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Mike Honda endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

The big U.S. Senate 2016 news du jour is that hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer won’t be in the race, but meanwhile, California Attorney General Kamala Harris – the only person to declare candidacy so far – continues rolling out endorsements.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, on Thursday joined his Bay Area peers Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in backing Harris to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

“As a leader in protecting the privacy rights of consumers, preserving California’s environment, and fighting for women’s rights, Kamala is the best candidate to carry on the legacy of our great Senator Barbara Boxer,” Honda said in a news release. “Kamala and I share a deep passion for many of the issues important to California families, and I look forward to continuing our work together when Attorney General Harris becomes our newest Senator.”

Harris said she and Honda “have enjoyed a long partnership on many important issues such as combating domestic violence, improving public safety, and protecting civil rights for all Americans. I look forward to continuing our work together.”

Posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Kamala Harris, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Ro Khanna has a new job & got engaged

Former congressional candidate Ro Khanna has a new job, and is engaged to be married.

Khanna, 38, has joined Smart Utility Systems – a company with offices in Irvine and in Noida, India – as vice president of strategic initiatives.

Ro Khanna“I am excited about opening Smart Utility’s Silicon Valley office, and working on increasing awareness for an energy-efficiency software that will save consumers money and reduce energy consumption at peak hours,” Khanna said Wednesday.

Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lives in Fremont, last year mounted an insurgent Democratic campaign against seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in the 17th Congressional District. After a costly and hard-fought race, Honda prevailed by 3.6 percentage points.

Khanna also said his longtime girlfriend, Ritu Ahuja, is now his fiancée.

As reported here last week, Khanna has been spending some time recently helping organize opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill, at the end of Dixon Landing Road in Milpitas.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Eric Swalwell endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

Rep. Eric Swalwell, the East Bay congressman who’d sent up a trial balloon last week about running for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate in 2016, instead endorsed California Attorney General Kamala Harris for that seat Wednesday.

“From her days as a prosecutor in the Alameda County D.A.’s office through her time as California Attorney General, Kamala has been an innovative and effective leader on so many issues facing Californians — crime prevention, consumer protections, environmental preservation, and strengthening public education,” said Swalwell, D-Dublin, who also was an Alameda County prosecutor. “I look forward to campaigning alongside Kamala and working together on behalf of the next generation of Californians.”

Swalwell, 34, who has just begun his second House term, will serve Harris’ campaign as chairman of Young Professionals outreach, spearheading young voter organizing and fundraising efforts. Harris said he’s “an incredibly hard-working and effective representative of his East Bay constituents in Congress, and I am grateful to have him by my side in this campaign.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Eric Swalwell, Kamala Harris, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Barbara Lee named to voting task force

Rep. Barbara Lee will be part of an 11-member House Democrat task force driving new efforts to increase voter participation, 50 years after the Voting Rights Act’s enactment and two years after the Supreme Court voided key provisions.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Voting is our sacred right. Tragically, this right is under assault from voter ID laws, active voter suppression and corporate dark money,” said Lee, D-Oakland. “This task force is a renewed commitment to empowering voters to have their voices heard at every level of government and to have a impact on the policies that affect their daily lives. We will engage everyone, including young people; we will engage the future.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., on Wednesday announced members of the Democratic Outreach and Engagement Task Force, which Clyburn will chair.

Pelosi said it will “work to reawaken our communities to the power of the vote to destroy injustice, create opportunity and sustain our democracy.” Clyburn said by using the Voting Rights Act’s anniversary as an example, “we hope to inspire Americans from all walks of life to become more engaged.”

Besides Clyburn and Lee, the task force’s other members are Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y.; André Carson, D-Ind.; Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.; Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

East Bay Dem wants to take on Tom McClintock

A firebrand liberal from Walnut Creek says he intends to take on Gold Country conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, in 2016, but his goal of enlisting national aid seems a longshot at best.

David Peterson made his pitch Monday night to the TriValley Democratic Club in Dublin, a good 60 or 70 miles from the nearest edge of McClintock’s 4th Congressional District.

David Peterson“I intend to oust Tom McClintock, a Republican in a very Republican district – he’s bad for America and we can do this,” he said, adding he was seeking this club’s support “because you are exceptional. We’ve done this before. We ousted Richard Pombo… and we’ve held the district ever since.”

