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State buildings, UC costs, Jean Quan on ‘TWINC’

I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” last night to discuss the plan to sell and then lease back state buildings in order to raise quick cash to help close our budget gap. Other topics included UC tuition hikes and San Francisco’s governmental tumult, and Belva Davis interviewed Oakland Mayor-Elect Jean Quan.

Posted on Saturday, November 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, education, Jean Quan, Oakland, state budget, TWINC | No Comments »

CD11: Harmer attends freshman orientation

Harmer

Harmer

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney may have declared victory last week but that hasn’t stopped challenger and GOP nominee David Harmer from attending his party’s freshman orientation session in Washington, D.C.

“Since we don’t yet know whether I’ll become a new member of Congress, I’m participating with a unique blend of apprehension and hope,” Harmer wrote in a fund-raising appeal email late this afternoon.

As of today, McNerney holds a slim 1,751-vote lead over Harmer, or 0.76 percent of the total vote.  McNerney declared himself the victor last week, calling it statistically unlikely that Harmer could close the gap with the remaining uncounted votes. Harmer has refused to concede.

Alameda County has finished its count, while Santa Clara County had fewer than 500 ballots left to process in the 11th District.

San Joaquin County, where 55 percent of the 11th District’s voter live, had processed 3,500 of its approximately 9,000 uncounted provisional ballots as of this afternoon but not all of those ballots are in the 11th District.  (About half the county is in the 11th District.)

Harmer held a 4 percentage point lead in San Joaquin County. Unlike his counterparts in other 11th District counties, Registrar Austin Erdman said he has not segregated the congressional ballots due to close races in other parts of the county. Erdman said earlier today that he expects to post an updated countywide tally on Tuesday. (Update: Erdman said that figure will not include provisionals. He said he will post the provisional results when his office has finished processing all the provisional ballots. He hopes to finish before the Thanksgiving holiday next week.)

Contra Costa County will begin processing the 1,830 uncounted provisional ballots from the 11th District on Tuesday, said Registrar Steve Weir.  Harmer was holding a 0.2 percentage point lead in Contra Costa, or 118 votes.  In response to a lawsuit filed by the California Republican Party, Weir will set up observation stations for both sides to observe the provisional ballot processing for the remaining 11th District votes.

Here is Harmer’s full email, which serves as a plea for cash, too:

I’m writing from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., where I’m attending the orientation for new members of Congress. Since we don’t yet know whether I’ll become a new member of Congress, I’m participating with a unique blend of apprehension and hope.

Last night, at a dinner for the Republican freshmen in the Capitol’s magnificent Statuary Hall, I sat just a few feet from the site of John Quincy Adams’s old desk as Republican Leader and soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner spoke of our charge from the American people. His watchword was humility; his counsel, servant leadership. He is determined to restore representation as the founders intended — a House that does the people’s business through the cumbersome, unpredictable, messy, but democratic means of legislation. He envisions a House where Representatives are actual legislators — not merely voters on proposals negotiated behind closed doors, but daily participants in the process of investigation, persuasion, negotiation, and debate.

For California to fail to contribute to this historic change in leadership, mission, and tone would be tragic, but it’s a very real risk. The wave that swept the rest of the nation, resulting in well over 60 net new Republican seats, seems to have washed up against the eastern flank of the Sierras without crossing their crest. So far Republicans haven’t picked up a single one of California’s 53 seats in the U.S. House. But the 11th District is still in play.

To ensure an accurate count of the remaining ballots, to prepare for a possible recount, and to do our best to complete the campaign successfully, we need to raise much more money. If you haven’t already done so, please consider contributing to our recount fund. Contributions of any amount are welcome, appreciated, and needed.

Yours truly,

David Harmer

P.S. Several of the freshmen here were already my friends. This wonderful week is giving me the opportunity to strengthen my relationships with them and to become acquainted with the others. They are tremendously supportive. They know how hard you’ve worked, how generously you’ve contributed, and how earnestly you’re praying for our campaign’s eventual success. Many of them are joining you in contributing to the recount fund — so you’re in very good company.

Posted on Monday, November 15th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 19 Comments »

Inside Don Perata’s mayoral election defeat

So former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata – who entered Oakland’s mayoral race with big-time name recognition and fundraising prowess, and who outspent all his rivals enormously – lost the race to City Councilmember Jean Quan. He conceded this morning.

This was Oakland’s first foray into ranked-choice voting, and there were 10 candidates in the field. Perata held the lead in every elimination round until the last, when City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan was cut and her supporters’ second and third choices broke almost three-to-one in Quan’s favor, catapulting her past Perata to win.

In the end, Perata’s somewhat polarizing personality and past may have proved to be his undoing, as many had predicted could happen. People tend to either love him or hate him, with not many in between; those who love him were quick to name him their top choice, and the rest were much less likely to write him in somewhere below.

John Whitehurst, a longtime Perata consultant who was one of three paid by the mayoral campaign, was still shaking his head later Thursday, and basically said his only mistake was not attacking Quan and Kaplan more.

“It’s still hard for me to swallow the fact that we won by 11,000 votes, 10 percent of the vote, and the person that won the election lost in 80 percent of the precincts,” he said.

But Perata didn’t “win” by 11,000 votes – he finished that far ahead in the first round, putting him nowhere close to the 50 percent mark he’d have had to exceed to win outright.

“The purpose of the ranked-choice voting was to make the campaigns shorter, less expensive and less negative and all three turned out to be completely false,” Whitehurst complained, saying that all the new method accomplished was to turn the election into an episode of the reality television show “Survivor,” in which candidates had to build alliances to outlast their rivals.

“Hindsight is always 20-20, and if I were to run the election again, I would’ve gone negative on Jean and negative on Rebecca the way that they went negative on Don,” he continued, noting none of Perata’s campaign literature attacked his rivals.

He acknowledged there were direct mail pieces sent out by independent expenditure committees that attacked Quan, but he said that of a dozen mailings that Quan sent out, 10 attacked Perata in some way.

“We invested a ton of money in field operations,” Whitehurst said. “Jean pretty hypocritically today said hers was a grassroots campaign, but she didn’t have a grassroots campaign, she put out 12 pieces of mail of which 10 were negative.”

Some might find it hard to see how Perata – who outspent Quan by far – was more “grassroots” than Quan, who had a smaller bankroll but still had a substantial number of volunteers pounding the pavement for her. Asked why Perata was paying three different consultants for the same campaign, Whitehurst replied he was only paid about $1,000 per month.

“I was cheaper for that campaign than a basic field organizer was, so don’t go there,” he said. “A campaign that does not have organizers is not a serious grassroots campaign.”

Whitehurst said he believes this outcome will sour Oakland’s electorate on ranked-choice voting. “This is the first time that instant-runoff voting has produced this result. It happened in San Francisco too, and I think you might see people taking another look at the system now that, in three elections, the first place winner didn’t win the race.”

“I think less than 5 percent of the people understand ranked-choice voting; walk outside the office and ask somebody how it works, I don’t think they’ll know,” he charged. “Choosing a leader is not about a game of ‘Survivor’ on TV, y’know? It’s just not.”

Posted on Thursday, November 11th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Don Perata, Jean Quan, Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan | 16 Comments »

CD11: McNerney declares victory, Harmer fights on

Incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, declared victory Wednesday evening in his race to retain his 11th Congressional District seat, saying the remaining ballots couldn’t possibly put Republican challenger David Harmer back on top.

“With the vast majority of votes tallied, the results are clear. Congressman McNerney now has an insurmountable lead,” McNerney campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release.

Not so fast, cautioned Harmer.

“On Election Night, when I led by thousands of votes, and supporters were congratulating me and calling me Congressman, I cautioned that it was too early to claim victory. Many votes remained to be counted,” he said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday evening. “That is still the case tonight. Just as it would have been premature to claim victory then, it would be premature to concede defeat now.

“As I said the day after the election, my objective is to ensure that every legitimate vote is accurately counted. Once that has been done, I will offer a statement about the results.”

As of Wednesday evening, McNerney led Harmer by 1,681 votes, or about seven-tenths of a percent of the almost 231,000 ballots counted. A previous update, on Tuesday night, had shown McNerney up by 2,269 votes, but Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties posted updates Wednesday.

Registrars in the four counties within the district continue to tally votes, and don’t expect to certify their final counts until at least Nov. 24.

McNerney — now seeking a third term in the House of Representatives — leads Harmer — an attorney from San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley area — in Alameda County by about 15.5 percentage points and in Santa Clara County by 8.2 points.

Harmer leads McNerney by about one-fifth of a point in Contra Costa County and by 4.3 points in San Joaquin County, the latter of which includes the largest chunk of the 11th District. San Joaquin County is also where American Independent nominee David Christensen fared best, with almost 7.1 percent of the votes cast; districtwide, he took about 5.1 percent.

McNerney’s campaign argued Wednesday that based on the trends so far, Harmer could close the gap by fewer than 300 votes from the 11,000 remaining provisional and vote-by-mail ballots in San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, while McNerney could expect to pick up more votes than Harmer from among about 700 still-uncounted ballots in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

Posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 59 Comments »

FPPC: No problem with Perata’s campaign loan

There’s no evidence that Don Perata violated the state’s campaign finance laws when he loaned money from his company to his Oakland mayoral campaign, the state’s political watchdog agency says.

Don PerataCalifornia’s Fair Political Practices Commission notified the former state Senate President Pro Tem in an Oct. 14 letter that it had “initiated an investigation of allegations that you may have violated the Political Reform Act when you made a loan of funds from Perata Consulting LLC to finance your mayoral campaign.”

But 12 days later, it sent him another letter saying that based on the FPPC’s review of his campaign finance reports, “we are closing this case with no further action.”

Because no sworn complaint was ever received, the FPPC won’t disclose the source of the allegations that sparked its investigation.

Perata Consulting – run by Perata and his son, Nick Perata – loaned Perata’s mayoral campaign $50,000 on June 30 of this year. The consulting firm’s major client over the past two years has been the California Correctional Peace Officers Association; the prison guards’ union’s committees have paid Perata Consulting a total of at least $468,893.81. CCPOA committees also have paid at least $57,548.75 to Liquid Logistics, a company run by Nick Perata.

Despite Perata’s record spending in this campaign, the Oakland mayoral race remains too close to call as the Alameda County voter registrar continues counting last-minute vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. This was Oakland’s first outing with ranked-choice voting, and although Perata led his competitors in a preliminary first-choice count, a subsequent, unofficial tally of second- and third-choice votes showed City Councilwoman Jean Quan in the lead.

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, campaign finance, Don Perata, Oakland | 5 Comments »

Cooley’s lead widens, but Harris isn’t worried

Republican Steve Cooley’s lead over Democrat Kamala Harris in the race for state attorney general has widened to 44,058 votes, or half a percentage point of all those cast, according to the secretary of state’s latest update at 9:14 a.m. this morning.

But Harris’ campaign warns against drawing any conclusions from the daily changes in the vote count.

“Basically what you’re looking at is heavily skewed reporting from good Cooley counties and a lot of our best performing counties have yet to report in any significant numbers,” spokesman Brian Brokaw said a few minutes ago.

Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties posted a lot of late returns over the weekend, he said. But while Orange County might account for 8 to 9 percent of the state’s vote total when all is said and done, it has accounted for about 25 percent of the late votes posted since Tuesday, pushing the numbers in Cooley’s direction.

So, Brokaw said, when big Democratic strongholds such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alameda counties finish counting their vote-by-mail and provisional ballots, Harris should regain the lead and finish on top.

UPDATE @ 4:01 P.M.: As of the 11:51 a.m. update to the secretary of state’s site, Cooley’s lead has been cut to 19,189 votes; Harris’ people tell me Santa Clara County helped her close the gap, and other Democrat-heavy counties are yet to come.

UPDATE @ 6:52 P.M.: And as of the 5:06 p.m. update, Cooley is up by 40,958.

Posted on Monday, November 8th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley | 22 Comments »

Cooley widens lead over Harris in AG’s race

Republican Steve Cooley has widened his lead of Democrat Kamala Harris in the race for state attorney general, according to the vote-counting update filed to the secretary of state’s website at 12:49 a.m. this morning.

Cooley is up by 24,276 votes, about 0.3 percent of votes cast in the contest. That’s a tiny lead, but wider than any that has existed since Tuesday night; Harris had been up for a few days, and then Cooley pulled into the lead on Friday by 16,095 votes.

Harris’ lead in Cooley’s home Los Angeles County has increased in recent days from about 259,000 to 261,255. But Cooley has benefitted more as additional returns come in from conservative strongholds such as Orange and San Diego counties, as his campaign had suggested would happen.

There still are many ballots to be counted, so this is far from over, but it must be excruciating for the candidates and those who worked so hard on their campaigns.

Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley | 10 Comments »

CD11: Court dispute continues Monday, McNerney holds small lead

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney inched his way toward re-election as updated counts today showed him with a slim 548-vote lead over opponent and GOP nominee David Harmer.

But the outcome is still a long way from settled.

The gap represents a tiny 0.3 percentage points of the 176,108 votes counted in the 11th Congressional District, which remains one of nine House races nationwide still too close to call. The four county elections offices within the 11th District are plowing through the uncounted mail-in and provisional ballots but thousands of votes remain to be processed.

The fiercely contested race also had its first day in court today, as Republicans sought to force Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir to allow their election-count observers to challenge the veracity of signatures on vote-by-mail envelopes.

A Contra Costa County judicial commissioner declined to sign a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the signature verification process but kicked the dispute into Superior Court, where it is set for a full hearing Monday morning.

Weir said state law specifically allows pollworkers to challenge a voter’s right to cast a ballot and those who present proof before the election that an individual who was issued a vote-by-mail ballot is ineligible to vote. Election count observers, he said, are permitted only to question whether workers are following established procedures.

Every voter whose eligibility comes into question has the right to answer the allegation, Weir said, and allowing casual observers to challenge a voter after the fact is “not going to happen,” Weir said. “If a judge orders it, then we’ll have to see what we do next.”

GOP attorney Charles Bell argued that observation alone cannot ensure election accuracy. He told the court that Weir has failed to provide adequate access to the signature-verification process and observers should have the right to challenge a signature that doesn’t appear to match the original signature in the county’s voter registration database.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

I also thought readers might be interested in the county-by-county breakdowns as of this afternoon:

ALAMEDA COUNTY (15.5 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 42.6 percent, 11,950 votes
  • McNerney: 57.4 percent, 16,086 votes
  • GAP: 14.8 percent, or 4,136 votes, in McNerney’s favor

CONTRA COSTA (24.6 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 50.4 percent, 24,070 votes
  • McNerney: 49.6 percent, 23,718 percent
  • GAP: 0.7 points, or 352 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (53.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 52.5 percent, 45,958 votes
  • McNerney: 47.5 percent, 41,612 votes
  • GAP: 5 points, or 4,346 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (5.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 45.6 percent, 5,802 votes
  • McNerney: 54 percent, 6,912 votes
  • GAP: 8.7 points, or 1,110 votes, in McNerney’s favor

TOTAL

  • Harmer: 49.8 percent, of 87,780 votes
  • McNerney: 50.2 percent, or 88,328 votes
  • GAP: 0.3 percent, or 548 votes, in McNerney’s favor

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 31 Comments »

Lots of last-minute campaign contributions

Money kept pouring into California campaigns and committees even while voters went to the polls on Tuesday, according to the Secretary of State’s campaign finance database.

There were many dozens of contributions on and since Tuesday, but among the bigger-ticket last-minute antes was $300,000 on Tuesday from General Electric to oppose Proposition 24, which would’ve rolled back some corporate tax cuts – approved as part of recent budget deals, and costing the state about $1.3 billion per year – set to take effect Jan. 1; Prop. 24 got only about 42 percent of the vote.

Billionaire investor and philanthropist Eli Broad gave $100,000 on Tuesday to the campaign supporting Proposition 20 – to add Congressional reapportionment to the duties of the citizens redistricting commission created by Proposition 11 of 2008 – and opposing Proposition 27, which would’ve abolished that commission; Prop. 20 passed with about 61 percent of the vote, but Prop. 27 failed with only about 41 percent. Broad also gave $6,500 that day to Democrat Gavin Newsom’s successful campaign for lieutenant governor.

The California State Parks Foundation put a final $50,000 on Wednesday into the failed Proposition 21, which would’ve established an $18 car registration fee to fund state parks and wildlife projects; Prop. 21 got only about 42 percent of the vote.

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, campaign finance | No Comments »

CD11: Harmer taking Contra Costa to court

Harmer

Harmer

McNerney

McNerney

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer will seek a court order in Superior Court in Martinez this afternoon to stop the vote-by-mail signature verification process in Contra Costa County.

Harmer, who ran against incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney on Tuesday, says his team should be allowed to challenge the signatures on vote-by-mail ballots.

Contra Costa Election Clerk Steve Weir disagrees. He says the county’s written procedures and guidelines clearly state that observers may challenge the process of counting ballots but not individual signatures.

Challenges to a specific voter’s right to cast a ballot must be made through a pollworker at the polls or through a challenge of a voter who has requested a vote-by-mail ballot, Weir said.  This allows the voter to respond to a challenge of his or her right to cast a ballot.

“While Harmer has claimed irregularities, not one instance has been presented to us,” Weir said.

Harmer spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin disagreed and said the other three counties in District 11 allow challenges of signatures on submitted vote-by-mail ballots.

“We just want to ensure that the signature review process is done openly, fairly and transparently,” she said. “Neither side is being afforded the opportunity to review and observe the signature review process.”

The backdrop of this legal dispute is the outcome of the 11th District election.

McNerney leads by 568 votes, an incredibly tight 0.3 percentage point advantage. The votes were breaking the Democrat’s way on Election Day, which means McNerney has little incentive to challenge the counting of ballots that arrived in election offices on Monday and Tuesday.

Harmer, on the other hand, could benefit if signatures on late arriving ballots are deemed invalid and thrown out, ensuring that potential votes for his opponent never show up on the tally.

Stay tuned.

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 67 Comments »