Money race for open East Bay Assembly seats

The East Bay’s open-seat Assembly races are seeing some fierce financial competition, according to campaign finance reports due yesterday.

In the 18th Assembly District, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, a Democrat, raised the most from Jan. 1 through March 17 – $76,066.30 – and has loaned his own campaign $7,500; spent $94,323.96 during that period; and had $142,087.82 cash on hand as of March 17. Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, another Democrat, raised $64,929.24 and has loaned his campaign $13,650; spent $43,991.95; and had $132,944 cash on hand as of March 17. And AC Transit Director-at-Large Joel Young of Oakland raised $32,645.00 and has loaned his campaign $50,000; spent $42,566.85; and had $161,919.94 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Rhonda Weber of Alameda, that race’s sole Republican.

In the 20th Assembly District, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, raised $32,174.70 and has loaned his campaign $96,000; spent $40,916.18; and had $130,435.08 cash on hand as of March 17. Hayward optometrist Jennifer Ong, another Democrat, raised $33,699.00 and has loaned her campaign $48,100; spent $119,021.85; and had $91,266.06 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by New Haven Unified School District Trustee Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat; Hayward Councilman Luis Reynoso, a Republican; or Union City Mayor Mark Green, a nonpartisan candidate.

In the 11th Assembly District, Oakley Councilman Jim Frazier, a Democrat, raised $58,008 and has loaned his own campaign $2,500; spent $91,901; and had $90,543.67 cash on hand as of March 17. Union negotiator Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista, also a Democrat, raised $19,866.56; spent $34,991.11; and had $15,614.53 cash on hand as of March 17. Retired fire chief Gene Gantt of Vacaville, another Democrat, raised $14,570 and has loaned his own campaign $3,000; spent $26,941.89; and had $16,142.19 cash on hand as of March 17. Suisun City Vice Mayor Mike Hudson, a Republican, raised $40,078.19, spent $40,763.95 and had $594.10 cash on hand as of March 17. Former Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, a nonpartisan candidate, raised $19,488.99, spent $6,291.50 and had $13,547.49 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Democrat Charles Kingeter, a programmer from Suisun City.


AD 18 brawl erupts over SEIU’s ‘un-endorsement’

We don’t tend to get excited about unions endorsing Democratic candidates, but when a union later revokes that endorsement, our ears perk up.

That’s exactly what happened to Joel Young, a candidate in the 18th Assembly District, who had gained the Service Employees International Union of California’s endorsement only to then lose it.

Actually, SEIU California in early February had endorsed all three Democrats in the 18th District race: Young, who is an AC Transit director; Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta; and Peralta Community Colleges Trustee Abel Guillen. (Republican Rhonda Weber also is in the race.) But SEIU California’s board unanimously voted at the end of last month to revoke the endorsement from Young.

Here’s what’s not in dispute: Young somehow obtained parts of the endorsement questionnaires that Bonta and Guillen had filled out – papers meant for the union’s eyes only. He was showing around his opponents’ pledges not to take money from JobsPAC, a political action committee co-chaired by the California Chamber of Commerce – a pledge he never made.

Here’s what is in dispute: Young’s motivation.

Joel Young“It’s my understanding that after making a pledge not to seek money from JobsPAC or members of JobsPAC, they are indeed doing that,” Young said Thursday of Bonta and Guillen. “I realize that it’s common in our politics to talk out of both sides of our mouth, but that doesn’t make it right. Both Abel and Rob have made pledges to people in this community and it’s wrong for them to go against those pledges in Sacramento.”

“I was happy that the locals voted to support me and naturally disappointed that their vote was overridden. But that’s none of my business, that’s an SEIU issue,” he said. “While I would love to have had SEIU’s support, I remain committed to giving SEIU my support if I am elected.”

Other sources, however, said Young is putting a respectable spin on a disrespectful act – they say he used the union’s confidential information to solicit money from, and badmouth his opponents with, more conservative interests hostile to the union. As someone close to the union’s deliberations put it, “It’s uncommon for someone to accept an endorsement with one hand and then use the issues we care about as a bludgeon with the other hand.”

SEIU California Communications Director Michael Cox said Thursday he wouldn’t get into the details.