A handbill he provided says he wants to “take the profit out of war profiteering,” “defund domestic spying,” “prevent Wall Street financial schemes,” “legalize whistleblowing of government crimes,” pursue women’s and LGBT equality, “fund rehabilitation and mental health services,” cut red tape for transitioning to green energy sources, and save Social Security and Medicare “from Republican pilfering and pocketing.”

Peterson said Tuesday he worked with moderate Republican former Rep. Pete McCloskey, who challenged Pombo in the 2006 GOP primary before endorsing Democrat Jerry McNerney in that year’s general election.

Peterson then tried to organize opposition to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who he deems a hawkish supporter of war profiteering. He said he switched from the Green Party to the GOP “because the Green Party was ineffective and nobody on the Democratic side would work hard to oust Ellen Tauscher.” When she left Congress to take a State Department post in 2009, he ran as a Republican in the special primary election to succeed her – partly to be a spoiler against Republican “Wall Street bankster” David Harmer but also “to get my message out as well,” he said.

Peterson also has tried to organize opposition to Democratic House incumbents such as Pete Stark, whom he said wasn’t delivering on his progressive promises, and Jane Harman, who he also deems too hawkish. More recently, Peterson ran as a Democrat against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francsico, in 2012 and 2014, believing she needed to be pulled toward more progressive stances like avoiding military involvement in Syria and more actively supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Peterson said Monday night that his goal is to spark a big voter registration drive to engage and mobilize Democrats in McClintock’s district, and get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to target McClintock in 2016. He asked for the club’s support in phone banking, doing field work in the district, and contributions.

It’s hard to see how the DCCC would want to get involved. The 4th Congressional District’s current voter registration is 44.4 percent Republican, 28.6 percent Democratic and 20.9 percent nonpartisan, so there’s an enormous registration mountain to climb. No Democrat ran there at all last year; independent Jeffrey Gerlach was eliminated in the top-two primary, leaving McClintock to duke it out with comparatively moderate fellow Republican Art Moore in November. McClintock won by 20 points.

The DCCC usually focuses its resources in more winnable districts. McClintock’s district has a Democratic Performance Index – the average Democratic percentage over three similar past elections – of 39.4 and President Obama got only 40.6 percent of the vote there in 2012. That’s nowhere what the DCCC has deemed competitive recently:

  • CA-07, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 52%
  • CA-10, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock: 47.3 DPI, Obama 2012: 51.8%
  • CA-21, Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 55.7%
  • CA-25, Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster: 43 DPI, Obama 2012 49.1%
  • CA-26, Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village: 50.5 DPI, Obama 2012 55.2%
  • CA-52, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego: 48.7 DPI, Obama 2012 53.3%
  • Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
    Under: U.S. House | 4 Comments »

    California lawmakers’ State of the Union guests

    Here’s a sampling of guests invited by California lawmakers to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight:

    FloresRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Honda is bringing Claudia Flores, an immigration rights activist who was allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Flores and her family moved to San Jose from Honduras when she was a teenager; she became a leader at San Jose High School and in her community, eventually earning a full-ride scholarship to Santa Clara University. She was an intern in Honda’s office two summers ago and is now a public policy fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. “This hard-working, bright woman, who has done so much in her young career, would have been deported if not for President Obama’s action in 2012,” Honda said. “She is exactly the type of person this policy was meant to encourage to stay in the United States.”

    UsafiRep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Swalwell is bringing Mohammad Usafi, an Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Marines and after waiting nearly four years received a special immigrant visa to move to the Bay Area one year ago. The Taliban kidnapped Usafi’s young brother for ransom and killed his father because of the aid he had worked for American troops; after Swalwell and other House members helped friends and advocates petition the State Department, Usafi’s mother and seven siblings were granted humanitarian parole to join him here in December. “It’s a great relief that today Mohammad and his family live in the Bay Area, but more must be done and can be done in a bipartisan fashion to help interpreters like Mohammad,” Swalwell said.

    ChristensenRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: Speier is bringing retired U.S. Air Force Col. Don Christensen, that branch’s longest-serving chief prosecutor and a leading advocate of military sexual assault reform. Christensen is president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that’s leading efforts to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. “I invited Colonel Christensen with the hope that he could witness President Obama announce his support of fundamental reform of the military justice system,” Speier said. “A year after requesting a report from the Pentagon, the president now has the results on his desk. He has all the information he needs. Tonight would be a perfect time for him to lead on this issue by supporting taking sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.”

    MartinezRep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara: Capps is bringing Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20, was among those slain in last May’s rampage near UC-Santa Barbara. Martinez, of Los Osos, became a face of the tragedy as he urged lawmakers to pursue stricter gun-control measures; he since has joined the staff of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As the 114th Congress begins their tenure, it is time they put the public safety of their constituents first, and that means making gun safety a priority to help reduce gun violence in America,” Martinez said.

    OliverRep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: Bera is bringing Susan Oliver, widow of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who was shot to death in the line of duty in October by a gunman who also killed a Placer County deputy. Their lives “remind us that our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day for our safety,” Bera said. “They were true heroes and we are forever indebted to them and their loved ones. Let’s honor their memory by building understanding and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, just like Deputy Oliver did.”

    U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: Feinstein is bringing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. He’s been mayor since 2013 and earlier was a councilman; Feinstein said they’ve worked together on issues such as funding for the Metro’s Purple Line extension and efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
    Under: Ami Bera, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

    Rep. Ami Bera will join Obama on trip to India

    Rep. Ami Bera will accompany President Barack Obama on the president’s trip to India this weekend, the California congressman announced Tuesday.

    Ami_Bera_official_photoBera, D-Elk Grove, is the only Indian-American now serving in Congress and co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. He just beat back a serious electoral challenge last year from Republican former congressman Doug Ose; Bera kept his seat by just eight-tenths of a percentage point.

    Bera will be part of the delegation traveling this Saturday to New Delhi, India, where he and the president will attend Republic Day events and meet with Indian leaders.

    “As the son of Indian immigrants, I am extremely honored to be a part of this historic trip to India with the president,” Bera said in a news release. “Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the United States last year was a turning point in relations for our countries, and now this trip will be an important opportunity to continue to move the U.S.-India relationship forward.”

    Bera said the United States and India should seek ways to grow strategic and economic partnerships. “That will help bring stability to the Southeast Asia region and benefit our economy, in particular opening markets to California and Sacramento County products and creating new jobs. As the oldest and largest democracies in the world, our countries have many common interests and I hope this will be another step toward realizing the full potential of the U.S.-India partnership.”

    Bera made his first official visit to India in 2013, during which he helped broker some cooperative deals between the Confederation of Indian Industry and UC-Davis. But his support of Modi – a controversial figure whom opponents say has oppressed Muslims, Sikhs and Christians – caused some Indian-Americans to oppose his re-election bid last year and stage protests in cities including Rancho Cordova and Davis.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
    Under: Ami Bera, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Mike Honda offers body armor, gun control bills

    Rep. Mike Honda introduced a package of three bills this week that he said will increase public safety and aid law enforcement – and are sure to drive gun-rights activists into a rage.

    honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, on Wednesday introduced H.R. 378, the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, which would prohibit the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users such as first-responders and law enforcement. This is his second try at such legislation; the bill he introduced last summer died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

    He also introduced H.R. 377, the Homemade Firearms Accountability Act, which would require that guns that are self-assembled or manufactured at home be regulated the same as those that are purchased. That means all homemade guns would have to have serial numbers. Here too, Honda tried this in the last Congress, but his bill died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

    But H.R. 376, the Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act, is a new one – it would ban the sale and purchase of “incomplete lower receivers,” which are easily purchased and converted into functioning firearms.

    AR15 incomplete lower receiverThis could be the most controversial of the three. There’s a big trade in incomplete lower receivers, which often let gun enthusiasts build weapons they wouldn’t be able to buy in stores due to existing laws.

    “These bills are sensible, reasonable measures to limit the damage that can be inflicted by guns and those who mean harm with them,” Honda said in a news release. “We have seen too many people injured and killed by guns to just stand by and do nothing. These bills will modernize our gun laws to reflect how weapons are currently getting into the wrong hands.”

