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Field Poll: Gov. Jerry Brown still riding high

If he maintained poll numbers like this, California Gov. Jerry Brown would be hard to beat for a fifth term.

That’s impossible under the state’s term limits, of course. But a new Field Poll finds Brown – who already has served as governor longer than anyone in the Golden State’s history – remains remarkably popular.

Jerry BrownThe poll found 56 percent of California voters approve of Brown’s job performance while 32 percent disapprove and 12 percent offered no opinion. That’s within the poll’s margin of error from Brown’s all-time high during this second go-around as governor; he hit 59 percent approval in April 2014.

Even more California voters – 69 percent – agreed Brown “has the right experience to deal with the problems facing California,” the Field Poll found, a sentiment that extends across party lines: 79 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of nonpartisans and 55 percent of Republicans agreed.

Majorities also agreed Brown “has the vision to lead California into the future” (54 percent) and “deserves credit for turning around the state’s finances” (53 percent).

However, when asked to consider three negative statements that have been made about Brown, 57 percent agreed with one of them: that he “favors too many big government projects that the state cannot afford right now.” (Hey, high-speed rail and Delta tunnels – they’re looking at you.)

Brown’s approval ratings are highest in the Bay Area (69 percent) compared to other regions of the state; among voters with post-graduate education (64 percent) compared to other education levels; among African Americans (67 percent) compared to other races/ethnicities; among ages 40-49 and 65 or older (59 percent) compared to other age groups; and among men (59 percent) compared to women (53 percent).

The poll of 1,241 California voters was conducted Jan. 26 through Feb. 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, polls | 2 Comments »

SD7: IE money for Republican who dropped out

The independent spending that’s flooding the 7th State Senate District’s special election has taken an odd turn, as a committee known for backing Asian American Democrats spends on behalf of a white Republican who dropped out of the contest weeks ago.

The Asian American Small Business PAC has reported spending $46,380 on research, polling and mailing on behalf of Michaela Hertle. And that’s bad news for the candidate whom Hertle endorsed: Democrat Steve Glazer.

Steve Glazer“It’s gutter politics,” Glazer charged Monday. “There’s no Asian-American in the race, and the Republican has withdrawn and endorsed me. It’s clearly an attempt to confuse the voters and smear me.”

Glazer, Orinda’s mayor and a former campaign advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, has set about courting Republican votes, as he’s more centrist than the contest’s other two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

But when Hertle dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer Feb. 2, it already was too late to remove her name from the ballots. By spending money to tout her now, the PAC effectively is sapping votes from Glazer.

The mailer already is hitting registered Republicans’ mailboxes across the district. On the front, beside a photo of Hertle apparently cribbed from her Twitter profile, it asks, “Why settle for less? Let’s elect a real Republican to stand up for us in the State Senate.” On the back, it says the community “needs a real reformer in the State Senate who can break the partisan gridlock and produce results for us.”

Click to enlarge:
Hertle flier front

Hertle flier back

“Unlike the other candidates, Michaela Hertle is an independent leader who owes no favors to the special interests paralyzing our state government. We can trust Michaela to fight for reform and for us,” the flier says, praising her as fiscally conservative and a government reformer.

Bill Wong, the PAC’s political director, insisted this truly is a pro-Hertle effort and not an attempt to sap votes from Glazer to benefit Bonilla or Buchanan.

“Michaela is still on the ballot and there’s an option for people to vote for her,” Wong said, noting about 41 percent of the district’s voters are Republicans or independents. “She thought she couldn’t raise enough money to run a legitimate campaign, so we figured we’d throw in this money and see how it goes.”

The PAC mostly gives money to Asian American Democrats – it gave only to Democrats in the 2013-2014 cycle, and all but one of the 17 were Asian American. But Wong said it has given to a few Republicans in the past, including Michelle Steele and Alan Nakanishi for the Board of Equalization in 2010, so supporting Hertle isn’t unprecedented.

She’s the candidate most aligned with the PAC’s ideals, he insisted: “Everyone else is kind of a career politician.”

Who’s putting up the money remains an open question.

Despite the PAC’s name, it gets most of its money from big companies and unions. Its biggest contributors in 2013-14 were Comcast Corp. ($46,800); International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers Local 39 ($40,000); California State Council of Service Employees ($30,000); AT&T ($27,286); Professional Engineers in California Government ($20,000); Eli Lilly & Co. ($15,000); and the State Building and Construction Trades Council ($15,000).

The PAC had $55,064 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, so either it has mostly cleaned out its coffers with this spending, or it has received more contributions since the start of the year. Any such new contributions won’t have to be reported until well after this March 17 special primary election.

Either way, because it already had more money banked than it spent on this election, its mailer need only identify the PAC and not any new major donors.

