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SD9: School funding activist launches campaign

Katherine Welch, an education funding activist from Piedmont, will formally announce her 9th State Senate District candidacy Saturday, joining two longtime East Bay politicos in the race.

Katherine WelchWelch, 54, was registered as a Republican as of early 2014 but is running as a Democrat against Democratic former Assembly members Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Sandre Swanson of Alameda, as well as San Pablo Vice Mayor Richard Kinney, a Republican.

“I’ve always been a Democrat, if you look at my political contributions,” Welch said Friday, adding that registering for a time with the GOP “was more my frustration with the political process than about the candidates I support … It was a little bit of a protest.”

Campaign finance records support her claim. Welch has contributed to the unsuccessful Proposition 34 of 2012, to abolish the death penalty; ActBlue California, an online Democratic fundraising clearinghouse, in 2012 and 2014; Joan Buchanan’s and Sandra Fluke’s unsuccessful Democratic state Senate campaigns in 2014; and Democrat Betty Yee for state controller in 2014. And her federal contributions dating back to 2004 have supported only Democrats.

She also sank money into last year’s effort by Educate Our State – a nonprofit of which she’s a board member and former chairwoman – to field a ballot measure that would’ve protected local property tax revenues designated for schools from being borrowed or otherwise re-directed by state lawmakers. The measure failed to get enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Welch said Friday she’s making her first run for public office partly to encourage more moms like herself to “go up there (to Sacramento) and start talking about the things we’re not talking about in this state” – mainly, about fully committing to full funding for public schools.

“I’m fortunate enough that I have the time and the passion to do it,” she said, adding that “this whole ‘it’s my turn’ mentality” among politicians is unhealthy for the state and nation.

But asked whether Skinner’s and Swanson’s platforms are lacking, Welch replied, “I’m not running against anyone. … It’s not a question of who’s more progressive, it’s a question of priorities.”

She’s running because “kids, public education and people who don’t really have a voice in Sacramento,” she said. “Money and power and lobbyists have a voice, and kids don’t.”

Welch is working with Democratic political strategist Lisa Tucker of Pleasant Hill, who has worked for figures including former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin. Though she tweeted her intent to run on Sept. 23, she and about 100 of her supporters will kick off her campaign at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 24 in Crocker Park, 81 King Ave. in Piedmont.

Welch served on the board of Gateway Public Schools, a pair of public charter schools in San Francisco, from 2008 to 2014; she currently serves on the board of Head Royce School, an exclusive and very expensive private school in the Oakland Hills. She worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs for a few years in the 1980s, then as an operations manager for a film and video service, and then as associate director of the Breakthrough Collaborative, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps high-potential, low-income middle school students reach college and inspires high school and college students to pursue careers in education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy studies from Duke University and an MBA from Harvard University.

The 9th District – from which state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out next year – 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. The district’s voter registration is 63 percent Democrat, 8 percent Republican and 21 percent independent.

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 2 Comments »

SD7: Bonilla won’t run against Glazer in 2016

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla won’t run next year against fellow Democrat state Sen. Steve Glazer, who defeated her in the 7th State Senate District’s special election earlier this year.

In a Facebook post Monday morning, Bonilla, D-Concord, indicated she doesn’t want a do-over of that ugly race.

Susan Bonilla“I believe our efforts are best spent in uniting our collective voices to help achieve a better quality of life for our entire community,” she wrote. “Having our community experience a negative and divisive election based on lies, personal attacks, and defamation of character is harmful and damaging for our community. Running for public office should always be focused on a debate of ideas and values that will help our community and not tear us apart.”

“Therefore, in order to ensure that all of our collective efforts remain focused on building a stronger foundation for the next generation of families, I am announcing that I will not run for State Senate in 2016,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue to work together for the betterment of our state, community, and our families as I complete my term in the Assembly in December 2016. Together, we can ensure the next generation of Californians will achieve their dreams by having high quality schools, good paying jobs, and safe communities in which to raise their families.”

Glazer, D-Orinda, beat Bonilla by 9 percentage points in the May special election to fill the vacancy left by Mark DeSaulnier’s election to Congress last year. The contest between the centrist Glazer and union-backed liberal Bonilla saw tremendous independent spending and a corresponding avalanche of negative advertising that soured many of the district’s voters.

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer, Susan Bonilla | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 4 Comments »

State Sen. Steve Glazer hires Antioch’s mayor

Antioch Mayor Wade Harper has joined state Sen. Steve Glazer’s staff as a senior field representative in the district office.

Wade HarperHarper, 51, has been a councilman since 2010 and mayor since 2012. He was a law enforcement officer from 1998 to 2013, rising through the ranks as an officer, detective and sergeant in the Emeryville Police Department before finishing as lieutenant for the Tracy Police Department.

He joins two other local elected officials on Glazer’s staff. Lafayette School District Governing Board member Teresa Gerringer is Glazer’s district director, and Pittsburg Vice Mayor Ben Johnson is a senior field representative.

“The elected officials on my staff are actively in touch with the issues of the communities they represent, so they are excellent resources for me and my team,” Glazer, D-Orinda, said in a news release.

Glazer also announced he has hired Elizabeth Patton of Oakland as his constituent services coordinator; she was an intern on Glazer’s campaign earlier this year.

Glazer’s 7th State Senate District includes the Lamorinda area, Walnut Creek, Concord, Alamo, Danville, San Ramon, Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood in Contra Costa County, as well as Alameda County’s tri-valley area including Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and Sunol.

Posted on Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer | No Comments »

DeSaulnier bill would lower student loan rates

Student loan borrowers would be able to refinance their interest rates at the rate offered to banks by the Federal Reserve, under a bill announced Monday by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, held an event at the University of California, Berkeley to roll out H.R. 3675, the Student Borrower Fairness Act, which would offset its costs by increasing corporate tax rates on companies that pay their CEOs or highest paid employees more than 100 times the median compensation of all employees.

Mark DeSaulnier“It is patently unfair that the same big banks that toppled our economy borrow from the federal government at extremely low interest rates while student borrowers are struggling to pay back their loans,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “Meanwhile, people of all ages are buried in student loan debt which holds them back from being able to buy a car, purchase a home, save for retirement, or start a family. This bill is a first step toward making sure our students can emerge from under their piles of crippling debt and enter tomorrow’s highly-trained workforce.”

Congress acted on student loan rates in 2013, but the changes only applied to new borrowers.

UC-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks applauded the bill. “College students and their families depend on student loans to access higher education,” Dirks said in the congressman’s release. “At Berkeley, we are proud that 61 percent of our undergraduates graduate without debt and the average debt of students who do borrow is only $17,584, much lower than the national average. This legislation would benefit all borrowers because it will help them manage their debt and repayment.”

James Donahue, president of St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, said his college “is built on the idea that education has the power to transform lives. The Student Borrower Fairness Act will provide opportunities for all students to pursue their dreams of a higher education, and ultimately highly successful lives. Student loan debt is a national issue and reducing it must be a national priority.”

DeSaulnier’s office said outstanding student loans now total more than $1.3 trillion, surpassing total credit card debt. More than 37 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, with an average outstanding balance of $29,400 for those who borrowed to get a bachelor’s degree. From 2004 to 2012, student loan debt rose an average of 14 percent per year.

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015
Under: education, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Jerry Brown signs beer-bike bill, goes for a spin

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Sunday creating inspection and safety standards for pedal-powered quadricycles – sometimes called “beer bikes” – on which up to 15 people can tool around town knocking back drinks.

Off the Chain beer bikeCompanies in cities including Sacramento, San Diego and Palm Springs already have been offering guided tours through tourism and entertainment areas, often including stops at bars and restaurants. But until now they’ve been licensed by host cities without any state involvement, creating some uncertainty about whether the car-sized rigs can lawfully use city streets because there was no existing vehicle definition that covered them, according to a legislative analysis. And while they could stop at bars, no alcohol could be consumed on board.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, pedaled to the rescue with SB 530, which expands the definition of a pedicab to include a device which is primarily pedal-powered, has a seating capacity of not more than 15 passengers, and cannot travel faster than 15 miles per hour.

The new law requires this type of pedicab to have basic safety equipment including seat belts, seat backs, brakes, reflectors, headlights, and grab rails, and to be operated by a 21-year-old adult with a valid California driver’s license. Existing devices have until January 1, 2017, to retrofit with this equipment. The quadricycles still must be authorized by local ordinance and cannot operate on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph, and any accidents in which they’re involved must be reported to the California Highway Patrol.

But perhaps most important to keeping the party a’pedalin’, the law now provides for allowing consumption of alcohol on board so long as the locla municipality allows it and the operator provides an on-board adult safety monitor; both this monitor and the driver must have completed the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s licensee education program.

The Assembly and state Senate both passed the bill unanimously last month.

But Brown didn’t just sign the bill Sunday. Oh, no – he signed it in style.

Brown signs SB530

Brown signed his name to the new law aboard a quadricycle run by Sacramento’s Off The Chain Bike Bus Tours and then – accompanied by his wife, Anne Gust; his top aide, Nancy McFadden; and Senator Pan – immediately took off on a ride.

Cue the Chris Christie jokes here.

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Congressional reax to Pope Francis’ speech

Here’s how some of the Bay Area’s voices in Congress are responding to Pope Francis’ address today.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a series of tweets:

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“The Holy Father Pope Francis’ address to Congress was extraordinary. With absolute clarity, beauty and moral urgency, Pope Francis called on all of us to be better stewards of Creation and instruments of God’s peace.

“Standing in the very heart of our democracy, Pope Francis spoke to the better angels of our nature and of the American people. He reminded us of our sacred and inescapable responsibility to those struggling to escape poverty, persecution and war. He challenged us to rescue our planet from the climate crisis that threatens the future of our children and the health of God’s creation – and to do so sensitive to the needs of the poor. His Holiness urged us to live our values and reach beyond our divisions.

