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Catching up with Ashley Swearengin

A barrage of attacks from her Democratic rival has Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s mayor and the Republican candidate for state controller, convinced her campaign is running strong.

Swearengin stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office Monday afternoon to chat about the state of the race. The Field Poll last week found Swearengin trailing Democratic rival Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, by 14 percentage points, though more than one in five likely voters remains undecided. Yee in recent days has attacked Swearengin’s stewardship of Fresno, and challenged her “Mayor/CEO” ballot designation.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Swearengin said Monday, adding that while Yee’s attacks are “so easily refutable,” they’re a sign that “they definitely take our campaign seriously.”

“My hope is that the other side continues to come at me with their inaccurate and misleading accusations,” she said.

Yee’s campaign has said that Swearengin’s Fresno is a place of fiscal disorder, unemployment, poverty and homelessness. But Swearengin defended her record saying she helped steer the city out of massive deficits exacerbated by the housing-market crash and recession; the city is now building its budget reserve and ranks among the state’s top job-creators, she said.

Yee was in Fresno last week seeking endorsements from the city’s police and firefighter unions, meeting with an agricultural group and holding a fundraiser. “She was definitely playing to the Sacramento insiders and those who support the status quo,” Swearengin said.

Despite several campaign events scheduled with other GOP statewide candidates, Swearengin continued to make her political independence a core talking point.

“I think Californians are tired of just checking the box for whatever their party affiliation is,” she said. “Most important to me is making sure that we’re reaching all the voters of Califonria, not just one party or the other.”

Reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office shows Yee has raised more money than Swearengin, but “we knew for certain we would be outspent,” Swearengin said.

“We’re working as hard as possible to get the resources we need to get the message out,” she said, adding her campaign will start its paid advertising soon. “We’ve got to make as much noise as possible and point out the importance of this seat and my qualifications.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 general | 6 Comments »

Field Poll: Voters unhappier with own lawmakers

California voters are growing less satisfied with their own members of Congress, a new poll shows – and that might be bad news for Democrats.

The Field Poll finds 40 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job their own House member is doing in Washington, while 36 percent approve. That’s a pronounced change from April, when 44 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved.

Polls often show voters are ready to “throw the bums out” of Congress – except for their own “bum,” whom they hold in somewhat higher esteem. But this drop in support for voters’ own House members means incumbents in close races could be at greater risk.

That spells trouble for Democrats, who hold all three of the California House seats deemed “toss ups” by the widely respected Cook Political Report. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, faces former GOP Congressman Doug Ose in the 7th Congressional District; Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, is opposed by Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell in the 26th Congressional District; and Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, is challenged by Republican Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman, in the 52nd Congressional District.

The numbers also probably aren’t welcomed by Bay Area’s only endangered incumbent, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who’s challenged by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont.

California voters’ overall view of Congress’ job performance remains predictably dismal, with only 13 percent approving and 75 percent disapproving. That’s similar to Field Polls dating back to early 2010, and is shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

When likely voters statewide are asked which party’s candidate they would likely support in November’s House elections, 46 percent say the Democrat while 38 percent say the Republican and 16 percent are undecided.

The Field Poll’s survey of 1,280 registered voters, conducted Aug. 14 through Aug. 28, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The sample of 467 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

Posted on Saturday, September 13th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, polls, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, water | 1 Comment »

Poll #s tanking, Props. 45 and 46 go on offense

As the Field Poll shows Proposition 46 all but done for and Proposition 45 struggling, backers of both those controversial, health-related measures went on the offensive Thursday by filing official complaints against their foes and challenging a big insurance company’s spending.

Prop. 46 author Bob Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed in 2003 by a drugged driver, filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission claiming the No on 46 committee violated state laws that require disclosure of major funders.

Insurance companies have contributed $42.8 million of the $56.5 million given to the No on 46 campaign, Pack says, and state law requires campaign committees to describe in descending order their major donors. Yet the No on 46 campaign committee is officially known as “No on 46 – Patients, Providers and Healthcare Insurers to Contain Health Costs.”

“How dare the insurance industry claim the mantle of ‘patients’ after blocking life-saving patient safety reforms for decades,” Pack said in a news release. “No on 46’s misleading attack ads, funded by mostly insurance industry money, pretend that they are a public campaign for patients. California’s TV and radio stations have a duty to the public to take these ads down until voters are told the insurance industry is really behind No on 46.”

Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice cases; require random drug tests for doctors; and force doctors to use an existing prescription database to weed out drug abusers.

The campaign for it is being run by Consumer Watchdog, a lawyer-funded nonprofit advocacy group that’s also behind Proposition 45, which would give the state insurance commissioner power to reject health-insurance rate hikes.

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court filed his own FPPC complaint Thursday arguing the No on 45 campaign’s name and radio ads don’t identify “health insurance companies” – the source of the $37.5 million to the campaign – as a major donor. But several insurers are listed by name, including Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Wellpoint Inc. and Blue Shield of California.

My read: This is a small-ball attempt to further publicize insurers’ role in the campaigns, a role that’s already been widely reported. Court said it himself in today’s story, describing why he believes Prop. 46 isn’t a lost cause despite cratering poll numbers among likely voters: “All we have to do is tell them that it’s the insurance companies on the opposing side lying to them.”

Court, California Nurses Association members and other Prop. 45 supporters will be rallying at 1:30 p.m. Thursday outside Blue Shield’s headquarters on San Francisco’s Beale Street to deliver 22,000 petition signatures decrying the insurer’s purchase of a costly luxury skybox at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Blue Shield’s decision to spend money on the skybox underscores the need for Prop. 45, they argue, so the insurance commissioner can reject excessive rate hikes that then pay for such luxuries.

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Checking in on money in Torlakson-Tuck race

In today’s story about the Field Poll showing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a dead heat with challenger Marshall Tuck, I didn’t have room to mention that Tuck appears to have outraised Torlakson in recent months.

Marshall TuckReports filed with the secretary of state’s office show Torlakson’s campaign had about $195,000 cash on hand as of June 30, and he looks to have raised at least about $239,000 in major donations since then. Tuck had about $180,000 banked at mid-year, and seems to have raised about $303,000 since.

That said, Torlakson is likely to be the beneficiary of massive independent spending by the teachers’ unions as the general-election season proceeds, just as he was before the primary. Tuck has received more modest but still-significant IE support from Manhattan Beach real estate mogul William Bloomfield Jr. (traditionally a giver to GOP causes and committees, though Tuck is a Democrat) and the California Senior Advocates League (which is funded mainly by Bloomfield and Eli Broad).

Tom TorlaksonTorlakson has fundraising receptions scheduled for Wednesday in Sacramento, with tickets costing $100 to $6,800 each, and Thursday in Salinas, for $100 to $5,000; he also is asking $75 to $6,800 for tickets to his annual BBQ on Saturday, Oct. 4 at a union hall in Martinez.

Tuck did a whirlwind bus tour last week through Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose and Oakland. He has a fundraiser set for Thursday, Sept. 18 in Costa Mesa, with tickets costing from $100 to $6,800, and he’s scheduled to address the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday, Sept. 25.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, campaign finance, education, Tom Torlakson | 9 Comments »

Bay Area campaign calendar heats up

The general-election season is in full swing, with a full calendar of campaign and fundraising events for Bay Area candidates. Here’s a sampling of what’s going on out there in the next week or so:

11th Congressional District: Tue Phan – the Republican retired immigration judge from Danville who’s facing off against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, for the seat from which George Miller is retiring – is having a fundraiser tonight at La Veranda Café in Clayton. Tickets cost $150 per person or $275 per couple; it’s hosted by Roger Petersen, who ran against Miller in 2008 and 2010.

16th Assembly District: California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte will be in the East Bay this weekend to stump and raise money for Catharine Baker, the Dublin attorney who’s facing off against Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti for the 16th Assembly District seat. Brulte and Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen will join Baker for a fundraiser Saturday evening at a Danville home, with tickets ranging from $100 to $4,100, and Brulte plus GOP volunteers from across the state will be out walking precincts for Baker on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, Sbranti and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, will kick off the Tri-Valley area’s United Democratic Campaign with a rally, phone bank and precinct walk on Saturday, and then wine scion Phil Wente will host a fundraiser for Sbranti on Sunday in Livermore with tickets ranging from $500 to $4,100.

15th Assembly District: Elizabeth Echols of Berkeley, one of two Democrats vying for the 15th Assembly District seat, has a fundraiser set for next Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 at the Piedmont home of Steve Schiller and Kristine Kaiser; tickets cost from $100 to $1,000. The other Democrat hoping to succeed the term-limited Nancy Skinner is Tony Thurmond of Richmond, who’s opening his campaign HQ this Saturday, Sept. 13 on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito; walking in the Solano Stroll on Sunday; and holding house parties next Wednesday and Thursday in Berkeley and El Cerrito, respectively.

Lieutenant Governor: Ron Nehring, the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, will hold a meet-and-greet next Monday evening, Sept. 15 at a San Rafael home; will address the Novato Republican Women Federated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16 at the Marin Country Club; and will appear with 10th State Senate District candidate Peter Kuo at a dinner Tuesday night in Fremont.

State Controller: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state controller, will speak at a Nob Hill Republican Women’s Club dinner next Wednesday, Sept. 17 at San Francisco’s L’Olivier restaurant. Swearengin’s opponent is Democrat Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, who has evening receptions scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 11 in Fresno; Friday, Sept. 12 in Folsom; Monday, Sept. 15 in Santa Cruz; and Friday, Sept. 19 in San Francisco.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

SD10: Wieckowski & Kuo speak out on Tesla

Electric-car manufacturer Tesla’s decision to site its first “gigafactory” for battery production in Nevada has brought a wave of disappointment from Californians, including the two candidates hoping to represent the Fremont-based company’s 10th State Senate District.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, looked for silver linings:

Bob Wieckowski“While I am disappointed in Tesla’s apparent decision to locate its battery factory in Nevada, I am proud of California’s partnership with Tesla resulting in significant job growth in Fremont, Santa Clara County and among the automakers’ suppliers. I am hopeful that as the company grows, Tesla may build additional battery facilities or other specialized facilities in California as it scales up manufacturing for current and future products. Our region continues to benefit from the growth of auto research and design investments in the Bay Area and Tesla is an important part of that industry growth locally. With more than 6,000 employees in our state and the new Model X on the way in 2015, Tesla will continue to contribute to California’s position as the green technology leader and highlight our commitment to job creation.”

But Republican candidate Peter Kuo noted the Legislature couldn’t reach a deal before adjourning last week on a bill to provide further incentives for Tesla to put the plant in California:

Peter Kuo “Over the past year California, and specifically the Bay Area, has seen tens of thousands of current and future jobs depart for other states. Jobs fleeing California has become common place, this is unacceptable and unsustainable for our economy.

“While my opponent Bob Wieckowski appears to dismiss the severity of this news, I am concerned about the economy and workers in this district. The type of policies that Bob has led on are a root cause of the exodus of businesses to more business friendly states. Since announcing my candidacy I have often pointed to California’s burdensome business climate that has resulted in an abysmal recovery in the Golden State. Tesla’s latest move hits close to home because many of those jobs could have filled by constituents of the 10th Senate District. I urge the legislature to take this seriously and stop the bleeding.”

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate | 2 Comments »

Kashkari video attacks Brown on schools

Republican Neel Kashkari’s gubernatorial campaign released a web video Wednesday claiming Gov. Jerry Brown is in the California Teachers Association’s pocket, perhaps presaging an avenue of attack in Thursday’s first – and probably only – debate between the candidates.

“The California Constitution guarantees that every child is entitled to an equal and quality education,” Kashkari said. “Apparently, Jerry Brown doesn’t agree that the civil rights of poor and minority children are worth fighting for.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris last week filed a brief on behalf of Brown and the state signaling they’ll appeal the recent Vergara v. California decision which struck down teacher tenure laws.

“It is clear where Jerry Brown’s priorities lie, and sadly, his priority is not the children of our state,” Kashkari said.

The one-hour debate starting at 7 p.m. Thursday is cosponsored by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California, and will be held in the California Channel’s studio with John Myers, KQED’s politics and government editor, as moderator.

KQED Public Television (Channel 9) and Telemundo stations in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno and Sacramento will televise it live and provide a simultaneous Spanish-language translation. The California Channel will also broadcast the debate live to more than 5 million homes across the state.

KQED Public Radio will broadcast the debate live on its stations in San Francisco (88.5 FM) and Sacramento (89.3 FM) and will distribute the debate live for broadcast to 30 public radio stations across California via its statewide news service, the California Report.

