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Quadruple endorsement lovefest in AG’s race

Ted LieuYesterday, the campaign of Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, issued a news release saying his candidacy for state Attorney General had been endorsed by the California Federation of Teachers.

“As the son of a school teacher, I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of CFT’s over 120,000 members,” Lieu said. “My commitment to education goes well beyond sending my own children to public schools. I strongly support the role of public schools as a cornerstone of our democracy. As California’s Attorney General, I will continue that support.”

Today, the campaign of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, also a Democrat, issued a news release saying her candidacy for state Attorney General had been endorsed by… the California Federation of Teachers.

“There is a direct connection between public safety and public education, and I believe that California’s Attorney General can use her office to keep our streets safe by injecting innovative ideas into our justice system,” Harris said. “I am honored to have earned the endorsement of CFT, and I look forward to working with CFT’s members to protect public education and public safety as California Attorney General.”

CFT spokesman Fred Glass confirmed both endorsements this afternoon, and said the union actually endorsed Democrats Alberto Torrico and Pedro Nava, too.

“We interviewed eight candidates and we actually liked four enough to endorse them,” he said. “It’s not something we usually do, but there it is – it happens sometimes. I think it has to do with the fact that they’re all decent candidates plus there’s probably been pushing from local folks in those local areas that like those people.”

Which, I guess, doesn’t say much for unendorsed Democrats Chris Kelly and Rocky Delgadillo or Republicans Tom Harman and Steve Cooley. Then again, it’s not like getting a quarter of a quadruple endorsement is going to put anyone over the top, either.

UPDATE @ 8:02 P.M.: Better late than never, Nava stakes his claim, too:

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the California Federation of Teachers and add them to my growing list of supporters. The organization represents thousands of dedicated teachers and frontline school employees who put our young people first. I am pleased to have their support and confidence in my Attorney General candidacy.”

Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Pedro Nava, Ted Lieu | 3 Comments »

Torrico to chair new prison-reform committee

Hot on the heels of smack-talking a campaign rival’s self-funding, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, today announced a new role in which he could either boost or undermine his campaign for state Attorney General: He’ll chair the new Assembly Select Committee on Prison and Rehabilitation Reform.

In a state now renowned for dysfunctional government, the prison and rehabilitation system takes the cake: rampant overcrowding, copious contraband, heavy gang influence, runaway recidivism, a health-care system so bad it’s been placed in federal receivership, etc.

“We can no longer risk ignoring California’s prison crisis. For the first time in the state’s history, California spent more money on prisons than higher education last fiscal year. California needs to stop ignoring and start reforming our prison system,” Torrico said in his news release. “This Governor will give his State of the State address tomorrow. But the time has come to state the obvious – we can’t fix what’s wrong with California until we fix our broken and costly prison system.”

If Torrico’s committee can successfully start mitigating one or more of these problems, it’s an instant, firm campaign platform plank; if not, inaction or failure could provide fodder for his campaign rivals’ attacks. Of course, June’s Democratic primary is just five months away, so perhaps there’s enough time for him to tout his role as chairman and not enough time for anyone to seriously expect him to accomplish much…

Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Attorney General, State Prisons | 9 Comments »

AG candidates oppose marijuana legalization

I’ll have a story in Sunday’s editions about what legalized marijuana might look like were any of the proposed ballot measures now circulating for petition signatures, or a bill now pending in the Legislature, to be enacted. In trying to characterize law enforcement’s opposition, I decided to check in with all of the candidates for California Attorney General. And, don’tcha know, all the folks who responded are dead set against legalization.

From Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark:

“Cannabis is a powerful medicine appropriate and necessary to treat the side effects of many serious illnesses, from HIV/AIDS to cancer. It is not, and should not be made into, a legal recreational drug or a new revenue source. We need to support the appropriate medical use of marijuana with strong new regulations and oversight of medical marijuana collectives.

“Even in the midst of this terrible fiscal crisis, the last way we want to balance our budget is by putting the state in the position of profiting from recreational drug use.”

From Brian Brokaw, campaign manager for San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a Democrat:

“As a career prosecutor, District Attorney Harris believes that drug selling harms communities; it is not a ‘victimless crime,’ as some contend. While the D.A. supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana, she does not support the legalization of marijuana beyond that.”

From former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly, a Democrat:

“California led the nation in passing the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Now that the U.S. Justice Department has said they will not enforce the federal law against states, we should ensure that existing state law in California on this specific issue is appropriately implemented, including building the necessary regulatory structure, before we take any next steps. Therefore, I oppose all 3 measures and the Ammiano bill.”

From Tim Rosales, campaign manager for state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach:

“Tom Harman does not support any further liberalization of drug laws, including marijuana.”

Spokespeople for Assembly members Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, didn’t return my e-mail, nor did former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s campaign.