“On a personal note, my husband Paul, my children and I have more than 100 years of Catholic education among us, and this has been a day of profound joy for my family. It has been an awesome privilege to welcome His Holiness to the Congress. My deepest thanks to the Pope for the honor of his historic visit and the elevating, illuminating leadership he continues to provide Catholics and non-Catholics the world over. May the Holy Father’s message of hope, peace and dialogue echo through the halls of the Capitol and across the country for a long time to come.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“During a joint-session of Congress today, His Holiness Pope Francis reminded us of our sacred duty: to protect and advocate for the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society and our world.

“His call for peace and justice should inspire Congress and our entire nation. As we work to address the immense challenges facing our nation – climate change, persistent poverty, and global conflicts – the Pope’s call for mutual understanding has never been more timely or necessary.‎ We must strive to end all injustices that devalue human dignity, especially inequality and war.

“During his speech, the Pope called on Congress ‘to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.’

“He is right – we cannot afford to delay cooperation, however difficult it might be, while our planet and our people suffer.”

From Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord:

Mark DeSaulnier“Pope Francis’ unprecedented address to Congress was truly aspirational. His message of shared social responsibility in the face of global challenges comes at an important time for our country. Of particular note, were his comments on President Lincoln ‘the guardian who labored tirelessly that this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a subsidiarity and solidarity.’ Whether addressing climate change, poverty and inequality or the global refugee crisis, it is my hope Members of Congress will embrace Pope Francis’ message of moral responsibility and working together for the common good.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

CA17: Kevin de León endorses Ro Khanna

17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna will be endorsed Thursday by state Senate President Kevin de León, one of the highest-profile California Democrats so far to turn his back on eight-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda.

Kevin de Leon“Ro Khanna values the ideals that the Democratic Party stands for: equal rights, standing up for working families, protecting social security and Medicare, fighting for clean air and water, expanding the middle class and making sure everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream,” de León, D-Los Angeles, said in Khanna’s news release. “As an educator, Ro is committed to making sure public schools have the funding and technology to ensure all our kids have the opportunity to succeed in the 21st Century.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration official, is making his second run against Honda, D-San Jose; Honda beat him by 3.6 percentage points last November.

In the last election cycle, most prominent elected Democrats lined up behind Honda, while a few – notably including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed – endorsed Khanna. It remains to be seen whether the House Ethics Committee’s pending investigation of Honda will affect his endorsements this time around.

“As a community organizer against Prop 187 and for the NEA, I am impressed with Ro’s commitment to grassroots organizing,” de León added. “Not only is he bringing more people into the political process, but I know his commitment to ground-up power will ensure his office stays in touch with the needs of the people he represents, and not just wealthy donors and the special interests.”

Khanna said de León “embodies everything that’s great about the Democratic Party.”

“He’s a leader in the effort to combat climate change, has spearheaded forward-thinking and compassionate immigrant rights laws, worked to make colleges more accessible and affordable, and he has helped spur an innovation economy around renewable energy technologies that has helped create more good paying middle class jobs while protecting our environment,” Khanna said. “I am deeply honored by the confidence and trust Kevin de Leon is placing in me. I look forward to being a strong and active partner with him as we take these California policies and work to adapt them in Washington.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Kevin de Leon, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

House OKs John Muir park expansion

The House on Wednesday approved Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s bill to expand the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, sending it on to the U.S. Senate.

H.R. 1289, DeSaulnier’s first stand-alone bill as a House member, would add 44 acres of donated land to the existing 330-acre plot, improving access to the park and its scenic trails. DeSaulnier’s predecessor, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, had introduced the same bill last year; the House approved it but the Senate failed to vote on it before adjourning.

“This historic site is the place where Muir, the father of the National Park system, championed the revolutionary idea that wild spaces should be set aside for all to enjoy,” DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in his news release. “I look forward to seeing this bill passed by the Senate and signed into law.”

Linus Eukel, executive director of the John Muir Land Trust, said Muir “often walked this land with his two daughters, to admire the coast live oak that grow there, as well as the annual wildflowers that punctuate its grassy hillsides. Expansion of the John Muir Historic Site will forever protect this beautiful property and allow future generations to share in the same delights as Muir’s daughters,”

DeSaulnier’s bill has 31 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has introduced companion legislation.

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

State Sen. Steve Glazer to be sworn in. (Again.)

The Bay Area’s newest lawmaker will be sworn in this week. Again.

Steve GlazerState Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, in May defeated fellow Democrat Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla won the special election to succeed Mark DeSaulnier, who was elected to Congress last November.

Glazer was officially sworn in by Gov. Jerry Brown at the State Capitol on May 28, and has cast dozens of votes since. But his in-district ceremonial swearing-in is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, Aug. 27 in the Danville Veterans Memorial Building, 400 Hartz Ave. Former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will administer the oath of office and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson will serve as master of ceremonies.

The event is open to 7th State Senate District residents.To RSVP, contact Glazer’s district office at 925-942-6082 or

Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, steve glazer | 1 Comment »