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Obama staying neutral in Honda vs. Khanna rematch

khanna honda

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When Mike Honda and Ro Khanna squared off two years ago to represent Silicon Valley in Congress, Honda’s seemingly interminable list of big name Democratic Party backers included none other than Khanna’s former boss, President Barack Obama.

But not this time around. The president is not endorsing in this year’s rematch, the Democratic National Committee said Thursday, handing Honda another setback as he tries to defend his seat against a better-funded challenger while also confronting an ethics probe.

“I think it might be a telling sign as to where some national Democrats think the race is going,” said Kyle Kondik, a University of Virginia congressional elections expert. “As a Democratic incumbent you’d love to have the backing of the incumbent Democratic president. This is something that the Honda folks would have to explain to their donors.”

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What the top two hath wrought upon California

My story today includes experts’ opinions on the effects that California’s top-two primary system had on Tuesday’s results; over at FlashReport.org, former state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro makes an impassioned case against the system.

In furtherance of the debate, here’s a list of all House, state Senate and Assembly races I found in which candidates of the same party are advancing to November’s general election, leaving voters without an alternate party choice; I did not list races in which the incumbent stands unopposed.

SAME-PARTY HOUSE RACES: 5 Democratic*, 2 Republican

CA4 – Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, vs. Art Moore (R)
(A nonpartisan candidate was eliminated; there were no Democrats.)

CA17 – Rep. Mike. Honda, D-San Jose, vs. Ro Khanna (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

CA19 – Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, vs. Robert Murray (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates; Murray ran as a Republican in 2012.)

CA25 – Tony Strickland (R) vs. Steve Knight (R)
(Two Democrats, two Republicans, a Libertarian and a nonpartisan were eliminated.)

CA34 – Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, vs. Adrienne Edwards (D)
(A Peace & Freedom Party candidate was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA35 – Norma Torres (D) vs. Christina Gagnier (D)
(Two other Democratic candidates were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA40 – Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce, vs. David Sanchez (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

* It’s still too close to call whether state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, or Alameda County GOP vice chairman Hugh Bussell of Livermore will advance to face Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in the 15th District.

SAME-PARTY STATE SENATE RACES: 5 Democratic, 1 Republican

SD6 – Roger Dickinson (D) vs. Richard Pan (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

SD24 – State Sen. Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles, vs. Peter Choi (D)
(One Republican candidate was eliminated.)

SD26 – Ben Allen (D) vs. Sandra Fluke (D)
(Five other Democrats and one nonpartisan were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

SD28 – Jeff Stone (R) vs. ?????
(Too close to call, but those now in second and third place are both Republicans; another Republican and two Democrats were eliminated.)

SD30 – State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, vs. Isidro Armenta (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SD40 – State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, vs. Rafael Estrada (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SAME-PARTY ASSEMBLY RACES: 8 Democratic, 3 Republican

AD7 – Kevin McCarty (D) vs. Steve Cohn (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD9 – Jim Cooper (D) vs. Darrell Fong (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD15 – Elizabeth Echols (D) vs. Tony Thurmond (D)
(Three Democrats, one Republican, one Peace & Freedom and one nonpartisan were eliminated.)

AD17 – Chris Campos (D) vs. David Chiu (D)
(One Republican was eliminated.)

AD26 – Rudy Mendoza (R) vs. Devon Mathis (R)
(Three Democrats and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD39 – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Arleta, vs. Patty Lopez (D)
(One Democrat was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD47 – Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, vs. Gil Navarro (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD53 – Miguel Santiago (D) vs. Sandra Mendoza (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD64 – Mike Gipson (D) vs. Prophet Walker (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated, there were no Republicans.)

AD71 – Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, vs. Tony Teora (R)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD74 – Keith Curry (R) vs. Matthew Harper (R)
(Two Democrats and a Republican were eliminated.)

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Bay Area election volunteers lauded

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen this week honored a pair of Santa Clara County polling-place volunteers who have been serving their community for decades.

Rita Chavez Medina and Helen Garza have staffed the polls during elections in the last 60 and 52 years respectively, Bowen said.

“Election after election, Rita and Helen have been an indispensable part of Santa Clara County elections, and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication,” she said in a news release. “Veteran poll workers can’t do it alone, so I hope more voters and high school students in Santa Clara County join Helen and Rita at the polls on Election Day!”

Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Barry Garner said he and his staff are honored to have the two women serve so long. “Their contribution to the election process, in Santa Clara County, is invaluable. They are not doing this for the money, they are doing it for the love of their county, state, and country.”

Bowen noted each statewide election requires a one-day army of 100,000 poll workers in nearly 22,000 polling places across the state. Poll workers help to secure ballots, educate voters about their rights, ensure accessibility for voters with disabilities, and more. A poll worker is paid an average of $100 for the day’s work, though rates vary among counties.

If you’re interested in serving as a poll worker, contact your county elections office or find more information on Bowen’s website. To serve as a poll worker, you must be a registered voter or a high-school student in good standing who is a United States citizen, at least 16 years old, and has a minimum 2.5 grade-point average.

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Garamendi, Bowen decry danger to mail-in ballots

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, joined California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to testify to the state Legislature today about the danger that some impending U.S. Postal Service facility closures pose to the integrity of California’s vote.

As I reported last month, Bowen contends the Postal Service’s proposed closure of around a dozen mail processing centers in California as part of a national restructuring could delay hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots from arriving at registrars across the state in time to be counted.

She and Garamendi took their concerns to a joint oversight hearing of the state Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments and the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting.

“Don’t radically alter mail delivery expectations in a year that could very well set vote-by-mail records in California. Don’t close down these centers in the lead up to a presidential election, giving voters, elections officials, and postal workers insufficient time to work out the kinks,” Garamendi testified at the hearing. “Don’t disenfranchise tens of thousands of Californians who just want their voices heard. Give us six more months to get through this election, and after six months, once the chaos of the election settles down, we’ll have enough time to make the best of a bad situation. Democracy is too important to penny pinch.”

Garamendi also sent a letter today to the chairman and ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy urging their support for Congressional action to prevent mail processing center closures.

“We are a nation that takes voting rights seriously. We are a nation that believes democracy is worth paying for. I oppose the closing of these facilities because they help make representative democracy possible,” Garamendi wrote in the letter. “I hope you’ll join me in preventing voter disenfranchisement by using the powers of this Committee and the United States Congress to prevent further mail processing center closures until after the November 2012 elections.”

A mail-in ballot – which state law says a voter can request up until seven days before the election – must be received by the voter’s county election office no later than 8 p.m. on the day of the election; any received after that aren’t counted. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, about 26,000 ballots arrived too late to be counted in California’s November 2010 general election.

Last year, Bowen has said, the three processing-center closures – in Salinas, Marysville and Oxnard – clearly affected local elections in Monterey and Ventura counties: The time it took to deliver outbound and receive inbound vote-by-mail ballots went from one to three days, to five to seven.

Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz last month said the agency will announce by mid-May which centers it plans to close, but has not decided when the closures would take effect. Election mail “would be affected by the proposed service changes,” he acknowledged.

“However, the Postal Service, as always as in elections past, will be working with elected officials and their mailers in the coming months to ensure their mail is received and delivered in adequate time to respond,” Ruiz said. While he couldn’t advise voters how late they can wait to put their ballots in the mail, he said they should still arrive in time to be counted if the Postal Service processing center receives them the day before the election.

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Farm Bureau endorses DiFi for re-election in 2012

Demonstrating why U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is likely to keep her job as long as she wants it, the California Farm Bureau Federation today announced it’s endorsing her for re-election in 2012.

“Farmers and ranchers are in the business of getting things done, and that’s one reason that we appreciate Senator Feinstein,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said in a news release explaining his board of directors’ unanimous vote. “She has proven, again and again, that she can get things done in Washington and she has shown time after time that she will advocate effectively on behalf of California farmers and ranchers.”

He noted Feinstein’s work to free additional water supplies for farmers during recent drought years and her consistent support for long-term water solutions that include increased storage. He said the senator has authored legislation to ease the estate-tax burden on farmers and ranchers, and to reform federal immigration laws to create an effective guest-worker program for agriculture.

Unusual for the CFBF – or any other major organization – to endorse so early in the cycle, long before there are even any real opponents in the field? You betcha.

“The only other time I can think of was six years ago, when we endorsed Senator Feinstein’s previous re-election campaign,” Wenger said. “That’s a measure of how strongly we feel about her work on behalf of California and how much farmers and ranchers will benefit from her continued service in Washington.”

This endorsement also is significant for its crossover appeal. The CFBF last year endorsed Republican nominee Carly Fiorina over incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, as well as Republicans Meg Whitman for governor, Abel Maldonado for lieutenant governor, and Steve Cooley for attorney general; it did endorse some Democrats in state legislative races.

Feinstein, who’ll turn 78 in June, was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and in 2006 defeated Republican challenger Dick Mountjoy with almost 60 percent of the vote. A Public Policy Polling survey released in February showed her trouncing any of several possible GOP nominees in 2012. The only Republicans who’ve formed committees so far are Keith Holbrook, a senior chemical plant technician from Sacramento County; perpetual candidate Timothy Kalemkarian of Westlake Village, who’s also running for Congress and President next year; and Michael Stollery of Studio City.

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An Election Day holiday in California?

I talked this morning with Roy Benson, the Bay Area man whom Secretary of State Debra Bowen cleared this week to start circulating for petition signatures his ballot measure to make Election Day a state holiday every other year.

“I’ve been working on this for many years, and its time to get the word out,” said Benson. “It’s very important especially during these times, these are critical times.”

The Election Day Holiday initiative, according to the Attorney General’s summary, “establishes an Election Day state holiday as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November during even-numbered years.” The summary of the Legislative Analyst’s and state Finance Director’s estimate of fiscal impact is that it would cost the state less than $20 million every two years.

Benson said that’s a small price to pay for increased voter turnout and a deeper pool of polling volunteers, which would make the electoral process more transparent.

“It’s not about changing the landscape of voting, it doesn’t benefit any party, it doesn’t favor this issue or that issue, it doesn’t benefit anybody except the voter, and what’s wrong with that?,” he said.

I asked whether he thought business groups might oppose such a thing because it would mean another paid holiday for which they have to foot the bill. “Do they say that about other holidays?” Benson responded, noting this holiday would be a worthwhile celebration of “one of the most dynamic, inspirational constitutions the world has ever seen.” That’s the kind of democratic ideal the United States tries to promote around the world, he added, and we should be a role model.

Benson has until Sept. 1 to collect signatures of 504,760 registered voters – the number equal to five percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify his initiative for the ballot.

So far, he said, he has no financial backing or volunteer force. “We’re just getting the word out … “I guess you would say it’s a grassroots type of situation at this point.”

This is Benson’s second bite at the apple; he circulated a similar initiative in 2008, but didn’t get enough signatures.