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Susan Bonilla declares state Senate candidacy

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla officially declared candidacy Tuesday in the special election that will be called to replace Mark DeSaulnier, now a Congressman-elect, in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District.

Susan Bonilla“I’m running for Senate to continue working for Contra Costa and Alameda residents, families, and small business owners in the Legislature,” Bonilla, D-Concord, said in her news release. “Working with a broad, diverse coalition, I am proud of what we have accomplished; turning a historic budget deficit into a balanced budget with a rainy day fund; revitalizing our economy through job creation and economic development; and reinvesting in our schools. I will continue focusing on these efforts in the State Senate, building coalitions to deliver results for my constituents.”

Both Bonilla and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, have been widely expected to run in this special election. Both had already created state Senate campaign committees for 2016, when DeSaulnier would’ve been term-limited out. But Rep. George Miller’s retirement after 40 years in the House led to DeSaulnier winning that 11th Congressional District seat this month, leaving his own state Senate seat up for grabs earlier than expected.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democrat, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan.

Republican Mark Meuser, a Walnut Creek attorney who ran unsuccessfully against DeSaulnier in 2012, announced Nov. 7 that he also will run to succeed DeSaulnier. He has not yet reported any fundraising.

Bonilla’s state Senate campaign committee had about $13,700 banked as of mid-October. Her Assembly committee, for the campaign she barely had to run in order to win re-election this month, had about $166,000 banked as of the same time.

Buchanan’s state Senate campaign committee had about $49,700 banked at mid-year, while her Assembly committee had about $30,800. Buchanan was term-limited out of the Assembly this year; Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin beat Democrat Tim Sbranti in the hard-fought election to succeed her.

But the list of candidates might grow larger still.

Orinda Vice Mayor Steve Glazer, a former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown who lost the 16th Assembly District primary to Baker and Sbranti, said Tuesday that “a number of community leaders have encouraged me to consider running for this seat and I am giving it some thought.” Glazer, who already had rolled the leftovers from his primary campaign into a new Assembly campaign committee for 2016, has about $102,600 banked there.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 2 Comments »

Mark Meuser will seek DeSaulnier’s senate seat

The ink isn’t dry yet on Democrat Mark DeSaulnier’s win in the election to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District, but the jockeying for DeSaulnier’s state Senate seat is already under way.

Walnut Creek attorney Mark Meuser, a Republican who got 38.5 percent of the vote in his 2012 run against DeSaulnier for the 7th State Senate District seat, announced Friday that he’ll run in the special election Gov. Jerry Brown must call to fill the vacancy.

Mark Meuser “Mark Meuser’s priority is to insure that your future, your children’s future, and California’s future is bright,” Meuser’s news release said. “The spirit of entrepreneurs in California is as strong today as it was during the gold rush. It needs an advocate in Sacramento, and Meuser wants to be that advocate. Ensuring that our communities stay strong—and grow stronger—requires a long-term vision for future generations, and Meuser has that vision. It is time to elect a representative to Sacramento who will fight for the citizens of Contra Costa and Alameda counties.”

Meuser’s declaration of candidacy isn’t so surprising, given his 2012 run and his creation earlier this year of the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, funded largely out of his own pocket.

Two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who just won re-election, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who is term-limited out this year – are interested in the 7th State Senate District seat as well.

If a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in this special primary, he or she will win outright; otherwise, the top two vote-getters will advance to a special general election.

The district’s voter registration is 43.5 percent Democrat, 28.6 percent Republican and 22.2 percent nonpartisan. Even if Buchanan and Bonilla split the Democratic vote in what’s likely to be a super-low-turnout election, it’ll be quite an uphill climb for Meuser either to reach the majority needed to win the primary outright or to prevail against either Democrat in the general.

