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Three Bay Area members in Assembly leadership

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced the members of her floor team Tuesday, tapping two Bay Area freshmen and one returning incumbent to top leadership posts for the 2015-16 session.

Atkins, D-San Diego, named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as Speaker pro Tempore; David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as Assistant Speaker pro Tempore; and Evan Low, D-Campbell as Assistant Majority Whip.

She also named Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, as Majority Floor Leader; Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, as Assistant Majority Floor Leader; Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, as Majority Whip; and Jim Cooper, D-Sacramento, as another Assistant Majority Whip.

The Speaker pro Tempore and his assistant fill in for the Speaker when she’s not around, including presiding over meetings of the Assembly. The Majority Floor Leader and his assistant serve as the Speaker’s personal representative on the floor, making motions and points of order as needed to keep things moving. Whips keep track of vote counts and keep caucus members in line for important legislation.

“Monday is the Assembly’s first floor session for the 2015-2016 term, and I believe we should hit the ground running,” Akins said in a news release.

The appointments will take effect when the caucus formally elects Atkins as Speaker at Monday’s organizational session; committee chairs and members will be announced next week.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, David Chiu, Evan Low, Kevin Mullin, Toni Atkins | No Comments »

Susan Bonilla declares state Senate candidacy

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla officially declared candidacy Tuesday in the special election that will be called to replace Mark DeSaulnier, now a Congressman-elect, in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District.

Susan Bonilla“I’m running for Senate to continue working for Contra Costa and Alameda residents, families, and small business owners in the Legislature,” Bonilla, D-Concord, said in her news release. “Working with a broad, diverse coalition, I am proud of what we have accomplished; turning a historic budget deficit into a balanced budget with a rainy day fund; revitalizing our economy through job creation and economic development; and reinvesting in our schools. I will continue focusing on these efforts in the State Senate, building coalitions to deliver results for my constituents.”

Both Bonilla and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, have been widely expected to run in this special election. Both had already created state Senate campaign committees for 2016, when DeSaulnier would’ve been term-limited out. But Rep. George Miller’s retirement after 40 years in the House led to DeSaulnier winning that 11th Congressional District seat this month, leaving his own state Senate seat up for grabs earlier than expected.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democrat, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan.

Republican Mark Meuser, a Walnut Creek attorney who ran unsuccessfully against DeSaulnier in 2012, announced Nov. 7 that he also will run to succeed DeSaulnier. He has not yet reported any fundraising.

Bonilla’s state Senate campaign committee had about $13,700 banked as of mid-October. Her Assembly committee, for the campaign she barely had to run in order to win re-election this month, had about $166,000 banked as of the same time.

Buchanan’s state Senate campaign committee had about $49,700 banked at mid-year, while her Assembly committee had about $30,800. Buchanan was term-limited out of the Assembly this year; Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin beat Democrat Tim Sbranti in the hard-fought election to succeed her.

But the list of candidates might grow larger still.

Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer, a former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown who lost the 16th Assembly District primary to Baker and Sbranti, said Tuesday that “a number of community leaders have encouraged me to consider running for this seat and I am giving it some thought.” Glazer, who already had rolled the leftovers from his primary campaign into a new Assembly campaign committee for 2016, has about $102,600 banked there.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 2 Comments »

Mark Meuser will seek DeSaulnier’s senate seat

The ink isn’t dry yet on Democrat Mark DeSaulnier’s win in the election to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District, but the jockeying for DeSaulnier’s state Senate seat is already under way.

Walnut Creek attorney Mark Meuser, a Republican who got 38.5 percent of the vote in his 2012 run against DeSaulnier for the 7th State Senate District seat, announced Friday that he’ll run in the special election Gov. Jerry Brown must call to fill the vacancy.

Mark Meuser “Mark Meuser’s priority is to insure that your future, your children’s future, and California’s future is bright,” Meuser’s news release said. “The spirit of entrepreneurs in California is as strong today as it was during the gold rush. It needs an advocate in Sacramento, and Meuser wants to be that advocate. Ensuring that our communities stay strong—and grow stronger—requires a long-term vision for future generations, and Meuser has that vision. It is time to elect a representative to Sacramento who will fight for the citizens of Contra Costa and Alameda counties.”

