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Primary post-mortems on CA15, AD20 and AD25

I spent yesterday starting to unpack what the new top-two system hath wrought upon California’s state legislative and House races – something we’ll be unpacking for years, I suspect – but today I’ve some time to dissect the still-unofficial results in few interesting Bay Area races.

15th Congressional District

Incumbent Pete Stark, D-Fremont, finished first with 41.8 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, at 36 percent; eliminated was conservative independent Chris Pareja, a Hayward businessman, at 22.2 percent. Stark is in trouble – I can’t imagine a single, solitary Pareja voter switching to Stark, but I can imagine lots of them voting for anybody but Stark. Stark won the Alameda County sections of the district 42.9 percent to Swalwell’s 35.3 percent, but Swalwell prevailed in the smaller Contra Costa area, 40 percent to Stark’s 33.1 percent.

Stark’s best hopes are that elevated Democratic turnout and the coattails of President Obama (who endorsed him) will give him an edge in November, while the more moderate Swalwell will continue romancing not only Democrats but also independents and Republicans. The key to Stark’s strategy might be saying as little as possible in live public appearances, given his disastrous spring gaffes.

20th Assembly District

Hayward councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, finished first in the race for this open seat, with 30.2 percent of the vote, followed by fellow Democrat Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, at 24.9 percent. Eliminated were Union City Mayor Mark Green, an independent, at 20.9 percent; Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso, a Republican, at 18.1 percent; and Union City school board member Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat, at 5.8 percent.

This was somewhat surprising, as I thought Green – mayor for 19 years – would have the name recognition to finish second behind Quirk. But Green, a longtime Democrat, switched to no-party-preference in 2010 and probably had hoped he’d attract the district’s voters who wouldn’t vote for a Democrat; that was foiled by Reynoso’s relatively late entry into the race. Ong, meanwhile, staged a direct-mail blitz – my household got 13 pieces of mail from her (including my favorite of this season), compared to two from Quirk, two from Green and one from Cheema. Quirk has the party establishment’s support, and easily is the odds-on favorite for November.

25th Assembly District

Incumbent Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, finished with 41.4 percent of the vote, followed by Republican ArLyne Diamond, a management consultant from Santa Clara, at 30.7 percent; eliminated was Democrat Pete McHugh, at 27.9. This district was radically redrawn last year, splitting Wieckowski’s power base in Fremont (where he was a councilman) and extending much further down into Santa Clara County. That’s where McHugh, Milpitas’ vice mayor and a former county supervisor, hoped his name recognition would give him an edge.

But ultimately, Wieckowski ran neck-and-neck with McHugh in Santa Clara County – a difference of only 10 votes out of the almost 20,000 cast for the two of them – while beating McHugh 4-to-1 in Alameda County. The district is registered 45.3 percent Democrat, 19.7 percent Republican and 30.5 percent no-party-preference, so it’ll be tough (read as: nothing short of a miracle) for Diamond to carry it in November.

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Oakley Dem Frazier takes big money lead in AD11 race

Assembly District 11 Democratic candidate and Oakley Councilman Jim Frazier has outraised and outspent his five opponents by a large margin.

In the latest campaign finance report, Frazier reported contributions of $160,429 since January and expenses of $296,383.

Republican and Suisun City Councilman Mike Hudson is in a distant second. He received $64,177 and spent $62,226.

Arguably, Frazier needed to raise and spend the most money. He is the only Contra Costa candidate running against five Solano County opponents in new district dominated by Solano County. It’s a large field and only the top two finishers will advance to the general election,

The numbers for the other candidates are: Democratic labor negotiator Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista received $34,894 and spent $64,807; independent and ex-Vacaville councilman Len Augustine received $31,759 and spent $26,473; Democratic retired Benicia fire chief Gene Gantt received $22,364 and spent $49,930.

Democratic programmer and artist Charles Kingeter of Suisun City did not file a report, which presumably means he didn’t raise enough money to trigger the filing requirement.