Among those listed as officers on the PAC’s filings are California political and public affairs consultants James Santa Maria and Lucy McCoy; also listed is Jadine Nielsen, a longtime Democratic political operative, former Democratic National Committeewoman and former Los Angeles deputy mayor now living in Hawaii. None of them returned phone calls Monday.

Glazer says he’s pretty sure he knows who’s funding this “pro-Hertle” effort.

“It’s all being orchestrated by the BART unions and friends,” he said. “This is a front group for nefarious interests that don’t want to be known.”

It’s no secret the unions hate him. Glazer burned his bridges with labor first by consulting with JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, to support centrist Democrats like himself beat labor-backed Democrats in 2012’s elections. More recently, he crusaded for legislation to ban transit-worker strikes like the ones that stilled BART in 2013.

Labor unions at the start of this month created Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015. In the past week, that committee has received $35,000 from the California Teachers Association, $25,000 from the California Federation of Teachers, $25,000 from the Professional Engineers in California Government, and $25,000 from the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO – a total of $110,000. And it has spent almost $64,400 so far on anti-Glazer research, polling, mailing and a website, KnowGlazer.com.

Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 7 Comments »

SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

Independent expenditure money continues to rain down upon the 7th State Senate District’s special election’s Democrat-on-Democrat showdown.

Competing to succeed Mark DeSaulnier (now a congressman) are Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin.

Since my last report, in which I detailed the big independent spending that the California Dental Association has done on Bonilla’s behalf, other Bonilla IE benefactors have materialized as well. The California Professional Firefighters IE PAC has spent about $118,000 for mailers, postage, data and polling since last Friday, Feb. 13, while the California Medical Association IE PAC has spent about $83,400 on mailers.

But weighing in against Bonilla and Buchanan is JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce political action committee, which on Tuesday reported spending about $21,000 on research and mailers. Glazer was a consultant for JOBSPAC back in 2012 – one of the ways in which he has burned his bridges to much of the Democratic Party and the unions that support it.

And Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield – a patron of centrist Democrats who buck their party and labor – has spent about $75,000 more on Glazer’s behalf beyond the $104,000 I reported last week, bringing his total so far to almost $180,000.

Meanwhile, among the more significant new endorsements, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the California Nurses Association and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges endorsed Bonilla this week; former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin endorsed Buchanan; and former state Controller Steve Westly and former state Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti endorsed Glazer.

The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.

Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »

Miller administers DeSaulnier’s ceremonial oath

Sometimes it’s not just the oath you take, but who administers it.

Mark DeSaulnierFreshman Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, officially was sworn into office Jan. 6 by Speaker John Boehner. But he was administered a ceremonial oath Tuesday night by his predecessor, former Rep. George Miller, in the Concord City Council chambers in front of constituents and local officials.

“It means the world to me to have a special ceremony in Concord where I raised my two sons, opened a small business, and served as a local elected official and as mayor,” DeSaulnier said in a statement issued afterward. “To be here surrounded by constituents and colleagues, and for my mentor George Miller to administer the oath of office, is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Miller, who retired after 40 years in Congress, said it was an honor to administer the oath, just as it was a privilege serving the district for so long.

“This is a great district marked with both beauty and diversity. I now have the honor of passing the torch to an accomplished public servant, a leader, and a longtime friend,” Miller said in DeSaulnier’s release.

Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and voter registrar Steve Weir served as master of ceremonies at Tuesday night’s event, and Concord Mayor Tim Grayson offered opening remarks. Concord Boy Scout Troop 465, led by Mike Roark, served as color guard and Jason Warrenburg, a Los Medanos Community College student, sang the National Anthem.

Posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Under: Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 23 Comments »

Rocky Chávez opens Senate exploratory committee

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez announced Tuesday that he’s forming an exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate in 2016.

Rocky Chávez“Our nation suffers from a lack of clear leadership when it comes to issues of national security and looking out for California families who have seen stagnant wage growth for almost two decades,” Chávez, R-Oceanside, said in a news release. “My story is like that of so many other California families, having worked in the grape fields with my uncle and cousins as a child to seeing one of my own children attend an Ivy League medical school. That’s the American Dream, and it’s what every parent hopes to see for their own children. But if we don’t take steps to protect our nation and help create more opportunities for our children, we risk losing that Dream.”

Chávez, 63, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a colonel, describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. A former Oceanside city councilman and former acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Chávez was elected to the Assembly in 2012 to represent the 76th District in northern San Diego County. He’s the Legislature’s only Republican Latino. (Ed. note: I shouldn’t have taken Chavez’ biography page as the gospel: Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, is Latino as well.)

Chávez is the first Republican to take the step of forming an exploratory committee; former state GOP chairmen Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette and Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills have expressed interest in running but haven’t decided yet.

The only person who has declared candidacy so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; other Democrats including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are considering running too.

California’s Latinos will form a crucial voting bloc in this high-turnout presidential election year, but they tend to break heavily toward Democrats. Chávez seems undaunted.

“My strong history of leadership and compelling personal narrative give me great confidence,” he said. “I believe we can start a movement that will make a real difference in the lives of California families.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
Under: Assembly, U.S. Senate | 11 Comments »

SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

Some serious independent-expenditure money is starting to drop in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

The California Dental Association’s Independent Expenditure PAC since Feb. 4 has spent at least $287,126 on behalf of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s campaign for mailers, consulting and other purposes.

“The California Dental Association Political Action Committee puts a great deal of consideration into supporting candidates who are interested in solving the challenges experienced by the dental profession and becoming well-informed about the many complex issues involved in meeting the oral health care needs of their constituents and all Californians,” CDA spokeswoman Alicia Malaby explained in an email Friday.

Bonilla’s campaign said it couldn’t comment on independent spending.

Bill Bloomfield, a Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman, since Feb. 5 has spent at least $104,311 to support Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, who fits Bloomfield’s penchant for centrist Democrats willing to buck their own party and labor unions on many issues.

Glazer mailerBloomfield’s money has bought, among other things, a mailer that’s already hitting the 7th district’s households which touts Glazer as “a proven maverick who took on the government unions to stop the BART strike and to promote public school reform.” (No, Glazer didn’t stop the BART strike, but he did vociferously advocate a ban on transit-worker strikes.)

This dovetails neatly with Glazer picking up the endorsement last week of Michaela Hertle, the only Republican who filed to run in this race. Hertle said she’s dropping out and backing Glazer, though it’s too late to remove her name from ballots.

Bloomfield spent millions on various California races last year, including strong IE support for Marshall Tuck, who unsuccessfully took on incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Given his largess in other races, it’s hard to believe this will be the only spending he does on Glazer’s behalf.

Glazer and Bonilla, D-Concord, face former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; and Democratic former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin in this election. The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Meanwhile, in this week’s endorsements:

BonillaMt. Diablo Education Association (2/9); former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir (2/10); Public Employees Union Local 1 (2/11); California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (2/11); Teamsters Joint Council 7 plus five locals (2/13)

Buchanan San Ramon Valley Education Association (2/10); The Independent (2/12)

Glazer – former Contra Costa County Sheriff and state Sen. Dick Rainey, R-Walnut Creek (2/12); former state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles (2/12); former Rep. Bill Baker, R-Walnut Creek (2/12); former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (2/13)

Torlakson’s backing of Bonilla is the first endorsement any statewide official has made in this race. Glazer’s endorsements continue with his theme of romancing voters from the center to the right of the political spectrum.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.

Buchanan is holding volunteer “Wine and Sign parties” postcard-signing parties at 6 p.m. every Wednesday night from now through the primary in her campaign headquarters at 2678 Bishop Dr., Ste. 110 in San Ramon; RSVP to alexvuskovic@joanbuchanan.com.

Posted on Friday, February 13th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 12 Comments »

State oversight avalanche bears down on ABAG

State officials are rushing to put new oversights in place following the embezzlement of almost $1.3 million by an Association of Bay Area Governments official from a bond-funded San Francisco development account.

State Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday announced a partnership with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, to conduct legislative oversight hearings to make sure money raised through government bond sales is safe from fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Chiang also said he has created a special task force to develop best-practices guidelines on the care of bond proceeds that will be issued to all state and local governments.

California and its local governments over the past decade have issued more than $700 billion in public debt, Chiang noted in a news release.

“We rely on these borrowed moneys to build and maintain the critical infrastructure upon which our communities and economy depend – from schools and roads to levees and libraries,” Chiang said. “The ease in which one of ABAG’s leaders allegedly fleeced more than a million dollars in bond funds raises concerns regarding whether there are sufficient safeguards at the thousands of State and local agencies which are responsible for nearly three-quarters of a trillion bond dollars.”

And state Controller Betty Yee announced Thursday her staff will audit ABAG’s internal administrative and accounting controls.

“As California’s chief fiscal officer, I am charged with protecting state resources,” Yee said. “When public money goes missing, I need to determine how it happened and whether effective controls are in place.”

Yee’s audit will initially focus on FY 2012-13 and 2013-2014, but that might expand if investigators discover accounting weaknesses that may have affected earlier years. The Controller’s Office sent a letter today to ABAG asking that the association make available documents that will be used in the audit including ledgers, contracts, invoices, personnel records, meeting minutes, policies and procedures. The audit work will begin Feb. 20 and is expected to take a few weeks.

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, John Chiang, Kevin de Leon | 4 Comments »

Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ office has continued to see tremendous staff turnover in recent years, and several former staffers say it’s due to a hostile work environment created by her chief of staff.

Nora CamposRecords obtained from the Assembly Rules Committee show that since Campos, D-San Jose, took office at the end of 2010, 46 staffers have started work for her.

About two dozen have left since Chief of Staff Sailaja Rajappan joined the office in November 2012. Former staffers say Rajappan was unduly antagonistic, dressing down aides in front of their peers for failing to meet her often-shifting demands and standards.

“It was stifling and humorless, people always looking over their shoulder, a culture fostered by the chief of staff who actively sowed dissention and division between her own staffers,” said Steven Harmon, a former reporter for this newspaper who served as Campos’ press aide from June 2013 through his firing by Rajappan last month. Harmon said he was given no specific reason for his firing.

“People leave generally to escape the punishing atmosphere, a culture of fear and oppressive management,” he said.

Rajappan said she and Campos would not answer questions by phone or email this week, and unless this story was delayed to accommodate a face-to-face interview with Campos next week, “we don’t have a comment on this situation.”

It’s not the first time Campos’ office has seemed to be in disarray; allegations about her being tough on staff date back to her days on San Jose City Council.

But these new claims come as Campos finds herself somewhat marginalized in the Assembly. Formerly the speaker pro tem – appointed by the speaker to preside over floor sessions – Campos found herself without any leadership post or committee chair as Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reorganized in November. Atkins late last month named Campos as “assistant Democratic leader – external relations,” a title that didn’t exist previously.

And the turnover has consequences for the 27th Assembly District’s constituents, particular when it comes to the skeleton-crewed district office. Each assembly district has approximately 466,000 constituents; Campos’ district office as of last month had two employees, while other Bay Area assembly members have from four to seven district staffers each.

Campos’ Capitol and district staff combined now numbers six or seven.

Three other staffers who left Campos’ office of their own accord in the past two years spoke on condition of anonymity, lest their comments hurt their Capitol or other public-policy careers. One described the office’s atmosphere as “pretty toxic.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | 33 Comments »

SD7: Tom Torlakson endorses Susan Bonilla

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson endorsed Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla on Wednesday in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

Torlakson is the state’s top education official, and used to hold the very same senate seat that Bonilla, D-Concord, now seeks. He’s the first statewide elected official to weigh in on this race, in which the special primary is scheduled for March 17 and the special general for May 19.

“As a classroom teacher and state assemblywoman, Susan Bonilla has dedicated her life to California’s children and our public schools,” Torlakson said. “She has been an important and irreplaceable voice for improving academic standards, putting more students on the path to college, and ensuring every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

Bonilla called Torlakson “a consistent and dedicated champion for public education. Our students and our state have benefited tremendously from his leadership and I’m honored to have his support.”

Vying with Bonilla in this election are former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin, all Democrats. Republican Michaela Hertle dropped out and endorsed Glazer, but her name remains on the ballot.

Asked if he had any comment on Torlakson’s endorsement, Glazer replied, “This is a Buchanan problem, not mine.”

Glazer has burned bridges to much of his own party and the labor unions that support it, first in 2012 by working as a political strategist for the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC – which backed moderate Democrats over more liberal, labor-friendly ones – and again in 2013 by urging a ban on transit-worker strikes.

Posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla, Tom Torlakson | 5 Comments »

Police-community relations hearing set for Tuesday

The state Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees will hold a four-and-a-half-hour joint hearing Tuesday on police-community relations issues that have roiled California and the nation in recent months.

It’s been a hot topic since police shootings including those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August and Tamir Rice in Cleveland last November, and the tremendous protests that followed in cities across the nation. Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco have grappled with tremendous street demonstrations in which most participants were peaceful while a few resorted to property damage and violence.

“Recent tragic events have led to an increased focus on law enforcement practices. The President has put together a task-force to tackle the issue of police practices across the nation, but I am interested in what we can do in California,” said Senate Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. “I look forward to hearing about what data is being collected and how our data collection efforts can be improved. I additionally look forward to learning about innovative programs that have improved relations between the community and law enforcement.”

Hancock’s husband, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, has taken some heat from the community for his police department’s handling of protests late last year.

The hearing’s agenda includes segments on statewide and local law enforcement data collection; “promoting trust and confidence through data;” investigating and prosecuting officer-misconduct allegations; and building trust and confidence between police and the communities they serve. The witness list includes law enforcement officials, community leaders, educators and criminologists from around the state.

Bill Quirk“I believe that this hearing will give us an opportunity to ask hard questions, gain new perspective, and guide us in proposing effective solutions to rebuilding trust,” said Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.

The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203 of the State Capitol; it’s expected to be broadcast live on the California Channel and audio of the proceedings will be streamed on the State Senate’s website.

Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Bill Quirk, California State Senate, Civil liberties, Loni Hancock, Public safety | 2 Comments »