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AD16: Dems try hard to GOTV for Tim Sbranti

Gov. Jerry Brown wasn’t the only one who showed up Monday in Pleasanton to sing Assembly candidate Tim Sbranti’s praises.

Sbranti, a Democrat and Dublin’s mayor, is locked in a tight battle with Republican Catharine Baker – a Dublin attorney – for the 16th Assembly District seat from which Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, is term-limited out. It’s arguably the Democrat-dominated Bay Area’s only competitive cross-party contest, and both sides are looking for that bit of extra oomph as Election Day looms just a week away.

“There is milk right now on the shelves at grocery stores that won’t have expired before this election is over,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, told volunteers and party faithful at a United Democratic Campaign office in a shopping strip near the Stoneridge Mall.

Sbranti was among Swalwell’s teachers at Dublin High School, and the freshman congressman praised Sbranti’s record in the classroom and at city hall. “We are working as hard for Tim Sbranti as Tim Sbranti has worked for us.”

Others touting Sbranti at Monday’s rally included Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward; Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

“We will keep this district blue, and you are the reason,” Skinner vowed to the cheering crowd.

Quirk, speaking one-on-one, said it all comes down to getting as many voters as possible to cast ballots, as lower turnout will hurt Sbranti’s chances. The district’s current voter registration is 39.4 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican and 22.2 percent independent.

“We’ve got to make sure the turnout is high,” Quirk said. “Our job is to get people to vote.”

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly | No Comments »

Rounding up the AD16 and AD15 drama

There are all kinds of drama popping up in the East Bay’s hottest Assembly races.

In the 16th Assembly District, it’s a tale of dueling endorsements. Steve Glazer, the Orinda Democrat and former Jerry Brown political advisor who lost in June’s primary, essentially endorsed Republican Catharine Baker in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Nobody thought there was any love lost between Glazer and the Democrat in this general-election race, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, given the scorched-earth campaigns they ran against each other this past spring. But some thought Glazer might’ve kept quiet, even having already burned his bridges to the Democratic party and the unions that are its biggest backers.

Meanwhile, Sbranti on Wednesday rolled out Gov. Jerry Brown’s endorsement – not a shocker, but certainly an effort to jump on the chief executive’s coattails as he coasts into a fourth term.

Over in the 15th Assembly District, Democrat Tony Thurmond of Richmond launched his first television ad Thursday, touting his accomplishments and endorsements:

But his rival, fellow Democrat Elizabeth Echols, is calling attention to the independent spending that’s being done on Thurmond’s behalf – which now tops $255,000 worth of research, polling, mailers and field expenses in the last few weeks.

“The California Independent Petroleum Association has now put $450,000 into two groups working to defeat my campaign,” Echols wrote in an email to supporters Thursday. “They are the driving force in the effort to expand fracking in California. One has to ask why they have chosen to get involved in my race, given the progressive tradition of our district. Luckily, their involvement has only motivated my supporters.”

The email went on to invite supporters to a fundraiser she’s holding October 28 at the Sierra Club’s office in Berkeley, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, the California League of Conservation Voters, state Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

Thurmond has a fundraiser scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 19 – at the Oakland Raiders-Arizona Cardinals game. A $2,500 contribution buys a luxury suite ticket, food and drinks; a $4,100 contribution gets two tickets.

Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly | 7 Comments »

SD10: Kuo supporters’ flier includes photo of… me

It seems supporters of Peter Kuo, the Republican candidate in the 10th State Senate District, were handing out fliers at the Fremont BART station this morning touting his stance against letting transit workers go on strike:

(Click to enlarge:)
pro-Kuo flier_1_001

I guess their enthusiasm eclipsed their good sense. See that photo in the strip across the top, second from the left? Those aren’t angry commuters – it’s me and my colleague Thomas Peele, as we completed our “Great BART Strike Race of 2013.” The photo, by Bay Area News Group photographer Karl Mondon, was lifted without permission.

