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Labor endorsement goes to Loni Hancock

As a battle for a state Senate seat between like-minded, labor-friendly Democrats takes off in the East Bay, a significant labor organization has cast its lot with the incumbent.

The Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council today announced its endorsement of state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, for re-election in the 9th State Senate District. Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, who’s term-limited out of the Assembly next year, has indicated he’s likely to challenge her.

“Senator Hancock is committed to putting people to work in the Bay Area and ensuring that these jobs are good union jobs with living wages, health benefits and a pension to retire on with dignity,” council director Greg Feere said. “Her leadership has been vital on important projects like the bay bridge reconstruction and the fourth bore of the Caldecott tunnel. These projects have produced thousands of local jobs and we look forward to continue working with her in the State Senate.”

The council, with 28 affiliated local unions, handles everything from worker safety and permit discussions to union meetings and other issues centered around the trades. Hancock said she appreciates the endorsement: “I have worked side-by-side with them throughout my years of services to keep jobs in the Bay Area and I look forward to our continued work together in the future.”

Hancock’s campaign received a $6,800 contribution in early August from the State Building and Contruction Trades Council of California’s PAC.

Hancock and Swanson have a lot in common policy-wise, and trade unions have been the biggest bloc of campaign contributors to both. They’re facing off under new conditions: The 9th State Senate District used to start with Albany and Berkeley at the north end, sweep down through Oakland and Alameda and then out through Castro Valley to grab Dublin and Livermore. Newly drawn in redistricting, it now starts in Rodeo and includes all the Western Contra Costa County cities as well as Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont and San Leandro — a more compact, more urban district.

And next June’s will be California’s first regular primary election using the “top two” system, in which candidates of all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. Given the district’s overwhelmingly Democratic registration, it’s easy to imagine two Democrats being the only options on the district’s November 2012 ballot.

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
Under: 2012 State Senate election, Assembly, California State Senate, Labor politics, Loni Hancock, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Governor signs Swanson’s human trafficking bills

California taxpayers can choose to contribute to the state’s new Child Victims of Human Trafficking Fund which gives money to community-based organizations, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Californians already can make contributions to a variety of organizations listed on their personal income tax forms; AB 764 by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, adds to that list community-based organizations that protect sexually exploited minors.

“Countless organizations throughout the state provide vital support services to child victims of sexual exploitation,” Swanson said in a news release. “Our state lacks a consistent process through which appropriate victim services can be provided to thousands of children who are struggling out on the street. With the Governor’s signature on this bill, our state can begin plucking these young girls from the eye of a hurricane and plant them in safe environments where they can be what they are: children.”

AB 764 enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support: The Assembly approved it on a 74-2 vote in June; the state Senate approved it 37-1 in August; and the Assembly voted 79-0 in August to concur in the state Senate’s amendments.

Brown also on Tuesday signed Swanson’s AB 90, which tightens state law’s language on criminal profiteering in child prostitution. Federal law clearly states prosecutors need not prove force or coercion when a trafficking victim is younger than 18, but state law was vague, requiring a showing of force even as it said it intended to conform with federal law. AB 90 changes the state’s standard of proof to require only a showing that the defendant “caused, induced, encouraged or persuaded the victim,” and also lets prosecutors implement already-existing fines and forfeiture provisions. The Assembly and state Senate approved this bill on unanimous votes.

Swanson has authored several other bills in recent years dealing with human trafficking. Most recently, Brown in June signed into law Swanson’s AB 12, which boosted fines against “johns” who pay for sex with minors and required that the money be directed to groups providing therapy, housing, shelter, and education to child victims of sex trafficking.

Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Public safety, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

Poll: Hancock would beat Swanson in SD9

A poll reportedly commissioned by state Senate Democrats shows state Sen. Loni Hancock with a wide lead over potential challenger Assemblyman Sandre Swanson in a one-on-one battle for her 9th State Senate District seat.

The poll shows 44 percent of likely voters in the newly drawn district supporting the incumbent Hancock, 18 percent supporting Swanson, 8 percent supporting other candidates and 31 percent unsure. Goodwin Simon Strategic Research conducted the telephone survey of 402 likely voters Sept. 24 through Sept. 27; the margin of error is five percentage points.

