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Dems gather in Oakland to mull ballot measures

The California Democratic Party’s Executive Board convenes this weekend in Oakland, where it will decide whether to endorse the propositions – including two costly, controversial ones – on November’s ballot.

Proposition 45 would give the state insurance commissioner the authority to reject health-insurance premium hikes, and Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on punitive medical-malpractice damages. Opponents already have anted up tens of millions to fight the measures, and so pressure will be high as party delegates gather at Oakland’s Marriott convention center.

The votes are scheduled for Sunday. But the agenda includes various caucus and committee meetings Friday and Saturday, with speakers and visitors such as Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a candidate for state controller now embroiled in rival John Perez’ recount; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, a candidate for secretary of state; and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, now seeking a second term.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | No Comments »

John Burton’s letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry

The California Democratic Party just provided a copy of the letter that chairman John Burton sent Thursday to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

June 19, 2014

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Rick,

The Associated Press has reported that for all of your incessant California-bashing, you may be considering a move to the Golden State after your term as Governor of Texas ends.

We don’t blame you.

California has a lot to offer. From some of the best coastline in the world, national parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley, from San Diego to the crown jewel of San Francisco, this is simply the place to be.

That said, you really ought to know what you’re signing up for here. It may not be your scene.

Here in California we don’t stick our heads in the sand or twiddle our thumbs when it comes to Global Warming. We know it’s real, and our Governor Jerry Brown is leading the way to combat the threat we all face. California signed the Climate Change Pact together with the Governors of Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia. We’re building the nation’s first high speed rail system and we passed the Global Warming Solutions Act close to ten years ago.

Then there’s the matter of you equating homosexuality with alcoholism. Rick, it will take more than marching in this month’s San Francisco Pride Parade for you to begin to walk those comments back, but if you’re planning to make the move, it couldn’t hurt to start there.

This is California, the home of Harvey Milk. We’re a national leader in the fight for equal rights and marriage equality. Our Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom threw the gauntlet down way back in 2004 when, as mayor of San Francisco, he decided enough was enough and fought to give gay and lesbian couples the right to get married (and divorced for that matter) just like everyone else.

You should also know our minimum wage is set to go up to $10 an hour here thanks to our Democratic legislators and Governor Jerry Brown.

We understand even our state’s harshest critics would love to call California home, and apparently you’re no different. We’re just saying it wouldn’t hurt to do a little research before you load up the U-Haul and head west.

Peace and friendship,

John Burton
Chairman
California Democratic Party

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Under: Democratic Party, Democratic politics | 17 Comments »

President Obama returns to Bay Area on July 23

But… we’ve barely even had time to miss him! {sarcasm}

President Barack Obama will return to Silicon Valley for a July 23 fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tickets for the luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate developer and Democratic benefactor George Marcus start at $10,000 per person (including a photo opportunity and lunch) or $32,400 per couple (including a VIP photo opportunity and lunch).

Also scheduled to attend are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

Obama headlined two Democratic National Committee fundraisers May 8 in Los Altos and San Jose. Earlier, he was in the Bay Area for Democratic fundraisers in November 2013, June 2013, and April 2013.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Obama presidency | 22 Comments »

Obama returns to Bay Area on May 8

President Obama will return to the Bay Area on Thursday, May 8 for a pair of high-priced events to raise money for the Democratic National Committee.

Tickets for a reception at the Palo Alto home of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer start at $1,000 for individual guests, while $5,000 buys a place in the photo line; $7,500 buys access and photos for two; $10,000 buys co-chair status; and $32,400 buys all that plus membership in the DNC Presidential Partners Program.

Mayer hosted Obama for a DNC fundraiser in October 2010, when she was still an executive at Google.

“We need the resources to put Democrats in office to move our country forward,” says the invitation to this upcoming event. “Since we do not take money from special interests, corporate lobbyists, and political action committees, we rely on dedicated Democrats like you. Please join us for a reception to support this important work.”

Obama also is expected to do a roundtable with about 20 tech executives that same day somewhere in Silicon Valley, with seats going for the $32,400 maximum contribution. It’s not yet known whether he’ll do any official events while he’s here, or whether he’ll be staying overnight.

Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Obama presidency | 12 Comments »

Legal scandals lead Dems to cancel golf fundraiser

Chalk up one immediate victim of the ethical and legal scandals sullying the state Senate: Golf.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, who’ll succeed Steinberg in the top spot at the end of this year, issued a joint statement Tuesday announcing they’ve cancelled this weekend’s Pro Tem Cup – the annual Democratic party fundraiser at which donors give tens of thousands of dollars to join legislative leaders on the links at Torrey Pines in La Jolla – “in light of the very recent and extraordinary breaches of the public trust by three individuals.”

C’mon, guys, SAY THE NAMES! Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of voter fraud and perjury; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, indicted on bribery charges; and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, charged last week with trading favors for money and conspiring to traffic arms.

So, no golf!

“In its place, we intend to spend this weekend in our districts having an open and public conversation with our constituents about the work ahead for this Legislature and for this state,” Steinberg and de Leon said in their joint statement. “It’s important that our constituents understand that, despite the appalling acts of a few individuals who – on their own – put self-interest ahead of the public interest, the Senators who are here are here to serve, to do the hard, unglamorous work of fixing tough public-policy problems, and – most important – to do it the right way.”

And that means putting the putters away. Steinberg and de Leon said the modern campaign system makes fundraising “an occupational necessity, but Senate Democrats have always prided themselves on doing it ethically, appropriately, and in full adherence to every rule and regulation governing public disclosure.

“The Pro Tem Cup has long been a successful, signature example of this,” they said. “But these are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step back and take stock of how we all do the people’s business and balance it against the demands of running for office.”

The lawmakers said Senate leadership in coming weeks will conduct a “rigorous review of existing campaign finance laws and our own internal fundraising practices – and make recommendations on where we can improve as a caucus and a state, with a focus on when, where and how we raise campaign dollars and how we increase public transparency.” They’ll also schedule a public hearing to discuss campaign finance “the constitutional limits on reform.”

“Make no mistake: Senate Democrats fully intend to strengthen our productive, progressive majority this election year and have no intention of unilaterally disarming in terms of campaign resources,” Steinberg and de Leon said. “But this is time for a reality check. And, while the Legislature as a whole cannot be held responsible for the bad acts of three individual members, we do bear a high and profound responsibility to do all we can to repair the excruciating breach of public confidence they left behind.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Darrell Steinberg, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Leland Yee | 9 Comments »

Dems ‘pre-endorse’ some Bay Area candidates

Local Democrats voted Saturday to recommend that their state party endorse Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski in the 10th State Senate District, and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti in the 16th Congressional District.

Some other candidates – including Rep. Eric Swalwell in the 15th Congressional District and Elizabeth Echols in the 15th Assembly District – didn’t have enough votes to win these “pre-endorsements,” but can make their cases at the California Democratic Party convention next month in Los Angeles. And some races were so split as to allow no endorsement at all.

Democrats gathered Saturday for their regional caucus meetings, choosing among their party’s offerings for offices. Per the party’s rules, a candidate who gets 70 percent or more of the vote is recommended for endorsement and placed on the consent calendar to be ratified at next month’s convention in Los Angeles.

If one candidate receives more than 50 percent but less than 70 percent of the vote for a district, the race will go to the caucuses held during the March Convention. And if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, no endorsement will be made in that race.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, was kind enough to tweet and Facebook the results from the Region 5 caucus meeting:

In the 17th Congressional District, incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, reportedly got 122 votes to challenger Ro Khanna’s 11 votes at Saturday’s caucus meeting, so Honda goes on the consent calendar for endorsement at the convention.

In the 15th Congressional District, incumbent Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, reportedly got 45 votes to state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett’s 26 votes while three people voted against making any endorsement; Swalwell, having a majority but not 70 percent, will make his case again at the convention.

