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Learn ‘nuts’ and ‘bolts’ of running for office


The Concord Chamber of Commerce and the Concord campaign consulting firm of Big Picture Coaching will host a workshop on July 12 for prospective political candidates.

Click here for a PDF flyer about “Ready Set Run: An Introduction to the Nuts and Bolts of Running for Office.”

“I’ve seen candidates pull papers one day and drop out the next day,” said Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Keith McMahon. “That told me that potential leaders don’t understand the process. I also think people are intimidated sometimes by the idea of running a campaign. We want to help demystify it.”

The introduction to running for public office will feature a workshop, “Elements of Winning Campaign,” by Mary Jo Rossi, owner of Big Picture Coaching, followed by lunch and panel discussion with Concord Councilman Guy Bjerke, former state Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla and Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer.

Attendees will learn about the paperwork required, tips on how much money it costs to run campaigns, crafting a platform and fund-raising, McMahon said.

The chamber is co-sponsoring the event as the inaugural of its newly formed Contra Costa Political Institute in order to help attract qualified, business-friendly candidates to run for local and countywide offices in Contra Costa, McMahon said. Future institute programs, based on local interest, could include candidate debates and workshops on related subjects.

“We hope to encourage community minded people to run to make government for accountable and give a voice to business,” McMahon said.

The event will be held from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Heald College’s multi-purpose room, 5130 Commercial Circle, in Concord.

It is open to all political persuasions and anyone with an interest in the subject but space is limited. The cost is $45 for chamber members and $65 for non-members. To RSVP, call the chamber at 925-685-1181.

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2008
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Election reform | No Comments »

Redistricting measure headed to ballot

Voters will have another crack at political boundary redistricting in the November general election.

The state has certified an initiative for the Nov. 4 election sponsored by California Common Cause and supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former state controller Steve Westly that would strip state legislators of the authority to draw their own district lines and turn it over to an independent commission.

It’s the 11th initiative approved for the upcoming general election ballot and another 21 are either in circulation or awaiting signature verification. (Shall we start a betting pool on how many pages the ballot statement will consume before we’re all done?)

Here’s the Secretary of State’s press release issued a few minutes ago: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, ballot measures, Election reform | No Comments »

East Bay unveils map-based election results

We were all preoccupied with the numbers on Election Night.

But on Tuesday, the Alameda County and Contra Costa County election departments also quietly unrolled a new feature on their voting results web pages: Mapped election results by precinct.They did it so quietly, in fact, that they didn’t tell anybody. They wanted to work out the kinks before the big whopper of an election coming in November.

It’s a pretty cool idea.

You can click on a race, then on the map and see how the results look visually throughout the county for a particular candidate or ballot measure. Election officials have combined digitized precinct maps and voting results with now commonly available geographic information system software. (Heck, it’s so easy that I have it here at the paper; it’s called ArcView.)

Alameda County’s map page was hard to find: You had to click on a box in the upper right-hand side of the page called “precinct maps.”

Not everyone knows what a precinct map is. (See explanation below.) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Election reform | No Comments »

Plan to vote? Register by Monday

The deadline is Monday for Californians to register to vote in the June 3 primary election.
Pick up registration forms at election offices, most post offices, libraries, city and county offices and online at

In the East Bay, a handful of key legislative and county races will be decided in June including two contested Contra Costa supervisor seats, state Assembly districts 14 and 15 and the state Senate post held by outgoing Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata.

Statewide, two ballot propositions on eminient domain, Props. 98 and 99, are also on the ballot.

To be eligible to register, a prospective voter must be a U.S. citizen, a California resident and at least 18 years old by Election Day. People in prison or on parole for a felony conviction and people judged by a court to be mentally incompetent are not eligible to vote.

For more information in Contra Costa County, stop by the Elections Division at 555 Escobar Street in Martinez, call 925-335-7800 or visit

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters is located at 1225 Fallon Street G-1 in Oakland. Residents may also call 510-267-8683 or visit its web site at

In Solano County, reach the Registrar of Voters office is located at 675 Texas St. in Fairfield, call 707-784-6675 or visit

Read more for Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s helpful list of do’s and dont’s in the upcoming election. (Don’t blame her for the snarky comments; those are mine.) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 16th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Election reform | No Comments » unveils redesigned web site, a site dedicated to shining light on the link between money and campaigns for journalists and the public, has redesigned its web pages.

The site has a more modern appearance and new features. Check it out.

Read more for the press release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
Under: campaign finance, Election reform | No Comments »

Listen up: Audio voting guide released

Watch out, Dean Koontz. California has created a downloadable, audio version of the official voter guide for the upcoming June 3 primary election.

The audio files are playable on a laptop or portable music player.