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Attorney General, ballot measures, Kamala Harris, marijuana | 2 Comments »

Torrico tries to make hay from straw poll

The state Attorney General campaign of Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, today trumpeted its “overwhelming victory” in a straw poll taken yesterday by the San Mateo County Democratic Party.

The county party, meeting at the South San Francisco Conference Center, heard from candidates for several statewide offices or their surrogates.

County committee chairman David Burruto said Torrico and former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly were the only candidates for Attorney General who were there in person, while San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris sent a surrogate to speak on her behalf and Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara; and former Los Angeles City Attorney (and 2006 Attorney General Democratic primary candidate) Rocky Delgadillo were absent and unrepresented.

The straw poll’s results:

    Torrico — 85 votes (51.2%)
    Harris — 44 votes (26.5%)
    Kelly — 31 votes (18.7%)
    Lieu — 5 votes (3%)
    Delgadillo — 1 vote (0.6%)
    Nava — 0 votes

Now, this is about as far from a scientific survey that you can get: Bless their souls for not being apathetic, but it’s a bunch of party apparatchiks from a pretty liberal county, not a representative sampling of the party’s sentiment statewide. And it’s only 166 votes, too small a sample to mean much of anything.

That said, Torrico – whether by virtue of actually showing up and pressing the flesh, or of being an accomplished party player himself, or of being a better candidate – did have a wide victory margin in a county right next to both his and Harris’.

Posted on Monday, October 19th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, General, Kamala Harris | Comments Off

Thrill of victory, agony of defeat

As the governor wielded his pen last night, state lawmakers from Alameda County saw victories on issues such as human trafficking, medical insurance recission and traffic congestion as well as defeats on issues such as ballot measure petition reform, trade agreements and electronic cigarettes.

Follow me after the jump for details on some of the winners and losers…
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Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, General, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | Comments Off

More lawmaker reaction to Arnold’s veto threat

(UPDATE @ 11 A.M. MONDAY 10/12: I’ve updated this post throughout to denote which bills the governor signed and which bills he vetoed.)

Lisa and I worked up a story about East Bay lawmakers’ bills being held ransom as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatens a blanket veto this weekend unless Legislative leaders cut a deal on the state’s water problems. As print space is limited, I thought I’d post some of the lawmakers’ comments in fuller form here.

Assembly Majority Leader and state Attorney General candidate Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said Friday that if the governor follows through on his veto threat, he’ll unveil a bill Monday explicitly banning exactly this type of legislative and executive “extortion” in the future. Torrico had asked state Attorney General Jerry Brown to probe whether the blanket veto threat already violates the California Constitution’s and Penal Code’s ban on such quid pro quos, but Brown said Friday he’ll not do so.

“This is a new low for the governor, but it really is in keeping with the tenor and tone in Sacramento of negotiation through ransom notes,” Torrico said.

Torrico cited Legislative Republicans’ successful moves in recent years to exact policy wins such as tax breaks for the horse-racing industry and a ballot measure that would create an open-primary electoral system, in return for their votes on the state budget.

He’s concerned about three bills he authored: AB 1049, (VETOED) adding the state Safely Surrendered Baby Fund to the state income tax return form’s voluntary contributions section; AB 1270, (VETOED) making it easier for victimss to receive compensation from the Victim’s Compensation and Government Claims Board in a timely manner by requiring the board to have written procedures and time frames in place as suggested by a state audit report; and AB 665, (SIGNED) to ensure that federal incentive payments given to California for increasing the number of youth adopted out of foster care will be distributed to counties to fund activities to improve legal permanency outcomes for foster youth ages nine or older.

Staffers for state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said she’s concerned about two bills she has waiting on the governor’s desk.

SB 83 (SIGNED) would let county transportation planning agencies put measures on their counties’ ballots to impose fees of up to $10 per vehicle to raise money for local projects to ease traffic congestion. The Senate passed this on a 23-17 vote, the Assembly on a 46-31 vote.

And Hancock’s SB 279 (VETOED) would let cities and counties create local financing authorities to help property owners pay up front for solar-energy systems, energy efficiency improvements and water conservation measures; initial funding would come from a bond fund to be repaid over time through an assessment on the tax bills of the participating property owners. The Senate passed this 25-8, the Assembly 58-19.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, noted she has 14 bills awaiting the governor’s action – more than any other Senator – dealing with issues such as lengthening the notice given to the state and requiring public hearings before a hospital emergency room can be shut down (SB 196, VETOED); halting sales of electronic cigarettes, currently unregulated and sometimes marketed to children (SB 400, VETOED); updating the list of public school facilities that need to be seismically retrofitted (SB 305, VETOED); and reducing fraud by barring petition signature gatherers from being paid per signature (SB 34, VETOED).