Meuser’s declaration of candidacy isn’t so surprising, given his 2012 run and his creation earlier this year of the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, funded largely out of his own pocket.

Two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who just won re-election, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who is term-limited out this year – are interested in the 7th State Senate District seat as well.

If a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in this special primary, he or she will win outright; otherwise, the top two vote-getters will advance to a special general election.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democrat, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan. Even if Buchanan and Bonilla split the Democratic vote in what’s likely to be a super-low-turnout election, it’ll be quite an uphill climb for Meuser either to reach the majority needed to win the primary outright or to prevail against either Democrat in the general.

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 6 Comments »

Fun with numbers: Statewide candidates

I thought it might be interesting to see in which counties some of our statewide candidates did best, per the unofficial results as they stand this morning.

The Democrats did best in the Bay Area – shocker! The Republicans most-concentrated support was found mostly in sparsely-populated far Northern California, including several counties – Modoc, Glenn and Tehama – that have signaled their desire to secede from the Golden State. In controller candidate Ashley Swearengin’s case, some southern Central Valley counties – Madera and Tulare – ranked high, too, perhaps due to her name recognition as nearby Fresno’s mayor.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D)
1.) San Francisco – 87.5 percent
2.) Alameda – 80.9 percent
3.) Marin – 78 percent
4.) Santa Cruz – 77.9 percent
5.) (tie) San Mateo and Sonoma – 74.2 percent

Neel Kashkari (R)
1.) Modoc – 72.6 percent
2.) Lassen – 67.2 percent
3.) Glenn – 65.9 percent
4.) Tehama – 64.6 percent
5.) Madera – 62.6 percent

Secretary of State-elect Alex Padilla (D)
1.) San Francisco – 77.7 percent
2.) Alameda – 72.9 percent
3.) Santa Cruz – 69.5 percent
4.) Marin – 68.9 percent
5.) Sonoma – 66.1 percent

Pete Peterson (R)
1.) Modoc – 74 percent
2.) Glenn – 73.1 percent
3.) Lassen – 72.7 percent
4.) Tehama 70.2 percent
5.) Sutter – 66.7 percent

Controller-elect Betty Yee (D)
1.) San Francisco – 80.6 percent
2.) Alameda – 75.1 percent
3.) Santa Cruz – 71.4 percent
4.) Marin – 70.6 percent
5.) Sonoma – 68.2 percent

Ashley Swearengin (R)
1.) Modoc – 71.4 percent
2.) (tie) Lassen and Glenn – 71.1 percent
3.) Tulare – 67.7 percent
4.) Tehama – 67.3 percent
5.) Madera – 66.4 percent

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, Secretary of State | No Comments »

Fun with numbers: Bay Area House races

As we await a final result in the 17th District’s Mike Honda/Ro Khanna showdown, here’s how the rest of the Bay Area House races look at this hour, in order from widest margin of victory to narrowest:

    13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, 87.3% vs. Dakin Sundeen (R), 12.7% (74.6 points)
    12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, 82.4%, vs. John Dennis (R), 17.6% (64.8 points)
    14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, 75.9% vs. Robin Chew (R), 24.1% (51.8 points)
    5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, 75.4% vs. James Hinton (i), 24.6% (50.8 points)
    20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, 74.4% vs. Ronald Kabat (i), 25.6% (48.8 points)
    2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, 73.6% vs. Dale Mensing (R), 26.4% (47.2 points)
    15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, 69% vs. Hugh Bussell (R), 31% (38 points)
    19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, 66.8% vs. Robert Murray (D), 33.2% (33.6 points)
    18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, 66.3% vs. Richard Fox (R), 33.7% (32.6 points)
    11th District: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, 66.2% vs. Tue Phan (R), 33.8% (32.4 points)
    9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, 51.5% vs. Tony Amador (R), 48.5% (3 points)

Yes, that 9th District race was awfully close – especially since this was the first year since McNerney took office that he wasn’t on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s hit list.

For comparison, McNerney beat Republican Ricky Gill by 11.2 points in 2012 in this district; in his old 11th District, he had beat Republican David Harmer by 1.1 point in 2010, Republican Dean Andal by 10.6 points in 2008; and incumbent Republican Richard Pombo by 6.6 points in 2006. Gill and Harmer both were NRCC “Young Guns,” garnering national support and advice, while the NRCC also worked on Andal’s behalf and GOP luminaries like John Boehner and John McCain shared stages with him.