In his memo, Goodwin wrote that Hancock leads Swanson by 25 points among Democrats, by 27 points among nonpartisans, and by 36 points among minor party voters; she also leads among the district’s few Republican voters. Also, she leads him in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, he wrote, and by 10 points in the city of Oakland.

“Hancock leads Swanson among black voters (who comprise about 17% of likely voters), and holds a very wide lead among white, Latino, and mixed race voters,” he continued. “Moreover, a match-up of positive paragraphs, drawn entirely from the two candidates’ websites — and intended to be as fair as possible to both candidates — widens Hancock’s lead to 30 points: 52% to 22%. Hancock should win this race fairly easily; it would be very difficult for Swanson to catch up to her.”

Now, for the caveats: My source provided me neither the actual methodology and script for the poll nor the cross-tab information for subgroups. All I have is this memo. But the fact that this poll was even commissioned means Hancock’s supporters are looking to paint her as a lock for re-election.

I’d reported back in February that Swanson had filed a statement of intention to run in 2012 — when he’ll be termed out of his current seat — for the 9th State Senate District. At the time, Swanson said his nascent Senate campaign already had held its first fundraiser. Still, he said, “the final decision on running obviously can’t be made until the district lines are drawn … and nobody up here has anything to say about that.”

“Given the time frame that the redistricting commission has set for this summer, you can’t develop a credible campaign (for 2012) unless you develop the infrastructure for that now,” Swanson had said, noting that Hancock “was the first one I talked to,” he added. “We have met and I told her I was going to open up this committee, and she completely understood.”

He had called her “a friend and a colleague I’ve worked closely with,” and said he’s unlikely to challenge her if they both remain in the same district. “This is about seeing where the lines fall,” he said.

Well, those lines fell so that both Swanson – who lives in Alameda’s Bay Farm Island section – and Hancock, of Berkeley, do indeed both live in the district. Friends they may be, but this poll’s existence makes it seem like someone has been taking Michael Corleone’s advice to “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”

The “Swanson for Senate 2012” committee had $61,197.48 in the bank as of June 30; I see no record of any big-ticket contributions reported since then. Hancock’s 2012 re-election campaign committee had $66,964.12 in the bank as of June 30, but she looks to have raised at least $13,600 since then – half from the State Building and Construction Trades Council, and half from state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s campaign committee.

UPDATE @ 5:03 P.M.: It seems this showdown is ON.

“I’ve talked to my wife and obviously I’m seriously considering this run,” Swanson said a few minutes ago. “I am approaching a final decision and I’ll be making an announcement about my plans within the coming weeks.”

But he sure sounds as if he has made that decision already.

“I’ve been involved in politics for almost four decades, so I don’t panic very easily and I keep my eye on the main agenda. And the agenda in any campaign would have to be the pain Californians are facing, the insecurity that those with disabilities and relying on the safety net are feeling, the pain of those losing their homes right now… This is the campaign I would run,” he said. “The last thing I would do is concentrate on personality. Whatever I do, it would be a race about issues… I have always believed that the best idea should always win the day.”

He said this poll doesn’t scare him; when he first sought his Assembly seat, an early poll showed him 31 points behind Oakland City Attorney John Russo, and another poll just two weeks before the primary election showed him 12 points behind. Aggressive campaigning and a clear message can overcome bad numbers, he said.

Posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Sandre Swanson | 3 Comments »

Ammiano to hold hearing on BART Police

Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Tom Ammiano announced today that he’ll hold an informational hearing on how the BART Police department is progressing with implementing new civilian oversight and management audit recommendations made last year.

“With three deaths in three years, we need to ensure that BART police are properly trained and following procedures,” Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said in his news release. “I urge the SFPD and BART to be transparent and share the results of their investigation into the death of Charles Hill with the public as soon as possible.”

Hill was shot and killed July 3 in San Francisco’s Civic Center station; it since has been reported that he was armed with a bottle and two knives.

Ammiano said the hearing date will be announced shortly, likely in mid-August at the State Capitol.

Ammiano in 2009 reacted to the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle by introducing AB 312, which would’ve created an Office of Citizen Complaints for the agency. Instead, the Legislature passed and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1586 – by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda – into law last year, creating a Civilian Review Board and Independent Police Auditor for the BART Police.

Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Under: Assembly, BART shooting, Public safety, Sandre Swanson, Tom Ammiano | 3 Comments »

Alameda Vice Mayor announces Assembly run

Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta today formally announced he’ll be a candidate for the 16th Assembly District seat in 2012.

Rob Bonta“I am running for Assembly because the world’s eighth largest economy is capable of better safeguarding its local schools,” the Democrat said in his news release. “Together, we are capable of keeping more cops and firefighters on the job.

“I am running for Assembly because good times or bad, California’s seniors, the disabled and those in need of healthcare deserve basic levels of protections. We can do all of this while creating jobs and maintaining a solid climate for economic growth.”

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is term-limited out next year. Redistricting is still in progress, but Bonta believes Alameda is likely to remain entirely in the district.

Bonta has been Vice Mayor since last year and is a former Alameda Hospital Board member; he works as a San Francisco deputy city attorney. He and his wife, Mia, have three children.

He listed among his early supporters Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Franisco, and Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino; Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore; Alameda City Council Members Beverly Johnson and Lena Tam; and various Alameda school board and hospital board members.

Bonta’s release came by way of strategist Mark Capitolo of the Sacramento-based political and public affairs firm Duffy & Captiolo. He has considerable campaign experience both with his own firm and from his days at the San Francisco powerhouse of Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners; earlier, he was former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s communications director.

Others who have filed statements of intent to run for the 16th Assembly District seat include Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen; Democratic county committeewoman and longtime politico Kathy Neal; and AC Transit Board Director-at-Large Joel Young, all Democrats. As of February, the district’s voters were registered 63.8 percent Democrat; 9.5 percent Republican; and 20.7 percent decline-to-state.

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

Lockyers hosting Assembly fundraiser tonight

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, are hosting a fundraiser tonight for Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, with some other Assembly candidates on the guest list as well.

Tickets to the wine reception at Wieckowski’s home start at $50 with sponsorships ranging up to $3,900, the maximum personal contribution to a legislative committee allowed by law.

Wieckowski, a freshman and former Fremont City Councilman, won the 20th District seat in November with 73 percent of the vote to Republican nominee Adnan Shahab’s 27 percent; Shahab has formed a committee to run again in 2012.

It won’t be nearly the same race, however. A first-draft map issued recently by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission shows the district in which both Wieckowski and Shahab reside would be markedly different from the 20th District’s existing lines.

Bill Lockyer’s fundraising prowess is legendary. His own Lockyer for Treasurer 2010 committee finished 2010 with just under $3 million in the bank, after both repelling a challenge from Republican nominee Mimi Walters and giving his wife’s supervisorial campaign more than $1.5 million. He has formed a committee to run for state controller in 2014.

Among those scheduled to attend tonight’s event, according to Facebook, is Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, who has formed his own committee to run for Assembly next year. Guillen lives in the 16th Assembly District, where Sandre Swanson will be term-limited out.

Also scheduled to attend tonight is Dr. Jennifer Ong, a Hayward optometrist who has formed a committee to run next year in the 18th Assembly District, where Mary Hayashi is term-limited out.

Posted on Friday, June 24th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bill Lockyer, Bob Wieckowski, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi, Sandre Swanson | 5 Comments »

Meet the East Bay’s veterans of the year

Each of the East Bay’s Assembly members named a Veteran of the Year this week, to be recognized at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual luncheon today in Sacramento.

Read all about these inspirational vets, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Swanson’s seismic retrofit bill becomes law

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that lets local officials use public financing to help private property owners pay for seismic improvements.

AB 184, the Seismic Safety Financing Act, will make retrofits easier to achieve and more affordable by offering a financing option that removes much of the upfront expense, according to its author, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda.

Unreinforced masonry buildings present a big seismic hazard, and this bill’s state Senate floor analysis noted the Association of Bay Area Governments’ estimate that 26,000 of Oakland’s 163,000 housing units will become uninhabitable when the Hayward Fault has a major earthquake.