Assembly District 11 is a newly drawn district that includes Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, Knightsen, Byon, Discovery Bay and Bethel Island plus the bulk of Solano County.

Assembly District 11, map by Redistricting Partners

 

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Ong, like Perata, proves too hot to handle

My household yesterday received the latest of many, many mailers from the campaign of Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward who’s running for the 20th Assembly District seat. But this one was a little different, a little more… substantial…

Ong letterOng potholder
(click to enlarge)

Thanks, Mrs. Ong. I must say, this gave me a mild case of the warm-and-fuzzies – not because of the charming mother-daughter narrative, and not because I desperately needed a potholder. No, it was nostalgia, as I recalled one of my favorite political keepsakes:

Perata potholder

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Git up off yer duff and register to vote

This Monday, May 21, is the last day to register to vote in the June 5 primary election.

To be eligible to register, a person must be a U.S. Citizen; at least 18 years old on Election Day; not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; and not deemed by a court to be mentally incompetent to register and to vote. Also, registered voters must re-register whenever they have moved to a new address, changed their name, or want to change political party affiliation.

Voter registration cards are available at county elections offices (Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz); U.S. Post Offices; and the Department of Motor Vehicles, or online from the Secretary of State’s office. They must be signed and submitted in person or by mail; a mailed registration card postmarked Monday will satisfy the deadline.

There is one exception to the deadline: Under new state law, people who obtain their U.S. citizenship after today can register and vote right up until the polls close on June 5.

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Judge poised to nix attack on ‘top-two’ primary

California can proceed with its new “top-two” primary system, an East Bay judge tentatively ruled today, sustaining the state’s objection to a lawsuit filed by a group of minor parties and their voters.

In his tentative ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Appel said the arguments made in the lawsuit filed last fall are the same ones that failed to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court that Washington’s version of the law should be overturned.

A hearing on the tentative ruling is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Oakland.

The lawsuit, filed in November on behalf of the Green Party of Alameda County, the Libertarian Party of California, the Peace and Freedom Party of California and eight minor-party voters, argues Prop. 14 “effectively denies voters their fundamental right of choice by precluding small party candidates from the general election ballot,” thus violating the First and 14th amendments.

The general election is “the moment when the highest number of voters are engaged in the electoral process,” the suit says, and so the new law severely burdens voters’, candidates’ and parties’ rights without any compelling or even significant state interest.

But Appel wrote Monday that unless the plaintiffs can amend their complaint in the next few weeks to present new arguments, the system will stand.

Appel said the first part of the lawsuit seems to be a “facial challenge” to Prop. 14 – challenging the general framework – rather than an “as applied” challenge that questions some manner in which the new law is being implemented in a discriminatory or unreasonable way.

But the 9th Circuit earlier this year “considered and rejected the same broad challenge” that the plaintiffs are making in this case, the judge wrote. “Among other things, the Court held that ‘because [the law] gives major- and minor-party candidates equal access to the primary and general election ballots, it does not give the “established parties a decided advantage over any new parties struggling for existence.”’”

Arguing that participation in the general election isn’t equivalent to participation in the primary election; that general-election ballot access is essential for minor parties seeking to qualify in future elections; and that California doesn’t have sufficient regulatory interests to impose this new system “are legal assertions that are inconsistent” with the 9th Circuit’s ruling in the Washington case, Appel wrote.

And Appel wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 held that a statute like Washington’s – and now, like Prop. 14 – that allows an open primary in which candidates identify themselves on the ballot by a self-designated party preference doesn’t unconstitutionally interfere with a political party’s rights of association or speech.

Michael Siegel, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said Monday he’s disappointed that Appel deferred to a 9th Circuit ruling that the plaintiffs have argued was in error. “Big picture, this is something that needs to get sorted out at a higher level, either at the California Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court,” Siegel said.

Siegel acknowledged that even if he were to convince Appel at tomorrow’s hearing to completely reverse this tentative ruling, “nothing could be done in terms of the June election, but something could be done for November” – that is, if the court struck down the top-two system, it could let minor parties hold conventions this summer or fall to nominate candidates for addition to the general-election ballot.

But given Appel’s tentative ruling, Siegel said, “practically speaking, what’s really at stake now is 2014.”

UPDATE @ 4:06 P.M. TUESDAY: Appel heard arguments on his tentative ruling this morning and took the case under submission; he’ll probably file a permanent order – most likely along the lines of his tentative ruling – in the next few days. The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for July 10.

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Endorsement tiff causes county-state GOP rift

The members of the Tehama County Republican Central Committee are miffed enough at state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro over an endorsement spat that they’ve rescinded their invitation for him to keynote one of their upcoming events.

Oh no they di’int!

Ah, but they did, and now they’re telling the world. County GOP chairman Ken Say reached out to reporters today to announce that Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, is no longer welcome to speak at the fundraising banquet they’re holding in May in Red Bluff. From his letter to Del Beccaro:

After serious discussion of the endorsement actions taken by the California Republican Party Board of Directors during their March 11th meeting, the Tehama County Republican Party has unanimously voted to rescind the invitation extended to you to be our guest speaker at the TCRP dinner of May 19, 2012. The TCRP, by unanimous vote, has affirmed that our speaker must be someone that upholds our adherence to Republican values and principles. Unfortunately, we no longer believe that you meet that criteria and have voted to invite speakers that the TCRP believe to meet that standard.

We realize that you are only one vote on the Board, but your personal leadership in the CRP Board endorsement process has convinced us that you were unable to guide the Board in adhering to the Board’s own bylaws. The specific bylaw violation was the invalidation of Tehama County’s February 9th endorsement of Assembly candidate, Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams, which then allowed the CRP Board to disregard the clear requirement of a non-endorsement by the Board in Section 3.02 of the bylaws. The TCRP believes that their endorsements were invalidated by the CRP Board because it did not fit conveniently with the candidates that you wanted to support and we resent that CRP funds will be used to only support your candidates.

We are making our displeasure of the Board’s and your action public to let the other Republican County Central Committees know that the CRP’s leadership has placed their own interests above the individual interests of the local Republican voters as expressed by their duly-elected central committee members. We clearly understand the reason for the alienation that many California Republicans feel toward the State Party.

We, the Tehama County Republican Party, at the local level, will continue to support the Republican candidates that represent our best interests and not some unknown person picked by a “star chamber” in an illegal procedure.

The state GOP endorsed incumbent Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, in the 3rd Assembly District, rather than Williams. Logue, 61, now seeking his third and final two-year Assembly term, is the Assembly Republican Caucus’ chief whip and is the top Republican on the Health and Elections and Redistricting committees; earlier, he was a Yuba County supervisor.

Del Beccaro, responding by e-mail this afternoon, said the party “engaged in an unprecedented process in response to the challenge of Prop. 14” – that is, the new top-two primary system, in which all voters can choose from among all candidates regardless of party and the top-two vote getters advance to November’s general election, even if they’re from the same party.

“In the end, the overwhelming majority of decisions the Party made were well received,” Del Beccaro said. “There were exceptions – proving the adage that you cannot please everyone, especially in politics. Going forward the Party will move toward a more broad based process that will engage Republicans voters directly.”

Another source close to the GOP endorsement process called this little more than a case of sour grapes. “The CRP didn’t go their way on the endorsement process, and quite honestly, it is just silliness. We have 58 counties in California, and made some 154 … endorsements without this sort of letter. I chalk it up to that.”

More than half of the newly drawn 3rd Assembly District’s registered voters are in Butte County; it also includes parts of Sutter, Tehama, Yuba, Glenn and Colusa counties. About 40.7 percent of the district’s registered voters are Republicans, about 32.9 percent are Democrats and about 20.2 percent declined to state a party preference.

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring just replied to my tweet of this item with a tweet of his own: “A chairman often takes grief for events beyond his control. @tomdelbeccaro acted properly.”