“We didn’t create it – it wasn’t even our idea,” Scott Carpenter, Kuo’s communications director, said Wednesday. “There’s a group of supporters that has been volunteering from time to time… and they kind of took it upon themselves to put those out and distribute them.”

Carpenter said those volunteers were probably inspired by an email Kuo sent to his supporters last week reiterating his condemnation of the BART strikes.

“Unions are undermining the very purpose for which BART was created in 1961 – to provide a cost-effective transportation system that enables residents of the region to quickly commute to their place of employment or other desired locations,” Kuo wrote. “I pledge to fight for commuters against the power of unions. Bay Area residents cannot afford to allow BART workers from holding our communities hostage again.”

Kuo, of Santa Clara, is vying with Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, for the Senate seat about to be vacated by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who is term-limited out.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate | 1 Comment »

Money update: SD10, AD15, AD16, AD25 & AD28

The deadline for reporting campaign finance activity from July 1 through Sept. 30 was this week. Here’s a look at how fundraising and spending stacked up in some of the Bay Area’s notable state legislative races:

10th State Senate District – Republican Peter Kuo of Santa Clara reported raising $88,050 and spending $88,772 in the third quarter, leaving him with $45,149 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt – money he has lent his own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, reported raising $125,861 and spending $108,542 in this year’s third quarter, leaving him with $59,423 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. But almost all of that money is already spent: Wieckowski also reported $57,177 in debts.

15th Assembly District – Democrat Elizabeth Echols of Oakland reported raising $205,536 and spending $121,740 in the third quarter, leaving her with $153,480 cash on hand but $61,779 in debts – including $19,500 she lent her own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Democrat Tony Thurmond of Richmond reported raising $184,940 and spending $146,048 in the third quarter, leaving him with $94,425 cash on hand but $37,971 in debts as of Sept. 30.

16th Assembly District – Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin reported raising $157,981 and spending $99,003 during the third quarter, leaving her with $147,625 cash on hand but $13,771 in debt as of Sept. 30. She’s far outraised and outspent by Democrat Tim Sbranti of Dublin, who reported raising $663,842 and spending $531,059 in the third quarter, leaving him with $197,672 cash on hand but $31,988 in debt as of Sept. 30.

25th Assembly District – Democrat Kansen Chu of San Jose reported raising $81,689 and spending $66,209 in the third quarter, leaving him with $57,675 cash on hand but $1,531 in debt as of Sept. 30. Republican Bob Brunton of Fremont has reported no fundraising other than the $8,000 he gave his own campaign in the year’s first quarter.

28th Assembly District – Democrat Evan Low of Campbell reported raising $80,926 and spending $134,723 during the third quarter, leaving him with $259,364 cash on hand but $1,329 in debts as of Sept. 30. Republican Chuck Page of Saratoga reported raising $70,087 and spending $50,728 in the third quarter, leaving him with $22,052 cash on hand but $18,880 in debt – money he loaned his own campaign – as of Sept. 30.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance | No Comments »

AD15: Big IE money spent to support Thurmond

15th Assembly District candidate Elizabeth Echols is complaining that political committees “funded by oil and tobacco interests” are spending generously on independent-expenditure mailers in support of her opponent, Tony Thurmond.

And that’s true, although many other interests are behind the spending as well.

Tony ThurmondElizabeth Echols, 54, of Oakland, is former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration; Thurmond, 46, is a former Richmond councilman and former West Contra Costa County School Board member. The two Democrats are vying to succeed Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is term-limited out of office at this year’s end.

The “Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California business coalition” has reported spending $68,722 in the past week on mailers, research and polling to support Thurmond.

Records show the Alliance raised $713,980.69 in the first half of this year, and has reported no large contributions since. Among the money it collected this year was $125,000 in May from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $90,000 in May from Philip Morris USA, and $25,000 in January from the Occidental Oil & Gas Corp. So, oil and gas accounted for about a third of the committee’s income; the rest came from a wide array of companies, unions and Indian tribes.

