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Taking sides: This week’s endorsement roundup

We’ve got a few hot races to watch even though it’s January of an off year (as if we have any off years anymore), and the endorsements have been coming hot and heavy this week.

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U.S. Senate 2016

Kamala Harris (D) – Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson (1/26); Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael (1/27); Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey (1/27); San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (1/28); Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (1/29); Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (1/30)

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7th State Senate District special election

Susan Bonilla (D) – AFSCME Council 57 and Local 2700 (1/26); International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (1/27); California Professional Firefighters (1/28); Concord Democratic Club (1/29)

Joan Buchanan (D) – California Teachers Association (1/27)

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Follow after the jump for a few thoughts on these…
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Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Kamala Harris, Susan Bonilla, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | No Comments »

SD7: Bonilla and Buchanan face off in Dublin

The first faceoff between Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan since the launch of their campaigns for the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election was rather amicable, and showed barely a sliver of sunlight between their policy stances.

Bonilla & Buchanan 1-19-15 (photo by Josh Richman)Bonilla, D-Concord, and Buchanan, D-Alamo, sought the TriValley Democratic Club’s endorsement Monday night in Dublin. The result was not really in doubt – that’s Buchanan’s home turf, and sure enough, she won the endorsement vote 29-2 with four club members voting to remain neutral.

But it wasn’t really about the numbers – Bonilla knew she probably couldn’t win this club’s nod. Rather, it was about sounding out loyal Democrats for what’s going to be a fast, intense race – the special primary will be held March 17, and the special general on May 19. They’re running to succeed Democrat Mark DeSaulnier, who has just succeeded Rep. George Miller in the House.

“You’ve got two good Democrats, and sometimes we don’t have that, do we?” Bonilla told the club.

“Susan and I have worked closely in the Legislature… and it’s too bad that term limits force good people to run against each other,” Buchanan agreed.

Bonilla said three years as chair of the education budget subcommittee gave her intimate knowledge of the state budget’s largest sector, and she’s proud that Proposition 30’s tax hikes and a resurgent economy have let the state start backfilling the education funding it shorted in recent years.

She said she’s also proud of the Local Control Funding Formula on which lawmakers compromised with Gov. Jerry Brown, and of authoring a bill to move the state away from its standardized STAR testing and toward assessments that better fit the new Common Core curriculum. “We went toe-to-toe with the federal government and we won. We didn’t lose a dime and we didn’t double-test our children last year.”

She recounted her work as a Concord councilwoman to help ensure the former Concord Naval Weapons Station was converted into open space, and her work as a Contra Costa County Supervisor to develop a plan to pay down a $2.1 billion unfunded liability for retiree health care. And she touted her endorsements from DeSaulnier; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; many other electeds; and an array of police and firefighter groups.

Buchanan said she’s proud to have authored a new law that protects students’ privacy from data mining when school districts contract with private companies for data management services, or for online programs and mobile apps used for instruction. She also cited her 2012 law to restore the historic beacon atop Mt. Diablo, which has been used in Pearl Harbor Day commemorations in recent decades – “What a difference it made in the lives of some of our brave servicemen” – and her efforts to update and streamline the state’s information technology procurement.

But her passion, she said, is public education

California’s once-great system is “at a critical point now” with too many children struggling in K-12 – “What happens if we leave half our children behind?” – and not enough capacity in the University of California system: “There’s got to be room at the inn.” And quality preschool is needed to ensure children have the proper tools with which to learn, she said.

“We can and we should do better,” she said. “When I go to the senate, I want to be one of the strongest advocates for public education. Public education is every bit a part of our infrastructure as twin tunnels and high-speed rail.”

During a Q&A session, both candidates talked about walking back the state-imposed limit on the size of school districts’ budget reserves; discussed the importance of continuing to reform the state’s costly prison system; touted their efforts in developing more effective job-training programs; and expounded on the importance of maintaining strong services for veterans.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

They also were questioned about Community Choice Aggregation, a state policy letting local governments choose greener electricity supply contracts. Bonilla seemed stronger in her support of local governments’ right to pursue this, though both emphasized that communities must do intensive research to ensure the energy they buy really is coming from green sources.

As this race heats up, remember that the 16th Assembly District which Buchanan represented for six years covers substantially more of this senate district than the 14th Assembly District in which Bonilla has just started her third two-year term, so Buchanan might have a name-recognition advantage. But Bonilla has an edge in endorsements (at least, so far) and has good connections that might help her raise more support – for example, her district director, Satinder Malhi of Martinez, also is president of the Contra Costa Young Democrats.

Walnut Creek Republican Mark Meuser and Concord Democrat Terry Kremin also are in the race; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, also a Democrat, said Wednesday morning he’s still considering whether to run.

The TriValley Democratic Club is where Rep. Pete Stark and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell had their first face-off in early 2012 –also was a surprisingly calm, respectful affair, considering how ugly that race later became. Here’s hoping this race doesn’t get as spiteful as that one did.

Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 1 Comment »

Buchanan calls poll ‘definitive,’ foe says it’s ‘BS’

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan is touting a poll she commissioned that shows she’s better-known and likelier to win the 7th State Senate District special election than the three other declared candidates.

Buchanan, 62, of Alamo, has twice the name recognition of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, 54, D-Concord, among 7th District likely voters – 65 percent to Bonilla’s 33 percent – according to the poll from GarinHartYang Research Group. Only 17 percent know Walnut Creek Republican Mark Meuser, 40, and only 8 percent know Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, 50.

The poll found 31 percent of likely voters feel positively toward Buchanan while 14 percent feel so about Bonilla, 5 percent about Meuser and 2 percent about Kremin. For context, the poll found 60 percent feel positively about Gov. Jerry Brown; 34 percent feel positively about Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who just vacated the seat this special election will fill; 26 percent feel positively about Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, who just succeeded Buchanan in the 16th Assembly District; and 16 percent feel positively about Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the Assembly seat and has said he’s mulling this senate contest.

In a four-way contest, 29 percent of likely voters preferred Buchanan, 12 percent preferred Bonilla, 26 percent preferred Meuser and 3 percent preferred Kremin, while 26 percent said they’re undecided and 4 percent said they supported someone else or nobody.

And presented with a hypothetical head-to-head, 38 percent said they would support Buchanan and 17 percent said they would support Bonilla, with 35 percent undecided and 10 percent say supported neither or somebody else. Buchanan’s poll surveyed 401 likely voters this past Monday, Jan. 12, and has a 4.9-percentage-point margin of error.

Buchanan blasted out an email to supporters Friday morning linking to the poll memo and calling the results “definitive… I am in an excellent place to win in this special election.”

Susan BonillaBut Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam said Buchanan is pulling a page from a losing playbook. When she ran in the 2009 special primary election to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Buchanan touted an early poll’s results as evidence that she was in first place and best-positioned to win; she finished fourth, despite spending $1.2 million.

“Considering Buchanan entered the race touting her slogan of running a ‘positively’ positive campaign, it’s sad that just a few weeks later Buchanan has already broken that campaign promise by attacking the viability of her opponents,” Pulliam said Friday. “But as we have seen from Buchanan’s past tactics, her polling memo is positively BS.”

The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, with the special primary on Tuesday, March 17. Bonilla and Buchanan will go head-to-head at a candidates’ forum next Monday, Jan. 19 hosted by the TriValley Democratic Club. Doors open for the event, at the IBEW 595 union hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin, at 7 p.m.; the club’s business meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.; and the candidates’ forum should start by 8 p.m.

Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 6 Comments »

7th Senate District special election set for May 19

The 7th State Senate District special election, to replace newly sworn Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, will be held on Tuesday, May 19, Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed Tuesday – which means it’s “go time” for candidates including Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. The special primary will be Tuesday, March 17.

Brown issued proclamations Tuesday setting May 19 as the date for this East Bay vote as well as for special elections in the 21st and 37th districts, where Republicans Steve Knight and Mimi Walters, respectively, were just sworn into Congress as well.

Bonilla, D-Concord, and Republican Mark Meuser, a Walnut Creek attorney who ran unsuccessfully against DeSaulnier in 2012, announced candidacies to succeed DeSaulnier in November. Buchanan, D-Alamo, who was just term-limited out of her Assembly seat, declared in December. Orinda Democrat Steve Glazer, a former political advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown who lost last year’s primary to succeed Buchanan in the 16th Assembly District, also has said he’s considering seeking the state senate seat.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democratic, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan. The winner of this special election will finish out DeSaulnier’s term, which runs through 2016, and then presumably seek re-election.

Bonilla touts endorsements including those of Assemblymen Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, as well as former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo. Buchanan’s backers include dozens of city officials and school board members, including the mayors of Brentwood, Danville, Livermore and Walnut Creek.

Bonilla and Buchanan will go head-to-head at a candidates’ forum next Monday, Jan. 19 hosted by the TriValley Democratic Club. Doors open for the event, at the IBEW 595 union hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin, at 7 p.m.; the club’s business meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.; and the candidates’ forum should start by 8 p.m.

Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 4 Comments »

State lawmakers react to Brown’s inaugural speech

From state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose:

Jim Beall“This may have been Gov. Brown’s best State of the State address. He laid out a long-term vision for California’s future. As chairman of the Senate transportation committee, I agree with his mission to maintain our roads, highways, and bridges. By investing in infrastructure maintenance and effective mass transit projects we can cut pollution and create new jobs. The BART extension to San Jose is projected to generate 19,000 jobs (one job for one year). We have to keep the state moving and I’ve introduced SB 9 to allow multi-year funding under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I also agree with the Governor that we can no longer make students the ‘default financiers’ of our colleges. SB 15 would freeze tuition rates and that’s why I co-authored it. I believe there has to be a more public investment in education rather than have the students pick up higher and higher percentages of the cost. The Governor was right to point out that California cannot afford to pour more money into the prison system. This costs higher education dearly because it is money that could be spent on our universities.’’

From Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin:

Catharine Baker“As we prioritize our budget, we must focus on what is needed for a strong and prosperous state. Education, transportation, and an environment that promotes job growth must be our focus in the coming years.

“I was pleased to hear the Governor’s commitment to some shared priorities we have. Ensuring our schools receive the necessary funding to provide all of California’s children the education they deserve should remain a top priority. We need to ensure that funding for education is going directly to the classroom to benefit our students and teachers, and not to a bloated administrative bureaucracy. And we cannot continue to defend the status quo and the policies addressed in the Vergara decision. Those policies are denying students the opportunity to get a good education. Finally, in the true spirit of local control, we must eliminate the cap on savings reserves that was implemented last year. It endangers the financial health of every school district in our community.

“Republicans and Democrats worked together last year and supported the rainy day fund, and the state needed that reform. Our school districts need a rainy day fund, too, and state law now prohibits them from having the savings they need to protect against cuts. Ensuring we have reserves to continue necessary programs in the midst of a fiscal crisis is the right thing to do. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the cap on reserves is eliminated.

“As Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Committee, I will work to fight tuition increases that hinder our students’ ability to attend college, and I hope the Governor will join me in this pledge. Under the UC proposed tuition hike, students and their families will pay 25 percent more for their degrees in 2020 than they are paying today. Lawmakers and the UC must work together on long-term planning to keep higher education affordable, and I will fight for that.

“The Governor and I agree that it is time Republicans and Democrats come together to address California’s transportation needs. We have a crumbling infrastructure that was built for a population a fraction of the size it is now. But directing public funds to High Speed Rail as it starts breaking ground this week is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. We should be breaking ground on BART to Livermore, expanding parking at BART, and improving our road capacity instead of funding the bullet train project. This is money that should be spent easing congestion and increasing mass transit in the most high traffic regions of the state.

“I applaud the Governor and my predecessors that have worked to turn our economy around over the past few years. There is a still a great deal of work to be done, and our economy is fragile. Unemployment is dropping, but there are still too many Californians out of work and too many businesses leaving our state. We have to make it easier for employers to do business here. I would like to have heard the Governor address this, but I look forward to working with him on improving California’s business economy.”

More from the Bay Area’s lawmakers, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2015
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Catharine Baker, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jim Beall, Phil Ting | 1 Comment »

Assemblyman decries city council replacement

One of new Assemblyman Kansen Chu’s first acts will be to decry the process by which his San Jose City Council replacement is being chosen.

Kansen ChuAs my colleague Mike Rosenberg reports, the council is slated to vote Friday afternoon, in its last meeting of the session, on an interim appointment before a special election next year to replace Chu, who left his District 4 council seat for the state Assembly earlier this month.

Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo and outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed have named former District 4 councilwoman Margie Matthews – who endorsed Liccardo for mayor – as their pick. The proposed appointment is seen by the mayor-elect’s critics as a political maneuver that could tip the balance of power at City Hall in his favor. But Liccardo and his supporters say it’s merely a chance to ensure the District 4 residents of north San Jose are represented on key issues, as the winner of the upcoming election will not take office until as late as August.

Chu issued a news release late Thursday saying he’ll hold a news conference Friday morning at San Jose City Hall along with Councilman Ash Kalra and representatives from various community groups to “express their outrage at the anti-democratic, unethical tactics” Liccardo is using to fill the seat.

“The effort to hastily appoint a caretaker to represent the constituents of Council District 4 has been an example of government secrecy and deception,” the news release said. “With moving application deadlines, no community outreach, and an application and interview process with a pre-identified and selected candidate, the community has had little opportunity to voice its concerns about the potential candidates or the process being used.”

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Kansen Chu | 8 Comments »

No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

“It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

“To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos, Toni Atkins | 5 Comments »

Assembly committee chairmanships assigned

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her committee-chair choices Wednesday for the upcoming 2015-16 session, with Bay Area members taking some key slots. From the Bay Area:

    Freshman Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), will chair the Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services.
    Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, keeps her chair at the Business and Professions Committee.
    Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, keeps his chair at the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee while also picking up the Health Committee’s chairmanship.
    Freshman Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, will chair the Human Services Committee.
    Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, who formerly chaired the Human Services Committee, instead picks up the gavel at the Judiciary Committee.
    Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will chair the Public Safety Committee.
    Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, will chair the Revenue and Taxation Committee.
    Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, will continue chairing the Rules Committee.
    Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who used to chair the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, will now instead chair the Transportation Committee.
    Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, will chair the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

Full committee rosters will be assigned before the year’s end.

See a full list of committee chairs, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, Bill Quirk, Jim Frazier, Kansen Chu, Phil Ting, Rich Gordon, Rob Bonta, Susan Bonilla, Toni Atkins, Tony Thurmond | 1 Comment »

Campos aims to curb police militarization, drones

Local police forces’ militarization would be curtailed on the ground and in the air, under bills introduced Monday by a South Bay lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a bill that would forbid local law enforcement agencies from buying surplus military equipment without public input and approval from their local elected governing body, like a city council or a county board of supervisors.

Nora Campos“My bill is intended to help California communities and local law enforcement find the balance that is right for them. We are not a military state and our neighborhood streets shouldn’t be turned into warzones,” Campos said in a news release.

“Excessively militarizing the police isn’t necessarily in the best interest of a community,” she continued. “It does nothing to improve community relations when routine police actions, including crowd control, center on heavy military weaponry. Obviously, there are situations that require a strong law enforcement response and I will always support efforts to keep our law enforcement officers safe.”

Campos introduced another bill Monday that would require warrants for human surveillance collected by airborne drones; destruction of drone-collected data within one year; and limits on sharing that data.

“We must ensure that information collected by drones is not used against law-abiding people, and that people’s civil rights remain intact,” Campos said. “This is a common sense bill that stands on our tradition of fair treatment and justice under the law.”

The bill provides exceptions. For example, law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have to get a warrant before using a drone in response to exigent circumstances, traffic accidents, fires, environmental disasters, and searching for illegal vegetation in wilderness areas.

Gov. Jerry Brown in September vetoed another bill on this subject, AB 1327 by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, Campos noted, but “drones are here to stay and my bill will be a vehicle for finding the right balance. I look forward to working with all the interested parties.”

Posted on Monday, December 1st, 2014
Under: Assembly, Civil liberties, Nora Campos, Public safety | 6 Comments »