    Honda’s office said the whole package is supported by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Newark Police Chief James Leal, Stop Handgun Violence, the Coalition for Peace Action, and the Violence Policy Center. The body-armor bill also is supported by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriffs’ Association. And the serial-number bill also is supported by Third Way and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

    Honda’s office said he’ll be introducing legislation in each of this Congress’ first six weeks “that addresses a key part of the modern progressive agenda.” Last week, he offered four bills on manufacturing and technology; in coming weeks he’ll tackle human trafficking, STEM education, advanced technology, and the environment and energy infrastructure.

    Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015
    Under: gun control, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

    Ro Khanna’s new project: Opposing landfill growth

    Ro Khanna, the renegade Democrat who came within a few points of unseating Rep. Mike Honda last year, has found a new, local cause to champion: a fight against stinky garbage.

    Ro KhannaThe former Obama administration official is helping to drum up opposition to a proposed expansion of the Newby Island Landfill. Expanding the dump at the end of Dixon Landing Road by 15.1 million cubic yards, and delaying its estimated closure from 2025 to 2041, would create the Bay Area’s highest landfill. Residents of Milpitas and other nearby communities say the dump’s odors already are affecting their health and quality of life.

    Khanna, 38, of Fremont, said Wednesday that Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves – who had endorsed Khanna in the 17th Congressional District showdown that Honda won by 3.6 percentage points – has appointed him “to be a liaison to community groups on this and to work with the city’s lawyers.

    “I am involved in a public strategy to make sure Newby takes actions to mitigate the odors that are affecting residents in Milpitas, Fremont and even Santa Clara,” Khanna said. “Also I am opposed to the expansion permit.”

    Khanna said he’s no longer of counsel to the Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm Wilson Sonsini, but he remains a visiting lecturer at Stanford’s Economics Department and may have an iron in the fire with a tech firm – stay tuned for that.

    Khanna forwarded information about a demonstration the landfill’s opponents intend to stage at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside San Jose City Hall, before the city planning commission’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Activists say they’ve gathered 10,000 petition signatures opposing the expansion permit since November; they want the planning commission to deny the permit and order an odor-mitigation study.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
    Under: 2014 general, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

    Swalwell & Speier named to House Intelligence

    My, hasn’t Rep. Eric Swalwell seemed upwardly mobile recently?

    Swalwell, D-Dublin, on Monday became the only Bay Area House member with the cojones (or hubris?) to announce he’s considering whether to run to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 – quite a goal for a guy starting only his second term in Congress.

    On Tuesday, Swalwell was the only Californian that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, named to a new committee charged with shaping House Democrats’ message for the next two years.

    And on Wednesday, Pelosi named Swalwell and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, to the House Intelligence Committee, a plum spot in these troubled times of foreign strife and domestic surveillance.

    “As we face escalating threats to our security, I will work to make sure our government is vigilantly protecting Americans, while being true to our values around privacy and civil liberties,” Swalwell, a former Alameda County prosecutor, said in a news release. “With the rise of data breaches, a top priority of mine will be to increase our cybersecurity capabilities. National security should know no party, and I vow to carry out this work in a collaborative, bipartisan manner.”

    Swalwell in his first term tried to make a name for himself on the Homeland Security Committee, where he took up issues including the Transportation Security Administration’s proposal to allow certain knives aboard planes as well as airport-perimeter safety. On Wednesday, Swalwell noted he was an Capitol Hill intern with Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, on Sept. 11, 2001.

    “That experience led me to a career in public service and generated my interest in national security,” he said. “It’s a privilege to serve on this committee so I can continue to fulfill my highest responsibility as a lawmaker, keeping Americans safe.”

    Speier issued a statement saying she looks forward “to working on one of our nation’s most pressing issues: protecting our economic and national security against terrorist threats abroad, domestic, and over the internet.

    “The heinous attacks in Paris underscore the fact that a handful of home-grown terrorists can wreak havoc on a nation. Cyber threats run the spectrum, from consumer information stolen to intellectual property and proprietary emails hacked from corporations. We must take this 21st century threat more seriously to protect our nation’s most sensitive information, in the public and private sectors alike,” she said.

    But “from the torture report to broad NSA surveillance, it is clear that increased Congressional oversight is needed,” Speier added. “I look forward to working with my colleague to ensure our rights and values are not compromised in the name of security.”

    Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, had been the Bay Area’s only presence on the Intelligence Committee in the last Congress, but a spokesman said Wednesday that Thompson won’t be on the panel in this new Congress.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
    Under: Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »