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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.

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 3 Comments »

SD7: Sierra Club cries foul over use of its logo

One of the state’s best-known environmental groups is crying foul over misuse of its logo in the 7th State Senate District special election race.

Sierra Club logoApparently, JobsPAC – the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, which has independently spent at least $1.24 million on behalf of Democrat Steve Glazer – sent out a mailer to voters that prominently includes the club’s logo.

But the club has endorsed neither Glazer, who is Orinda’s mayor, nor Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

“The mailer from JobsPAC to Senate District 7 voters is deceptive,” Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

“The irony is that one of the long-time barriers to environmental policy progress, the California Chamber of Commerce, has used the Club’s logo on its JobsPAC mailing to try to win votes for its favored candidate,” she said. “Is this the start of a trend? Has the Chamber decided environmental groups are correct after all? Can we now expect the California Chamber to actually support good environmental legislation?

“I doubt it. But hope springs eternal.”

JobsPAC’s money is just part of the torrent of cash – not totaling between $6 million and $7 million – that special-interest groups have independently spent, roughly evenly split between support for Glazer and support for Bonilla. The special election is scheduled for May 19, after which the district’s voter surely will take long (as drought conditions allow) showers to wash away the stench of this obscene political money orgy.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 1 Comment »

Dublin Republican’s BART strike bill still alive

An East Bay lawmaker’s ban to limit BART labor strikes surprisingly wasn’t killed outright Wednesday by Assembly Democrats.

The Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee heard Assemblywoman Catharine Baker’s AB 528 but didn’t vote on it, instead making it a two-year bill. Chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, agreed to work with Baker’s office to “facilitate discussions… on how to address the issue,” a staffer said.

Catharine Baker“I was pleased with the outcome today, I’m pleased with the progress this bill has made so far – it’s the first time the Legislature has even heard a bill regarding BART strikes,” Baker, R-Dublin, said later Wednesday. “The road continues to be a rocky one, but I’m going to be tireless in finding a solution to BART strikes.”

Bonta couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. (See update at bottom.)

A bill to impose a statewide ban transit strikes, authored by state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, quickly died in committee early last year. Baker’s AB 528 instead would bar BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike.

Baker campaigned last year on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Baker said Wednesday she believes Assembly Democrats had little choice but to give the bill a hearing, because “BART strikes are a significant issue affecting the state’s economy, not just the Bay area, and it would be irresponsible to ignore that.” Her bill might’ve had an easier time because it “is a little bit different from approaches in the past… and I think that gave it a better chance of being heard.”

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: Bonta’s office just emailed me this statement, which indicates this bill’s supporters shouldn’t get their hopes up:

Rob Bonta“During the Committee hearing today, Assemblymember Baker agreed to make AB 528 a two-year bill. As a result, there was no need for any members to vote on it today. I, as Committee Chair, and my Committee staff offered to help convene a meeting between all the impacted parties.The right to strike is the cornerstone of workers’ rights. And I believe this bill, as written, would further shift the balance of power in labor negotiations even more in favor of employers. Instead of looking for ways to eliminate or reduce the rights of BART employees, we should be using this time to heal and repair the relationship between employees and management so that going forward the labor negotiation process is improved for all parties.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Catharine Baker, Rob Bonta, Transportation | 4 Comments »

SD7: Enter the Koch Brothers

The latest salvo in 7th State Senate District special election’s independent-spending war – which now totals at least about $6.23 million – comes from an out-of-state group with ties to the Koch brothers, America’s favorite/most-despised conservative money men.

The only good thing left to say about this East Bay Democrat-on-Democrat showdown between Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer might be that it’ll be over on May 19, two weeks from today.

Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative nonprofit, started airing a television ad Monday night on cable channels in the district, (see update below) attacking Bonilla for accepting gifts and travel from special interests:

As noted by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch, Independent Women’s Voice has received funding from the Koch-bankrolled Center to Protect Patient Rights, and has several staffers who’ve worked for other Koch-affiliated groups.

“So why are the Koch Brothers trying to come to Steve Glazer’s rescue?” asked Steve Maviglio, who runs a union-funded independent expenditure group that’s backing Bonilla. “That’s a good question. Maybe Steve Glazer can answer it – or denounce the special interests that are working overtime to get him elected for airing it.”