“Because commercial loans for earthquake improvements can be expensive, local officials want to accelerate retrofit work on vulnerable buildings by loaning money to private property owners at below-market rates,” the analysis said. “This bill provides local officials with another tool to help property owners pay for structural upgrades that save lives, protect rescue workers, and reduce economic disruption after a major earthquake.”

ABAG supported Swanson’s bill, as did the City of Oakland and the California Association of Realtors. The Assembly passed it on a 49-10 vote in April; the state Senate approved it on a 26-10 vote June 6.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed Swanson’s earlier incarnation of this bill last September, saying he didn’t support expanding contractual assessment programs – now used for energy and water efficiency improvements – to include seismic retrofits.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Assembly rejects lighter penalty for growing pot

The Assembly this week rejected a bill that would’ve reduced marijuana cultivation from a felony – punishable by 16 months, two years or three years in state prison – to a “wobbler” that can be filed either as a felony or as a misdemeanor punishable by a year in county jail.

AB 1017, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, failed Wednesday on a 24-36 vote. Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley; and Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, voted for it, while Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, opposed it and Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, didn’t vote.

Swanson said the communities he represents is struggling with a severe drug crisis, and the bill would’ve moved California in the wrong direction.

“If we really want comprehensive drug reform, we can’t just relax certain portions of the laws around marijuana cultivation and use. We need to address the issue comprehensively through federal law,” he said, adding he fears the bill sends the wrong message to kids, that recreational marijuana use is acceptable. “This is not appropriate, especially when federal law continues to prosecute the crime, with a disproportionate effect on communities of color. You can’t address these issues in a vacuum, particularly where our state law comes into conflict with the federal.”

He said he’ll remain open-minded on the issue, “but as long as I see marijuana use preventing many of our young people from getting employed because they can’t pass drug tests, and all of the other adverse and negative impacts by accepting this drug as recreational, it clearly isn’t the time to start lessening the restrictions on its cultivation or use. The consequences of making this a recreational drug –- or creating the perception that we are trending that way by lessening the restrictions — has long-term and significant consequences I am not prepared support.”

Reconsideration of the bill was granted Thursday, but it was ordered to the Assembly’s inactive file at the request of Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello.

Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, was the lone GOP vote in support of the bill, which was sponsored by Mendocino County District Attorney C. David Eyster and supported by the California Public Defenders Association and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding,” California NORML Director Dale Gieringer said in a news release. “With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for non-violent drug offenses. It makes no sense to keep marijuana growing a felony, when assault, battery, and petty theft are all misdemeanors. Legislators have once again caved in to the state’s law enforcement establishment, which has a vested professional interest in maximizing drug crime.”

The bill was opposed by the California District Attorneys Association, California Narcotics Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California State Sheriffs’ Association.

Posted on Friday, June 3rd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, marijuana, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, Tom Ammiano | 6 Comments »

Assembly passes Swanson’s prison education bill

Yesterday was a banner day for Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda. Besides the human trafficking bill on which I’ve written an article, he had another unanimously passed bill that would increase educational opportunities available in state prisons.

AB 216 would create incentives and remove restrictions for community colleges to offer courses in state correctional facilities. Swanson said this is especially important in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court order requiring California’s unconstitutionally overcrowded prisons to reduce their inmate population by 46,000.

“Education is a critical component to rehabilitating inmates and ensuring their successful transition back into society,” Swanson said in a news release. “AB 216 is part of a larger re-entry strategy that will address the Supreme Court mandate and the safety of our communities by significantly reducing the likelihood that released inmates will commit new crimes.”

California spends more than $49,000 per year to house each inmate, only to see many re-offend and cost their communities even more, he said. “It is better for our state to invest money upfront on training and educating inmates who will eventually be released into our communities, rather than have them re-enter society without the tools necessary to keep them off the streets and out of prison.”

The Assembly voted 79-0 Tuesday to pass the bill and send it on to the state Senate.

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Under: Assembly, Sandre Swanson, State Prisons | No Comments »