“Our local unions did not take lightly the decision to rescind Mr. Young’s endorsement. His actions violated the integrity of our member-driven, democratic endorsement process,” Cox said. “Unfortunately, his representations here are not accurate and are of a piece with the behavior that led to the withdrawal of our endorsement.”

Philemon Abraham, Bonta’s campaign coordinator, would say only that “Rob is a very principled candidate, and that’s why he earned and maintains strong support from SEIU.”

And Pat Dennis, Guillen’s campaign spokesman, said Young “needs to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. Despite Joel Young’s spin, the members of SEIU spoke with one voice and took this unprecedented action.”

Rumor has it the Alameda Labor Council will be weighing in on this next week. Stay tuned.


State GOP endorses Emken for U.S. Senate

The California Republican Party today endorsed Elizabeth Emken of Danville over several other GOP contenders to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Elizabeth Emken“This was a humbling experience and a tremendous honor to receive the unanimous support of the board,” she said Monday. “I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead, as well as working in partnership with the CRP as we head toward victory together.”

As many as half a dozen other Republicans are in the race against Feinstein, including Oceanside businessman Dan Hughes and Santa Monica businessman Al Ramirez.

Chris Mann, Ramirez’ campaign manager, said his camp is “disappointed that the Board of the California Republican Party voted to support a candidate we believe cannot be successful against Feinstein. Fortunately this race will be decided by the voters, not the GOP establishment.” He said Ramirez is best-positioned to appeal to Latinos and independents, which will be crucial blocs in order to beat Feinstein.

The party in the past hasn’t made primary election endorsements, but state’s new “top-two” primary system necessitated a change. In this system, all voters choose from among all candidates regardless of party, and the top two vote getters advance to November’s general election – even if they’re of the same party.

State GOP leaders met yesterday in Burbank to consider how county committees had judged races all over the state, and then voted on decisions of their own. A list of endorsements in races all over the state was released Monday morning.

“As the Party prepares to be a vigorous contender in California’s first top two primary, we seek to promote the most competitive candidates in the field this primary season,” state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said in a news release. “As Chairman, I am very pleased with the level of thoughtful participation from around the state. It was an encouraging prelude to an invigorated Party getting ready for this important election year.”

Absent from the endorsement list was the 3rd Congressional District, where three Republicans are vying to unseat Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann has been named a “Young Gun” by the National Republican Congressional Committee, but neither she nor either of the other two Republicans in that race – Eugene Ray and Rick Tubbs – got a nod today from the state party.

Ricky Gill, another NRCC “Young Gun” in Northern California, did get the state party’s endorsement in his bid to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the 9th Congressional District; Republican John McDonald also is in that race.

Gill said Monday he’s “proud to have earned the endorsement of the California Republican Party and of all three county parties in the 9th Congressional District. I also know, however, that our task is just beginning, and I’ll keep working hard to ensure our Valley and Delta communities send a truly local voice to Congress in 2012.”

The party also made no endorsements in the 18th Assembly District, where Republican Rhonda Weber is running, or in the 20th District, where Republican Luis Reynoso is running. However, Mike Hudson did get the state party’s endorsement in the 11th Assembly District, and Al Philips got it in the 16th Assembly District.


Scandal can’t slow Assembly fundraising

Even a key supporter’s scandal can’t slow the hustle and bustle of a contested campaign.

Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer – now in rehabilitation for undisclosed addictions after a former lover allegedly attacked her in a Newark motel room early this month – and her husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, had been scheduled to hold a fundraiser tonight at their home for Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, who’s running for the 20th Assembly District seat.

Quirk, who’s tight enough with the Lockyers that he served as the treasurer for Nadia Lockyer’s 2010 supervisorial campaign, emailed supporters Sunday to announce that the event – for which tickets cost from $50 to $1,000 – had been moved to an Italian restaurant in Oakland Hayward. (My apologies; I frequent Buon Appetito myself, and misstating the city was a careless error on my part.) “Nadia and Bill Lockyer will have an event at their home sometime in the spring,” Quirk wrote.

You’ve got to wonder whether that’s wishful thinking, given that family’s unfortunate disarray.