In other words, most of the times when the NRCC targeted McNerney as vulnerable, it turned out that he really wasn’t; this year, as the NRCC paid the district little mind, Amador came within striking distance. Oops! But that doesn’t mean McNerney will be similarly vulnerable in 2016, when a bigger presidential-year turnout will favor Democrats; for Republicans, this looks like an opportunity missed.

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

Bay Area House Democrats declare victory

As Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, battled for his career against Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the South Bay, the rest of the Bay Area’s House Democrats were cruising to easy victories Tuesday night.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who defeated Republican Hugh Bussell to win his second term:

“For the past two years, I’ve shown up, stood up, and worked across party lines for the issues that matter to working families. It is an honor to be re-elected to continue standing up for the people of the East Bay.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who defeated Republican Dakin Sundeen to win her eighth full term:

“Thank you to all those that voted and supported my re-election.

“It is an honor and a privilege to represent the diverse, dynamic and forward-thinking people who live in the 13th Congressional district.

“I remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve you in Congress while working to advance our shared progressive values.

“I thank my constituents for once again allowing me to be their voice in Congress. I remain committed to working to securing federal resources for our community while working to create jobs, address income inequality, tackle poverty head on, pass comprehensive immigration reform, focus on stopping climate change, promote international peace and security, end the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and renew unemployment insurance for those still struggling to find work.

“This is quite an exhaustive agenda but the East Bay has long led the nation on important issues and we will continue to lead on these important matters.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who defeated independent James Hinton to win his ninth term:

“I am honored and humbled by our district’s overwhelming show of support. Now that the elections are over, it’s time to move forward – not divided as Republicans and Democrats, but united as Americans – with the common purpose of making sure our country remains a place where everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has the opportunity to get ahead and succeed.

“That is the work in front of us. It cannot wait and it won’t be achieved through divisiveness. It will be achieved by working together. As our district’s representative I am committed to working with anyone from any party to better our country and strengthen the communities I am so privileged to serve.”

From state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who easily defeated Republican Tue Phan in order to succeed Rep. George Miller:

“I am deeply honored and thankful to have earned the confidence and support of the residents of California’s 11th Congressional District: from Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, El Cerrito and Richmond, to Orinda, Brentwood, Antioch, Pittsburg,San Pablo, Danville, and folks from nearly every corner of Contra Costa County.

“As I acknowledged from the inception of my campaign, I have very big shoes to fill, following our widely respected Congressman George Miller’s many decades of public service. I look forward to this challenge and to tackling our nation’s most pressing issues head-on in the years ahead.

“Voters across the 11th district have sent a resounding message tonight that they want common sense solutions to our nation’s biggest issues—not more gridlock. That’s precisely what I’ll bring to Washington.

“Residents in California and across America are fed up with partisan bickering. They want government to work for them. In Congress, I will work to bridge the partisan divide by advancing pragmatic policies that help disadvantaged and average American families.

“I am optimistic about the future and excited to move forward on issues of critical importance, like creating more good paying jobs, growing our middle class, investing in our infrastructure, increasing access to healthcare, enhancing the use of renewable and homegrown energy, improving our education systems, and making the United States a leader in innovation and economic opportunity around the globe.

“Thank you to the voters of the 11th district. I will work hard every day to make you proud and to get things done for our community.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Kashkari pays for 60-second ad during World Series

For Neel Kashkari, the new mantra might be “Go big AND go home.”

The Republican gubernatorial candidate, whom polls and pundits predict will lose to incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown by at least 15 to 20 points in next Tuesday’s election, has bought a 60-second ad during tonight’s World Series Game Six between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals.

The ad is the same one Kashkari rolled out a week ago, continuing to berate Brown for choosing to appeal a court decision that gutted the state’s teacher tenure laws:

Sources close to Kashkari’s campaign say Tuesday night’s game, and the ad, are expected to do a “40 share” – which, translated from television ad parlance, means it will be seen by 2.5 million-plus Bay Area households. At upward of $150,000 for that one minute, it’s a huge investment especially given Kashkari’s lackluster fundraising – he’s had to sink $3.1 million of his own money into his campaign this year – but aims to build upon Kashkari’s drumbeat of criticism on the education issue.

His first ad on the matter – depicting a child drowning in a swimming pool (“betrayed” by Brown) until Kashkari rescues him – was meant to grab voters by the lapels and pay attention, and now this big ad buy is the follow-through, the campaign sources say.

Officials at KTVU, the Fox affiliate that’s airing the World Series in the Bay Area, didn’t return calls and emails Tuesday.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari | 1 Comment »

Poll: Brown, Props 1 & 2 look good; 45 & 46 lagging

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election and the ballot measures he supports are looking good, while voters aren’t sure about two other, more contentious measures, according to the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll.

The survey, administered by the survey research firm YouGov from Oct. 3-17, sampled 1,273 California adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.65 percent for the full sample.

“The poll’s numbers reflect a California election that contains little in the way of political intrigue or public enthusiasm,” Hoover fellow Bill Whalen, a California politics expert who leads question development for the Golden State Poll, said in a news release. “However, there are signs of trouble on the horizon. The public isn’t sold on some contentious tax and social issues.”

Brown leads Republican challenger Neel Kashkari 48 percent to 31 percent among registered voters – a 17-point gap not unlike the average of four other recent polls. Yet Brown, seeking an unprecedented fourth term, doesn’t achieve majority support in this poll.

43 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election said strengthening California’s economy should be the governor’s top priority next year; 17 percent said balancing the state’s budget should be the top priority; 16 percent said improving the state’s public education system should be the top priority; 10 percent reducing the state’s long-term debt burden should take precedence; 7 percent said improving roads, bridges and public transportation is most important; and 6 percent said protecting the environment is most important.

Voters planning to cast ballots in this election are split on what to do with Proposition 30, Brown’s 2012 ballot measure that temporarily raised income taxes on the rich and increased sales taxes by a quarter-cent. The poll found 21 percent want it made permanent; 9 percent would extend it for six to 10 years beyond its scheduled expiration in 2018; 17 percent would extended it for one to five years; 17 percent would let it expire; and 29 percent would repeal it as soon as possible, while 8 percent weren’t sure.

Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, is supported by 52 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election and opposed by 22 percent, with 26 percent unsure.

Proposition 2, to beef up the state budget’s “rainy day” reserve fund, is supported by 47 percent and opposed by 19 percent, with 34 percent unsure.

Proposition 45, to grant the insurance commissioner authority to reject unreasonable health insurance rate hikes, is supported by 42 percent and opposed by 30 percent, with 29 percent unsure.

Proposition 46 – to raise the cap on non-economic medical malpractice lawsuit damages, require drug testing of doctors, and require use of a state database to avoid “doctor shopping” by drug abusers – is supported by 34 percent and opposed by 37 percent, with 30 percent unsure.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, polls | No Comments »

AD16: Dems try hard to GOTV for Tim Sbranti

Gov. Jerry Brown wasn’t the only one who showed up Monday in Pleasanton to sing Assembly candidate Tim Sbranti’s praises.

Sbranti, a Democrat and Dublin’s mayor, is locked in a tight battle with Republican Catharine Baker – a Dublin attorney – for the 16th Assembly District seat from which Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, is term-limited out. It’s arguably the Democrat-dominated Bay Area’s only competitive cross-party contest, and both sides are looking for that bit of extra oomph as Election Day looms just a week away.

“There is milk right now on the shelves at grocery stores that won’t have expired before this election is over,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, told volunteers and party faithful at a United Democratic Campaign office in a shopping strip near the Stoneridge Mall.

Sbranti was among Swalwell’s teachers at Dublin High School, and the freshman congressman praised Sbranti’s record in the classroom and at city hall. “We are working as hard for Tim Sbranti as Tim Sbranti has worked for us.”

Others touting Sbranti at Monday’s rally included Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward; Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

“We will keep this district blue, and you are the reason,” Skinner vowed to the cheering crowd.

Quirk, speaking one-on-one, said it all comes down to getting as many voters as possible to cast ballots, as lower turnout will hurt Sbranti’s chances. The district’s current voter registration is 39.4 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican and 22.2 percent independent.

“We’ve got to make sure the turnout is high,” Quirk said. “Our job is to get people to vote.”

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly | No Comments »