Glazer “dislikes the independent expenditure activity by all sides,” spokesman Jason Bezis replied Tuesday. “He said at the recent League of Women Voters debate that voters should immediately throw away and recycle all of the flyers in the mail. Similarly, he feels that voters should ignore all of the misleading media advertising.”

Bezis said Glazer would rather that voters consult “trusted sources of analysis such as newspaper editorials and local leaders who have knowledge of these candidates.” Judge their respective endorsements for yourself: Bonilla here, and Glazer here.

By my count, about $3.2 million has been independently spend on Glazer’s behalf, mostly by Bill Bloomfield – a Republican-turned-independent businessman from southern California – and by JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

And about $3.03 million has been spent independently on Bonilla’s behalf, mostly by Maviglio’s labor-funded group, Working Families Opposing Glazer; Putting the East Bay First, another union-funded group; and the California Dental Association.

Please note that these figures are changing by the hour, as more TV ads are aired and district voters’ mailboxes are increasingly choked with several mailers per day. Everyone on both sides is convinced they’re doing the right thing; I’m coming to believe that practically none of them are.

Glazer later Tuesday agreed the “campaign spending and special interest involvement in this race is over the top.” He said this underscores the importance of requiring more integrity and transparency of campaigns and elected officials, per a “clean government code of conduct” he rolled out several weeks ago.

Glazer’s plan would require lawmakers to refuse all gifts, food and drink from those trying to influence the legislative process, and would ban campaign contributions during the “crunch times” when most laws are being passed. It also would require candidates to make public any questionnaires they complete while seeking endorsements, ban any per-diem payments to lawmakers for weekends and holidays when the Legislature isn’t in session, and ban use of campaign funds to pay family members for services.

Not a blessed one of which would change anything about how this ugly this contest has become.

UPDATE SATURDAY 5/9 8:50 A.M.: It now appears this Koch-related ad has NOT aired on television as pro-Bonilla people said, only online – yet it has inspired a $150,000 contribution from Tom Steyer to the labor group supporting Bonilla. More details here.

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 6 Comments »

Rep. Ted Lieu on GOP, climate change, LGBT rights

Rep. Ted Lieu, in Silicon Valley on Monday and Tuesday to tour tech companies and pay homage to his alma mater, says the key to Democratic victories in 2016 lies on the other side of the aisle.

Ted Lieu“We want to see lots of Ted Cruz on television,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said Monday during an interview at a Starbucks in San Jose. “I want him to win the nomination on the Republican side.”

Even if that doesn’t happen, having such sharply conservative voices on the other side makes it easier for Democrats to underscore how large segments of the GOP are increasingly out of step with a changing national electorate, Lieu said.

“The rest of America, with every passing day, looks more and more like California” in its demographics and policies, he said. “The current path of the GOP is not sustainable.”

Already the shifting demographics in key Electoral College states make it hard to see how Republicans can win the White House, Lieu said, and while Republicans might control Congress for a few more cycles, “you can only redistrict so much” before the sheer weight of a changing electorate catches up.

Lieu – who in January succeeded 40-year incumbent Democrat Henry Waxman in a coastal district that runs from San Pedro up past Malibu – is in the Bay Area this week to meet with tech leaders, including a dinner Monday night with Silicon Valley Leadership Group members, and visits to companies including Oracle, SunPower and Intuitive Surgical. A self-described “recovering computer science major,” he’ll also speak at Tuesday’s event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stanford’s computer science program, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991.

Lieu said he sees the tech sector as “one of America’s and California’s competitive advantages,” but sees a need to build diversity in its boardrooms and workspaces just as in the rest of corporate America and government. “Government operates better if it looks like the people it represents, and I think that’s also true for the private sector.”

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

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2015
Under: Ted Lieu, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

SD7: See Susan Bonilla’s first television ad

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla is launching her first television ad in the 7th State Senate District special election.