As Quirk competes with Democrats Jennifer Ong and Sarabjit Cheema and independent Mark Green (while Republican Adnan Shahab has dropped out) in this top-two primary, the fundraising beat goes on even in districts with incumbents.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, is still calling for RSVPs to her wine-and-hors-d’oeuvres reception with Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, next Tuesday, March 6 at Alamo’s Round Hill Country Club. Tickets start at $50 while a “leader” package of 10 tickets plus signage and special acknowledgement costs $3,900, all going to buoy Buchanan’s bid for a third and final Assembly term serving the newly drawn 16th District. Among her challengers will be Republican David Haubert of Dublin.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: Per the comments below, I neglected to mention Estes Albert “Al” Phillips of Livermore as a Republican contender in the 16th Assembly District. I’d noticed a statement-of-intent in the Secretary of State’s database under the name Estes Phillips, but didn’t know he goes by Al and so couldn’t find his campaign’s website earlier. My apologies.


GOP candidates sign up for ‘Trailblazer’ program

As House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, prepares to take the podium at the California Republican Party convention’s banquet in Bakersfield, a news release has just gone out announcing that 33 GOP candidates have enrolled in his “California Trailblazers” legislative recruitment, training and advisement program.

The program is modeled on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program McCarthy founded for House candidates.

“As Republicans we see this election as an opportunity to embark on an economic comeback for both America and California,” McCarthy said in the news release. “Also, as Republicans we’re ready to begin the California Republican comeback. I believe that the Trailblazers program is essential to this effort. The Trailblazers program will work to find and give needed resources to principled reform-minded Republicans who are ready to bring fiscal discipline back to Sacramento, and economic growth and job creation back to California. I am proud to be a part of this effort.”

State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff said in the release that the threat of a Democratic super-majority makes it “more important than ever to put our best team on the field this November. The rigorous training these candidates will go through will prepare them to win and fight for a fiscally conservative agenda in Sacramento.”

And Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway called it “a terrific way to train Republicans to become stronger candidates and arrive in Sacramento ready to lead”

Once candidates meet campaign infrastructure, grassroots support, fundraising and other metrics specific to their races, they will advance to “Pathfinder,” “Rising Star,” and ultimately “Trailblazer.” The program also will provide ongoing education through fundraisers, coalition-building experts, media training and issue briefings. A preliminary campaign college for candidates was held in December, California Trailblazers in April will announce the candidates who have graduated to “Pathfinder” status.


Endorsements and money in AD-18 race

The fight for the 18th Assembly District seat rolled onward today with dueling endorsement announcements.

Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta got the endorsement of United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, a labor icon. Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen rolled out his nods from Oakland City Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Ignacio De La Fuente. And Guillen and AC Transit Board Director-at-Large Joel Young both tweeted today that they won the endorsement of Teamsters Joint Council 7.

But while endorsements can make a good media splash, it’s questionable how much weight they’re given by voters. For myself, I’m more interested in following the money – so I briefly eyeballed the three candidates’ campaign bankrolls today. Each is, in some way, a direct product of the elected offices they’re already holding.

Bonta’s campaign had $132,239.62 cash on hand at the end of 2011, including $7,500 he loaned to it himself. Among the contributions he has received are $7,800 from the Alameda Firefighters Association PAC; $3,900 from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s campaign committee; $2,000 from Oakland City Attorney’s Office Supervising Attorney Mark Morodomi; and $1,050 from attorney Amber Maltbie, a former aide to Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, whom Bonta now hopes to succeed.

Guillen’s campaign had $107,040.94 cash on hand at the end of 2011, including $13,650 he loaned to it himself; since then, he scored a $7,800 contribution from the California Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education (COPE) PAC. Also among his contributions are $3,900 from Cordoba Corp. of Los Angeles, $4,400 from Seville Construction Services of Pasadena, $2,000 from Steinberg Architects of San Jose and $1,000 from Olive Construction Management of El Cerrito, all of which do business with the Peralta college district. Among his elected contributors are Board of Equalization member Betty Yee ($1,000), Oakland Unified School District Board President David Kakishiba ($1,000) and Assemblyman Luis Alejo ($500).

And Young’s campaign had $171,827.32 cash on hand at the end of 2011. Among his contributions are $3,900 each from the Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington, D.C. and from the ATU’s California Conference Board; $5,500 from Emeryville-based developer Eddie Orton and his wife; $3,650 from the Engineering & Utility Contractors Association PAC; and $3,500 from AC Transit Ward 4 Director Mark Williams’ campaign.