Clinton taps Kamala Harris’ sister as policy advisor

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has named California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ younger sister, civil rights attorney Maya Harris, to help lead her campaign’s policy team.

Maya HarrisMaya Harris – who also is the wife of former Associate Attorney General Tony West, who stepped down last year from his third-in-command post at the U.S. Justice Department – most recently was a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. Before that, she was vice president for democracy, rights and justice at the Ford Foundation; before that, she was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, based in San Francisco.

Harris, 48, is one of three senior policy advisers Clinton named Tuesday to lead the development of her campaign’s agenda, Politico reported. The others are Ann O’Leary, a former legislative director to Clinton when she was in the Senate; and Jake Sullivan, a top aide to Clinton while she was Secretary of State and a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.


AG seeks court’s OK to nix gay execution measure

Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that she’s seeking the California Supreme Court’s permission to refuse to prepare an official title and summary for a proposed ballot measure called the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” which would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year, said it’s her “sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians.

Kamala Harris“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” she said. “Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act.’ If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”

Alas, unlike those in many other states, California’s ballot initiative process doesn’t provide for pre-enactment constitutional review. But Harris is getting praise for trying to avoid enabling this odious idea – pitched by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin – from even being circulated as a petition for placement on next year’s ballot.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins – who one assumes would be on McLaughlin’s “hit list” – said Harris is right to ask the court to let the state turn away “an obviously unconstitutional and dangerous initiative proposal that actually promotes murder.

“The proposal represents either the depth of bigotry and hatred or the height of sick publicity stunts — either way it should not be dignified by becoming an official part of the process Californians have to amend the state Constitution,” said Atkins, D-San Diego. “Having discussed options with Attorney General Harris, I know how seriously she takes her responsibility to the law and how seriously she takes her responsibility to protect the public’s safety. I urge the court to grant the Attorney General’s request and prevent the state’s initiative process from being abused in this egregious manner.”

The Human Rights Campaign hailed the legal action, too.

“This disgusting, barbaric measure should be stopped in its tracks, and once again Attorney General Harris has demonstrated leadership in standing up for the rights and dignity of LGBT Californians,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “It is our sincere hope that the Supreme Court of California gives her the authority to prevent it from advancing.”

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, earlier Wednesday said McLaughlin’s proposed measure has inspired him to develop legislation to make signatures on ballot-measure petitions into public records.

“Voters must be informed when a petition they sign violates the United States Constitution,” said Rendon. “My proposal is simple: initiative signatures – particularly those that give permission to violate constitutional rights – shall be subject to the California Public Records Act.”

Even one of California’s most virulent anti-gay activists has shunned the proposed measure.

“This terrible ballot initiative doesn’t deserve any reporting, because advocating the killing of people who are not guilty of a contemporary capital crime, not guilty of threatening you with death yourself, and not pointing a rifle at you in war, is wrong in both the eyes of conservatives and liberals,” Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, said Saturday.


GOP senators demand hearing on firearms program

California State Senate Republicans want to know why Attorney General Kamala Harris hasn’t cracked down harder on convicts and mentally ill people with guns – but Harris’ office says it’s making progress and can’t do the task overnight.

The GOP caucus wrote a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León on Tuesday to request an oversight hearing on why the state still has a huge backlog in its Armed and Prohibited Persons program (APPS), a database that cross-references California firearm owners with domestic violence restraining orders, mental health records and criminal histories to identify people who can’t legally own firearms.

Harris’ office reported to the Legislature this month that the 21,249-entry backlog that existed at 2014’s start grew by 7,031 more names last year due to new firearms prohibitions.

But 3,922 names were cleared from the database due to warrants being cleared, restraining orders being vacated by judges, or deaths, and 6,879 more names were cleared after investigation. Harris reported her agents investigated 7,573 cases, resulting in the seizure of 3,286 firearms and 137 arrests.

That still leaves 17,479 prohibited persons on the list, holding up to about 35,000 firearms and 1,419 assault weapons, Harris’ report said.

Lawmakers passed and Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2013 signed SB 140, authorizing $24 million more for the state Justice Department to put toward APPS over the following three years. Harris said in a news release at the time that this would 36 more agents for the program, which she and staffers said was a high priority. But Republicans say only half that many have been hired so far.

Now the GOP lawmakers want a joint oversight hearing by the Senate Public Safety Committee and the relevant budget subcommittee to review the APPS program. Specifically, they want to know how 40 percent of the SB 140 money was spent without hiring all the staff needed to erase the backlog; Harris’ plan for future spending to actually erase the backlog; and why Harris’ report left out information – which they say is required under SB 140 – regarding the breakdown of why each person in the APPS is prohibited from having a firearm.

Kristin Ford, Harris’ press secretary, responded Tuesday that “removing guns from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them has been a top priority of the California Department of Justice.”

“Upon taking office Attorney General Harris hired agents and urged the legislature to fund efforts to eliminate a backlog that was created ten years ago,” Ford said. “This funding has allowed agents to reduce the backlog for the first time in the program’s history and doubled the average number of guns seized per year.”


Senate candidate Rocky Chávez coming to East Bay

2016 U.S. Senate candidate Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, will be at a campaign event Monday in the East Bay – but not for his campaign.

