Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'California State Senate' Category

CA15: Swalwell sits pretty as rivals fight for 2nd

As of now, Rep. Eric Swalwell has taken 49.2 percent of the 15th Congressional District’s vote with Republican Hugh Bussell 25.9 percent and state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett at 24.9 percent.

And that looks a recipe for Swalwell’s second term.

Bussell, the Alameda County GOP vice chairman from Livermore, leads Corbett, D-Hayward, by only about 600 votes, too small a margin to call which one of them will make it into the top two. In Alameda County, which includes the lion’s share of the district, the registrar still must review and/or count about 64,000 vote-by-mail ballots plus about 8,000 provisional ballots countywide. Likewise, Contra Costa County has as many as 50,000 more ballots to count.

The district’s voters are 48 percent Democrats, 22 percent Republicans and 21 percent nonpartisans. Swalwell, D-Dublin, built a Democrat-nonpartisan bloc – with a few Republicans too, probably – to dominate the middle of the field and crowd Corbett to one side; by drawing almost half the vote, he left her no room to maneuver beyond her liberal, labor-backed, Democratic base.

Bussell seemed happy Wednesday, and rightly so – his share of the vote slightly exceeded his party’s registration. But he’s probably too smart and well-versed to believe in his heart that if he gets to November, he can win.

Few who voted for Corbett will vote for him; they’ll vote either for Swalwell or not at all. And Bussell can expect no monetary aid from the state GOP, the National Republican Congressional Committee or other party entities, who’ll be focused on winnable races; he had about $3,200 cash on hand to Swalwell’s $697,000 as of mid-May.

“It’s a very steep hill to climb,” he acknowledged Wednesday. “On the other hand, as people take notice that there’s a Republican in the race, they may take a closer look at what I stand for … and Eric might find some of his support falling away as well.”

If Corbett edges out Bussell, it’s hard to imagine Bussell voters pivoting to support her instead of Swalwell – she argues Swalwell isn’t liberal enough for the district. And if her support from labor unions only just barely gets her into the top two this week, it’s hard to see how they can suddenly push her to victory in the larger-turnout, less ideological electorate we’ll see in November.

Corbett was enduring the primary cliffhanger stoically Wednesday.

“I called Mr. Swalwell this morning and wished him well and congratulated him in coming in first,” she said. “But we’re just going to have to wait for the votes to be counted … We’ll see how that goes.”

Bussell agreed. “I’m guardedly optimistic. At some level, it’s just fantastic we’re even at this point.”

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Leland Yee placed 3rd for Sec’y of State. Really.

Leland Yee, the Democratic state Senator from San Francisco indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking bribes and conspiring to broker an international arms deal, finished third in a field of eight candidates for Secretary of State in Tuesday’s primary.

Leland Yee (photo by Karl Mondon)No, really. As of now, 287,590 votes have been counted for Yee – a number that will rise at least slightly as registrars around the state tally the final wave of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. Yee had announced he was dropping out of the race to be California’s top elections and political transparency watchdog right after he was charged with crimes that could put him in prison for life, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

My first takeaway is that it sucks to be one of the five candidates who came in behind him. I’d call and ask them, but I’ll have mercy; if I were one of them, I’d be hung over for days and not taking calls.

I see a few possible explanations for Yee’s strong finish, and I suppose it’s probably a mix of several:

    1.) Some voters have a perverse sense of humor, and don’t care much who the Secretary of State will be, anyway.
    3.) Some voters live under rocks, without access to the internet, radio, television or newspapers. Then again, he still came in third in San Francisco, where news of his arrest and indictment was practically inescapable.

That point leads to my second takeaway, which is that the real winner in this primary election is James Lassart, Yee’s attorney. He must feel at least a little better today about his future prospects in picking a jury.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Leland Yee, Secretary of State | 13 Comments »

SD10: Hayashi launches ‘FrackBob.com’ site

Democratic former assemblywoman Mary Hayashi of Hayward has launched another website against her main rival for the 10th State Senate District seat, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont.

The new “FrackBob.com” site calls attention to Wieckowski’s opposition to a moratorium on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing – the use of pressurized water to break rock formations and free the oil or gas within.

It goes hand-in-hand with a mailer that landed in district voters’ mailboxes this week, and coincides with the failure of a state Senate bill that would’ve imposed just such a moratorium.

Hayashi fracking mailer_1

Hayashi fracking mailer_2

Hayashi’s website features an embedded, brief video clip of Wieckowski, at the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board meeting, saying he doesn’t support a moratorium. But here’s Wieckowski’s full answer to the question:

“I do not support the ban on fracking. As everyone knows, I introduced the first bill to bring transparency to the issue of what was going on with fracking. I spent three years of my life working on two bills that were defeated by a combination of the oil companies and the environmentalists.

“And what we have now as a result of that work, we have regulations that were promulgated that will provide for pre-notification to landowners, disclosure of how much water is being used, disclosure of where the water is going, monitoring of the wellheads after, a website that goes up, complete disclosure of the chemicals that are used in the frack, and also – if you claim ‘trade secret’ – we created a private right of action for any citizen that would be affected by that, if the executive director of DOGGR [Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources] did not challenge the trade secret claim.

“Those are the regulations. That brings transparency so we know what is going on. I’m proud of that.”

Hayashi’s website and mailer say Wieckowski “supports fracking in the Bay Area.” I don’t see that he ever has said anything about this specific region, so I assume Hayashi is concluding that if he doesn’t support a fracking moratorium, he by extension must support fracking anywhere.

“The reality is, there is no oil in the Bay Area, so fracking in the Bay Area would not be happening,” Wieckowski campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said Thursday, adding that California now has the “toughest disclosure law in the country” as a result of Wieckowski’s earlier legislation. “Like all of their communications against Bob, it’s disingenuous and it’s just part of the story.”

The website also features a sound file of a robocall from “Theresa, a longtime Sierra Club member and a lifetime environmentalist” who criticizes Wieckowski’s position. Michelle Myers, director of the club’s Bay Area chapter, said Thursday she has heard from some members who were confused by or concerned about the call.

“We did not make an endorsement in that race,” Myers said, describing the caller’s self-identification “a tactic used by the campaign to identify themselves with the Sierra Club brand, and that is not appropriate.”

At least this website and mailer deal with a real issue on which the candidates have a real difference of opinion. Most of the nasty mailers, ads and websites in this race have either been about Hayashi’s 2012 shoplifting conviction, for which she remains on probation, or Hayashi’s claim that Wieckowski “protected rapists” by voting against a certain bill in committee in 2012, even though he later voted for an amended version on the Assembly floor.

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 29 Comments »

Senate OKs bill to require warning labels on soda

The state Senate voted 21-13 Thursday to approve a bill that would require warning labels on the front of all bottles and cans of soda and other sugary drinks sold in California.

sodaSB 1000 by state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, now goes to the Assembly. If it eventually becomes law, all sugary drink containers would display a warning label – developed by a national panel of nutrition and public health experts – by July 1, 2015, reading: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“Today’s vote is a major step toward warning people about the profoundly harmful effects of consuming liquid sugar,” Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a sponsor of the bill, said in a news release. “SB 1000 supports consumers’ right to know the facts about diabetes, undiluted by beverage industry spin.”

The bill’s supporters say overwhelming scientific research shows that liquid sugar is uniquely harmful because it gets absorbed so quickly – much faster than solid food – overloading the pancreas and causing the liver to store the sugar as fat, leading to fatty liver disease. This contributes directly to diabetes, which has tripled in the U.S. over the last 30 years.

The California-Nevada Beverage Association issued a statement Thursday saying that “putting government warning labels on more than 500 beverages will do nothing to change personal behaviors or teach people about healthy lifestyles. The last thing California needs is more warning labels. Senate Bill 1000 will only feed the confusion surrounding hundreds of beverages without changing personal habits.”

Foes of the bill say the state shouldn’t waste time and money as the federal Food and Drug Administration undertakes its first major nutrition-label update in 20 years. They also say the bill has confusing exemptions, and obesity and diabetes have many risk factors such as genetics, age, stress and even lack of sleep.

But a recent Field Poll found 74 percent of California voters, including a majority of Republicans and independents, support warning labels on sugary drinks.

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: Bill Monning, California State Senate | 2 Comments »

Senate OKs bills inspired by care-home fiasco

The state Senate on Wednesday approved two bills that aim to prevent future snafus like that which led to more than a dozen senior citizens being abandoned at a Castro Valley residential care home in October after the state ordered it shut down.

SB 894 aims to strengthen and clarify the obligations of the California Department of Social Services and a licensee when that license is suspended or revoked, to ensure safe relocation of residents when a facility closure happens. The senate approved this bill on a 27-8 vote.

And SB 895 aims to bolster the assisted-living facility inspection process by requiring that unannounced, comprehensive inspections of all residential care facilities for the elderly occur at least once per year, and more often if necessary to ensure the proper quality of care. The senate approved this bill on a 36-0 vote.

In the 1970s and 1980s, DSS’ Community Care Licensing Division inspected residential care facilities twice a year. But budget cuts reduced that number to once a year in the 1990s, and inspections were reduced further in 2004 to once every five years.

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, authored both bills, which are part of a legislative package sponsored by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

“Following the tragedy at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley last year, it is clear that assisted living facility residents deserve improved protections and safeguards that ensure they will remain safe both while living at those facilities, as well as if and when those group residences are closed,” Corbett said in a news release Wednesday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett | No Comments »

CA15: Corbett says Swalwell mail is ‘based on lies’

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is seeing red over a new campaign mailer from Rep. Eric Swalwell that takes liberties with her legislative attendance record.

The mailer Swalwell, D-Dublin, sent to 15th Congressional District voters doubles down on claims, previously made in a mailer and television ad two weeks ago, that Corbett, D-Hayward, missed 949 votes in the Legislature; pocketed $32,000 in per diem expenses for days she didn’t show up; and accepted her $95,000 annual salary in the Senate.

Click to enlarge:
Corbett attendance back

Corbett attendance front

Swalwell’s campaign provided an opposition research memo it says backs up the claims – but that memo notes Corbett has a 97 percent attendance record in the Senate and a 98 percent attendance rate in the Assembly. Remember, she has served in the Legislature for 14 years.

Also, most of the absences for which she allegedly claimed per diem pay was for “legislative business” on days in which there were no votes taken.

And above all that, “there are serious discrepancies in this opposition research, there are days I did not take per diem and they say that I did,” Corbett said Wednesday. “This is all very tightly controlled – you must be present to receive per diem or you must be on legislative business, and records are kept.”

Even were all those absences accurate, a 97- to 98-percent attendance rate is nothing to sneeze at, she said. “Their own research tells you that I have an excellent attendance record, that I do work hard. … They are making false allegations, there are blatant lies.”

Corbett said Swalwell “will say anything to get elected, and that’s the worst kind of politician; his own research proves that this campaign mailing is based on lies.” She accused him of adhering to the age-old campaign strategy that “if you don’t have your own strong record to talk about, then you say false things about your opponent. I’ve seen it time and time again, it’s very disappointing.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »

CA15: No, Swalwell didn’t vote for Ryan’s budget

State Sen. Ellen Corbett tells a bit of tall tale in one of her latest mailers attacking fellow Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell, whom she’s trying to unseat in the 15th Congressional District.

The mailer’s front offers check-boxes for “Paul Ryan’s Republican Budget” and the “House Progressive Caucus Budget,” and asks, “Which one did Eric Swalwell choose?” Inside, the mailer claims Swalwell chose “Paul Ryan’s Radical Republican Budget.”

Click to enlarge:
Corbett mailer - front

Corbett mailer - inside top

Corbett mailer - inside bottom

Corbett mailer - back

The mailer details the Spring 2013 budget battle in which House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., offered a conservative budget, while liberal Democrats offered their own alternatives.

“On March 20, 2013, the House of Representatives voted on a motion to replace the Ryan budget with the House Progressive ‘Back to Work Budget.’ How did our Representative vote? Eric Swalwell voted with Paul Ryan – and against the Progressive Budget!” Corbett’s mailer reads. “The same day, Swalwell voted against an alternative by the Congressional Black Caucus that would also have protected vital services.”

“Eric Swalwell says he represents Democratic values, but when forced to choose between Paul Ryan and House Progressives, he made the wrong choice,” the mailer concludes.

Except Swalwell did NOT vote for the Ryan budget.

It’s true that Swalwell voted against the House Progressive Caucus Budget, which failed on an 84-327 vote. In the Bay Area, only the most consistently liberal members voted for it: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

Joining Swalwell in voting against it were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Mike Thompson, D-Napa, didn’t vote.

And the Congressional Black Caucus’ proposed budget failed on a 105-305 vote, with the Bay Area’s delegation all voting the same way as on the progressive caucus budget except for Pelosi, who didn’t vote.

But when it came time to vote on Ryan’s budget the next day, not a single Democrat voted for it; it passed on a 221-207 vote.

Clearly Corbett identifies with the Bay Area’s most liberal voices, the Lee/Honda/Huffman/Farr camp, while Swalwell sided with what passes for moderates in this region (though the rest of the nation would probably take issue with calling Pelosi, Speier, Lofgren and such “moderate”).

However, to say Swalwell chose “Paul Ryan’s radical Republican budget” is simply not true.

UPDATE @ 11:56 A.M.: I neglected to mention that Swalwell and every other Bay Area Democrat (except Miller, who didn’t vote) supported the mainstream Democratic alternative budget that was put forth during that March 2013 budget fight; it failed on a 165-253 vote.

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 54 Comments »

Longtime lawmaker John Vasconcellos is ailing

Longtime South Bay lawmaker John Vasconcellos is ailing, friends say.

Vasconcellos, 82, has been hospitalized at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, but will probably be moved to his Santa Clara condo Friday or Saturday at his request for end-of-life hospice care. Relatives reportedly are planning a farewell celebration in which he can participate.

vasconcellos tweet

Vasconcellos, a Democrat, served in the Assembly from 1967 to 1996 and in the state Senate from 1996 to 2004, making him the longest-serving legislator in California’s history. His long chairmanship of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee – later renamed the Appropriations Committee – made him one of Sacramento’s foremost budget wonks, but he also championed causes such as voting rights for teenagers, medical marijuana and self-esteem.

In 2002 he founded the Vasconcellos Legacy Project “to counter the cynicism that was poisoning our political discourse. The VLP was dedicated to the proposition that positive political change is possible, especially because we human beings are innately inclined toward the good.” The project’s “Politics of Trust” initiative seeks to replace society’s partisan, gridlocked, dysfunctional politics with a new model “based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision.”

Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 1 Comment »

CA17: Honda has more cash on hand than Khanna

Rep. Mike Honda’s re-election campaign now has a slight cash-on-hand edge over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna’s, pointing to a more level playing field this summer and fall should the two of them finish on top in the June 3 primary.

honda.jpgNew reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission for the 17th Congressional District race show Honda’s campaign had $1,038,360 cash on hand with $64,984 in debts as of May 14, while Khanna’s campaign had $1,009,673 cash on hand with $185,123 in debts.

Also, Honda’s campaign has reported raising $36,100 in contributions of $1,000 or more each since May 14, and while Khanna’s has reported $16,000 in such contributions.

Khanna over the course of this election cycle has raised about $3.8 million and spent about $2.7 million, while Honda has raised about $2.1 million and spent about $1.2 million.

“The fact that Khanna’s campaign feels the need to spend $3 million just to make it into the general election means that Ro Khanna is still not getting any traction with voters, while he is quickly running out of resources,” said Doug Greven, Honda’s campaign manager. “Voters overwhelmingly prefer Congressman Honda and want him to continue his record of delivering for the district, and our campaign will continue to save our resources to communicate that message to voters in the general election.”

Honda’s campaign believes that his incumbency and name recognition will tilt things in his favor between the primary and general elections if he and Khanna have roughly the same money to spend on advertising; Honda also is counting on greater turnout in November to bring him more votes.

Ro KhannaBut Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said he’s sure “no one is surprised that we made smart investments with our resources ahead of the primary.”

“It’s what helped us reach out to over 240,000 voters, hold 173 meet-and-greets, and introduce Ro on both TV and mail,” Law said. “Ro has built an unparalleled grassroots organization, received every major newspaper endorsement, and stuck to talking about the issues that really matter. Frankly, the Honda campaign wouldn’t have avoided all debates and wouldn’t be paying to spread false attacks about Ro if they were confident in their standing with the voters.”

Republican Vanila Singh’s pre-primary report could not be found on the FEC’s website Thursday afternoon. Republican Joel VanLandingham has not raised any money for his campaign.

Meanwhile, in the 15th Congressional District, Rep. Eric Swalwell maintains his solid fundraising lead over fellow Democrat Ellen Corbett and Republican Hugh Bussell.

Swalwell’s campaign had $696,587 cash on hand with no debts as of May 14; Corbett’s campaign had $116,033 cash on hand and $18,000 in debts; and Bussell’s campaign had $3,236 cash on hand and $1,740 in debt – a loan he made to his own campaign.

Swalwell over the course of this election cycle has raised about $1.5 million and spent about $830,000; Corbett has raised about $386,000 and spent about $270,000; and Bussell has rasied $4,300 and spent about $2,800.

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 11 Comments »