In the 10th State Senate District, Wieckowski reportedly got 105 votes, patient advocate Roman Reed got eight votes and former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi got no votes, so Wieckowski goes on the consent calendar for endorsement at the convention.

In the 15th Assembly District, Echols – a former Small Business Administration regional administrator – reportedly got 45 votes, former Richmond councilman and school board member Tony Thurmond got 17 votes, East Bay Municipal Utility District board president Andy Katz got 5 votes, attorney Sam Kang got no votes, and four people voted against making an endorsement; Echols, having a majority but not 70 percent, will make her case again at the convention.

In the 25th Assembly District, former Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler reportedly got 18 votes, San Jose Councilman Kansen Chu got 16 votes and Ohlone College Board of Trustees member Teresa Cox got 10 votes, while Milpitas Councilman Armando Gomez won no votes. With no candidate achieving a majority, there will be no party endorsement in this race.

After the Region 2 caucus meeting, Sbranti issued a news release announcing he had received 97 percent of the vote for the 16th Assembly District race, and so will be placed on the convention’s consent calendar for endorsement; other Democrats vying for that seat include Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer.

And state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, announced he received a unanimous endorsement recommendation to succeed Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, when the latter retires from his 11th Congressional District at the end of this year. No other Democrats of any renown are seeking the seat.

Posted on Monday, February 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mary Hayashi, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

SF’s Peter Ragone tapped to advise NYC mayor

Renowned Bay Area political consultant Peter Ragone is Big Apple-bound, having been named as a senior advisor by new New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Peter Ragone“It’s an honor to serve a mayor and an administration dedicated to achieving big things,” Ragone, 43, of San Francisco, said in a news release issued by de Blasio’s office. “New Yorkers have waited 20 years for this progressive moment, and it’s our charge to deliver. I know what it takes to turn an opportunity like this into real, lasting change. We’ll be focused on leaving no ally, no resource, and no tool idle as we seize this moment.”

Ragone might be best known for his time as then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s press secretary; he has continued to advise Newsom during his tenure as lieutenant governor. But Ragone is a native New Yorker, and cut his teeth working alongside de Blasio for Andrew Cuomo – then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, and now New York’s governor. He later led communications for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign in New York and California, and for Cuomo’s 2002 gubernatorial bid.

Posted on Monday, January 6th, 2014
Under: Democratic politics | 1 Comment »

Michelle Obama to raise $$$ for DNC in Bay Area

First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 12 in Belvedere.

Tickets to the 2:30 p.m. reception at the home of retired software executive Noelle Leca and attorney Michael Moradzadeh start at $1,000 per head; it’s $5,000 for a photo with the First Lady, plus $1,000 per additional person in the photo, or $32,400 to become a co-chair and have an even smaller audience with Mrs. Obama.

Posted on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Under: campaign finance, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | 2 Comments »

Steve Westly: Don’t call it a comeback…

…because he’s been here for years.

Steve WestlyAfter parallel careers in the private sector – in telecommunications and investment banking, an early and lucrative role at eBay and now as a prominent venture capitalist – and Democratic politics – a congressional staffer, Carter Administration energy official, state Public Utilities Commission aide and state party officer before his four years as state controller and his defeat in a hotly contested gubernatorial primary – Steve Westly is preparing to emerge onto the public scene once more, but he’s never really gone away.

I had lunch with Westly today at the Menlo Park office of the Westly Group, the clean-technology-and-social-change-minded investment outfit he founded in 2008. His team had reached out to me last week saying he wanted to catch up, as he intends to step up his political activity in coming months.

His visible political activity, that is – he has been quite busy, mostly behind the scenes, in recent years as a top-level fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

In fact, Republicans last year made Westly a poster boy for their accusations of President Obama’s “crony capitalism,” noting that after he raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign and began serving on a special advisory panel to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, several companies in which the Westly Group had investments received more than half a billion in government support. The bulk of that sum was a $465 million Energy Department loan to electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors, based in Palo Alto; Tesla announced in May that it had repaid the entire loan plus interest, nine years earlier than required.

Westly today repeated what he’d said last year: That he never talked to anyone at the Energy Department about any of his investments; that the advisory board held only public, videotaped meetings and never discussed investments; and that he never spoke with Chu or was even in his office.

He’s clearly proud of Tesla, and believes the company will set a new standard for U.S. and world auto manufacturing as the price of the cars’ high-performance batteries (the biggest cost in producing the cars, which now sell for at least around $60,000) continues to decline.

But although we talked about that and many other things – including his coaching of his kids’ athletic teams; the 17th Congressional District race, in which he’s supporting Democratic upstart Ro Khanna over incumbent Rep. Mike Honda; Lady Gaga; and immigration reform – that’s not really what we’d met to discuss.

Westly – now a few weeks shy of his 57th birthday – said he anticipates Gov. Jerry Brown easily will win re-election next year, but he’s looking further down the road to 2016 – when U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s current term will be up – and 2018, when Brown will be term-limited out and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein’s term will expire.

“There will be opportunities,” he said, soon after discussing Khanna in terms that he might also apply to himself. “I think people more than ever want to see new blood, new ideas, and get away from partisanship.”

There will be rivals for those opportunites, for sure – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris are among the most prominent of a long list of names who undoubtedly are eyeing those races.

But Westly has national ties to the Obama fundraising network; close relationships with Silicon Valley’s most prominent business figures; experience in statewide office; and very, very deep pockets of his own – he put $35.2 million of his own money into his last campaign.

He also has an advantage that he lacked when the more liberal state Treasurer Phil Angelides beat him in that 2006 gubernatorial primary: California’s new top-two primary system. The socially liberal but relatively-fiscally-conservative Westly could have a leg up in attracting nonpartisans, who now make up almost 21 percent of the state’s registered voters.

Opportunities, indeed.

Posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Under: Democratic politics, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Did Steinberg bawl out Yee in public-records flap?

Did state Senate Democratic leaders call Sen. Leland Yee on the carpet behind closed doors last week after Yee spoke out against their proposal to water down the California Public Records Act?

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he didn’t dress down Yee; Yee won’t say. But two reliable sources – a good-government policy advocate I talked with last week at Netroots Nation, and a State Capitol expert I talked with today – say that’s exactly what happened.

Darrell SteinbergThey said Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was none too pleased that Yee, D-San Francisco, spoke with me on Friday, June 14 as Thomas Peele and I prepared an article about the budget trailer bills that would’ve let local governments opt out of key parts of the public-records law.

Bad blood between Steinberg and Yee reportedly dates back to their Assembly days, as both jockeyed for leadership positions and influence. In the Senate, Steinberg has stripped Yee’s name from a few bills in recent years – including a 2009 bill to restore funding for domestic violence shelters and a 2010 bill providing relief after the San Bruno explosion – and stripped Yee of his title as assistant pro tem in 2010, in part because Yee opposed the Dems’ budget deal.

So Yee’s public criticism of Steinberg, Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno and other Democrats who’d voted to water down the Public Records Act shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Steinberg and other Dems reportedly were miffed nonetheless that Yee had hung them out to dry in public.

“God forbid you vote your conscience and then tell people why,” said the State Capitol expert I talked with today, noting that it would’ve been foolish for anyone to think Yee – a longtime government-transparency activist who’s running for Secretary of State next year – would either vote for the bill or remain silent about it afterward if called by a reporter.

Leland YeeYee wouldn’t discuss it today. “We don’t have any further comment on that matter,” spokesman Dan Lieberman said. “We’re just glad the CPRA is being protected.”

Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund said no caucus meeting was convened for the purpose of dressing down Yee; when I asked whether Yee was dressed down during a caucus meeting that was convened for some other purpose, he replied with a simple, “No.”

“Senate Democrats all strongly support the Public Records Act. That support has never waned,” Hedlund said. “What we now have is a fair compromise that offers a short-term solution, while allowing the people of California to constitutionally enshrine CPRA protections and to ensure that state taxpayers don’t pay for what local governments should be doing on their own.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Democratic politics, Leland Yee | 4 Comments »