“The new, downloadable audio version of the voter guide allows people to catch up on elections issues while driving to work, multi-tasking at home or working out at the gym,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

(Yeah, those propositions really make me sweat.)

For the true political junkie, the guide includes an audio of the full text of each ballot proposition, arguments for and against them, and analysis of each from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst.

It also offers voters information on registering, voting by mail, polling places and volunteering to work in the polls.

Obtain the audio at

Click here to read the full press release on the audio guide.

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Election reform | No Comments »

Civil rights groups protest governor’s redistricting plan

Civil rights groups today denounced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s redistricting reform proposal as deleterious to California minorities.

‘Voters First’ puts minority voters last,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of tge National Association Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. “The (initiative) is a flawed strategy for achieving open and accountable redistricting in California. It fails to guarantee diversity, expertise or accountability within the commission it creates, and represents a step backwards for the political progress of California’s minorities.”

The governor is backing a ballot measure called the California Voters First initiative that would strip the Legislature of its authority to draw legislative district boundaries and turn it over to an independent commission.

Read on for the civil rights groups’ press release:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2008
Under: Election reform, Propositions | No Comments »

Crackdown on signature-gathering proposed

Here’s a good idea: A bill authored by Assemblyman Al Torrico, D-Newark, calls for holding ballot initiative sponsors responsible for the lies and misstatements of those paid pesky signature-gatherers lurking outside your local grocery stores.

AB 1914 passed out of the Assembly Election and Redistricting Committee today on a 5-0-2 vote. It’s now headed to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

“This bill will bring more accountability and integrity to the signature gathering process by also holding the petition’s proponents responsible for the actions of their circulators,” Torrico said.It’s a misdemeanor, according to Torrico’s office, for a petition circulator to use false statements or to misrepresent a petition’s contents in order to receive that voter’s signature on the petition. But there are no penalties against the initiative proponents who hire the signature-gatherers, most of whom are paid by the signature.

Under Torrico’s bill, initiative proponents of the petition could be held civilly liable if they knew about the circulator’s actions but failed to act, according to his office.

“Individuals who signed a petition handled by a circulator who is subsequently convicted of misleading voters, must be contacted by the proponent to determine if they still want their names on the petition,” the press release said.

Unfortunately, the old days seem to be gone, the times where passionate citizens eager to put a measure on the ballot mustered volunteers up and down the state and gathered the requisite signatures.

But the high numbers of signatures required in a state with 33 million people has led to the use of paid signature-gatherers who work essentially on commission: The more signatures, the bigger the paycheck. It’s a thankless job, requiring workers to stand for hours on end outside grocery stores and discount outlets and try to persuade residents to sign often complicated proposed legislation. Many signature-gatherers know little about the initiatives nor do most of them care whether they pass or not.

Californians love their initiatives; 58 are in various stages of the process at the Secretary of State’s office.

But beware of what you sign on your way into Target. That proposal on the clipboard may not reflect a grassroots movement but only the will of a handful people with money to hire signature-gatherers who have nothing to gain but a few bucks in their pockets.

These days very few campaigns attempt to qualify initiative petitions with volunteer signature gatherers. The vast majority use professionals, who are paid anywhere from $1 to $3 per signature.

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Under: California Legislature, Election reform | 1 Comment »

Tauscher says: No more ‘proportional’ delegate math

The Democratic Party should switch to a “winner take all” delegate system in time for the 2012 presidential primary elections, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, told the Contra Costa Times’ editorial board this morning. (Tauscher also delivered her annual speech to the Contra Costa Council today. Pick up a Thursday copy of the Times to read my full story on her speech.)

The party’s current proportional method, where delegates in each state are awarded to the candidates based on election results, has produced a stalemate between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. With close results in many of the states where primaries have been held, neither candidate has collected the requisite 2,024 delegates to secure the nomination at the party’s convention in Denver in August.

CNN’s latest figures show Obama with 1,622 delegates to Clinton’s 1,485.

A few primaries remain on the schedule but neither candidate can mathematically win enough delegates.

That leaves the selection of the nominee in the hands of the so-called “super delegates,” the 796 people designated by the party to cast votes in the convention including Democratic members of Congress.

“Believe me, there’s nothing ‘super’ about being a super-delegate,” said Tauscher, who is one of California 71 super-delegates. “I think we need to move to a winner-take-all system before the next election. This decision should not be in my hands or the hands of the super-delegates.”

Tauscher hopes the selection will be settled before the convention but admits it could become a political cliff-hanger. The party also needs to figure out how how to seat delegates in Florida and Michigan, states that flouted party primary schedule rules and were told their results were void.

Super-delegates are free to vote for the candidate of his or her choice regardless of the election results back home. Tauscher supports Clinton, who won in California on Feb. 5. Under a winner-take-all process, she would have taken all of the state’s 441 delegates.

