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Democratic endorsements, or the lack thereof

There were some interesting Bay Area results from the California Democratic Party’s “pre-endorsing conferences” this past weekend, at which members of the party’s state central committee, county committees and local Democratic clubs got together to vote on who should get the nod for the June 6 primaries.

A candidate would’ve needed 70 percent of the vote at one of these meetings in order to secure a place on the consent calendar at the state Democratic convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 in San Diego.

In some places, redistricting has pitted former friends and allies against each other; such is the challenge Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is mounting against state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento had signaled his support of Hancock months ago, and – unsurprisingly – I hear she got 136 votes (86 percent) at the local conference while Swanson got only 21. However, I hear Swanson had enough local labor heavy-hitters behind him to guarantee he’ll have some boots on the ground in the run-up to the vote.

Swanson is term-limited out of what has become the new 18th Assembly District, where Democrats including Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal are vying to replace him. Bonta got the most votes but Young trailed just behind, with nobody anywhere close to the 70 percent threshold.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is term-limited out of the new 20th Assembly District, where Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk got the pre-endorsement nod over fellow Democrats Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, and New Haven Unified School District Sarabjit Cheema. (Union City Mark Green ditched his former Democratic affiliation and is running as an independent.)

The only vacant Bay Area House seat is the one created by the impending retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, fired off a news release noting he got 69 votes – more than all the other candidates combined – highlighting “the strong grassroots support of my campaign from throughout this entire district.” But his closest competitor, progressive activist Norm Solomon of Inverness, got 41 votes – enough to block any endorsement in this race.

And in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was solidly endorsed over an upstart challenge by Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. I hear that a staffer for state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, cast her vote for Stark rather than for “no endorsement” – a sign that Corbett, who’d at first said she was raising funds to seek this seat in 2014 but later said she was re-assessing the option of jumping in now, perhaps has decided not to go for it this year. Corbett herself couldn’t cast a ballot, because she doesn’t live within the new district’s lines.

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, 2012 Congressional Election, Assembly, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Lynn Woolsey, Mary Hayashi, Pete Stark, Sandre Swanson, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

Milpitas’ McHugh eyes run vs. Wieckowski in AD25

Milpitas Vice Mayor Pete McHugh confirmed this afternoon that he’s considering running against Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the newly drawn 25th Assembly District.

Pete McHugh“I’ve got a lot of experience in local government and I would like to see if I can make a positive difference at the state level, and possibly try to solve the problems by something other than dumping off state responsibilities on local counties and cities,” McHugh, also a Democrat, said today. “However, he is an incumbent, and as I understand it the powers that be – which would be labor and the Democratic Party – would like to keep their players intact. So I am still looking at it; it’s getting late, and I will be making a decision within the next three to four weeks.”

McHugh, 69, was elected to his latest Milpitas City Council term in 2008. He served three terms on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, winning elections in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Before that, he’d been on the Milpitas City Council since 1976, and in 1978 became the city’s first elected mayor.

As a former Fremont councilman, Wieckowski’s political power base is in that city. But redistricting split the city and the new 25th District, in which he resides, now extends further south so that parts of Santa Clara County – including parts McHugh has represented as a councilman or supervisor for decades – now make up most of the electorate.

After spending some time testing the waters, McHugh believes there’s support for him to run “but I want to be convinced that there is even more support out there. Challenging an incumbent is not an easy task, even in these days when people are less than enchanted with their federal and state representatives. I want to see if I can raise an adequate amount of money; ‘adequate’ will be defined later by me. It will be a challenge, there’s no question.”

Wieckowski, 56, had just short of $50,000 in his campaign’s account as of June 30, but late contribution reports show he pulled in $15,600 in the last few days of 2011.

McHugh said local labor officials with whom he’s been speaking have subsequently been called by Wieckowski and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, inquiring about McHugh’s plans. McHugh said he finally talked to Wieckowski directly.

“He asked why would I run against him, and I said I’m not running against him, I might be running for the position to see if people want to give me a chance to bring some solutions up there,” McHugh said, especially solutions that don’t involve stripping local governments of funding as the state is now doing with redevelopment money. “It’d be wonderful to have a chance to be in that arena and take on the lions – or maybe give them something to chew on.”

UPDATE @ 5:28 P.M.: Wieckowski spokesman Jeff Barbosa said his boss is traveling today and can’t be reached.

“With the changes in redistricting this is not a big surprise. Bob has a lot of respect for Vice Mayor McHugh, but he is also confident that he will be re-elected to the Assembly,” Barbosa said.

