Potential House rivals to share podium at dinner

Butter the popcorn and get ready for some interesting viewing: Potential rivals for an East Bay House seat will share the podium at a Democratic Party event next month in Hayward.

Eric SwalwellState Treasurer Bill Lockyer – who’s had a tough year of his own – is scheduled to keynote the Eden Area United Democratic Campaign’s annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner, but Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, and state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, are among the other speakers.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was among the speakers at last year’s dinner, and he had the Eden Area UDC’s support in last year’s 15th Congressional District election; his campaign manager even worked out of the UDC’s office in Hayward for a while. Swalwell succeeded in unseating Stark, after Corbett – along with former Obama administration official Ro Khanna – declined to challenge Stark.

Ellen CorbettKhanna is now considering a 2014 run for the 17th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. But Corbett – who is term-limited out of the state Senate in 2014 – has left open the possibility that she’ll challenge Swalwell: “I would be honored to serve in Congress, but it’s too early to discuss 2014,” she said in November.

So Swalwell will be addressing a room full of people who just months ago were working hard to defeat him, and he’ll share the podium with someone who might challenge him next year. Fun for everyone!

The event is scheduled for 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 21 in the Carpenters’ union hall on Mattox Road in Hayward; tickets are available online.


Why is NRCC still targeting Jerry McNerney?

I got a good laugh from an e-mail I received yesterday morning from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Today, the National Republican Congressional Committee is welcoming Jerry McNerney back to Washington with a plan he won’t be able to resist: the House Democrats’ Retirement Package. This is an incredible offer for the California Democrat. With voters poised to boot McNerney out of office in the next election, why not just bow out now?,” the email said.

“Why wait until voters show you the door in 2014?” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in the release. “House Democrats continue to support tax and spend policies and a big government agenda. If McNerney doesn’t retire soon, voters are going to deliver his retirement for him.”

McNerney, D-Stockton, was one of 10 House Democrats whose districts were targeted with this message, and the only one in California. I just can’t imagine why the NRCC continues to see McNerney as vulnerable, given that he just whupped the NRCC’s anointed “Young Gun,” Ricky Gill of Lodi, by 11.2 percentage points last month – the largest victory margin McNerney has ever had. He also now enjoys the largest Democratic voter registration edge (12 points) he’s ever had, so it’s hard to see how the NRCC sees a foothold there.

But hey, email is free, right? The true test will be when we see how much money the NRCC does, or doesn’t, put behind the next Republican to challenge McNerney.


Garamendi raising funds to pay off campaign debt

With a hard-fought re-election race done, Rep. John Garamendi needs more money to pay off his campaign debts.

Garamendi, D-Fairfield, will hold a fundraising luncheon Monday at an Italian restaurant in South San Francisco, seeking from $500 to $2,500 per person.

Garamendi fended off a challenge from Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, a Republican, in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District. He finished with 54.1 percent of the vote to Vann’s 45.9 percent, according to still-unofficial results scheduled to be certified next week.

As of Oct. 17 – the final reporting deadline before the election – Garamendi’s campaign had outspent Vann’s by about 43 percent, but had only $112,698 cash on hand with $132,354 in outstanding debts and obligations.


10 observations at the end of this election week

1.) One party’s strategy this year involved getting far more people to vote, while another’s seemed to involve having fewer people vote; the more democratic approach prevailed.

2.) Meg should’ve told Mitt: Money helps, but it ain’t everything.

3.) It’s not just W who calls Karl Rove “turd blossom” now; a lot of rich, anonymous donors must be clamoring for their money back.

4.) You can read, watch or listen to your news from whatever outlets you want, but eventually reality comes crashing in.

5.) Picture an empty chair, on which sits a binder full of women who ride horses and carry bayonets; now think of in whose favor all of these campaign memes worked.

6.) A slow adjustment, with small changes marking the way from old to new, is evolution; an overnight change is more like mutation.

7.) When a party leader talks tough – even in the heat of battle – about picking up 25 seats, and in the end only picks up seven, there are consequences.

8.) Even 40 years of incumbency can’t save a candidate from himself.

9.) Don’t mess with Jerry Brown.

10.) Donald Trump is an a—hat.


A few more thoughts on Pete Stark’s defeat

We’ve posted my story for tomorrow’s print editions on how Rep. Pete Stark’s defeat marks both the end of an era and, probably, the start of another Democrat-on-Democrat race for the 15th Congressional District in 2014. Here’s a few final thoughts for which there wasn’t room in that story, but which seem noteworthy nonetheless.

This was a contest for which our editors wanted election-night photographs, but Stark’s campaign refused to tell us Monday and Tuesday where he would be Tuesday night; I still don’t know where he watched the returns.

I take this as a sign that his campaign staff knew there was a pretty good chance he would lose. I’d bet their final internal polling showed a tight race, perhaps with Stark holding a small lead, but with many last-minute “undecided” voters likely to break against the incumbent. Apparently they did.

San Jose State University political scientist Larry Gerston said Stark’s “quirky political behavior and a dramatically changed district” fueled his downfall at least as much as the top-two primary system. That is, Stark’s loss necessarily doesn’t mark a sea change in how future campaigns will be run, and other Bay Area House Democrats need not look over their shoulders.

“This was the exception to the rule – I don’t know any other elected official in Congress who had the reputation Stark had,” Gerston said. “It’s a shame. He’s a man who at one time had an impeccable reputation, a liberal icon. This is more a story of ‘his time had come.’”


Your state and Bay Area House-race roundup

All in all, it was a dismal night for Republicans in California House races.

Of the 11 California House races deemed competitive by the renowned Cook Political Report, Democrats won seven outright and are on top in two too-close-to-call other races. Another way of slicing and dicing it: All of the three endangered Democratic incumbents in these races won re-election, but only one of the four Republicans might’ve. And of the new or open seats, Democrats won three of the four.

More specifically:

    The battles to unseat Reps. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, remain too close to call with some mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, but both trail their Democratic challengers by narrow margins.
    Reps. Jerry McNerney; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara all turned away their Republican challengers to win re-election. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, is the only Republican incumbent definitely left standing in these competitive races.

Not than anyone considered it competitive, but Democrat Jared Huffman trounced Republican Dan Roberts to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the North Bay’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which reaches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

In the Bay Area, as usual, the only question for most Democratic incumbents (with the exception, of course, of Pete Stark) was by how enormous a margin they would dispatch their challengers. See how that all stacks up as of this hour, after the jump…
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