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Barbara Lee to present platform at convention

Rep. Barbara Lee, along with Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker and retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, have been tapped to present the party’s platform to the 2012 Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)This is the first time that Lee, D-Oakland, has been asked to speak at a Democratic National Convention, and it won’t be lost on anyone that one of the House’s most outspoken liberals is helping to present the party’s statement of core values.

“As a member of the Democratic platform drafting committee, I’m excited about presenting the 2012 platform,” Lee said Friday. “It is a strong document that clearly illustrates the contrasts between our party and the party of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and sets out the vision of how under the leadership of President Obama we can and must move America Forward.”

Lee won’t be the only California presence at the convention’s podium: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the convention’s chair, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris also is scheduled to speak.

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

County Dems seek $$$ from would-be endorsees

An anonymous caller directed me to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee’s website, where candidates filling out an endorsement application are asked for a $50 contribution “to offset the cost of our endorsement process.”

“It just seems undemocratic,” said the caller (whom I assume meant that with a small “d”), acknowledging he’s running for a local office and so declining to provide his name lest he incur the party’s wrath. “I’ve been a Democrat all my life, and this is a little bit over the top; it’s not like I don’t already contribute to the president and other campaigns.”

Chairwoman Robin Torello said the county party started soliciting such contributions from candidates in 2010, although it just raised the suggested ante from $25 to $50 “because it was not covering our expenses, plus this is a bigger year with more races.”

Torello said her committee is looking at almost 200 Democrats running in more than 120 local races across the county this November. Vetting so many candidates for endorsement means spending on everything from printing, postage and phone costs to refreshments for the volunteer committee members who’ll be sitting through five full days of interviews, she said.

The process takes “dozens and dozens and dozens of hours, and we’re all volunteers except for one staff person, but one person can’t do all this,” she said, noting the $50 is just a suggested contribution. “We don’t not interview people if they don’t pay – it’s a donation to help defray the costs. And we’re just aligning ourselves with other county committees that have been doing this for years. We think it’s warranted.”

Contra Costa County Democratic Party officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on whether they charge such fees, too. (UPDATE @ 8:22 A.M. WEDNESDAY: They don’t, chairman Chuck Carpenter said in an e-mail last night.)

On the other side of the Bay, San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee Chairman David Burruto said his committee used to charge “a nominal fee just because we had to Xerox a lot of things,” but in this age of fast, cheap email has stopped doing so.

“We don’t charge anything,” he said. “The only thing we ask of candidates sometimes is if they want to be on a slate mailer.”

In the South Bay, chairman Steve Preminger said “at no point in our endorsement process does the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee state or imply that a candidate seeking our endorsement should make a financial contribution or pay any fees to the SCCDP.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | 3 Comments »

McNerney will skip convention, Garamendi unsure

Add Rep. Jerry McNerney to the list of Democratic elected officials who won’t attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this September even as they try to retain their seats.

But it seems he has a pretty solid reason.

“The Congressman won’t be attending the convention, as it conflicts with his son’s wedding,” spokeswoman Lauren Smith said today.

McNerney, D-Stockton, is being challenged in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District by Ricky Gill, a recent law school graduate from Lodi whom the National Republican Congressional Committee named one of its Young Guns – a well-funded, well-organized up-and-comer taking on a vulnerable incumbent.

But Gill spokesman Colin Hunter said Gill hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August; he declined comment on McNerney skipping Charlotte.

Various national media outlets have been building a list of Democrats avoiding the Charlotte convention, often from districts where President Obama’s approval ratings are low. Likewise, some Republicans who might benefit from distancing themselves from the GOP are avoiding Tampa.

It’s unclear whether Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, will go to Charlotte. Garamendi is challenged in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District by Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, another of the NRCC’s Young Guns.

“A decision has not been made yet,” Garamendi spokesman Donald Lathbury said today. “We’ll have a better sense of his schedule closer to the convention.”

A spokeswoman for Vann didn’t immediately return a call or an e-mail.

UPDATE @ 1:05 P.M.: Alee Lockman, Vann’s campaign manager, says “no plans have been made as of yet” on whether Vann will go to the GOP convention in Tampa.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Brown names Burton’s daughter to state board

Gov. Jerry Brown today nominated Kimiko Burton – daughter of California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton – to the State Personnel Board.

Kimiko Burton, 47, of San Francisco, has been a San Francisco deputy city attorney since 2003. Before that, she was San Francisco’s public defender – a job to which then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown had appointed her to fill a vacancy – since 2001; she lost the 2002 election for that office to Jeff Adachi. Willie Brown is a longtime, close political ally of her father, who at that time was the state Senate’s President Pro Tem.