Instead, Clinton will seat 134 California delegates and Obama will receive 107 from among the 241 delegates who will be elected in April 13 caucuses.

Also, per the California Democratic Party web site: Clinton won the statewide vote with 54.4 percent of the vote and therefore she gets 44 At-Large Delegates and 26 Party Leader/Elected Official Delegates. Barack Obama won 45.6 percent of the vote and gets 37 At-Large Delegates and 22 Party Leader/Elected Official Delegates.

Tauscher is one of 71 California super-delegates, per the Democratic Party: 33 Democratic National Committee (DNC) Members, 31 Congressional Members, plus the vacant Tom Lantos seat which should be filled prior to the convention, and 1 former DNC Chair, Charles Manatt. Actually, there are 35 Democrats in Congress (33 House & the vacant Lantos seat, plus Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein) but four of our Congressional Members are also on the DNC and therefore are counted as DNC Members.

A winner-take-all election process would more closely mirror that of the general election, where the candidate with the most votes in state win that’s state’s Electoral College votes, Tauscher said.

“Ultimately, that’s how we beat the Republican nominee is by winning the most Electoral College votes,” she said.

The party also needs to simplify a delegate math system that has produced a cottage industry for political math gurus equipped with high-tech computerized “white boards” who befuddle viewers with endless numerical scenarios on national television.

“Could we have possibly made this process any more difficult?” she laughed.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election, Congress, Election reform | No Comments »

Bowen wins JFK award

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for her work on improving the integrity of voting machines.

Here’s the press release:

Boston MA – Two public officials who challenged the reliability of electronic voting systems in a bid to ensure the integrity of the vote in their states have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage AwardTM, it was announced today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California, and Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State of Ohio, will be presented the prestigious award for political courage by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, May 12.

A special Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement will be presented to former Mississippi Governor William Winter for his leadership in championing racial equality and educational opportunity in Mississippi.

“As we prepare to cast our ballots for the next President of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting process has never been more important,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership in working to ensure that voting systems provide a full and accurate count of the vote. Our democracy depends on voter trust. Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage.

“Governor William Winter gives testimony to President Kennedy’s belief that politics can truly be a noble profession,” Kennedy continued. “His lifetime of public service, both to his country and his beloved state of Mississippi, has been distinguished by its devotion to equality and justice. We are proud to honor him with a Profile in Courage Award for lifetime achievement.”

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage AwardTM in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service. It is presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy’s May 29th birthday. The Profile in Courage Award is represented by a sterling-silver lantern symbolizing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.

Debra Bowen

Secretary of State, California

After a $450 million investment by California counties in electronic voting systems aimed at modernizing elections, newly elected Secretary of State Debra Bowen ordered an independent review of the new voting technologies to ensure they adequately protected the integrity of the vote. When the study revealed troubling flaws in the systems, Bowen strictly limited the use of direct-recording electronic voting machines, and imposed significant security and auditing requirements on systems to be used in California’s February 5 presidential primary election. Bowen’s decision was met with resistance by voting system vendors and many county elections officials.

Jennifer Brunner

Secretary of State, Ohio

A series of voting irregularities in several major Ohio counties that use electronic voting systems led newly elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to order that paper ballots be provided to any voter who requested one during the state’s March 2008 presidential primary. Furthermore, Brunner called for the replacement of all of the state’s electronic voting systems – used in 53 of Ohio’s 88 counties – with paper ballots and optical scan technology before the November 2008 presidential election. Critics have objected to the cost and questioned the necessity of Brunner’s proposals.

William Winter

Former Governor, Mississippi
As Governor of Mississippi in the early 1980’s, Winter called the state legislature into special session to pass a landmark education reform proposal aimed at bringing uniform quality and racial tolerance to public education in Mississippi. Winter’s Education Reform Act of 1982 was among the most radical pieces of legislation of its kind ever passed. In 1984, Winter ran unsuccessfully for Senate. He served on President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race from 1997 to 1998; more recently, he has been active in Gulf Coast recovery efforts following the coastal devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Past recipients of the Profile in Courage Award include former President Gerald Ford; U.S. Representative John Murtha; former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland who negotiated the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement; Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko; U.S. Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; former Governors Roy Barnes (GA) and David Beasley (SC); and former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliott, Sr. of Alabama. For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and all the past recipients, visit

Bowen, Brunner and Winter were chosen as the recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s prestigious award for political courage by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Al Hunt, Washington managing editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 14-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Michael Beschloss, author and presidential historian; David Burke, former president of CBS News; U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi); Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Elaine Jones, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts); Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); and Patricia M. Wald, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. John Shattuck, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. Mr. Shattuck is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service. For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, visit

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Under: Election reform | No Comments »