The clip includes former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, saying “Susan Bonilla is an effective legislator bringing people together to get things done.” Contra Costa County District Attoreny Mark Peterson and others then praise her record of balanced budgets, “fixing schools, creating jobs, fighting crime, passing historic pension reform, protecting the Delta and opposing the tunnels.” Miller then returns to say Bonilla “is true to her word and her actions,” hence her support by Democrats, Republicans, businesses, law enforcement and so on.

Bonilla campaign spokesman Patrick McGarrity said the ad started airing today and will keep running through the May 19 election on cable channels in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The campaign’s TV budget “is in the low six figures,” he said.

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »

SD7: Would they extend Prop. 30 taxes?

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer says Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla flip-flopped on extending Proposition 30’s tax hikes to fund California’s schools, but Bonilla’s campaign said she has been consistent all along: She doesn’t support extending those taxes, but would support imposing new ones in their place.

The two Democrats are facing off in the 7th State Senate District’s special election, scheduled for May 19.

A new Bonilla campaign mailer that attacks Glazer for distorting her positions says she opposes extending the Prop. 30 taxes: “Glazer and his billionaire mega donor Bill Bloomfield are lying about Bonilla because they want to hide the fact that Steve Glazer was the ‘mastermind’ behind Prop 30, the $13.1 billion tax increase.”

The mailer follows that with a direct quote from Bonilla: “Steve Glazer and I both oppose extending Prop. 30.”

Bonilla

Josh Pulliam, Bonilla’s campaign consultant, said late Thursday afternoon that Bonilla has never supported an extension – whether by legislative action or another ballot measure – of Proposition 30’s taxes, and on several occasions has publicly corrected those who said otherwise.

She does, however, support a new, different, voter-approved tax hike measure to fund education in place of Prop. 30, he said.

Many apparently have been confused by this – perhaps including me.

In January, I reported on a TriValley Democratic Club forum at which Bonilla and then-candidate Joan Buchanan (who was eliminated in March’s special primary election) made their pitches.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnridge wrote this after asking questions at a televised candidates’ forum in February:

What to do when Proposition 30 expires, ending temporary increases in sales and income taxes? Buchanan, Bonilla and Kremin would put an extension before voters. Glazer would let it expire because a temporary tax, he said, is meant to be temporary.

And the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s March newsletter recounted a Feb. 4 candidates’ forum thusly:

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan favored extending Proposition 30 taxes, and a oil severance tax to continue to improve California schools—especially for the less fortunate. Steve Glazer, meanwhile, was against any new taxes and instead believed the government would have to live with the revenues it already receives.

Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis said “there are more flips and flops in the Bonilla tax position than an amusement park roller coaster.

“She blindly supported a Prop. 30 tax extension in the primary, even though the promise to voters in 2012 was that it would be temporary. Now, in the general election, she flops away from it because that broken promise hurts her,” he claimed. “After this duplicity is uncovered, she flips yet again and says she wants to raise billions in new taxes, but just not ‘Prop 30’ taxes. You can see why voters are dizzy with Sacramento politicians like Bonilla. They have had enough of the political doublespeak.”

Incidentally, the Lamorinda Democratic Club – Glazer’s home turf – was scheduled to take an endorsement vote last week, president Katie Ricklefs said Thursday. But the vote was scrapped when a Glazer campaign operative cited a club bylaw – not updated since before the top-two primary system took effect – that essentially precludes the club from picking one Democrat over another in a general election. “We did a straw poll that showed 100 percent support for Susan, though,” Ricklefs said.

Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, education, Susan Bonilla, taxes | 3 Comments »

SD7: Bonilla v. Glazer on business support, taxes

The battle between 7th State Senate District special election candidates Steve Glazer and Susan Bonilla to define themselves and each other roared on Wednesday, with Bonilla’s campaign simultaneously touting a significant business endorsement and faulting Glazer for supporting a parcel-tax hike that she supports, too.

Susan BonillaAs I reported in Sunday’s editions, the Democrat-on-Democrat race largely has pitted labor unions (supporting Bonilla, an Assemblywoman from Concord) against business interests (supporting Glazer, Orinda’s mayor).

But neither candidate fully embraces that division, and the lines do get blurry in places. Bonilla, who already had several corporate contributors and the support of the California Dental Association and California Medical Association, announced the California Small Business Association’s endorsement Wednesday.

“Susan Bonilla is a fiscally responsible leader with a strong record of partnering with small businesses, giving them tools to succeed and create good jobs,” CSBA President Betty Jo Toccoli said in Bonilla’s news release.

Bonilla may have some small businesses’ support, but Glazer has big businesses’ money on his side. JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, has independently spent at least $555,000 as of Wednesday on Glazer’s behalf.

Bonilla’s campaign also Wednesday issued a memo to reporters decrying Glazer’s support of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Measure A, which would renew an existing $144-per-year-parcel tax.

Steve Glazer“The list of Steve Glazer’s proclamations that he is a ‘fiscal conservative’ and that he would ‘hold the line on taxes’ is longer than Pinocchio’s nose,” Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam wrote in the memo. “Susan Bonilla supports the Measure A Parcel Tax … but she doesn’t play political games like Glazer, who broke his own campaign promise on taxes by endorsing the Measure A Parcel Tax.”

But Glazer’s campaign says Pulliam played it fast and loose with the facts.

“First, it’s an extension not a new tax and is a local choice,” spokesman Jason Bezis said. “Second, Bonilla is playing politics with an important school measure and this is typical of a Sacramento politician. Her lack of support for local schools is not a surprise given her bad vote last year to cap local school district reserves.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 10 Comments »

SD7: Union IE group launches pro-Bonilla TV ad

The union-funded PAC that’s opposing Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer in the 7th State Senate District’s special election has launched a television ad on behalf of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015 rolled out a 30-second ad Wednesday highlighting Bonilla’s efforts to expand early childhood education and her support of a bipartisan bill making it easier to fire educators who abuse children. The ad ends with the voiceover: “No wonder classroom teachers, local law enforcement, and Governor Jerry Brown trust Susan Bonilla.”

Working Families spokesman Steve Maviglio said the ad began airing Wednesday and will run for at least a week on all three cable systems serving the district; he wouldn’t specify the cost, except to say it’s a “substantial” ad buy.

Records from the Secretary of State’s office show the group has spent at least $821,000 on the race so far. But Glazer has received a lot of independent-expenditure help, too – Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield has anted up at least $763,000 on Glazer’s behalf, and the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC has spent at least about $494,000.

Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »

SD7: FPPC nixes Glazer’s complaint vs. union PAC

The state’s political watchdog agency has rejected state Senate candidate Steve Glazer’s complaint about the union-bankrolled PAC that’s opposing him.

Steve GlazerGlazer – Orinda’s mayor, and a Democrat – faces Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, in the May 19 special election for the 7th State Senate District seat. He complained last Wednesday to the California Fair Political Practices Commission that Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate had issued a mailer that didn’t disclose the big money – $185,000 from the State Council of Service Employees and $75,000 from the California School Employees Association – behind the PAC.

But Galena West, acting chief of the FPPC’s enforcement division, sent a letter to Glazer on Tuesday saying the PAC “has provided evidence that the mailer was already in production prior to the committee’s acquiring contributors of more than $50,000.”

“The FPPC’s Enforcement Division will not pursue this matter further,” West wrote.

“Once again, Steve Glazer’s attacks on working families have backfired in another attempt to distract voters from the more than $745,000 he has received from a Bush and Schwarzenegger donor from Los Angeles and more than $450,000 he has received from a political action committee funded by tobacco companies and other corporate interests,” Steven Maviglio, the PAC’s spokesman, said in a news release Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that he has wasted taxpayers resources for this publicity stunt.”

But Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis retorted that “the essence of the complaint is now factually confirmed; the vast majority of the money for these mailers has come from government unions. They didn’t want the voters to know this and used a technicality to obscure this fact.”

“It’s obvious that the unions are not proud of their parenthood of these false mailers, as we saw in the primary election with their fake Asian American Small Business PAC,” Bezis added. “Powerful special interests, such as these government unions, detest thoughtful and independent candidates like Steve Glazer. The choice for voters is a special interest sycophant like Bonilla versus a people’s advocate like Glazer.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Susan Bonilla | 16 Comments »