Kimiko Burton had been director of the Mayor’s Criminal Justice Council in San Francisco under Willie Brown from 1996 to 2000, and staff attorney for the State Board of Equalization from 1995 to 1996. She holds a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

The State Personnel Board, according to its website, “was constitutionally created in 1934 to administer the civil service system and ensure that state employment is based on merit and free of political patronage.”

The nomination requires state Senate confirmation; the job pays $40,668. Burton is – need I say it? – a Democrat.

Posted on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Under: Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Jerry Brown | 3 Comments »

Dems and DTS gain, GOP loses voter registration

California’s Democratic and nonpartisan voter registration have increased from the last presidential election cycle to now, while Republican registration has fallen, according to the new report from Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office.

The report shows that the 3.6 million voters who express no party preference now account for 21.2 percent of the state’s electorate, “a new all-time high” up from 19.4 percent (3 million voters) in January 2008, Bowen said.

The state’s 7.4 million registered Democrats – up from 6.6 million four years ago – now account for 43.6 percent of registered voters, up from 42.7 percent four years ago. Republican registration has dropped from 33.5 percent (5,197,897 voters) in January 2008 to 30.4 percent (5,170,592 voters) now.

“Republicans in California are a half percentage point away from an endangered species designation,” California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said this afternoon. “Year after year voters see the GOP shrink away from their responsibilities and abdicate leadership on the tough issues facing our state. The numbers come as no surprise.”

California Republican Party spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns argued that while Golden State voters aren’t self-identifying as Republican, they’re voting like Republicans on the issues.

“Despite the increased numbers of decline-to-state voters, the fact is that Californians have voted our way on ballot initiatives, including overwhelmingly rejecting the last eight tax increases on the ballot,” she said via e-mail this afternoon. “The Republican Party has more work to do to communicate that THOSE principles are OUR principles, and we need to connect those dots for the voters. But the fact that voters are voting the way they do on those ballot measures indicates that they actually agree more with Republican principles of fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and less bureaucracy.”

California law requires statewide voter registration data updates 154, 60 and 15 days before each primary election, and 60 and 15 days before each general election. One “off-year” update is released in February of years with no regularly scheduled statewide election.

California’s new top-two primary system – in which the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of what parties they belong to – applies to statewide offices, state legislative offices and House and U.S. Senate offices, but does not apply to the presidential election, county party committees or local offices. Only the Democratic and American Independent parties are letting no-party-preference independents vote in their presidential primaries.

The last day to register to vote in the June 5 primary election is May 21; the last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is May 29.

Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
Under: Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Republican Party, Republican politics, voter registration | 4 Comments »

Assemblyman claims retaliation for budget vote

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, says party leaders are slashing his legislative staff in retaliation for his recent vote against the amended state budget.

Anthony Portantino“At the close of business on Friday, I received a letter from Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, Chair of the Rules Committee,” he wrote in a news release today. “Ms. Skinner informed me that my previously-approved budget for office expenses has been slashed for the third and fourth quarters of this year. The letter further stated that ‘effective October 21, 2011 through November 30, 2011,’ my entire Capitol and District staff will be placed on leave without pay.”

“This bizarre and unprecedented action is clearly intended to punish me for my vote and to discourage other Assembly Members from performing their duties in a conscientious manner,” he continued. “I am very concerned that it will have a detrimental effect on the services for the District for which I proudly serve and I have asked Ms. Skinner to reconsider this exercise of power.”

Portantino said he was the lone Assembly Democrat to vote against the budget because he opposes further cuts to K-12 and higher education; he opposes the elimination of local redevelopment agencies, which have been useful to his district; he believes the prison realignment plan will make communities less safe and ultimately cost more; and he believes the revenue projections were too rosy.

“I knew that my vote ran counter to the wishes of the Assembly Democratic Leadership,” he wrote today. “However, I believed then, and continue to believe, that it reflected the needs and wishes of the residents of my District. To have ignored my constituents and legitimate policy priorities in order to curry favor with legislative leaders would have been an abdication of my responsibilities as an elected representative.”

He hopes Skinner will reconsider, but “if this is the price for speaking out and taking independent action, I will reluctantly have to pay it,” he finished. “The people of California will judge which of us is properly honoring our oath of office.”

Skinner’s letter (page 1, 2) actually says Portantino is spending in excess of his budget, and that his deficit will exceed $67,000 by November’s end; he has until this Friday to submit a new spending plan.