Another committee, Keep CA Strong, has reported spending $29,848 on Thurmond’s behalf in the past week.

It reported no cash on hand at mid-year, but reports having received $75,000 on Sept. 19 from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Independent Expenditure Committee; $200,000 on Sept. 22 from the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, $25,000 on Sept. 26 from the California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee; and $2,450 on Sept. 27 from the aforementioned Alliance for California’s Tomorrow. Here, then, the oil industry’s share is bigger.

Echols“It’s very unusual for this district for this kind of money to come in – these are big corporate interests that don’t spend money idly” especially in so solidly progressive a district, Echols said Tuesday. “I believe they know I will be an effective champion for the environment, for funding our schools and for economic opportunity.”

She acknowledged the Alliance has a “broad mix” of backers, but she said she finds “more telling” the Keep CA Strong committee’s limited donor base and money-in, money-out model.

The independent spending notwithstanding, Echols said her campaign has “good, strong resources and a message that is resonating well with voters.” She might not be able to match the outside spending dollar for dollar, she said, “but I believe we will be the stronger campaign in the end.”

Thurmond said Tuesday he “was really caught off-guard” by the spending: “I don’t even know who these groups are.”

“The irony is, I’m the candidate who’s taken a pledge not to take money from cigarette companies – I’m a social worker, I work with youth,” he said, noting he also voted against oil interests while on Richmond City Council. “Whatever they’re doing, they’ve done independently. My record is clear, my entire campaign is based on progressive values.”

Thurmond said the spending “really speaks to the need for reforming how politics works and overturning Citizens United so we have less special interest money in politics.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly | 5 Comments »

Actors tout Tuck for schools superintendent

Marshall Tuck, the Los Angeles school-reform advocate who’s running neck and neck with incumbent Tom Torlakson for superintendent of public instruction, has added a little star power to his campaign.

Tuck’s new two-and-a-half minute campaign video features actors Joel McHale, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Adam Scott sitting down with the candidate in a “strategy session.”

My favorite line (of course): “You’ve been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Who gives a s—?”

Tuck’s campaign issued a news release saying that while the video provides some humor amid a heated campaign, it takes a serious look at key issues facing the race.

“As a parent, I want to make sure we give every child access to a great education,” Bell said in the news release.

Celebrity factoid: Of these four actors, only Scott is a California native, born in Santa Cruz. Bell and Shepard hail from Detroit’s suburbs, McHale from Seattle.

UPDATE @ 11:47 A.M.: Good questions from Twitter follower Steven Herbert: “Do any of them have children old enough to be in public schools? If so, how many are in public schools?”

Bell and Shepard have one daughter, Lincoln Bell Shepard, born in March 2013, and they’re now expecting a second child; they live in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Scott and his wife, Naomi, have two children, son Graham, 7, and daughter Frankie, 5, and live in LA’s Hollywood Hills section. McHale and his wife, Sarah Williams, have two sons, Eddie, 8, and Isaac, 6; they live in Hollywood Hills as well.

I don’t know what schools the kids attend.

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, education, Tom Torlakson | 2 Comments »

Tim Donnelly praises Brown for signing DNA law

Somebody note the date and time: Assembly Tim Donnelly, the conservative former gubernatorial candidate who spent much of the spring trashing Gov. Jerry Brown, just said something nice about… Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown on Friday signed Donnelly’s AB 1697, the DNA Protection Act, which prohibits using the state’s criminal-justice DNA database from being used as a source of material for testing, research or experiments by any person, agency or entity seeking to find a causal link between genetics and behavior or health.

Tim Donnelly“I would like to thank Governor Brown for standing with me once again to defend the civil liberties of all Californians,” Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said in a news release. “California will continue to use DNA samples for forensics, missing persons, collecting evidence or other legal means. With AB1697 now law, we have prevented government from abusing our privacy. We have protected the civil rights of all Californians from this high tech tyranny.”