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla | 6 Comments »

Fun with numbers: Bay Area House races

As we await a final result in the 17th District’s Mike Honda/Ro Khanna showdown, here’s how the rest of the Bay Area House races look at this hour, in order from widest margin of victory to narrowest:

    13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, 87.3% vs. Dakin Sundeen (R), 12.7% (74.6 points)
    12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, 82.4%, vs. John Dennis (R), 17.6% (64.8 points)
    14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, 75.9% vs. Robin Chew (R), 24.1% (51.8 points)
    5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, 75.4% vs. James Hinton (i), 24.6% (50.8 points)
    20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, 74.4% vs. Ronald Kabat (i), 25.6% (48.8 points)
    2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, 73.6% vs. Dale Mensing (R), 26.4% (47.2 points)
    15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, 69% vs. Hugh Bussell (R), 31% (38 points)
    19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, 66.8% vs. Robert Murray (D), 33.2% (33.6 points)
    18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, 66.3% vs. Richard Fox (R), 33.7% (32.6 points)
    11th District: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, 66.2% vs. Tue Phan (R), 33.8% (32.4 points)
    9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, 51.5% vs. Tony Amador (R), 48.5% (3 points)

Yes, that 9th District race was awfully close – especially since this was the first year since McNerney took office that he wasn’t on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s hit list.

For comparison, McNerney beat Republican Ricky Gill by 11.2 points in 2012 in this district; in his old 11th District, he had beat Republican David Harmer by 1.1 point in 2010, Republican Dean Andal by 10.6 points in 2008; and incumbent Republican Richard Pombo by 6.6 points in 2006. Gill and Harmer both were NRCC “Young Guns,” garnering national support and advice, while the NRCC also worked on Andal’s behalf and GOP luminaries like John Boehner and John McCain shared stages with him.

In other words, most of the times when the NRCC targeted McNerney as vulnerable, it turned out that he really wasn’t; this year, as the NRCC paid the district little mind, Amador came within striking distance. Oops! But that doesn’t mean McNerney will be similarly vulnerable in 2016, when a bigger presidential-year turnout will favor Democrats; for Republicans, this looks like an opportunity missed.

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

Bay Area House Democrats declare victory

As Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, battled for his career against Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the South Bay, the rest of the Bay Area’s House Democrats were cruising to easy victories Tuesday night.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who defeated Republican Hugh Bussell to win his second term:

“For the past two years, I’ve shown up, stood up, and worked across party lines for the issues that matter to working families. It is an honor to be re-elected to continue standing up for the people of the East Bay.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who defeated Republican Dakin Sundeen to win her eighth full term:

“Thank you to all those that voted and supported my re-election.

“It is an honor and a privilege to represent the diverse, dynamic and forward-thinking people who live in the 13th Congressional district.

“I remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve you in Congress while working to advance our shared progressive values.

“I thank my constituents for once again allowing me to be their voice in Congress. I remain committed to working to securing federal resources for our community while working to create jobs, address income inequality, tackle poverty head on, pass comprehensive immigration reform, focus on stopping climate change, promote international peace and security, end the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and renew unemployment insurance for those still struggling to find work.

“This is quite an exhaustive agenda but the East Bay has long led the nation on important issues and we will continue to lead on these important matters.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who defeated independent James Hinton to win his ninth term:

“I am honored and humbled by our district’s overwhelming show of support. Now that the elections are over, it’s time to move forward – not divided as Republicans and Democrats, but united as Americans – with the common purpose of making sure our country remains a place where everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has the opportunity to get ahead and succeed.

“That is the work in front of us. It cannot wait and it won’t be achieved through divisiveness. It will be achieved by working together. As our district’s representative I am committed to working with anyone from any party to better our country and strengthen the communities I am so privileged to serve.”

From state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who easily defeated Republican Tue Phan in order to succeed Rep. George Miller:

“I am deeply honored and thankful to have earned the confidence and support of the residents of California’s 11th Congressional District: from Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, El Cerrito and Richmond, to Orinda, Brentwood, Antioch, Pittsburg,San Pablo, Danville, and folks from nearly every corner of Contra Costa County.

“As I acknowledged from the inception of my campaign, I have very big shoes to fill, following our widely respected Congressman George Miller’s many decades of public service. I look forward to this challenge and to tackling our nation’s most pressing issues head-on in the years ahead.

“Voters across the 11th district have sent a resounding message tonight that they want common sense solutions to our nation’s biggest issues—not more gridlock. That’s precisely what I’ll bring to Washington.

“Residents in California and across America are fed up with partisan bickering. They want government to work for them. In Congress, I will work to bridge the partisan divide by advancing pragmatic policies that help disadvantaged and average American families.