In a response today, Portantino notes all of his staffers were hired and approved by action of Skinner’s Rules Committee. He asks why he’s suddenly being deemed an over-spender, and asks when and how the committee cut his budget; whether other Assemblymembers are having their budgets cut mid-year; and whether his staffers – including “a single mother of three with a new-born child” – will lose their health insurance, too.

I’ve e-mailed Skinner’s office for a response, and will update here when I receive one.

UPDATE @ 1:12 P.M.: Haven’t heard back yet from Skinner, but I got a call a short while ago from a former legislative staffer who’s pretty steamed about this.

“California’s going to hell,” said William Schlitz, who worked as a staffer for Assembly Democrats including Barbara Lee for about 15 years and as a union lobbyist for three years before moving to Texas.

“If they want to punish him, fine,” Schlitz fumed, but it’s unforgiveable to take this out on staffers – some of whom have worked in the Legislature waaaaay longer than Skinner – whose only sin was to work for someone with whom the leadership now disagrees.

Former Speaker Willie Brown “never would’ve done this,” he said. “He knew once you went there, you’ve corrupted the system completely.”

Schlitz called Skinner a hypocrite for calling herself a workers’ champion while punishing aides for their boss’ vote, and for threatening to leave Portantino’s constituents without meaningful representation. “The fact that she would put her name on that piece of paper, ugh, she should have resigned as the Rules Committee chair first.”

UPDATE @ 1:45 P.M.: Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, just e-mailed to say this is nothing more than Portantino being unable or unwilling to keep his own office’s spending in line:

“As Mr. Portantino made clear in his own press release, his office budget is out of balance. He was told as recently as April that he needed to bring his office budget into compliance, after it was found he overspent his office budget by almost $88,000. Now his office deficit is projected to be $67,179 by November 30, 2011. The Speaker made the determination that during difficult budget times, it would be unfair to other Members to continue to subsidize Mr. Portantino beyond his office’s approved budget. The Assembly simply could not continue to cover the spending gap and subsidize Mr. Portantino’s overdrawn office account.”

UPDATE @ 2:03 P.M.: I just spoke with Nancy Skinner, who says this has absolutely nothing to do with Portantino’s vote on the state budget.

She said Rules Committees staffers do quarterly projections of Assembly members’ office expenditures and advise them when they appear to be spending too much. Portantino’s first-quarter spending was too high, she said, and so the committee verbally advised him and his chief of staff of that in March.

“There was no adjustment in the expenditures that we could tell, so at the end of April a letter was sent – notice he didn’t release that letter to you,” she said; that letter also brought no changes, and so a second letter was sent Friday after staffers made new projections after the second quarter. “We do this whenever any member’s office is projected to be severely over budget – we let them know and then we monitor and if they don’t make any adjustments, we tell us they need to and ask them to show us how they’re going to.”

Amid all sorts of painful state budget cuts this year, Portantino seems to want a dispensation to spend an extra $67,000, Skinner said; she rhetorically asked what would happen if all 80 Assembly members did so. Non-rhetorically, my calculator tells me it would be $5.36 million in added spending.

Skinner said several Assembly members were advised after the first-quarter assessment that they were overspending; all but Portantino adjusted their office budgets, and he’s the only one with a projected deficit now.

UPDATE @ 3 P.M.: Anthony Portantino just called. His comments, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Democratic politics, John Perez, Nancy Skinner, state budget | 10 Comments »

What’s the story of last night’s CA election?

The Contra Costa Times’ home page headline this morning is “Red tide hits Blue wall,” and that’s undoubtedly true.

As Republicans elsewhere in the nation took 11 governor’s offices from Democrats, Jerry Brown overcame Meg Whitman’s $161.5 million blitz to become the nation’s only Democratic gubernatorial pickup. As Republicans elsewhere in the nation picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer turned away the toughest challenge of her career, from Carly Fiorina. Neither race was nearly as close as polls and pundits had projected.

In fact, neither were most of the down-ticket races; at this hour, with the attorney general’s race still too close to call, it’s possible that Democrats swept the statewide offices. And as a Republican tide undid the Democrats’ electoral victories of the past two cycles to retake the House of Representatives and end Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker, here in the 11th Congressional District, Jerry McNerney – perhaps the state’s most endangered Democratic House member – holds a razor-thin margin over Republican challenger David Harmer as ballots continue to be counted.


Naturally, your opinion this morning seems to depend on where you’re standing.

