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Lawsuit’s end may not ease county GOP’s strife

The war within the Alameda County Republican Party is over – or is it?

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch this morning ended a nearly 18-month lawsuit by agreeing to sign an election challenge regarding the June 2008 election of seven GOP county committee members who hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or had belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.

“I guess the evidence is rather clear and stark,” Roesch said.

Which is partly a moot point now, because the seven committee members in question – Walter Stanley III of Livermore; Casey Fargo and his wife, Lea Smart, of Livermore; David Latour of Hayward; Deslar Patten of Hayward; Christopher Kuhn of Hayward; and John Bartlett of Livermore – resigned earlier this month.

“They never, from the beginning, presented any evidence that they were eligible,” attorney George Benetatos, representing plaintiff committee member Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland, said after this morning’s hearing.

The subtext is that Stanley et al are “Constitutional Republicans” affiliated with the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Fargo also is a former president of the Golden Gate Minutemen, an anti-illegal-immigration activist group, and Latour is a former president of the Castro Valley Minutemen.

Cummings belongs to what many call the “neo-conservative” wing of the party, and the infighting between these factions kept the county GOP more focused inward over the past 18 months than on building the party and supporting candidates.

“I feel completely vindicated, we knew the evidence was there from the start,” Cummings said today. “The judge said exactly what I wanted to hear.”

The neocon faction already last month had recaptured the committee’s chairmanship. Now, Cummings said, the judge’s ruling “sets the clock back to January 2009,” so the remaining committee members at their Jan. 19 meeting can start reviewing the past year and determine whether to void any important votes the now-resigned members made.

They’ll also consider how to fill the vacancies – and that’s where things could get interesting.

Stanley told me this afternoon he and several others who resigned earlier this month intend to seek re-appointment to their old seats next month. They believe the state Election Code dictates that only the remaining committee members from a particular Assembly district get to choose someone to fill a vacancy from that district, not the entire county committee, and they believe they still have enough allies to get them re-seated.

“I’m expecting a little bit of a task to convince these people (the neocons) what is right,” Stanley said. “Maybe there will be another lawsuit – who knows?”

Maybe. But Election Code Section 7410 says, “In the event of the appointment or election to a committee of an ineligible person, or whenever any member of the committee dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated to act, or removes from the
jurisdiction of the committee, or ceases to be a member of this party, a vacancy exists which shall be filled by appointment by the committee in which the ineligibility or vacancy occurs.” So it’ll be interesting to see where, and how far, this goes.

He said he and the others resigned because they ran out of money to defend against Cummings’ lawsuit, which he said has been bankrolled by deep-pocketed neocon allies.

But he and LaTour remain California Republican Party delegates, he said, and are determined to “reorganize our group, we’re going to come back in 2010 and we’re going to run the tables on these people” with a well-oiled grassroots campaign that should have Constitutional Republicans holding a supermajority on the county GOP committee by this time next year. “We’re going to come back stronger than ever.”

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Local lawmakers back medical marijuana bill

Three Bay Area House members are among the 13 original cosponsors of a bill to ease federal restrictions on marijuana and end federal interference in states’ medical-marijuana programs.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., late Thursday introduced HR 2835, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which would move marijuana from Schedule 1 – the federal government’s list of most-restricted drugs, classified as having no medical value – to Schedule 2, which includes drugs which may have accepted medical use. The bill also would prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.

The bill basically is identical to Frank’s HR 5842 from the 110th Congress, which never made it out of its first subcommittee. But many medical marijuana advocates believe the Obama Administration – which has said it won’t prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers operating within the parameters of state law – will be friendlier to such bills.

“We are encouraged by the federal government’s willingness to address this issue and to bring about a more sensible and humane policy on medical marijuana,” said Caren Woodson, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based nationwide advocacy group. “It’s time to recognize marijuana’s medical efficacy, and to develop a comprehensive plan that will provide access to medical marijuana and protection for the hundreds of thousands of sick Americans that benefit from its use.”

HR 2835 would provide protection from the Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for qualified patients and caregivers in states with medical-marijuana laws, preventing these federal statutes from prohibiting or restricting a physician from prescribing or recommending marijuana for medical use; an individual from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, manufacturing, or using marijuana in accordance with their state law; an individual authorized under State law from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, or manufacturing marijuana on behalf of an authorized patient, or; an entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to authorized patients from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to such authorized patients.

Among the bill’s 13 original cosponsors are George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Republicans Ron Paul of Texas and Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach also are co-sponsors.

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Random thoughts on Pennsylvania’s primary

senatorclinton.jpgWith only a few precincts outstanding at this hour, the Associated Press shows Hillary Clinton with 55 percent of Pennyslvania’s Democratic vote — it was a closed primary, no independents allowed — and Barack Obama with 45 percent; that’s 80 pledged delegates for Clinton, 66 for Obama, 12 more yet to be awarded.