“Every member of the legislature works long and hard to craft meaningful legislation. The bills would not be on the Governor’s desk if they did not have merit,” she said. “These bills are not just pieces of paper. Each one will have an impact on Californian’s lives.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said she believes the governor will review every bill on its own merit

“These are vital issues to the people of California and I am sure that he will give careful consideration to each of these bills,” she said, noting she has 13 bills on the govenror’s desk. “My top priorities include AB 1386, (SIGNED) which will resolve a 40-year old dispute over a Caltrans project in my district and address local transportation and housing needs.”

She’s also concerned about AB 73, (SIGNED) without which Alameda County will risk losing its groundbreaking violence prevention program, Hayashi said. “Lastly, AB 108 (SIGNED) is critically important, because we need to protect consumers from having their health insurance policies rescinded, especially at the very moment they need costly treatment and life-saving services”

Posted on Sunday, October 11th, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, General, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi | Comments Off

Cops’ endorsements, money flow Torrico’s way

Assembly Majority Leader and Democratic candidate for state Attorney General Alberto Torrico of Newark announced today that the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) voted Saturday to endorse him.

PORAC, a federation of local, state and federal law enforcement associations, claims about 62,000 members statewide. In Torrico’s news release, PORAC President Ron Cottingham said Torrico “has made protecting the public his top priority. He is the best choice for California’s top law enforcement official.” Said Torrico: “I can think of no more important backing than the support of front-line law enforcement personnel.”

I don’t usually spend much time noting endorsements here — and I hear Torrico has hit PORAC chapter meetings around the state in the run-up to this endorsement, so it’s not so surprising — but this one might indicate a trend in the race between Torrico and another Bay Area Democrat who wants to be state Attorney General, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. In money and endorsements, law enforcement seems to be gravitating more toward Torrico – a labor lawyer turned elected politico – than toward Harris, a career prosecutor.

Torrico reported raising almost $992,000 in the year’s first half – including $610,000 transferred from his other campaign committees – and having more than $910,000 on hand as of June 30; it doesn’t look as if he’s done much big-ticket ($5,000 and up) fundraising since then. Torrico’s money seems to come from a wide array of business, labor and gaming – both Indian and non-Indian – gaming interests, as well as at least $28,000 from at least 10 California law enforcement PACs. Besides PORAC, a few law enforcement organizations are listed on his Web site as endorsements, too.

Harris – tapping into some of the same donors she’d helped wrangle last year for Barack Obama (note the Obama-esque logo at the top of her home page) – reported raising $1.2 million in the year’s first half and having almost $752,000 on hand as of June 30; it looks as if she has banked $142,500 in big-ticket donations since then, including some from Hollywood notables such as Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner. Harris’ contributions seem heavy on well-heeled individuals, as opposed to businesses or unions, but I see no contributions from law enforcement organizations (though I notice her former boss, now-former Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, anted up $500). I also see no law enforcement organizations among the endorsements listed on her Web site.

Harris has taken heat from law enforcement in her own back yard for her refusal to seek the death penalty in cases including a cop killer in 2004 to – earlier this month – an illegal immigrant gang member accused of killing three.

But Harris campaign manager Brian Brokaw didn’t seem worried this afternoon, noting his candidate “is proud to have earned the support of law enforcement leaders across the state, from San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne in the south to the San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennsessey, East Palo Alto Chief Ron Davis, and the San Francisco Officers for Justice POA here in her own backyard. When California voters go to the polls to elect our next Attorney General, they’ll favor a career prosecutor who has spent her entire professional life in a courtroom.”

Do law enforcement endorsements and contributions have much impact on how people vote, even in the race to be California’s “top cop?” Time will tell.

More on how law enforcement is or isn’t backing four other Democrats in the AG’s race, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Attorney General, campaign finance, General, Kamala Harris | Comments Off

Torrico moves to counter Harris’ buzz in AG race

There’s been a spate of news coverage in recent days of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ fundraising prowess in the Democratic primary race for state Attorney General – the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee all have written on her, noting her political and Hollywood backers and her $1.2 million raised in the year’s first half.

But hold on a sec, says Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, another Democratic contender for AG – who’s got the most money in the bank?

Torrico told me today his campaign war chest has had about $1 million come in since Jan. 1 – including transfers from his other campaign committees, though he said all of it has been raised from contributors in the past year to 18 months – and has somewhere around $915,000 cash on hand “which is really the only number that counts at the end of the day.” Torrico said his campaign – bereft of paid staffers since consultant Phil Giarrizzo finished a three-month, get-it-off-the-ground stint – has been “trying to run lean, we’re trying to get around the state” on the cheap, presumably so as to have more money when it’s really needed: TV ad time.

Harris’ campaign had noted yesterday that although its final numbers are still being tabulated and will be reported to the Secretary of State at the end of July, it will report raising $1.2 million from more than 2,400 donors, with more than $500,000 raised online. Torrico said today his treasurer is still compiling his campaign’s report, so he doesn’t know the number of donors, but he does know that about $50,000 came from public-safety-related sources – a factoid in furtherance of his “trying to march down the road of being the presumptive candidate of public safety.”

(Read as: I would support the death penalty for cop killers, and Harris won’t.)

Harris campaign manager Brian Brokaw noted later this afternoon that she’s “the only career prosecutor in the race for Attorney General and the only candidate to earn this tremendous amount of support from a broad cross-section of Californians. If there is one lesson to be learned from Barack Obama’s campaign, it’s the importance of building a broad base of support and mobilizing our backers early. The fact that Kamala Harris has attracted so many supporters in such a short amount of time shows that she has what it takes to win.”

(Read as: Harris raised more in six months than Torrico did in 18.)

In late and $5,000-plus donations reported since Jan. 1, Harris holds the lead at $455,038 while Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo – making his second consecutive run for the Democratic AG nomination – brought in $372,900 and Torrico clocks in at $132,700. Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, also in the AG primary race, looks to have raised $113,500 in these big-ticket contributions (not counting $45,000 out of his own pocket); Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara – who declared his candidacy in late May – looks to have raised $32,400 (not counting $107,464.76 he moved over from his Assembly account); and Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly of San Jose looks to have raised $26,000.

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Attorney General, campaign finance, General, Kamala Harris | Comments Off

Some responses to the governor’s speech

From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“The Governor’s proposal to balance the $24 billion budget shortfall without the use of additional revenues is neither a fair nor realistic solution to the budget crisis. I find it morally objectionable for the Governor’s proposals to specifically cut Cal-Works, Healthy Families, Cal-Grants, In-home service care for the elderly, and even access to State parks. The Governor’s proposal also fails at its intended goals: it fails to address our deficit and it fails to reflect our priorities.

“In this budget year alone, we have instituted $23 billion of cuts, over 20% of our $105 billion budget. These cuts represent a tremendous amount of pain for California, a serious reduction in services to our constituencies, and a reduction in the prosperity of our state.

“Our budget must reflect our priorities. It must reflect what kind of state we want to be. I believe our state should be one that gives priority to children, seniors, and support for working families, all of which requires us to invest in our state. I hope we will look at revenue solutions that are realistic, that help the state support its safety net programs, and that provide Californians with the services they require and demand as they work to bring our state through this economic crisis.”

From State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley:

“That was Governor Schwarzenegger’s best speech yet. He understands, as I do, that voters sent an undeniably strong message during the special election last month: cut spending, do your job and live within your means with no new taxes. Senate Republicans have been preaching this message of fiscal conservatism for years.

“The Governor understands, as we do, that our options are few. There is no combination of taxes and fees that will close this yawning $24 billion deficit, nor does the legislative will exist to raise taxes again. Raising taxes is not the answer. We cannot borrow our way out of this mess. Banks do not consider California to be a good loan risk, and with our track record of overspending, I can’t blame them. The only option left on the table is to cut spending, reform inefficient government agencies, live within our means and never make the mistake of spending more than we have again.

“Now, let’s get to work!”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Karen Bass, Meg Whitman, Sandre Swanson, state budget, Steve Poizner | 3 Comments »

Local businesses honored by Assembly members

Chicken and waffles with a good book, food for body (and soul) and mind – these are a few of my favorite things. And local Assembly members singled out purveyors of these delights as businesses from each district around the state were honored this week by the California Small Business Association in Sacramento.

Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, picked Derrick Johnson of the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland’s Jack London Square as his district’s honoree, praising Johnson’s practice of hiring and training local workers including many at-risk youth.

Although originally from Oakland, Johnson’s father and uncles opened a small chain of Los Angeles restaurants called Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. In the late 1990s, his cousins invited Johnson – then living in Florida – to invest in the first Roscoe’s restaurant in Oakland; that investment eventually turned into ownership, with Johnson eventually moving, renaming and reopening the Jack London Square eatery.

“As a small businessman, Derrick Johnson has created an enterprise that is not simply a financial success, but a community achievement as well,” Swanson said. “By hiring local residents, particularly those who often have difficulty finding work, Home of Chicken and Waffles contributes to our economy while creating a better quality of life for many people. I was very pleased to nominate such a deserving business.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, honored Michael Barnard, owner of Rakestraw Books, as the 15th District’s winner. Rakestraw hosts a regular program of author appearances and events with local Schools, and has created community partnership events with other local businesses and non-profits; Barnard has served on the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce board and is now president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

“Through his hard work, Rakestraw Books – ‘The Bookstore in Danville’ – continues to be a community institution,” Buchanan said. “Small businesses make significant contributions to the California economy. They are the heart and soul of our communities, and Rakestraw books is just that,” Buchanan said.

More local Bay Area honorees, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, General, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »