SD9: Robert Reich endorses Nancy Skinner

A state Senate battle between two like-minded progressives rolls on in the East Bay, with some new heat from a prominent liberal’s endorsement.

Nancy SkinnerFormer U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a UC-Berkeley professor, endorsed former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner this week in next year’s 9th State Senate District race. Skinner, D-Berkeley, is vying with former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, in this race – two labor-backed liberals with no daylight between them on most notable issues.

“Nancy Skinner is a proud progressive leader who is not afraid to take on powerful corporate interests and fight for our families,” Reich said in Skinner’s news release. “We need a fighter like Nancy Skinner in the State Senate.”

Skinner, who was term- limited out of the Assembly late last year and now is an energy and transportation senior fellow at UC-Davis, said she’s honored to have Reich’s support. “Not only is he a personal hero, he is one of the most thoughtful, compelling and effective progressive leaders in America. Reich has dedicated his career to combating injustice and making a real difference in the world.”

Skinner less than two weeks ago announced her endorsement by 12 current state Senate Democrats. But Swanson began rolling out his own endorsements at the start of this past summer, which have included nods from both the assemblymen now representing the district; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Teamsters Joint Council 7; and 9th District incumbent Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out next year.

Skinner had about $922,000 ($925,176, less $2,878 in outstanding debt) banked for this race as of June 30, while Swanson had about $50,000 ($80,387, less $30,443 in outstanding debt).

Republican Richard Kinney, San Pablo’s vice mayor, also is running for the seat; he had about $750 banked as of June 30. But in a district that’s 63 percent Democrat to 8 percent Republican, it’s hard to imagine him making it into the June primary’s top two in order to advance to November.

A third prominent Democrat, former Assembly Majority Leader and current Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, dropped out of this race late last month.

“Over the past six months, I am proud to say that we had successfully begun to build a campaign based on local support, community action and alliances with like-minded groups in Sacramento, Chan wrote in message to supporters. “Unfortunately, political races are increasingly dependent on money and less on grassroots support and action. It has become clear that the window of time I have to raise the necessary funds will be difficult given my responsibilities to my constituents. It has also become clear that the needs of my family must come first.”

Chan noted that although she can use some of the money she had raised for this race for her supervisorial campaign committee and the rest for like-minded candidates and causes, she will honor individual contributors’ requests for refunds.

The 9th District is a swath of Contra Costa and Alameda counties from Rodeo in the north to San Leandro in the south, including Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Hercules, Kensington and other communities.


SD9: Sandre Swanson rolls out early endorsements

Former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson is seeking early dominance in next year’s three-way (at least) Democratic showdown for the 9th State Senate District – in part, at least, by calling in old favors.

Swanson, D-Alameda, will face former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – also a former assemblywoman – in the race to succeed state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out in 2016.

Swanson on Thursday announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, whose district includes about half of the 9th Senate District’s voters. Thurmond said Swanson’s “Swanson’s record of standing up and fighting for our children, seniors, and working families is second to none.” Swanson was one of Thurmond’s earliest endorsers – way back in June 2013 – in last year’s very crowded 15th Assembly District race, while Skinner backed Elizabeth Echols. Chan endorsed Thurmond too, but not until well after the June primary.

On Wednesday, Swanson had announced his endorsement by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who has the other half of the 9th District’s voters. “He is someone that has stood up and done the right thing for our community, time and time again, showing a track record of being a true leader,” Bonta said. Swanson in 2012 had endorsed Bonta to succeed him.

And Swanson two weeks ago reminded everyone that he has the incumbent’s stamp of approval from Hancock – although that’s old news, given that she actually endorsed him for this race way back in 2012 in exchange for his dropping a possible challenge to her.

But Swanson’s early rollout of prominent endorsements might be to compensate for a cash disadvantage.

Filings with the Secretary of State’s office show Swanson’s campaign had about $13,500 banked at the start of this year, and has raised about $8,500 in big-ticket contributions since then. He has a fish-fry fundraiser scheduled for next Friday, June 26 near his Bay Farm Island home.

By contrast, Skinner started 2015 with almost $396,000 banked, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278 to the Senate committee — so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

And according to filings with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office, Chan’s 2014 supervisorial campaign committee started this year with about $57,000 in the bank – money that’s transferrable to her 2016 senate committee. Chan’s state senate committee then held a May 27 fundraiser at a Fremont steakhouse, for which tickets ranged from $125 to $8,500; she has not yet had to file a report reflecting how much she raked in. Don’t forget, Chan – who was term-limited out of the Assembly in 2006 – has wanted this seat for a loooong time, having lost the 2008 primary to Hancock after a sometimes-ugly race.

As I’ve noted before, this will be a very different dynamic from this year’s 7th State Senate District special election in which centrist Democrat Steve Glazer defeated liberal Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Because Swanson, Chan and Skinner will be fighting over the same pool of liberal endorsements and contributions, who gets what could be a better-than-usual indicator of which way the winds are blowing.


The East Bay’s next big intra-Democratic battle

Sick and tired of the Democrat-on-Democrat showdown that’s drawing an obscene amount of special-interest spending and burying voters beneath an avalanche of sleazy mailers in the 7th State Senate District special election? Well, the East Bay might have another Democrat-on-Democrat fight right around the corner.

Actually, make that Democrat-on-Democrat-on-Democrat. Former assembly members Wilma Chan, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson all seem primed to run for the 9th State Senate District seat, from which Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out in 2016.

Wilma ChanChan, 65, of Alameda, served in the Assembly from 2000 to 2006, including a two-year stint as majority leader. She ran unsuccessfully against Hancock for this seat in 2008’s Democratic primary. An Alameda County supervisor from 1994 to 2000, she returned to the board in 2010.

Chan’s 2016 Senate committee hasn’t filed any reports yet, but wrote in a recent fundraising email that she has “had a busy Spring meeting friends old and new, and introducing my campaign for California State Senate representing the communities of the East Bay.” Her next campaign event, hosted by fellow supervisors Scott Haggerty and Richard Valle, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at the Spin-A-Yarn Steakhouse in Fremont; tickets start at $125, but co-hosts are paying up to $8,500 each.

Skinner, 60, of Berkeley, was a Berkeley City Councilwoman from 1984 to 1992 and was elected to the Assembly in 2008; she was term-limited out of the 15th Assembly District seat last year, succeeded by Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond. She’s now a part-time senior policy fellow at UC Davis’ Energy Efficiency Center, Institute of Transportation Studies, and the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy.

Skinner’s 2016 Senate campaign reported having $395,816.39 banked as of Dec. 31, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278.05 to the Senate committee – so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

Swanson, 66, of Alameda, was a top aide to Rep. Ron Dellums and Rep. Barbara Lee for 30 years before serving in the Assembly from 2006 to 2012, and then serving as Oakland’s deputy mayor through the end of last year. He considered challenging Hancock in 2012, but withdrew – and she responded by endorsing him for 2016.

Swanson’s 2016 Senate committee started the year with $13,461.93 cash on hand but $25,659.86 in debts; in April, it reported $8,500 in contributions from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. He has a fundraiser scheduled for Sunday, June 7 at a home in the Oakland Hills, with Barbara Lee as a headliner; tickets start at $250, but campaign sponsors can pay $4,200 to bring up to eight guests.

This race probably will have a very different dynamic from the current 7th District contest, where Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, is the labor favorite, while big business is spending money on centrist Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer’s behalf. Chan, Skinner and Swanson are all dyed-in-the-wool East Bay labor liberals – you’re not likely to see the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC anointing any of them as it has Glazer – and will be fighting over many of the same endorsements, contributors and voters.


Supporters rally for ‘gun restraining order’ bill

Advocates of a bill that would create a “gun violence restraining order” system are stepping up their efforts in advance of a state Senate floor vote later this month.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, along with several Bay Area police chiefs and gun control advocates, rallied Monday morning outside the Emeryville Police Department in support of AB 1014. Skinner and Santa Barbara Democrats Assemblyman Das Williams and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson announced the bill soon after a May rampage at UC-Santa Barbara left six students dead.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get guns out of the hands of someone in crisis,” Skinner said in a news release Monday. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool to help prevent these tragedies.”

Modeled on domestic violence laws, AB 1014 creates a process to intervene and potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove firearms already in possession by a person who shows warning signs of a risk of violence. Law enforcement or family members would have the right to ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession. Connecticut, Indiana and Texas have similar laws, Skinner’s office said.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed, or the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“AB 1014 fills an important gap in the law that prevents law enforcement from acting to prevent violence before it happens,” Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, a longtime gun-control advocate, said in Skinner’s news release. “This need has been obvious to law enforcement for years. But the time to act is now. The tragedy in Santa Barbara makes that obvious.”

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 5-2 vote June 24, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it Friday on a 5-0 vote with two Republicans not voting.


‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

Lawmakers reacted to the Santa Barbara shooting by announcing plans Tuesday for a bill to create a “gun violence restraining order.”

The bill would establish a system in which concerned relatives, intimate partners or friends can notify police about someone showing a propensity toward violence, so police can investigate and seek a judge’s order to seize that person’s firearms and prevent any purchases.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed and the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”

Skinner will co-author the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing,” Williams said. “Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”

Also, state Senate Democrats will present a package of mental health policy and budget proposals Wednesday in Sacramento “to address mental healthcare within California’s criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety,” according to a release from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office. “The package includes a proposal to strengthen and apply statewide protocols to help frontline law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.”


Looking ahead to SD9 in 2016

Looking beyond this year’s elections, Friday’s campaign finance deadline offered an early glance at what might be one of the East Bay’s hottest contests of 2016.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is term-limited out at the end of this year, intends to run for the 9th State Senate District seat from which Loni Hancock, D- Berkeley, will be term-limited out in 2016. So is former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, another Democrat now serving as Oakland’s deputy mayor.

Reports filed Friday show Skinner raised $162,509 and spent $39,519 in the second half of 2013, leaving her at year’s end with $188,005 cash on hand and $6,382 in debts. Swanson in the same period raised $23,100 and spent $16,956, ending 2013 with $8,133 cash on hand but $9,220 in debts.

Swanson launched a campaign to challenge Hancock in 2012, but withdrew; Hancock responded by endorsing him to succeed her in 2016.