KQEDnews.org, Telemundo52.com and CalChannel.com will offer a live video Web stream.

Posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari | 9 Comments »

CA17: Khanna’s endorsers & Honda’s border visit

With today’s 17th Congressional District news dominated by the candidates’ agreement on debate terms and Ro Khanna’s rally outside Rep. Mike Honda’s San Jose office, I didn’t have room in the story for Khanna’s latest endorsements and Honda’s run for the border.

Khanna is touting new endorsements from San Jose City Councilmen Pete Constant and Johnny Khamis; Santa Clara County School Board Trustee Grace Mah; Fremont Unified School Board Member Lily Mei; and former Fremont Vice Mayor and City Councilmember Steve Cho.

Constant, Khamis and Cho are Republicans, while Mah and Mei are registered without party affiliation.

“I’m very proud that my grassroots campaign is supported by so many leaders from different backgrounds and across the political spectrum,” Khanna said in a news release. “While my opponent has relied on national and special interest backing, our campaign has worked hard to gain the trust and respect of those who actually live and work in the 17th district. I look forward to taking this inclusive and accessible approach to Congress.”

Constant said Khanna “has had strong bipartisan support since he launched his campaign, and I’m proud to be part of that. Unfortunately, Mike Honda has never been interested in working across the aisle, which is a stark departure from the long tradition of pragmatic leadership in Silicon Valley. Given Ro’s common sense approach and his unique understanding of economic issues, I’m confident he’ll be an effective representative for our region.”

Meanwhile, Honda will be part of a bipartisan congressional delegation that tours the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Tex., on Thursday and Friday.

“The recent surge of unaccompanied children coming across our border brought to the light the need for greater resources and understanding for our immigration and asylum processes,” Honda said in a news release. “This trip will help us learn more about what happens when someone comes to the border, how they are treated, and what both the US and Mexico need to improve the situation.”

Honda, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said such knowledge will help him and his colleagues work with their peers and the White House to “better appropriate funds so they meet the specific needs of those who are working on the US/Mexico Border.”

Along with Honda, the delegation includes Phil Roe, R-Tenn.; Mark Takano, D-Riverside; Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. They’ll visit the Hidalgo International Bridge, the McAllen Border Patrol Station, and the Department of Health and Human Services BCFS Harlingen Children’s Facility. They’ll meet with the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, key U.S. border patrol and enforcement officials, and a Mexican government delegation.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Snapshot: My meeting with Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, would rather that voters see the “R” after his name as representing “resume.”

Pete Peterson“I have the least partisan resume of anybody” who has sought this office before or since June’s primary election, said Peterson, who runs the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. Peterson will face off in November’s general election against state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys.

Though Peterson is running as a Republican, he said his brand of partisan pride harkens back to when the GOP “was known for its reform-minded perspective on government,” and he believes the secretary of state’s office “definitely should be run in a nonpartisan way.”

Of course, he’s also smart enough to know what the Republican brand means in California, where only 28 percent of voters choose to affiliate with it.

Peterson stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office late Tuesday afternoon before heading to Piedmont, where he was scheduled to do a joint fundraising event with controller candidate and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, hosted by the Lincoln Club of Northern California; tickets cost $300 to attend, $1,000 to co-host or $5,000 to host.

He said it’s the first time he’s done such an event with Swearengin, and while he’s open to doing more events with her and other statewide GOP candidates, “there will be a lot of flying solo out there on the campaign trail” as well.

We talked about his and Padilla’s views on limiting the schedule on which lawmakers can accept campaign contributions – he would ban all contributions during the entire legislative session, Padilla for the last 100 days of each session – but he confessed he doesn’t think it’s a major issue. “There are fairly easy ways around either of those.”

Instead, Peterson said, he wants to see California significantly improve the transparency of political contributions, given the current CalAccess system’s outdated technology and clunky user interface. He said he’s been meeting with people like Dan Newman, president and cofounder of Berkeley-based MAPLight.org, about the great work they’re doing in shining a light on money in politics. It may be better for government to partner with, validate and promote nonprofit and private-sector transparency outfits like this rather than remain perpetually behind the curve in adapting to new technology and data demands, Peterson said.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Secretary of State | 2 Comments »