“I am optimistic about the future and excited to move forward on issues of critical importance, like creating more good paying jobs, growing our middle class, investing in our infrastructure, increasing access to healthcare, enhancing the use of renewable and homegrown energy, improving our education systems, and making the United States a leader in innovation and economic opportunity around the globe.

“Thank you to the voters of the 11th district. I will work hard every day to make you proud and to get things done for our community.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

SD10: Kuo supporters’ flier includes photo of… me

It seems supporters of Peter Kuo, the Republican candidate in the 10th State Senate District, were handing out fliers at the Fremont BART station this morning touting his stance against letting transit workers go on strike:

(Click to enlarge:)
pro-Kuo flier_1_001

I guess their enthusiasm eclipsed their good sense. See that photo in the strip across the top, second from the left? Those aren’t angry commuters – it’s me and my colleague Thomas Peele, as we completed our “Great BART Strike Race of 2013.” The photo, by Bay Area News Group photographer Karl Mondon, was lifted without permission.

“We didn’t create it – it wasn’t even our idea,” Scott Carpenter, Kuo’s communications director, said Wednesday. “There’s a group of supporters that has been volunteering from time to time… and they kind of took it upon themselves to put those out and distribute them.”

Carpenter said those volunteers were probably inspired by an email Kuo sent to his supporters last week reiterating his condemnation of the BART strikes.

“Unions are undermining the very purpose for which BART was created in 1961 – to provide a cost-effective transportation system that enables residents of the region to quickly commute to their place of employment or other desired locations,” Kuo wrote. “I pledge to fight for commuters against the power of unions. Bay Area residents cannot afford to allow BART workers from holding our communities hostage again.”

Kuo, of Santa Clara, is vying with Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, for the Senate seat about to be vacated by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who is term-limited out.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate | 1 Comment »

Money update: SD10, AD15, AD16, AD25 & AD28

The deadline for reporting campaign finance activity from July 1 through Sept. 30 was this week. Here’s a look at how fundraising and spending stacked up in some of the Bay Area’s notable state legislative races:

10th State Senate District – Republican Peter Kuo of Santa Clara reported raising $88,050 and spending $88,772 in the third quarter, leaving him with $45,149 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt – money he has lent his own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, reported raising $125,861 and spending $108,542 in this year’s third quarter, leaving him with $59,423 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. But almost all of that money is already spent: Wieckowski also reported $57,177 in debts.

15th Assembly District – Democrat Elizabeth Echols of Oakland reported raising $205,536 and spending $121,740 in the third quarter, leaving her with $153,480 cash on hand but $61,779 in debts – including $19,500 she lent her own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Democrat Tony Thurmond of Richmond reported raising $184,940 and spending $146,048 in the third quarter, leaving him with $94,425 cash on hand but $37,971 in debts as of Sept. 30.

16th Assembly District – Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin reported raising $157,981 and spending $99,003 during the third quarter, leaving her with $147,625 cash on hand but $13,771 in debt as of Sept. 30. She’s far outraised and outspent by Democrat Tim Sbranti of Dublin, who reported raising $663,842 and spending $531,059 in the third quarter, leaving him with $197,672 cash on hand but $31,988 in debt as of Sept. 30.

25th Assembly District – Democrat Kansen Chu of San Jose reported raising $81,689 and spending $66,209 in the third quarter, leaving him with $57,675 cash on hand but $1,531 in debt as of Sept. 30. Republican Bob Brunton of Fremont has reported no fundraising other than the $8,000 he gave his own campaign in the year’s first quarter.

28th Assembly District – Democrat Evan Low of Campbell reported raising $80,926 and spending $134,723 during the third quarter, leaving him with $259,364 cash on hand but $1,329 in debts as of Sept. 30. Republican Chuck Page of Saratoga reported raising $70,087 and spending $50,728 in the third quarter, leaving him with $22,052 cash on hand but $18,880 in debt – money he loaned his own campaign – as of Sept. 30.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance | No Comments »

‘Nanny state?’ Brown vetoes diaper changing bills

So much for the “nanny state” – Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a pair of bills Friday that would’ve required more diaper changing stations across California.

SB 1350 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would have required the California Building Standards Commission to adopt building standards governing the installation of baby diaper changing stations in places of public accommodation for equal use by men and women. The Senate had passed it 32-0, the Assembly 67-8.

diaper changing stationAnd SB 1358 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required buildings owned or partially owned by state or local governments, as well as certain other private buildings open to the public, to maintain at least one safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station accessible to women and men. The Senate had passed it 29-1, the Assembly passed it 66-11, and the Senate concurred in Assembly amendments 31-2.

Brown nixed them both Friday, issuing a joint veto message.

“At a time when so many have raised concerns about the number of regulations in California, I believe it would be more prudent to leave the matter of diaper changing stations to the private sector,” he wrote. “Already many businesses have taken steps to accommodate their customers in this regard.”

“This may be a good business practice, but not one that I am inclined to legislate,” he concluded.

Posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Lois Wolk | No Comments »

Pols want AG to probe CPUC’s ties with PG&E

Peninsula politicians want state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate possible crimes involving the California Public Utilities Commission’s shockingly cozy relationship with PG&E during the agency’s probe of the utility after the deadly 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco; and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane will hold a news conference Friday morning in San Francisco to deliver a letter to Harris.

The latest revelation of emails between CPUC staff and PG&E executives led to the outser of officials at both this week. The utility also disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may have violated PUC rules with emails it sent the agency as recently as January.

E-mails released by PG&E showed that the utility tried to influence the selection of the administrative law judge who would decide how much customers’ rates should go up to pay for required gas pipeline improvements after the 2010 blast killed eight and injured more than 50.

“The letter from Hill, Mullin and Ruane also cites what appear to have been a series of illegal interventions on PG&E’s behalf in the penalty case against PG&E for the explosion in San Bruno perpetrated by the CPUC’s executive director and former general counsel – including pressuring its own attorneys to advocate no penalty in the case, which attorneys felt to be ‘illegal and unethical;’ reassigning the attorneys after they refused to back down; and firing one when he pressed PG&E to produce pipeline safety records,” according to a news release from Hill’s office.

Gov. Jerry Brown offered full-throated support for CPUC President Michael Peevey last month even after an initial disclosure of e-mails related to the San Bruno case.

“I know there’s been a lot of ink poured out on this topic, but I would say he’s a very effective leader, he gets things done” especially on promoting renewable energy, Brown said of Peevey at the time. He went on to describe Peevey as “a strong force,” the likes of which hasn’t held the CPUC’s reins since John Bryson did so during Brown’s second term, from 1979 to 1982.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, Attorney General, California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Kamala Harris, Kevin Mullin | No Comments »

Mike Honda urges Brown to sign Martins Beach bill

Rep. Mike Honda is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would re-open San Mateo County’s Martins Beach, the focus of a fierce battle between a billionaire who closed off the access road and surfers and advocates wanting to reach the beach.

The Legislature last month sent Brown SB 968 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would instruct the State Lands Commission to consider buying Martins Beach Road if it can’t cut a deal with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to voluntarily open access to the coastline near his sprawling property.

“The people of northern California have waited too many years to regain their historical access to Martins Beach,” Honda, D-San Jose, wrote in a letter to Brown dated Thursday. “The State of California has always recognized the importance of open spaces for its citizens and provided them access to the beautiful coasts in the Coastal Act of 1976. We must preserve this treasured public access to our state’s best resources.”

The beach isn’t in Honda’s 17th Congressional District; it’s in Rep. Jackie Speier’s 14th District. But Honda’s office says he’s been “a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career,” advocating for projects throughout the South Bay and Peninsula. (Speier’s office says she “supports public access,” but described no position on SB 968.)

“Protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy – it’s our obligation,” Honda wrote. “In my work, first as a County Supervisor, as a State Assembly member, and finally as a member of Congress I have continually fought to ensure public access to open spaces for all Californians to enjoy – equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value – and one that should be afforded to all, regardless of income.”

Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club will hold a news conference Friday morning outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Brown to sign the bill.

Brown, in a meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board a few days before SB 968 reached his desk, declined to comment on the issue: “I think that topic is being sufficiently contested, it doesn’t need any further comment from me.”

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jerry Hill, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »