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Could-be 2016 U.S. Senate candidates keep circling

After former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday that he won’t run for U.S. Senate in 2016, a couple of southern California politicos are making sure their names continue to circulate among those still possibly interested in the contest.

Xavier BecerraRep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, issued a statement Wednesday morning noting a lot can happen in the next 16 months before the primary election, and he respects Villaraisgosa’s decision.

“As for me, I take seriously my recent election to Congress in November and the responsibility it brings to address matters ranging from war against our enemies to economic security for our families,” Becerra said. “I will weigh just as seriously whether to run for the Senate, where I would continue my more than 20 years of work on behalf of my state and my country. There’s a lot of work and a lot of listening to do until I make that decision.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he thinks “there’s a real opportunity for a strong Southern California candidate to get into this wide open race. I’m continuing to have conversations with constituents and supporters, and hope to make a decision in the near future.”

The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, opened an exploratory committee for this race last week, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette opened one this week.

A Field Poll released last week found 30 percent would be inclined to support Schiff, and 28 percent would be inclined to support Becerra. (This wasn’t a head-to-head choice and those surveyed could say they were inclined to support more than one of 18 names offered). By comparison, 49 percent said they would be inclined to support U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Republican who has said she has no plans to run; 46 percent said they would be inclined to support Harris; and 35 percent said they would be inclined to support Villaraigosa.

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Who will skip Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

The Bay Area delegation is split over attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, March 3.

Democrats and the White House remain miffed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu unilaterally. The Israeli leader is expected to speak against the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, instead urging Congress to impose further sanctions; also, the address comes two weeks before Israel’s legislative election. For these reasons, and as some pro-Palestinian groups urge a boycott, some Democrats are choosing to skip the speech.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation shakes out:

Skipping the speech: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Attending the speech: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz

Undecided: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa

Didn’t respond to inquiries: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo

A few of them offered explanations, or at least, comments:

Lofgren: “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”

Huffman: “I call upon Speaker Boehner and Ambassador Dermer to do the right thing and postpone this speech. Once the election in Israel is over and the current P5+1 negotiating deadline has passed, they should respect protocol and confer with President Obama and congressional Democrats on a time for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress.”

Boxer: “Whether I wind up going or not, it was a terrible mistake by the Republican majority to play politics with this enduring relationship.”

McNerney, via spokesman Michael Cavaiola: “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”

DeSaulnier, via spokeswoman Betsy Arnold Marr: “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election.”

Honda, via spokesman Ken Scudder: “Congressman Honda regrets that Speaker Boehner ignored protocol in making this invitation. The speaker turned what should have been an important visit of one of our closest allies into a political stunt. Congressman Honda also has concerns about the potential political nature of this speech given Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away. Despite this, and the congressman’s disagreement with the Prime Minister’s opposition to the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, Congressman Honda is going to attend the address on March 3. The United States and Israel share strong cultural, economic and security partnerships, and he will attend the speech to hear firsthand what the Prime Minister has to say on these serious and complicated issues.”

Thompson, via spokesman Austin Vevurka: “We still don’t know what the Congressman’s schedule will be that week, but I will of course keep you posted as we know more. That being said, Congressman Thompson understands the importance of hearing from international leaders, but he is concerned that the speech has become overtly political. He hopes the speech is rescheduled and Netanyahu is invited back at a later date in a manner that respects long-established diplomatic protocol.”

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Hillary on Blackberries, Fitbits and tighty-whities

After Hillary Clinton finished her speech Tuesday at the Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women in Santa Clara, she sat for a Q-and-A session with noted tech pundit Kara Swisher. Before getting to more serious stuff, they took a quick run through gadgets, Fitbit guilt, and appearing in front of 37.3 million viewers in one’s tighty-whities:

SWISHER: So I want to ask the big question, iPhone or Android?

CLINTON: iPhone. (Cheers.) Okay, in full disclosure, and a Blackberry. And I think the president told you the same thing, because I think he really loves his.

SWISHER: Well, you know, it is –

CLINTON: There are reasons why when you start out in Washington on a Blackberry you stay on it in many instances. But, it’s also — I don’t know. I don’t throw anything away. I’m like two steps short of a hoarder. So I have an iPad, a mini iPad, an iPhone and a Blackberry.

SWISHER: You know, if you lived in, and I go to Washington a lot lately, my kids are living there, and you would think Blackberry was the biggest company in the world form all the people that — because everybody uses it. All right, second one, Apple Watch or Fitbit?

CLINTON: Well, you can tell I’m not doing Fitbit and I haven’t gotten into the Apple Watch yet. I’m not in a wearable frame of mind yet. You know, I mean three people have given me a Fitbit or a Jawbone, and I look at it and I think do I really want something telling me I should do what I know I should do? I mean I have enough stress in my life avoiding doing what I’m told I should do, so I haven’t jumped off the ledge yet.

SWISHER: Okay. President of the United States, running for President of the United States or host of the Oscars next year, both jobs are open it seems?

CLINTON: Yes. Well, and both jobs are really painful from my own personal experience and observation. I don’t think I could do the “Birdman” man imitation. That goes back to the Fitbit conversation. I just couldn’t do that.

SWISHER: What about the president thing?

CLINTON: You know, there have been a lot more Oscar presentations than there have been presidents. So the pressure is probably somewhat less. It’s a one-night gig. And for many it’s just one night. And the other one it’s like a many-year commitment.

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Carly Fiorina’s first presidential video

While Hillary Clinton was in Santa Clara on Tuesday calling for gender equity in Silicon Valley, one of the tech industries foremost female ex-CEOs was launching her first presidential campaign video.

Carly Fiorina, who led HP from 1999 to 2005 and was California’s 2010 Republican U.S. Senate nominee, talks in the two-minute video about her career, America, family, faith and conservatism – with nary a demon sheep in sight.

The video is from the newly formed super PAC Carly for America, which the Washington Post reports is laying the groundwork for a potential candidacy. It coincides with Fiorina’s scheduled appearance Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a four-day event in Maryland featuring a slew of possible presidential contenders.

Fiorina – no longer a Californian, having moved to Virginia a few years ago – has been setting the stage for a campaign for the past several months by speaking at conferences, visiting early-primary states, and wooing potential contributors and staffers.

So far, she’s having trouble finding traction and name recognition; most polls of the potential Republican field don’t include her. It’s very early, of course, and she has time to get her name out there – but if she’s actually angling for something other than the Oval Office, it might be useful to remember Fiorina about a year ago joined the advisory board of a pro-Rick Perry “dark money” group.

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Ex-GOP chair forms Senate exploratory committee

Former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro has formed an exploratory committee for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Tom Del BeccaroDel Beccaro, 53, of Lafayette, was among the first possible candidates to express interest in the race after Sen. Barbara Boxer announced last month that she won’t seek another term. “This next step allows me explore these possibilities further and raise a limited amount of money to help with that process,” he wrote Tuesday morning on Facebook.

He sees his run as a means to discuss important conservative issues, he told the San Diego Union Tribune on Monday.

“The combination of the California state and federal economic policies, including lopsided income tax codes and environmental policies that have gone too far, are resulting in economic stagnation for too many Californians,” Del Beccaro told the Union Tribune. “We need a better balance of regulations and pro-growth policies designed to encourage the private sector to promote economic growth throughout the state. If I run, I intend to offer those policies.”

Del Beccaro chaired the state Republican Party from 2011 to 2013, a period that proved financially difficult for the GOP.

The only well-known declared candidate so far is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, are running too though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, opened an exploratory committee for this race last week.

A Field Poll released last week found 21 percent of likely voters would be inclined to vote for Del Beccaro, while 46 percent would not be inclined and 33 percent had no opinion. The early poll was largely based on name recognition – not a strong point for a former party official who has never run for elected office before. By comparison, 49 percent said they would be inclined to vote for former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while 39 percent were not inclined and 12 percent had no opinion – but Rice says she’s not interested in running.

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Field Poll: Gov. Jerry Brown still riding high

If he maintained poll numbers like this, California Gov. Jerry Brown would be hard to beat for a fifth term.

That’s impossible under the state’s term limits, of course. But a new Field Poll finds Brown – who already has served as governor longer than anyone in the Golden State’s history – remains remarkably popular.

Jerry BrownThe poll found 56 percent of California voters approve of Brown’s job performance while 32 percent disapprove and 12 percent offered no opinion. That’s within the poll’s margin of error from Brown’s all-time high during this second go-around as governor; he hit 59 percent approval in April 2014.

Even more California voters – 69 percent – agreed Brown “has the right experience to deal with the problems facing California,” the Field Poll found, a sentiment that extends across party lines: 79 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of nonpartisans and 55 percent of Republicans agreed.

Majorities also agreed Brown “has the vision to lead California into the future” (54 percent) and “deserves credit for turning around the state’s finances” (53 percent).

However, when asked to consider three negative statements that have been made about Brown, 57 percent agreed with one of them: that he “favors too many big government projects that the state cannot afford right now.” (Hey, high-speed rail and Delta tunnels – they’re looking at you.)

Brown’s approval ratings are highest in the Bay Area (69 percent) compared to other regions of the state; among voters with post-graduate education (64 percent) compared to other education levels; among African Americans (67 percent) compared to other races/ethnicities; among ages 40-49 and 65 or older (59 percent) compared to other age groups; and among men (59 percent) compared to women (53 percent).

The poll of 1,241 California voters was conducted Jan. 26 through Feb. 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.