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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 »

Three Bay Area members in Assembly leadership

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced the members of her floor team Tuesday, tapping two Bay Area freshmen and one returning incumbent to top leadership posts for the 2015-16 session.

Atkins, D-San Diego, named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as Speaker pro Tempore; David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as Assistant Speaker pro Tempore; and Evan Low, D-Campbell as Assistant Majority Whip.

She also named Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, as Majority Floor Leader; Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, as Assistant Majority Floor Leader; Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, as Majority Whip; and Jim Cooper, D-Sacramento, as another Assistant Majority Whip.

The Speaker pro Tempore and his assistant fill in for the Speaker when she’s not around, including presiding over meetings of the Assembly. The Majority Floor Leader and his assistant serve as the Speaker’s personal representative on the floor, making motions and points of order as needed to keep things moving. Whips keep track of vote counts and keep caucus members in line for important legislation.

“Monday is the Assembly’s first floor session for the 2015-2016 term, and I believe we should hit the ground running,” Akins said in a news release.

The appointments will take effect when the caucus formally elects Atkins as Speaker at Monday’s organizational session; committee chairs and members will be announced next week.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, David Chiu, Evan Low, Kevin Mullin, Toni Atkins | 1 Comment »

Susan Bonilla declares state Senate candidacy

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla officially declared candidacy Tuesday in the special election that will be called to replace Mark DeSaulnier, now a Congressman-elect, in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District.

Susan Bonilla“I’m running for Senate to continue working for Contra Costa and Alameda residents, families, and small business owners in the Legislature,” Bonilla, D-Concord, said in her news release. “Working with a broad, diverse coalition, I am proud of what we have accomplished; turning a historic budget deficit into a balanced budget with a rainy day fund; revitalizing our economy through job creation and economic development; and reinvesting in our schools. I will continue focusing on these efforts in the State Senate, building coalitions to deliver results for my constituents.”

Both Bonilla and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, have been widely expected to run in this special election. Both had already created state Senate campaign committees for 2016, when DeSaulnier would’ve been term-limited out. But Rep. George Miller’s retirement after 40 years in the House led to DeSaulnier winning that 11th Congressional District seat this month, leaving his own state Senate seat up for grabs earlier than expected.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democrat, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan.

Republican Mark Meuser, a Walnut Creek attorney who ran unsuccessfully against DeSaulnier in 2012, announced Nov. 7 that he also will run to succeed DeSaulnier. He has not yet reported any fundraising.

Bonilla’s state Senate campaign committee had about $13,700 banked as of mid-October. Her Assembly committee, for the campaign she barely had to run in order to win re-election this month, had about $166,000 banked as of the same time.

Buchanan’s state Senate campaign committee had about $49,700 banked at mid-year, while her Assembly committee had about $30,800. Buchanan was term-limited out of the Assembly this year; Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin beat Democrat Tim Sbranti in the hard-fought election to succeed her.

But the list of candidates might grow larger still.

Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer, a former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown who lost the 16th Assembly District primary to Baker and Sbranti, said Tuesday that “a number of community leaders have encouraged me to consider running for this seat and I am giving it some thought.” Glazer, who already had rolled the leftovers from his primary campaign into a new Assembly campaign committee for 2016, has about $102,600 banked there.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »

Mark Meuser will seek DeSaulnier’s senate seat

The ink isn’t dry yet on Democrat Mark DeSaulnier’s win in the election to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District, but the jockeying for DeSaulnier’s state Senate seat is already under way.

Walnut Creek attorney Mark Meuser, a Republican who got 38.5 percent of the vote in his 2012 run against DeSaulnier for the 7th State Senate District seat, announced Friday that he’ll run in the special election Gov. Jerry Brown must call to fill the vacancy.

Mark Meuser “Mark Meuser’s priority is to insure that your future, your children’s future, and California’s future is bright,” Meuser’s news release said. “The spirit of entrepreneurs in California is as strong today as it was during the gold rush. It needs an advocate in Sacramento, and Meuser wants to be that advocate. Ensuring that our communities stay strong—and grow stronger—requires a long-term vision for future generations, and Meuser has that vision. It is time to elect a representative to Sacramento who will fight for the citizens of Contra Costa and Alameda counties.”

Meuser’s declaration of candidacy isn’t so surprising, given his 2012 run and his creation earlier this year of the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, funded largely out of his own pocket.

Two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who just won re-election, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who is term-limited out this year – are interested in the 7th State Senate District seat as well.

If a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in this special primary, he or she will win outright; otherwise, the top two vote-getters will advance to a special general election.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democrat, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan. Even if Buchanan and Bonilla split the Democratic vote in what’s likely to be a super-low-turnout election, it’ll be quite an uphill climb for Meuser either to reach the majority needed to win the primary outright or to prevail against either Democrat in the general.

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 7 Comments »

Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »