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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…
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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 »

One-stop shopping for Democratic candidates

The Coalition of Bay Area Young Democrats, conjunction with the San Francisco Young Democrats, will host a massive candidates’ forum at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 6 at the SEIU Local 87 hall, 240 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco.

Free and open to the public, the forum aims to hear from, and give attendees a chance to ask questions of, candidates in some of 2010′s highest-profile races. Confirmed speakers include gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown; lieutenant governor candidate Janice Hahn; Attorney General candidates Kamala Harris, Chris Kelly, Pedro Nava and Alberto Torrico; incumbent state Treasurer Bill Lockyer; Insurance Commissioner candidates Hector De La Torre and Dave Jones; Superintendent of Public instruction candidates Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson; and incumbent Board of Equalization member Betty Yee.

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Alberto Torrico, Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Elections, Janice Hahn, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Lt. Governor, Pedro Nava, Political events, Tom Torlakson | 1 Comment »

GOP smacks California Dems for bad behavior

The California Republican Party sent out this video smackdown over the ill-mannered behavior of Democrats toward Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a recent San Francisco event.

Really, what is wrong with these people?

On the other hand, as it appeared in the Bee’s Capitol Alert today, Attorney General Jerry Brown aptly pointed out that “Compromise in the rough-and-tumble legislative process is not achieved by doilies and tea.”

Warning: This video contains really bad language.

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009
Under: Democratic politics, Republican politics | No Comments »

CD10: Get your loophole here

In the interest of keeping up with the fast-moving events of the 10th Congressional District special election, here is a round-up of what caught my attention today. (Sidenote: I’ll post round-ups between now and Sept. 1 as warranted. You can also find the latest list and links to the declared candidates and/or those who have filed for the seat at the bottom of this post.)


From the Arcane Political Bureaucracy files, the Democratic congressional candidates have been busy exploiting a loophole in the California Democratic Party bylaws in an effort to secure the party’s endorsement.

Here’s how it works.

The party delegates who live in the 10th District will hold a caucus on Aug. 1 at a yet-to-be named location hold an endorsement vote. Delegates within the district typically include about 100 or so elected officials and their appointees, members of the Central Committee and other local activists. The winner must obtain at least 60 percent of the vote of delegates who attend the caucus.

But here’s the rub: Democrats with authority to appoint delegates to the party from throughout California may appoint as delegates any Democrat in the state. There are no restrictions based on their home districts. For example, a San Diego Democratic Assemblymember can appoint Yreka registered Democrats as his delegates.

So, several of the CD10 Democratic candidates’ campaign teams have in the past couple of weeks lobbied elected officials from up and down the state and asked them to appoint as their delegates folks who live in the 10th District and support their respective candidates.

As a result, the number of delegates in the 10th District has expanded to as many as 300, sources say. Reports put state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier in the delegate count lead over Lt. Governor John Garamendi and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan.

Folks can debate the value of a party endorsement in a low turnout primary election where most of the voters will be die-hard partisans who probably already know the candidates. On the other hand, the winner can take advantage of the California Democratic Party’s reduced bulk mailing rate.

But for the most part, it sounds like an exercise in campaign organization rather than democracy.




Tiffany Attwood of Danville –

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo –

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord –

Lt. Governor John Garamendi of Walnut Grove –

Adriel Hampton of Dublin –

Anthony Woods of Fairfield –


David Harmer of Dougherty Valley –

David Peterson of Walnut Creek –

John Toth of Pleasant Hill

Chris Bunch of Fairfield – (added 7/8/09)


Jeremy Cloward of Pleasanton Hill –


Mary McIlroy of El Cerrito -


Jerome Denham of Walnut Creek –


Gino Van Gundy of Fairfield –

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | 1 Comment »

Potential CD10 candidates differ on May 19 propositions

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

The special election date in the 10th Congressional district to replace outgoing Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, has not been set yet. And two of the three people on the stage at last night’s Contra Costa County Democratic Central Committee meeting in Martinez have not made a final decision about their candidacies.

But their positions on the six ballot measures on the May 19 special election ballot could not have been any clearer.

On the yes side is the man who is definitely running for Congress, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, along with his potential challenger, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

California Lt. Governor John Garamendi of Walnut Grove opposes them, a view held by a majority of voters according to recent polls.

Central Committee Chairman Chuck Carpenter gave each legislator time to make a statement to the group and answer a few questions. These appearances before the local party leaders — where a lot of the work on the ground during an election gets done — are part of the courting process that serious candidates undertake when they run for office.

Garamendi says the propositions will further tie up California’s already knotted budget process while the deficits continue to mount. (Click here to view the voting pamphlet with all the details of the measures.)

“Where do I stand on the measures? No, no, no, no, no, no,” Garmendi said.

Of course, it is far easier for Garamendi to say no to the measures. Unlike state legislators Buchanan and DeSaulnier, he did not note vote to put them on the ballot as part of the negotiated budget settlement. A lieutenant governor typically plays little or no role in budget negotiations.

Buchanan, who came to the meeting to talk about the propositions and not about a congressional race, reluctantly endorsed the measures even though she said it felt like she was “selling her soul to the devil” when she voted to put them on the ballot.

But Buchanan said the impacts of failing to adopt the budget negotiated between the Democrats, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a handful of Republicans were too dear.

And she said she will vote for the ballot measures — holding her nose — because the alternative is also too costly. If voters do not pass these measures, the state deficit could double from $8 billion to $16 billion and more draconian cuts will be on the table.

DeSaulnier was the most positive of the three speakers. He not onnly pointed out the fiscal impacts of failing to pass the measures but talked about a few of the pluses of the legislation, including what he views as added protection for education funding.

And he also promoted, as a solution to the annual budget stalemate between Democrats and Republicans, an end to the two-thirds voting threshold in the Legislature to a pass a budget or new taxes. There is a bill in process that would place the question before voters in 2010 and proponents are also prepared to seek signatures and place an initiative on the ballot if the Legislature fails to do it.

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier | No Comments »

How other campaigns see Bobby Shriver for AG

The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert had the scoop this morning that Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver – brother of California first lady Maria Shriver and nephew of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and the late President John F. Kennedy – is mulling a 2010 run for California Attorney General.

If he’s in, Shriver would join a crowded Democratic primary field including San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who has been busy raising money from many of the same people with whom she rubbed elbows in the Obama campaign last year; Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, who entered the race with the biggest pot of money already in the bank; Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who might’ve gained some valuable experience while taking a drubbing from Jerry Brown in the 2006 primary; Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; and Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

If someone can clearly break from the pack as a front-runner in the next few months, he or she could benefit from having so many others split what’s left of the pie.

“We expect there are going to be more people who will be entering this race,” Torrico campaign consultant Phil Giarrizzo told me today – they’d expected Shriver, he said, and they still think Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly will jump in, too.

As for Shriver, with whom Giarrizzo said he has worked on environmental issues, “he’s a talented, bright, articulate person, but we’ve seen many times, in the sense that ‘he’s a Kennedy,’ that people look to accomplishment, they look to a record,” Giarrizzo said. Primary voters tend to be very discerning, he noted, and “it doesn’t work that you can just pass along a family name; he will have to run on his own merits … a level of experience he’ll have to communicate. I don’t think we look at him as ‘a Kennedy’ – I think we look at him as Bobby Shriver, an activist and city councilman.”

“Politics is a debate of ideas and we’ll see as we go forward what his ideas are,” he said.

Harris campaign manager Ace Smith said Friday that “As the only career prosecutor in the race, District Attorney Harris looks forward to having a spirited debate about all the issues of law enforcement.”

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Attorney General, Democratic politics, Kamala Harris | 7 Comments »