Torrico leads in tribal casino campaign money

I was talking with someone the other day about Indian gaming in California – about how it remains wildly lucrative and politically influential, and about how nascent casino developments like the one right here at the East Bay’s Point Molate are likely to keep it a hot issue in the next few years.

Gaming tribes have always been a formidable force in campaign contributions, so I figured I’d check the candidates for attorney general – whose office includes the Bureau of Gambling Control that ensures tribes comply with their gaming compacts – and the candidates for governor, as the governor has authority to negotiate those gaming compacts with tribes.

Attorney General candidate and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, has received the most in this election cycle of any candidate – $74,124.82 – in either of these races, by far. Next-closest in either race is Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current state Attorney General Jerry Brown, who got $47,000; next closest in the AG’s race is Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who got $36,400.

None of which is all that surprising: Torrico until recently chaired (ed. note – 2006-2008, until his ascension to Assembly Majority Leader, though he serves on the committee still; my bad) the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, which has dominion over Indian gaming matters, and now he’s running for another post with important Indian gaming oversight duties. Lieu is a member of that committee, too. (State Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, is vice chair of the Senate Governmental Oversight Committee; tribes gave him $26,400 for his run for AG.) And Brown’s hoping to go from one post crucial to Indian gaming to another.

Four candidates for AG reported no Indian gaming contributions at all – Democrats Kamala Harris and Chris Kelly, and Republicans Steve Cooley and John Eastman (though both the Republicans entered the race recently and haven’t filed campaign finance reports yet other than late and $5,000+ contributions requiring immediate disclosure).

In total, it looks as if tribes have spent almost $229,000 on these contests so far, but it’s still a long way to the primaries in June.

For the full breakdown of what Indian gaming money has gone where, follow me after the jump…
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East Bay candidacy and campaign odds and ends

Although many expect former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan to seek and probably win the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Distrct 3 seat (to which incumbent and former Chan aide Alice Lai-Bitker won’t seek re-election), it doesn’t mean the field will be clear: Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam filed a candidate intention statement for the seat Jan. 25. District 3 includes the cities of Alameda and San Leandro; the San Lorenzo, Ashland and Hillcrest Knolls unincorporated areas; and Oakland’s Fruitvale, San Antonio and Chinatown districts.

The Democratic primary race for the 20th Assembly District seat (from which incumbent Alberto Torrico is term-limited out, and running for Attorney General) seems pretty evenly matched, moneywise. Fremont City Councilman Bob Wieckowski reported raising $50,810 and spending $13,132.81 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him with $95,672 cash on hand and $7,905 in debt ($87,767 unencumbered) at year’s end. Ohlone College Trustee Garrett Yee reported raising $70,864 and spending $42,663 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him with $126,660 cash on hand and $53,188 ($73,472 unencumbered) at year’s end. But there isn’t much happening on the Republican side: GOP candidate Adnan Shahab reported raising $1,455 – of which $1,350 seemed to come from him and his family – and spending $1,232 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him with $223 cash on hand and no debt at year’s end.

If Republican Jeff Wald of Fremont is going to give incumbent state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, a run for her money this November, he’d better start finding some money of his own. Wald reported having raised $400 and spent $225.50 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him $174.50 cash on hand at year’s end; the 48-year-old computer network specialist, who challenged but lost to Torrico in 2008, received $100 from Sondra Wald of Henderson, Nev., and $300 from himself. Meanwhile, Corbett raised $80,505 in the latter half of 2009, leaving her with $227,368 cash on hand and $2,179 in debts at year’s end.

Three candidates have emerged so far for the one vacant Alameda County Superior Court seat on June’s ballot. Administrative Law Judge Victoria Kolakowski of Oakland, who ran unsuccessfully for a Superior Court seat in 2008, filed a new candidate intention statement Jan. 29. Criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Louis Goodman of Hayward has filed papers as well. And Deputy District Attorney John Creighton confirmed to me this afternoon that he’s running; the 25-year veteran of the DA’s office was in the headlines for a while about a year ago as he handled the early phases of prosecuting Johannes Mehserle, the former BART Police officer charged with murder in the death of Oscar Grant.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley isn’t up for re-election to a fourth term in his District 4 seat until 2012, but that didn’t stop him from raising $26,362 in the latter half of 2009. Of that amount, $1,000 is came from the “canna-business” sector supporting medical marijuana and total legalization: $500 from Tax Cannabis, the committee supporting the legalization measure expected to be on this November’s ballot; $250 from the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, now known as the Patient ID Center; $200 from the Berkeley Patients Group; and $50 from medical marijuana attorney/activist Robert Raich of Oakland. And as in the past, Miley has kept some of his campaign spending in the family, paying $2,000 to his son, Chris, of Alameda.


Torrico: Raise car fees to put cops on campus

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico – locked in a six-way battle for the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General – will roll out legislation next week to put a uniformed police officer at each of 100 California high schools in areas with the highest crime rates.

Torrico, D-Newark, will unveil his “Cops on Campus Grant Program” in a press conference next Tuesday at Independence High School in San Jose; he’ll be joined by his brothers Fabian Torrico, a veteran San Jose Police Department officer, and Cesar Torrico, principal at the city’s Franklin Elementary School.

“Every student, teacher, and school employee in California deserves a safe and secure learning environment,” Torrico said in his news release. “A uniformed police officer dedicated to school safety, like my brother Fabian who has dedicated his career in law enforcement to protect South Bay residents, will help make our high schools a better place to learn.”

His bill would establish a grant program, overseen by the California Department of Education, to which school districts can apply for funding to pay for the officer. It’s to be funded by what Torrico calls “a minor restoration” in the Vehicle License Fee for vehicles valued at $50,000 or more, which would raise about $10 million per year.

Torrico is also pushing his AB 656, the Fair Share for Fair Tuition bill, which discusses a 12.5 percent oil-severance tax toraise more than $2 billion to help control the state’s skyrocketing higher-education tuition fees. “It is our responsibility to ensure our high schools remain safe and the opportunity to a higher education is in reach,” he said.

Actually, I checked and saw that AB 656 in its current iteration merely asks the Board of Equalization to report back to the Legislature on how much such a tax would raise; Torrico spokesman Jeff Barbosa said this morning that Torrico will continue exploring the possibility of actually trying to implement such a tax.

Also in the Democratic primary race for Attorney General are San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris; former Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly; Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara; and former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.


One-stop shopping for Democratic candidates

The Coalition of Bay Area Young Democrats, conjunction with the San Francisco Young Democrats, will host a massive candidates’ forum at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 6 at the SEIU Local 87 hall, 240 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco.

Free and open to the public, the forum aims to hear from, and give attendees a chance to ask questions of, candidates in some of 2010’s highest-profile races. Confirmed speakers include gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown; lieutenant governor candidate Janice Hahn; Attorney General candidates Kamala Harris, Chris Kelly, Pedro Nava and Alberto Torrico; incumbent state Treasurer Bill Lockyer; Insurance Commissioner candidates Hector De La Torre and Dave Jones; Superintendent of Public instruction candidates Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson; and incumbent Board of Equalization member Betty Yee.


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.”


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…