“He currently represents Milpitas and a part of San Jose. He has worked hard on issues that are important to the region, including BART to San Jose and the clean technology sector. He has reached out to Silicon Valley and small businesses to create policies that will keep the Valley a leader in innovation,” Barbosa continued. “The Assemblymember has already earned the endorsements of the California Professional Firefighters, CNA, the CHP and California School Employees Association, to name just a few. Several of his Santa Clara County Assembly colleagues have endorsed him, along with San Jose elected officials. He believes he is well-prepared to represent the 25th District.”

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 6 Comments »

A third Democrat enters AD11 race

Gene Gantt

Democrat and retired Benicia Fire Chief Gene Gantt will run in the newly drawn 11th Assembly District, joining what is rapidly becoming a crowded race.

Gantt joins Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier and labor negotiator Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista, both Democrats; former Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, running as an independent; and Republican Suisun City Vice Mayor Mike Hudson.

The majority of the new district is in Solano County but it stretches into eastern Contra Costa County including Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay and Knightsen. (Click here to see a map.)

Here’s Gantt’s news release:

Vacaville, CA—Fire Chief, Gene Gantt (Retired) today announced his campaign for the California Assembly in the new 11th District. With a 35 year connection the community, and as the only Democrat from Vacaville in Solano County which holds 54% of the voters, Chief Gantt is well-positioned in this contest.

 In a letter to friends and family, Chief Gantt stated: “Never in a million years did I think I would run for a seat in the legislature. But the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission has created a new 11th District in which I have spent decades serving the public, raising a family and fighting to protect our natural resources. My time to lead is now.”

 Chief Gantt grew up in this district and has lived there since 1957. After graduating from Vacaville High School, he became a firefighter at age 19. For 35 years he served the communities of Benicia and Vacaville, retiring in 2008 as the Fire Chief of Benicia. Gantt’s fire service career took him on calls to all areas of this region: Fairfield, Suisun, Rio Vista and Contra Costa County. Today, he teaches emergency preparedness at Solano Community College.

 Chief Gantt stated, “This district is where my wife and I raised our children and enjoyed the unique open spaces, fishing, camping and wildlife of this region together as a family. Those experiences led me to be a leader in protecting our watersheds and the Delta. I have also had a hand in shaping statewide public policy through my work with the California State Firefighters’ Association, for which I am now the Executive Director. Before my retirement from public service, I was the Legislative Director for the California Fire Chiefs’ Association.”

Chief Gantt emphasized that he is not a career politician. “This is not an experiment for me. Nor is it a stepping stone to some higher office. This is a labor of love; love of my neighbors, love of the communities I’ve protected for 35 years and love for this unique part of Northern California that has given me and my family so much.”

The 11th Assembly District consists of Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun City, Rio Vista, Isleton, Oakley, Antioch, Brentwood, Knightsen, Bethel Island, Elmira, Discovery Bay and Byron. Thanks to his career in fire service, Gant has strong connections to the communities that make up a majority of the district’s turnout. As a result, Gantt has a unique regional advantage over the other Democratic Challengers. Democrat Jim Frazier, Mayor of Oakley, represents 6.67% of the voters of the district. Democrat Patricia Hernandez, a contracts negotiator for the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, hails from Rio Vista which represents less than 3% of the district. Republican Len Augustine, age 73, has served as Mayor and City Councilmember in Vacaville.

Gene is married to his wife of 32 years, Mary Lou, has two children, Kristen a high school teacher and Taylor a senior at California State University, Chico. For more information about Gene’s campaign please visit

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011
Under: 2012 Assembly election | 2 Comments »

Independent AD11 candidate enters the race

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine announced today he will run for Assembly District 11 as an independent candidate.

That pits him against Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier, who has been busy locking up most of the major Democratic endorsements. Also running is Democrat Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista, an attorney for Union of American Physicians and Dentists.

The new 11th District is a particularly attractive seat because it has no incumbent and could easily see a big field of candidates vying for one of those top two finisher spots in the open June primary.

The newly drawn district encompasses eastern Contra Costa and much of Solano County. See the map here at Redistricting Partners’ web site.

Here’s Augustine’s announcement:

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine has announced his intention to run for the newly created 11th State Assembly District seat, covering most of Northern Solano and Eastern Contra Costa counties. The seat, which lacks an incumbent, was created by the California State Redistricting Commission in late July.

What makes the announcement somewhat out of the ordinary is that Augustine, who served on the Vacaville City Council from 1996 until his retirement in December 2010, is running as a nonpartisan candidate.

“After 14 years in local government, I learned that we accomplished a great deal more if we weren’t concerned if the person sitting next to us was a Republican or a Democrat. Our focus was always about what’s in the best interest of our community. When I look at what’s happening to our once Golden State, I have to think applying some local government rules couldn’t hurt us.”

Len makes his agenda very clear – getting Californians back to work, strengthening education and correcting the long-broken system of fiscal mismanagement that has left California with a new $13 Billion deficit for the year.

After 14 years on the City Council – eight of them as the Mayor – Len developed an expertise in local and regional government, serving on a wide array of diverse commissions on major policy issues. Len has served as Chairman of the Solano Transportation Authority, Solano County Water Agency, Solano County Mayors Committee and Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee. He has also served in executive positions with the League of California Cities, Association of Bay Area Governments, Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority and most recently on the Board of Directors of the Travis Credit Union.

Among his credits over the years, Len successfully wrote and got the City Council to approve a Strategic Plan for the City of Vacaville, led the charge to move up the schedule for I-80 improvements by two years, initiated the Town Square concept in Vacaville that has revived the downtown area and become a model for others, developed job growth efforts through economic vitality and economic recruitment programs, and chaired the successful bond effort for local schools.

Len’s early supporters include a wide range of Republicans, Democrats and nonpartisan elected officials including Solano County Supervisors Jim Spering, Mike Reagan and John Vasquez, Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy, Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, former City Treasurer Garland Porter and former Independent State Senator Quentin Kopp and dozens of others.

A native of the Pennsylvania coal mining country, Len lost his father when he was just eight years old. His mother worked two jobs to ensure young Len would have the opportunity to succeed and serve – and he did. After graduating from Lehigh University with a degree in Engineering, Len went on to a distinguished career in the United States Air Force, commanding the 89th Military Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force – best known for its role operating and maintaining the Air Force One fleet. Colonel Augustine retired as a command pilot with more than 5,000 hours, including 700 combat hours.

Len and his wife, Sue, a retired library assistant, have two sons and two grandchildren.

Len on the Issues:

Creating Jobs/Manufacturing:

“For years we’ve ignored manufacturing jobs that have been a mainstay of our economy. We must create incentives for manufacturers to stay, reinvest in trade schools and partner with the trades to ensure that we’re creating both opportunity and revenue.”


“As for education, we struggle under bureaucracy, but I’d like to see us empower the classroom teacher and reward them accordingly. My lifetime in the military and local government has taught me that you achieve more accountability the closer you are to the problem. In Vacaville, we led the community effort to invest in our schools, the administrators responded and the result was improved test scores and sound financial management.”


“California’s single biggest challenge outside struggling families is the crushing debt. In the long-term, the only cure is changing our bad habits. As an Assemblyman, one of my first acts will be to support legislation requiring California to adopt a two-year budget process to make state government more transparent and accountable. Each department will be forced to justify every penny it needs during every budget we adopt. There will be rewards for saving money – not penalties for failing to spend everything, as exists today. In a two-year budget we will be able to better plan for the long-term.”

“We know the reason for California’s long-term financial problems is the inability to resist creating new programs when times are good. As an Assemblyman, I’ll advocate for fiscal responsibility – we won’t create new programs just because we have the money, we will only create them based on need. We must focus on paying down our debt and saving for the inevitable rainy days.”

Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Under: 2012 Assembly election | 3 Comments »

Oakley mayor enters AD11 race

Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier

Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier will run for state Assembly next year in a newly carved district that encompasses most of East Contra Costa County and a majority of Solano County.

The 52-year-old Democratic general contractor’s decision to enter the state contest also ends speculation that he will challenge Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho in her re-election bid.

Unlike an upstream fight against a two-term incumbent supervisor, the new 11th Assembly District is wide open. It includes Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Knightsen, Discovery Bay, Bryon and Bethel Island along with Vacaville, Fairfield, Rio Vista and Isleton. (Click here to see a map of the district.)

Frazier is the first to officially declare his candidacy in the heavily Democratic 11th District (19 percentage points Democratic) although others are evaluating the option. Open seats typically draw more people.

Campaign strategy will also change under the state’s new top-two primary rule.

In the past, the primary winner who hailed from the predominant party was almost guaranteed victory in the general election. Next year, the top two vote-getters in the June contest will face off again in November regardless of party affiliation.

Jobs, education and transportation will top Frazier’s policy priority list, he said via telephone prior to his scheduled 4 p.m. today announcement press conference in Oakley.

Frazier also announced endorsements from Democratic Reps. John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney, state Sens. Mark DeSaulnier and Lois Wolk, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

He was elected to the Oakley City Council in 2008 after serving on the city’s planning commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s citizen advisory committee.

Posted on Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Under: 2012 Assembly election, California Assembly | 2 Comments »