Donnelly said the new law is critical to protecting those who’ve been arrested from the government’s genetic snooping.

“Currently, the government of California has hoarded over 1.8 million DNA samples,” he said. “As the cost of DNA sequencing decreases and the ability to process large amounts of data increases, the state has the unprecedented ability to link genetics with criminal activity. While this may sound like the movie Minority Report, it is no longer science fiction. Thanks to AB1697 becoming law, the DNA of every Californian will be safe from being violated by an ever-intrusive government.”

The bill certainly wasn’t controversial. The Assembly passed it 78-0, and the state Senate passed it 33-0.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Tim Donnelly | No Comments »

Pols want AG to probe CPUC’s ties with PG&E

Peninsula politicians want state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate possible crimes involving the California Public Utilities Commission’s shockingly cozy relationship with PG&E during the agency’s probe of the utility after the deadly 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco; and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane will hold a news conference Friday morning in San Francisco to deliver a letter to Harris.

The latest revelation of emails between CPUC staff and PG&E executives led to the outser of officials at both this week. The utility also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may have violated PUC rules with emails it sent the agency as recently as January.

E-mails released by PG&E showed that the utility tried to influence the selection of the administrative law judge who would decide how much customers’ rates should go up to pay for required gas pipeline improvements after the 2010 blast killed eight and injured more than 50.

“The letter from Hill, Mullin and Ruane also cites what appear to have been a series of illegal interventions on PG&E’s behalf in the penalty case against PG&E for the explosion in San Bruno perpetrated by the CPUC’s executive director and former general counsel – including pressuring its own attorneys to advocate no penalty in the case, which attorneys felt to be ‘illegal and unethical;’ reassigning the attorneys after they refused to back down; and firing one when he pressed PG&E to produce pipeline safety records,” according to a news release from Hill’s office.

Gov. Jerry Brown offered full-throated support for CPUC President Michael Peevey last month even after an initial disclosure of e-mails related to the San Bruno case.

“I know there’s been a lot of ink poured out on this topic, but I would say he’s a very effective leader, he gets things done” especially on promoting renewable energy, Brown said of Peevey at the time. He went on to describe Peevey as “a strong force,” the likes of which hasn’t held the CPUC’s reins since John Bryson did so during Brown’s second term, from 1979 to 1982.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Attorney General, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Kamala Harris, Kevin Mullin | No Comments »

Mike Honda urges Brown to sign Martins Beach bill

Rep. Mike Honda is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would re-open San Mateo County’s Martins Beach, the focus of a fierce battle between a billionaire who closed off the access road and surfers and advocates wanting to reach the beach.

The Legislature last month sent Brown SB 968 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would instruct the State Lands Commission to consider buying Martins Beach Road if it can’t cut a deal with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline near his sprawling property.

“The people of northern California have waited too many years to regain their historical access to Martins Beach,” Honda, D-San Jose, wrote in a letter to Brown dated Thursday. “The State of California has always recognized the importance of open spaces for its citizens and provided them access to the beautiful coasts in the Coastal Act of 1976. We must preserve this treasured public access to our state’s best resources.”

The beach isn’t in Honda’s 17th Congressional District; it’s in Rep. Jackie Speier’s 14th District. But Honda’s office says he’s been “a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career,” advocating for projects throughout the South Bay and Peninsula. (Speier’s office says she “supports public access,” but described no position on SB 968.)

“Protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy – it’s our obligation,” Honda wrote. “In my work, first as a County Supervisor, as a State Assembly member, and finally as a member of Congress I have continually fought to ensure public access to open spaces for all Californians to enjoy – equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value – and one that should be afforded to all, regardless of income.”

Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club will hold a news conference Friday morning outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Brown to sign the bill.

Brown, in a meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board a few days before SB 968 reached his desk, declined to comment on the issue: “I think that topic is being sufficiently contested, it doesn’t need any further comment from me.”

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No 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 »