Rocky ChávezChávez will be the “VIP guest” at a fundraiser this Monday, March 16 for Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, the Bay Area’s only Republican in Sacramento. Tickets for the pre-St. Patrick’s Day reception – “heavy hors d’ouevres, no host bar, green beer complimentary for the first 30 lucky guests!” – at The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon cost from $150 (“shamrock”) to $4,200 (“pot o’gold”).

Chávez declared candidacy March 5 for the senate seat from which Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will retire next year. The only other prominent candidate in the race so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat whom a recent Field Poll showed to be a frontrunner.

Catharine BakerTwo little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, say they’re running too, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has formed an exploratory committee for the race.

Baker is wise to be raising money as soon as possible. She won her 16th Assembly District seat by a 3.2-point margin in November, but she should expect a much tougher fight in 2016 when heavier turnout drawn by the presidential election will help Democrats flex their 7-point voter registration advantage.


Rocky Chávez declares candidacy for Senate

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez on Thursday became the first prominent Republican to declare candidacy for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016.

Chávez, R-Oceanside, said he plans to focus on strengthening national security, creating more education opportunities for our children and improving our economy for all Californians.

Rocky Chávez“Our national security is a major concern, with ISIS growing bolder every day,” Chávez said. “If things get worse overseas, who would Californians want representing them in the Senate? A lawyer from San Francisco, or a Marine Colonel who knows how lives can be protected and understands the importance of keeping America and her allies safe and secure?”

Chávez, 63, said Californians “want to take their state back” and “are looking for someone who shares their story.”

“My father taught me the value of hard work in the grape fields with my uncles and cousins, which led to my success in the military and desire to give back through public service,” he said. “I learned about the American Dream from my father, but I’m afraid we risk losing that dream for our children if we can’t get our country back on track.”

Chávez is in his second term representing the 76th Assembly District in northern San Diego County. Earlier, he was acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs and an Oceanside councilman; he’s retired from the Marine Corps.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, declared candidacy in January for the senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate next year. Harris polls strongest among those who have expressed interest in the race; a Field Poll last month found 46 percent of likely voters would be inclined to vote for her, while 20 percent would be inclined to vote for Chávez.

Two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, say they’re running too, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has formed an exploratory committee for the race.

On the Democratic side, two who were thought to be potential rivals to Harris – hedge fund billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer of San Francisco, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have decided not to run. But several other Democrats still are pondering the contest, including House members Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles; and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.

Chávez’s status as a moderate – on issues such as same-sex marriage, immigration and his statement that he wouldn’t vote to repeal Obamacare – has some conservatives chafing.

“Rocky Chávez is not so much a Republican, or a Democrat or nonpartisan as he is a opportunist. To get where he wants to go, Rocky Chávez will say whatever he things it will take,” Stephen Frank, publisher of California Political News and Views and a past president of the conservative grassroots California Republican Assembly, wrote in his online column Wednesday.

Frank, who said he supports Del Beccaro for this race, said Chávez’s candidacy “is being supported by the same folks that talked Neel Kashkari into running. But Kashkari was new to politics, did not understand the goal was not to win in November, but to assure a solid Republican was not the nominee. Poor Neel, after he won the primary, his primary ‘friends’ stopped returning his calls. So he lost by 20 points.”

“Is Rocky the 2016 version of Kashkari, put into the race to assure NO Republican is on the November 2016 U.S. Senate ballot?” Frank wrote. “Only time will tell. What is certain now is that it is uncertain who Rocky will be and what he will believe in the future – being a member of the Opportunist Party does that to a guy.”


John Pérez endorses Kamala Harris for Senate

Former California Assembly Speaker John Pérez has endorsed state Attorney General Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate in 2016 and will co-chair her campaign, a coup for a candidate who’s trying to shore up her bona fides among Latino voters as several potential rivals still consider running.

John Perez“I am proud to support Attorney General Kamala Harris’ candidacy to succeed Senator Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate, and I am honored to serve as campaign co-chair,” Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said in a news release. “As Attorney General, she has been a fighter for middle class families, for children, for immigrants, and for the environment. She will continue to be a tough, practical, results-oriented leader when she is in the Senate. I look forward to campaigning alongside Kamala Harris and working with her when she is representing California in Washington, D.C.”

Harris said she’s grateful for his support. “He has served his community and his state so effectively and passionately, as a leader in elected office, in the labor movement, and in the Democratic Party. He has a proven track record of working for the middle class and promoting economic fairness, and is a tireless campaigner. My campaign will benefit greatly from his service as co-chair.”

Pérez, who was Speaker from 2010 to 2014, was the first openly gay person of color to be elected speaker of any state legislature in the nation; earlier, he worked as political director for the California Labor Federation. In addition to his Latino and LGBT status, the fact that he’s from Los Angeles is good for Harris too, as she looks to strengthen her support in the voter-dense Southland.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had been thought of as a prime possible contender for the Senate seat, announced last week announced he won’t run. But there’s still buzz among the state’s Latino Democrats that they’d like to field someone as an alternative to Harris, and House members including Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, have said they’re considering running.

On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, and former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette have formed exploratory committees for this contest.