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CD10: Garamendi unveils anti-Harmer TV ad

Democratic 10th congressional candidate and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi appears to be ramping up his campaign assault on Republican opponent David Harmer.

Garamendi commissioned a robocall over the weekend about Social Security and this morning, he released a new television ad, “Two Cents,” that speaks largely to public schools. (See link below.)

Pro-Harmer forces say it’s a sign that Garamendi is desperate. It’s more likely that Garamendi wants to expand his lead in the Nov. 3 election and solidify his position heading into the June 2010 primary. Garamendi has an 18-point party registration advantage, major name identification and twice as much money as Harmer. Let’s put it this way: If Garamendi loses this election, Democrats are in big, big trouble.

The contents of the ad match Garamendi’s characterizations of Harmer’s positions in a mail piece a few weeks ago.

Like most campaign materials, the truth of its claims is all in the interpretation.

Garamendi’s chief point in this ad is that Harmer wrote a book calling for the end to public education.

It’s true that Harmer wrote a book in the early 1990s. “School Choice: Why You Need It, How You Get It” was published by the Cato Institute and contains an eloquent endorsement by then Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, now an independent from Connecticut.

But Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz and Harmer say the book never calls for the elimination of public schools. Instead, the men say the book promoted the concept that residents should be able to direct the tax dollars they pay for education into the schools of their choice, whether it’s a public, private, charter or religious facility. Let schools compete for students and schools and children will benefit, Harmer said.

The Harmers don’t act as though they want to end public schools. Harmer’s four young children attend public school in San Ramon. His wife, Elayne, is a substitute public school teacher. And Harmer has helped a public school in his neighborhood raise almost $200,000. Presumably Harmer, an attorney, could afford to send his children to a private school.

On the other hand, the Harmers live in Dougherty Valley, an affluent suburb where most view the public schools as excellent. And critics of school choice say adoption of such a program would severely undermine an already over-stressed public school system and unfairly dump tax dollars into private institutions that may not advance the broader goals of society.

Here’s the ad:

Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | 7 Comments »

CD10: Garamendi hits Harmer with robocall

Democratic congressional candidate Lt. Gov. John Garamendi sent out a robocall over the weekend into the senior citizen Rossmoor community about his Republican opponent David Harmer’s position on Social Security.

Rossmoor Republican Club President Tom Fryer played the call for me this morning, in which a woman who identifies herself as Shirley Zucker* says: “I have been a Republican all of my life but I am calling on behalf of John Garamendi. I rarely vote against our party’s nominee. But Garamendi’s opponent wants to privatize Society Security. My Social Security is too important to my future to consider such a risky scheme.”

I’ll put on my truth squad hat.

Yes, Harmer supports privatization of Social Security. He favors allowing workers to redirect the money they currently pay into the government system into private accounts. He says the workers, not the government, should control their own money.

But the implication that Harmer wants to strip old people of their Social Security checks is false. Harmer has specifically said that he supports the benefit but believes individuals would receive a greater benefit through a privately run system.

Whether or not a private Social Security system would outperform the government program is a matter of intense debate on both sides.

But scaring old people in their homes with a robocall is wrong, Fryer said.

He’s right.

* This is my best guess as to the spelling of the caller’s name. I have asked the Garamendi campaign for more information about her. She may not even live in District 10 or California, for that matter.

As a sidenote, yes, robocalls are illegal in California. But candidates often use out-of-state call centers that do not come under the state’s jurisdiction. And when it comes to political speech, protected under the First Amendment, the robocall ban is almost never enforced.

Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | 4 Comments »

CD10: Garamendi to air TV ad

Democratic Lt.Gov. John Garamendi has bought $45,000 worth of television air time through Election Day on a variety of stations including Home & Garden, said campaign spokesman Josh Franco.

The ad emphasizes Garamendi’s long tenure in public office and his policy experience. It never mentions his opponent, Republican David Harmer.

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | 2 Comments »

CD10: Garamendi outraises Harmer almost 2 to 1

David Harmer

David Harmer

John Garamendi

John Garamendi

Federal election reports filed as of midnight last night show Democratic Lt. Governor John Garamendi significantly outpaced his Republican opponent David Harmer in fundraising for the 10th Congressional District seat.

Garamendi has raised $938,788, nearly double that of Harmer at $489,006.

The election is Nov. 3.

In other details in the report, Harmer received 91 percent of his contributions from individuals rather than political parties or political action committees. Garamendi reported 78 percent of his donations came from individuals while remainder came from PACs and political committees.

As of the the close of filing, Garamendi had in the bank $133,288 and $34,400 in debts. Harmer reported $59,987 in cash on hand and $45,214 in debts.

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, 2010 election, Congressional District 10 | 6 Comments »

Bill Clinton to campaign for Garamendi in SF

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton will host a rally* with 10th Congressional District candidate and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi on Tuesday in South San Francisco.

The public event begins around 2:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Basque Cultural Center, 599 Railroad Ave., in South San Francisco.

Clinton has endorsed Garamendi in the congressional race, and the lieutenant governor says the president promised to make a personal appearance during the campaign if he could fit it into his schedule.

Unfortunately for Garamendi, Clinton doesn’t have enough time to travel to the 10th District, presumably the preferred location for a the chance to publicly stand next to the popular former president. Clinton is in the Bay Area to attend the PGA President’s Cup at Harding Golf Course in San Francisco and has to catch a flight later Tuesday.

Clinton is in Los Angeles, today, campaigning for gubernatorial hopeful and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Garamendi says he vividly remembers a two-hour conversation in 1991 with then-presidential candidate Clinton about health care reform in 1991, when then-Insurance Commissioner Garamendi was working on a California version of a single-payer health insurance system.

“We go way back on health care,” Garamendi said of Clinton. “And here we are today, talking about the same issue.”

Garamendi won the Sept. 1 special primary election and will face on Nov. 3 GOP nominee David Harmer of Dougherty Valley and three minor party candidates.

* Update: Subject of rally no longer limited to healthcare but will cover a range of issues. 11:43 a.m.

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Bill Clinton, Congressional District 10 | 2 Comments »

CD10: Harmer says poll shows him ahead of Garamendi

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Democrat

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Democrat

David Harmer, Republican

David Harmer, Republican

UPDATE 8:28 AM FRIDAY: I finally connected with Harmer chief campaign consultant Tim Clark last night (he was in an all-day conference) and he had some interesting additional information about his candidate’s poll. See the updated information in italics in the entry below.

Tenth Congressional District GOP candidate David Harmer touted a new poll in a fundraising email he sent out this week he says shows him beating Democrat Lt. Gov. John Garamendi 49 percent to 32 percent among voters who have heard of both candidates.

The survey of 450 likely voters also concluded that when respondents were asked whether they intended to vote for a generic Republican or Democrat, the GOP candidate received 40 percent compared with 44 percent for the Democrat. And it showed Harmer ahead among decline-to-state voters 40 percent to 26 percent.

That sound you hear is Garamendi laughing. Loudly.

“That’s not what my polling shows,” Garamendi said. “Look, this is a poll designed to raise money from the Republican base. It has no bearing on reality. If the Republicans think the Democrats are just going to sit back and go to sleep in this election, they are wrong. There is no way I am going to let that happen.”

The poll does seem, well, to put it nicely, a tad delusional.

The lieutenant governor has overwhelming name identification in a congressional district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 18 percentage points. Harmer is a political unknown likely to raise just a fraction of the money that his opponent will collect.

However, a reputable survey firm, Wilson Research out of Washington, D.C., conducted the telephone poll commissioned jointly by Harmer and the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. It was conducted Sept. 23-24 and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent. The email solicitation features the name of well-known Republican fundraiser and Harmer campaign finance director Kristin Hueter.

Harmer chief political consultant Tim Clark said the poll numbers do not indicate his client has suddenly become the frontrunner. In fact, in a direct match-up between the men among all those questioned in the survey (not just those who have heard of both candidates), Harmer is down 6 1/2 percentage points, Clark said.

“Our client is in the hunt, that’s what we are saying,” Clark said.

Clark points to the shift in the generic ballot, where those surveyed were asked, “If the election were held today, would you vote for a Republican or Democrat?” In August, their internal polling showed the split at 52 percent Democrat and 29 percent Republican. This polls shows the split at 44 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican.

“John Garamendi has to be worried about this shift,” Clark said.

Clark also says the poll also shows that 30 percent of those surveyed have a negative view of Garamendi, the result of a tough primary where his Democratic opponents spent thousands of dollars painting him as a carpet-bagging opportunist. (Garamendi lives just outside the District 10 line in Walnut Grove and dropped his faltering governor’s campaign in order to run for Congress.)

