more than 750,000 members nationwide.

Thanks to this week’s elections, Democrats now hold supermajorities in both chambers of California’s Legislature as well as the governor’s office, Jacobs noted. Should the courts fail the movement, he said, “I can imagine a scenario … wherein we wouldn’t even have to pay the money to put it on the ballot: The Legislature and the governor could do it.”

Gil Duran, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, responded that “it is premature to speculate on these matters while the case is pending before the United States Supreme Court.”

Similarly, John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said “the Speaker believes this discussion is premature because the case is still before the courts, and the Speaker is very confident that the courts will invalidate Proposition 8 because of the eloquent and powerful case made by the plaintiffs and cited by Judge Walker in his decision ruling Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.”

But state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, seemed to embrace Jacobs’ idea: “I’m open to any and all ways to promote the cause of marriage equality and civil rights for all people.”

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, John Perez, same-sex marriage | 3 Comments »

A few more thoughts on Pete Stark’s defeat

We’ve posted my story for tomorrow’s print editions on how Rep. Pete Stark’s defeat marks both the end of an era and, probably, the start of another Democrat-on-Democrat race for the 15th Congressional District in 2014. Here’s a few final thoughts for which there wasn’t room in that story, but which seem noteworthy nonetheless.

This was a contest for which our editors wanted election-night photographs, but Stark’s campaign refused to tell us Monday and Tuesday where he would be Tuesday night; I still don’t know where he watched the returns.

I take this as a sign that his campaign staff knew there was a pretty good chance he would lose. I’d bet their final internal polling showed a tight race, perhaps with Stark holding a small lead, but with many last-minute “undecided” voters likely to break against the incumbent. Apparently they did.

San Jose State University political scientist Larry Gerston said Stark’s “quirky political behavior and a dramatically changed district” fueled his downfall at least as much as the top-two primary system. That is, Stark’s loss necessarily doesn’t mark a sea change in how future campaigns will be run, and other Bay Area House Democrats need not look over their shoulders.

“This was the exception to the rule – I don’t know any other elected official in Congress who had the reputation Stark had,” Gerston said. “It’s a shame. He’s a man who at one time had an impeccable reputation, a liberal icon. This is more a story of ‘his time had come.’”

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Emken lost big to DiFi, but not as big as others

You’ve gotta give this to Elizabeth Emken of Danville – although she lost her race against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein by almost 23 percentage points, she still had a better showing than any Republican has against Feinstein in a loooong time.

Elizabeth EmkenWith some ballots still yet to be counted, Emken finished with 38.6 percent of the vote compared to Feinstein’s 61.4 percent.

If you are surprised by this result, you haven’t been paying attention. On the other hand, Emken did comparably well.

Six years ago, former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, finished with 35.1 percent of the vote against Feinstein; six years before that, Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Campbell, finished with 36.6 percent.

In fact, the only Republican challenging an incumbent Feinstein who outperformed Emken was Michael Huffington way back in 1994, with 44.8 percent of the vote to Feinstein’s 46.7 percent. And Huffington spent $28 million of his own money on that bid – at the time, the most expensive campaign in a non-presidential election in American history – while Emken ran her campaign this year on a half-million-dollar shoestring.

And speaking of shoes, Emken must’ve worn out a lot of shoe leather as she travelled all over the state to reach as many voters as she could in person, since a broadcast media campaign was out of the question on her budget. She also leveraged her social media presence to good advantage as a tireless tweeter. Her final tweet of the campaign came at 7:59 p.m. Tuesday night: “I’ve had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.”

Spokesman Mark Standriff said Emken was at the doctor’s office with laryngitis Wednesday afternoon, but he offered some thoughts on her behalf.

“Elizabeth worked the phones, the meetings and the media harder than any three candidates I’ve ever known. She connected with people on a personal level that they weren’t used to seeing or hearing from politicians, and she won over virtually everyone she met during the campaign,” he said.

“The political establishment should look at these results and rethink their qualification criteria for recruiting and funding candidates,” Standriff added. “She didn’t have a political track record, she couldn’t write a $5 million check, but Elizabeth had the one thing that really resonates with voters, and that’s sincerity. With her resume, her drive and the right amount of resources, just imagine what the outcome might have been.”

I didn’t make it to Feinstein’s news conference this morning in San Francisco, but a staffer tells me she “talked about the need for cooperation between the parties, her gratitude to California and her concern about the looming fiscal cliff.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 U.S. Senate election, Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate | 7 Comments »

Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Dan Lungren, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 7 Comments »

Pete Stark issues statement on loss to Swalwell

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who lost his seat in this election to fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, issued this statement by e-mail a few minutes ago:

Pete Stark (photo by Aric Crabb)“It has been my honor to serve the people of the East Bay for the last 40 years. I have worked hard to deliver results: accomplishments like writing the COBRA law to make health insurance portable between jobs, bringing the first computers to schools, and crafting President Obama’s groundbreaking health care law.

“I went to Washington by running against an unpopular war and for women’s rights, opportunity for children and dignity for seniors. I leave knowing that the landscape has changed, but the needs of my constituents remain.

“I congratulate Mr. Swalwell on his victory. I am happy to be of assistance in the future.

“I want to thank all the wonderful people I met along this fabulous journey and I will remember them fondly. Together, we have made a real difference.”

We’ll have a big story later today following up on Swalwell’s victory, and what comes next.

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

3 things for the GOP to consider in California

1.) Learn to choose better battles.

Every cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee tells us that Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is among the nation’s most vulnerable House Democrats; every cycle, he proves otherwise. In 2008, with a 1-point voter registration disadvantage, he won by 10 percentage points; in 2010, with a .32-point voter-registration disadvantage, he won by 1.1 percentage points; and this year, with a 12-point voter-registration edge, he won by 8 percentage points. Instead of pouring resources into the campaign of a 25-year-old with no job experience, perhaps the GOP should’ve looked for greener pastures.

2.) Your navel-gazing is near-sighted.

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro’s statement last night indicates he believes Romney and Republicans failed to “make the case, at every level, for tax reform and to successfully articulate that a welfare state can’t succeed and the true engine of growth is a vigorous free enterprise system.” I’m sure some Democrats will disagree with the philosophical underpinnings of that argument, and that’s not a debate I’ll get into here. But what Del Beccaro failed to address was that the GOP clearly lost big among Latinos, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and young voters – that is, most of this nation’s future electorate. If his party can’t find platform that appeals to these blocs, and an effective way of explaining it to them, it’ll continue to wane even further. Already I see some GOPers sniffing that Obama won without a mandate, but the fact is, he won the popular vote by at least about 2.7 million and – if Florida were to stop counting votes now (and where have I heard THAT before?) – he’d win there too, meaning he carried every battleground state except North Carolina.

3.) Who has the mandate?

Gov. Jerry Brown has the mandate. He won it in 2010 when he beat out the candidate who spent a record $142 million of her money to no avail. He won it again last night with a resounding 8-point victory for Prop. 30, his tax hike for K-12 and higher education. And it seems voters are tired enough of gridlock in Sacramento that they may have handed Democrats two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Legislature – another mandate, of sorts, for Brown’s agenda. The moral of this story: Don’t mess with Jerry.

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 presidential election, Jerry Brown, Jerry McNerney, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

State GOP chairman discusses Romney’s loss

Here’s California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro’s statement on what happened tonight:

Tom Del Beccaro“While tonight wasn’t the result we had hoped and worked for, it is clear that many Americans are dissatisfied with the president.

“Republicans are losing the prosperity/capitalism argument. The inability of Republicans to make the case, at every level, for tax reform and to successfully articulate that a welfare state can’t succeed and the true engine of growth is a vigorous free enterprise system is at the root of this loss. The core value of our heritage is being lost. We must and can get it back.

“It is now up to Republicans in Congress, who must every day be a real reform party. They must work to offer true reform of government programs and drive the agenda.

“Unfortunately, Governor Romney was not aggressive enough in making this case and that ultimately led to tonight’s disappointing outcome. But with the help of of our committed and tireless volunteers, we can turn this around.

“I would like to thank all of the volunteers here in California and throughout the nation that kept this race so close.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Republican Party, Republican politics | 15 Comments »

Election 2012 open thread

OK, have at it in the comments, readers – just remember to keep it clean, and avoid personal attacks on each other.

Posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, 2012 Congressional Election, 2012 presidential election, 2012 State Senate election, 2012 U.S. Senate election | 38 Comments »