So, the new delegate totals seem to be:

  • Obama — 1,481 pledged + 233 superdelegates = 1,714 total
  • Clinton — 1,331 pledged + 258 superdelegates = 1,589 total
  • CNN asks whether Clinton’s Pennsylvania victory came soon enough to save her candidacy: “Clinton told supporters in her victory speech that ‘the tide has turned.’ It’s more like she’s slowed the wave of momentum that appeared ready to carry Obama to the party’s nomination.”

    The win certainly seemed to have given Clinton at least some degree of financial boost; Bloomberg reports her campaign claiming to have raised $2.5 million after the polls closed last night. In context, however, not much of that will be left after she pays her debts: Obama started the month with $42.5 million available while Clinton had about $8 million on hand but $10.3 million in unpaid bills.

    obama.jpgClinton’s campaign put out a bulletin today noting “more people have voted for Hillary than any other candidate… Estimates vary slightly, but according to Real Clear Politics, Hillary has received 15,095,663 votes to Sen. Obama’s 14,973,720, a margin of more than 120,000 votes… This count includes certified vote totals in Florida and Michigan.” That would be the two states where Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign because they bucked the party’s rules by setting their primaries too early; Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. Even counting Florida but not Michigan, Obama’s still in the popular-vote lead.

    So now it’s on to the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. Real Clear Politics’ averages of several polls shows Clinton with a slim lead in Indiana and Obama with a comfortable lead in North Carolina. Nationwide, it’s Obama by 10 percentage points. Watch for all those numbers to change somewhat as yesterday’s results sink in.

    And Time magazine says “the real winner of the Democratic race in Pennsylvania is John McCain. The most significant number coming out of Tuesday night wasn’t Clinton’s 10 point margin of victory, but 43. That’s the percentage of Clinton voters who say they would stay home or vote for McCain if Obama is the party’s nominee in November.” But that doesn’t account for the more than a quarter of Republican voters in yesterday’s election who voted against McCain, picking Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee instead. True, there wasn’t a lot of impetus for McCain supporters to flock to the polls yesterday because he’s already the presumptive nominee; still, when 27 percent of those who did show up vote against the guy, you’ve gotta wonder how many of those people will vote against him or just stay home in November.

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    House locals speak out on pro-Tibet resolution

    The House yesterday spent an hour debating House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.Res.1077, “calling on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to end its crackdown in Tibet and enter into a substantive dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to find a negotiated solution that respects the distinctive language, culture, religious identity, and fundamental freedoms of all Tibetans, and for other purposes.” The vote, however, was postponed.

    UPDATE @ 12:27 P.M. WEDNESDAY: The House voted on the bill today, passing it 413-1 with Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the lone holdout; he never votes for any bill not expressly authorized by the Constitution.

    Here’s Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, speaking Tuesday about the nonbinding resolution:

    Read comments from Pelosi and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, after the jump… Continue Reading

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    Schwarzenegger video of the week

    This week, a clip from last week’s Republican candidates’ debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. (The governor appears later on; wait for it.)

    Hmmm. Seems like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ron Paul share a disdain for empty rhetoric. Can you imagine if he had endorsed Ron Paul instead of John McCain the next day?

    Previous SVOTWs: January 29, January 22, January 15, January 8, January 1, December 25, December 18, December 11, December 4, November 27, November 20, November 13, November 6, October 30, October 23, October 16, October 9, October 2, September 25, September 18, September 11, September 4, August 28, August 21, August 7, July 31, July 24, July 17, July 10, July 3, June 26, June 19, June 12, June 5, May 29, May 22, May 15, May 8, May 1, April 24, April 17, April 10, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, March 6, February 27, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.

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    California GOP primary field in disarray

    From the new Field Poll:

    During the past month, there has been a complete reordering of candidate preferences among Republicans likely to vote in California’s February 5th primary election. Four weeks ago, Rudy Giuliani stood atop the field at 25%, followed by Mike Huckabee at 17%.

    Now, John McCain, who was in fourth position in December, has vaulted to first place with 22%, just ahead of Mitt Romney, who is now in second place, with 18%.

    Support for Giuliani has plummeted to 11% in the current poll, putting him in a tie with Huckabee for third place, just ahead of Fred Thompson (9%) and Ron Paul (7%).

    The proportion of GOP voters who are undecided has grown to 21% and is nearly equivalent to that of frontrunner McCain.

    These are the findings from the latest Field Poll of 377 likely voters in California’s February 5th Republican primary for President.

    Read the whole shebang right here.