Harmer supporters say public sentiment is shifting away from Democrats such as Garamendi who support a public health insurance option. They correctly point out that Harmer beat Garamendi among ballots cast on Election Day on Sept. 1.

I’m not buying that last argument, though.  Just one out of every four votes cast on Sept. 1 in Contra Costa County, which comprises the largest segment of the 10th District, took place on Election Day. Everyone else in Contra Costa County voted by mail, where Harmer placed third behind state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. (In all votes cast the 10th District, which includes portions of four counties, Harmer came in second place: Garamendi, 27,580 votes or 25.7 percent; Harmer, 22,582 votes or 21 percent; DeSaulnier, 18,888 votes. or 17.6 percent)

Turnout at the Nov. 3 special general election will very likely reflect a similar if not higher percentage of votes by mail. Voting by mail starts Monday.

Read on for the full content of Harmer’s fundraiser email: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | 30 Comments »

Garamendi calls state garage sale an ‘abomination’

Lt. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Great California Garage Sale was disgusting, says Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.

“Have we no pride?” Garamendi said. “That we would allow the governor to go out and finance the state with a garage sale? To sell his signature to finance the state? We are the laughing stock of the world. It’s an abomination. I take pride in California. I take pride that we are the Golden State. Where’s your pride, governor!”

Ouch. Tell us how you really feel, John.

Garamendi had a few other choice words for Schwarzenegger during our phone interview following his Tuesday victory in the 10th Congressional District special primary election. (Democrat Garamendi will run in the Nov. 3 run-off against Republican David Harmer.)

Garamendi called Schwarzenegger the “worst governor this state has ever had. He has taken this state down the tubes. He has destroyed education. He has no progress on health care. He has no progress on education. And prison reform he wants to toss over to the judges.”

Sheesh. If Garamendi’s not careful, he could wake up one morning and find his Capitol office furniture on Craigslist.

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10, Lt. Governor, Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

CD10 outcome could trigger more elections

The campaigns for the 10th Congressional District have nearly reached the end of the line and polls will open in a matter of hours.

By this time Wednesday, we should know the outcome of what has been a suspense-filled accelerated primary election season, chiefly due to the presence of three elected Democrats in the contest — Lt. Gov. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo.

The Democratic top vote-getter will become the prohibitive favorite in the Nov. 3 runoff election and if one of these three ultimately prevails, it will trigger one of three events:

1. If Garamendi wins, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will nominate someone to fill out the remainder of his term or 2010. The nomination is subject to approval of both houses of the California Legislature. But if state lawmakers fail to vote within 90 days, the governor’s choice automatically takes the seat.

2 and 3. If DeSaulnier or Buchanan win, a vacancy in the Assembly or Senate seat triggers the state’s special election rules. The governor cannot appoint members of the Legislature. The governor has 14 days as soon as the seat becomes vacant to call a special general election, which must occur within 114 to 126 days. A special primary will be held eight weeks prior to the general election.

Of course, one could extend this line of thought to the extreme. Let’s say DeSaulnier wins the Congressional seat and triggers a special Senate election. Then Buchanan wins the Senate seat and her departure triggers a special Assembly election. All of which translates into millions of dollars to pay for more special elections and all on the backs of the district’s taxpayers.

A few folks have already indicated they will run for an open Senate seat, including Danville Councilman Newell Arnerich and West Contra Costa School Board Trustee Tony Thurmond. Open seats usually attract additional candidates, so we almost certainly expect that list would grow.

As for the lieutenant governor’s seat, talk among Sacramento politicos is that Schwarzenegger favors the appointment of a Republican although the names of several prominent Democrats have surfaced, too.

The governor can either use the post to elevate someone into a position where he or she can run as an incumbent in 2010 for this job or even for governor. Or he could nominate a place-holder, someone who poses no threat to the current gubernatorial or statewide candidates.

“The person who gets appointed has an advantage and the (governor and his staff) will be very careful about who they give that advantage to,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at University of Southern California and a former Republican political consultant.

On the GOP side, names include state Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria. He infuriated Republicans when he voted with Schwarzenegger last year for a state budget that contained tax hikes in return for a redistricting ballot measure. On the plus side, Democrats might go along with it; his departure from the Senate creates an opportunity for Democrats to win the seat in a special election. But it would look like political pay-back, a label the moderate Maldonado might not survive in a tough 2010 primary.

Another GOP possibility is Assemblyman Mike Villines of Fresno, the former minority leader who also sided with Schwarzenegger in February on a state budget that included temporary tax hikes in return for spending reform.

There is also speculation that Tom Campbell, the governor’s former finance director, might be persuaded to give up his gubernatorial bid in exchange for the lieutenant governor’s nomination. Campbell’s presence could lead to an unusual partnership between the two Constitutional offices. (Garamendi and Schwarzenegger are not pals. Garamendi’s opposition to the governor’s policies and ballot measures cost the lieutenant governor half of his office budget.)

Democrats who might make the short list include former Assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg. I’m told the two have a strong relationship and Hertzberg might view it as a pulpit for his California Forward initiative, a study of potential governance reforms in the state.

Other Democratic names that come up include former state Controller Steve Westly, state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee.

Would Schwarzenegger appoint a Democrat? Who knows? He is unpredictable. And with just a 1 1/2 left in his term, he could always decide to shake things up.

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, California Legislature, Congressional District 10, Schwarzenegger, Tom Campbell | No Comments »

Healthcare tele-town halls attract thousands

I just hung up after two hours of listening to health care telephone town hall forums  hosted by reps. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

McNerney’s office reports 5,000 callers on the line for the discussion, while Miller says he had about 1,500 respond tonight and about the same number last night.

What’s a telephone town hall? It’s an automated system that puts out calls to a congressmember’s constituents and invites them to participate in a large conference call. The legislator takes questions and everyone on the call hears the questions and the answers.

McNerney answered about a dozen questions while Miller addressed about 20. (Why the difference? Miller’s staff did not interupt the call repeatedly with the congressman’s office phone numbers and instructions on how to get a tour of the White House. But I digress.)

Callers could also leave questions on a voice mail system at the end of the telephone town hall. Miller’s office receive about 100 messages on Tuesday night and expects a similar number tonight. The legislative staffers will transcribe the questions,find the answers and return the calls in the next few days.

Of all the calls to both congressmen, only about 10 expressed outright opposition to the Democrats’ bill and a similar  number said they favored the legislation. The others asked a variety of questions and may or may not have been critics of the bill.

As chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Miller is one of the principal authors of the legislation and he clearly had very strong grasp on the details of the 1,000-page bill.

Questions ranged from how the legislation will impact small businesses and skepticism about its promise of reduced costs and greater access. The legislators heard from folks concerned about the future of Medicare, too, and Miller repeatedly reassured them that the new bill will have little to no impact on the national insurance for the elderly.

Miller also directly addressed the controversy over the rowdy eruptions  at many of his colleague’s health care town hall meetings across the country.

Knowing that people were potentially planning to come and disrupt any town hall meetings he might have held, Miller told those on the call that he switched to the telephone town hall format so that he could hear from his constituents and answer their questions rather than subject folks to a mob intent on shutting down the debate and attracting television cameras.

He said much the same to me earlier in the day when I met with him in his office to talk about health care.

And frankly, anyone who thinks Miller is hiding from his critics on this issue doesn’t know the guy.

Posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
Under: Congress, Congressional District 10, congressional district 11, healthcare reform | 12 Comments »

CD10: Forum set for Aug. 11 at Saint Mary’s College

The 11 major party candidates in the upcoming special election to replace former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher have been invited to participate in an Aug. 11 round-table at Saint Mary’s College.

The League of Voters of Diablo Valley, the Contra Costa Times and Saint Mary’s College are sponsoring the event. Times political writer and columnist Lisa Vorderbrueggen will moderate the discussion.

The free event will be held on the college campus in Moraga at LeFevre Hall Soda Center . (Click here for driving directions to the campus.) The public will have an opportunity during the round-tables to submit questions for the candidates.

The Democrats’ segment of the program begins at 7 p.m., followed by the Republican candidates at 8:15 p.m.

The Sept. 1 special primary election is a blanket primary, where all candidates regardless of partisan affiliation will appear on the same ballot.

If one candidate receives a majority of the vote in the special primary, he or she will win the seat outright.

Given the large number of candidates in the field, a primary win appears unlikely, which will trigger a Nov. 3 run-off among the top-vote getters in each party.

In addition to the 11 Democrats and Republicans, one candidate each from the Green, Peace and Freedom and American Independent parties have qualified for the ballot. Unless a candidate wins in the primary, each of the minor party candidates will advance to the run-off.

The open seat in the 10th Congressional District occurred after the U.S. Senate confirmed Tauscher in late June as undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security.

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | No Comments »