“Feeling pessimistic, but bucking the national trend, California voters decided against a pair of untested Republicans in favor of old-school Democrats on Tuesday,” the New York Times reported.

From Robert Cruickshank at

So. What all does this mean?

First, that Californians want to be governed by Democrats, and certainly not by wealthy CEOs. The Whitman bust is one of the most laughable and epic political failures we’ve ever seen. She spent $160 million to lose by double digits. Ultimately she and Fiorina could not overcome the basic contradiction of Republican politics: their base hates Latinos, but California’s elections are increasingly decided by Latinos.

More importantly, Californians rejected right-wing economics. They rejected Whitman and Fiorina’s attack on government and public spending to produce economic recovery.

From Steve Frank at California News & Views:

In my opinion, our losses were not due to lack of money (except for our registration effort). Nor was it because of a lack of personnel and smart people.

Two words for this massive lost [sic] in California, while the GOP was winning in a landslide–or just winning–in 49 other States.


Would you trust a political party that gave you $140 billion in defiicits? Would you trust a Party that gave you a Governor looking for ways to give amnesty to illegal aliens?

Would you trust a political party that has a Governor that supports choo-choo trains over economic stability and loves ObamaCare?

Arnold brought us to 12.4% unemployment and a Great Depression.

Arnold also bankrupted the California Republican Party–he caused divisions and disputes–kept donors from supporting the GOP.

With Arnold as the titular head of the California GOP–with a fiscal record that put us into a Depression, with policies like AB 32 that have caused massive unemployment and will devastate the Satte over the next few years, with his refusal to support his own political party–after seven years he has done the impossible.

He destroyed a political party and he has destroyed a whole State–Our slogan now is “Welcome to the Tarnished State”.

Any wonder the Republican Party of California lost most everything yesterday?

So, readers, what do you think? Latino outrage, class warfare, a wildly unpopular Republican incumbent governor, lousy candidates or campaigns, old habits dying hard, or something else entirely — why couldn’t the GOP seal the deal here in California?

Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Democratic politics, Republican politics | 20 Comments »

Alco Dems hire executive director

The Alameda County Democratic Party has hired Michael Colbruno as its new executive director.

Read on for the full news release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2010
Under: Alameda County, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | No Comments »

Young Dems, GOP Liberty Caucus back Prop. 19

Despite Chairman John Burton urging an endorsement, the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board chose this weekend to remain neutral on Proposition 19, the marijuana-legalization initiative on November’s ballot, and don’t hold your breath waiting for a California Republican Party endorsement.

But that doesn’t mean some Democratic and GOP blocs aren’t solidly behind it. The California Young Democrats, for example, endorsed it this weekend.

“A major part of our campaign strategy will be engaging young and first-time voters who are excited to come to the polls to support our initiative, and we think the Democratic Party will really benefit from the extra turnout that our campaign will provide,” said Yes on Proposition 19 Field Director James Rigdon.

The Young Dems tout the law-enforcement cost savings as well as the potential local tax revenue legalization and taxation could bring in. Far over on the other side of the aisle, the Republican Liberty Caucus of California – the Ron Paul-loving “Constitutional Republicans” – endorsed the measure this weekend, too, but in a legalzization-without-taxation stance.

“Clearly the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle free men and women living on free soil to grow and smoke marijuana,” said RLCCA Secretary Parke Bostrom. “Prop. 19 respects this right, while at the same time highlighting that under our Constitution, the federal government does not have authority to control the sale and possession of marijuana.”

RLCCA Chairman Matt Heath noted that although Prop. 19 would allow regulation and taxation of the drug, it doesn’t require it. “The RLCCA recommends voting ‘YES’ on Prop. 19, while at the same time strongly opposing any taxes and regulations that local governments may try to impose.”

John Dennis, the Republican nominee to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 8th Congressional District, said Prop. 18 would help “restore freedom to adults over what they choose to consume. In addition, it will help reduce violence between rival drug gangs and law enforcement along the U.S./Mexico border. While not perfect, Prop. 19 is a big step in the right direction.”

More on a new, well-known endorser of Prop. 19, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics | 5 Comments »

Tag: Shameless self-promotion

If  you aren’t doing anything about 8 p.m. tonight, come on over to the Orinda Community Church where I will be talking about Tuesday’s election results with the members of the Lamorinda Democratic Club.

The church is at 10 Irwin Way in Orinda.

You don’t have to be a Democrat to attend but the club will charge you a few bucks admission. (They serve snacks and wine, though, so it’s not a bad deal.)

Posted on Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Under: Democratic Party, Democratic politics | 2 Comments »