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, 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.”
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.
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.
But 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.
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.
Lupe Schoenberger from Mark DeSaulnier’s congressional campaign called this morning to dispute my story’s assertion that DeSaulnier wants to cut off federal funding for high-speed rail.
She said he supports such funding but he believes the project needs to be radically reworked so that it starts in densely populated areas with rider safety upgrades and track improvements and then spreads into the Central Valley, rather than vice versa.
Here’s video and a transcript of what DeSaulnier said when asked at our editorial board meeting a few weeks ago whether he supports federal funding for California’s high-speed rail, starting at approximately 38:35:
“No, not as it’s currently construed. As you know I was one of four Democrats who voted against authorizing our bond moneys to match the federal funds. As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I’ve been very involved in this, I’m currently meeting with the plaintiffs in the state lawsuit, I’ve tried to engage the governor and the administration to see if we can fix what is very seriously broken.
“It’s a huge boondoggle, in my view; it’s going to suck the air out of the state budget. I’ve met, I’ve been in multiple meetings with Secretary LaHood leading up to this, and Secretary Lahood – the ranking person, the Secretary of Transportation during most of the Obama Administration – told me that they were going to come up with a third of the money for the overall program which is now $68 billion, but we’ve been told by experts it will probably be two to three times that. The federal government doesn’t have the funding for it. Representative Denham, a former colleague of mine in the senate, a Republican, has moved to take the money back – we’re in danger of having to pay money back for an isolated facility that will never give real function to the state of California.
“So I’m very engaged in it, I believe in a world-class passenger rail system over the next 30 to 50 years in California, but we’re doing it the exact opposite of every other industrialized country. Japan has the best model, I’ve talked with them…”
It seems clear that DeSaulnier does oppose federal funding for this high-speed rail project, the one California is actually implementing, though he might support such funding for some other version that he agrees with.
DeSaulnier in 2012 advocated an alternate high-speed rail plan that focused first on big commuter rail upgrades in greater Los Angeles and the Bay Area, but the Legislature rejected it as experts said adopting such a plan probably would lead to the federal government diverting its funding to other states. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg had to use significant muscle to get enough votes to win final approval for the existing plan after DeSaulnier and a few other Democrats vowed to oppose it.
DeSaulnier said in February 2013 that he was “still looking for Plan B” on high-speed rail, and he and other senators also questioned whether the state could build the bullet train without neglecting other, badly needed transportation work, such as highway reconstruction.
Rep. Eric Swalwell has sent out an attack mailer and begun airing a matching television commercial that take his Democratic rival, state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, to task for allegedly “gaming the system” by taking pay and perks she hasn’t earned.
“Ellen Corbett missed 949 votes, but she always pocketed the paychecks and perks,” the mailer says. “Corbett gamed the system and collected $32,000 in per diem pay for days she never bothered to show up! Despite her failure to vote, she always found time to cash her $95,000 taxpayer funded paycheck. Now Corbett expects a promotion?”
The mailer also claims Corbett, D-San Leandro, accepted taxpayer-funded cars worth $75,000; bought office furniture worth $67,000 while serving as San Leandro’s mayor; and took trips to Maui, India and Spain. The TV ad reiterates all this, and ends with Swalwell, D-Dublin, saying he approves the message “because I know being your representative is a full-time job.”
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“There’s no gaming of the system. People know my work ethic as a legislator, they knew my work ethic as a mayor and councilmember – I’m someone who’s very hard-working and I take my job seriously,” Corbett responded Friday.
“It’s really disappointing that Eric Swalwell is just a typical politician who’s willing to say or do anything to get elected,” she said. “It shows he has no regard for the truth, he’s willing to put his election before his integrity and his honesty – he’s not the breath of fresh air that people think he is.”
Corbett said she has cast about 43,000 votes during her 14 years in the Legislature.
“I have near-perfect attendance, I have missed a handful of days for sickness or family sickness,” she said, adding she raised her son as a single mom. “From time to time there are votes I’ve abstained on, but I was present … Nobody gets paid per diem unless they actually check in for the session, so we are physically present.”
It’s a rare “Kum-Ba-Yah” day under the State Capitol dome, as the Legislature in unanimously approved a new ballot measure to modify the state budget’s rainy-day fund.
The proposal voters will consider in November would double the reserve’s size from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund; the state would set aside 1.5 percent of the general fund each year, and supplement that with extra capital-gains revenue. For the next 15 years, half of what’s set aside would help pay down the state’s debt and unfunded liabilities, including public employee pensions and retiree health care.
The votes were 75-0 in the Assembly and 36-0 in the state Senate.
“This compromise agreement between legislative leaders of both parties and the Governor balances the needs of fiscal stability and planning for the future. It will help attenuate cuts in vital services during economic downturns, aggressively pay down state liabilities and indebtedness, and still maintain the room that we need for investing in California and its people. This is a formula we should embrace not only in the future, but also for the 2014-15 State Budget we’re negotiating now.”
“We always must have a balance. I have long believed we should approach budgeting in a way people can readily understand; one-third of our excess revenue to pay down debt, one-third to put away for a ‘rainy day,’ and one-third left to invest and reinvest in California and its people. By using this agreement as our approach in debating the upcoming budget, we can make sure there is room left for some investment to meet the needs of our children and families who are still struggling to recover from the cuts we were forced to make during the recession.”
“I think it demonstrates to the people of California that when you have a robust bipartisan discussion, you can make things better because we all bring something to the table… To that end, we wanted to make sure that it’s truly a rainy day fund, and not an everyday fund.”
“Following today’s bipartisan vote in the California State Senate, I am pleased that legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle voted to affirm this important Rainy Day Fund proposal that seeks to ensure greater long term economic security for California. Our state can and should save for the future so that we can minimize the potential for future drastic cuts to education, health, human services and other critical programs, while also paying down debt. This new reserve fund, if approved by voters, will be an important step to help secure California’s economic future.”
“California’s economy is one of the largest in the world and is certainly an important driving force within the United States. It makes sense for state elected officials to support efforts that will continue to encourage California’s growth and future economic strength. Just as families must prepare for unexpected job losses or expenses, so too must the state prudently prepare for if and when another recession occurs.”
“This is exactly why I came to Sacramento – to work on bipartisan measures that benefit the people of California. I hope this is the first of many historic agreements. Let this be an example of how we can work across the aisle on a water bond.”
From Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, D-Los Angeles:
“This is a strong proposal for the voters to consider, and I am very proud of the work we have done on a bipartisan basis to take another monumental step forward in making California a model for fiscal responsibility across the country. By putting a genuine Rainy Day Fund before the voters, we can break the bad habits of the past where we overspend in good years and overcut in tough years, and this measure will ensure that we maintain the health of California’s finances in the years to come.”
The mailers note Wieckowski was the lone vote against a bill – AB 1522 of 2012 – to protect people sexually assaulted by their spouses. The bill required that if a spouse is convicted of a violent sexual felony against the other spouse and the couple divorces within five years, the injured spouse can’t be made to pay any spousal support or attorney’s fees, and is entitled to keep all of his/her own retirement and pension benefits.
Wieckowski voted against the bill in committee because he had concerns about mixing criminal and civil court cases, but those concerns were addressed by the time of the final floor vote, campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said last week.
Hayashi’s campaign put out its own mailer this week claiming Wieckowski “will say or do anything for his political agenda,” citing various media sources. More about that, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »
State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, has a new mailer in the field for her bid to unseat Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, taking aim at the freshman congressman’s experience and bona fides.
The mailer contrast “Eric Swalwell – not ready for Congress” – with less than one Dublin City Council term prior to his 2012 election to the House, his pro-development votes on that council, the Republican votes he took in his 2012 election, and his lowest ranking among Bay Area liberals from the National Journal – to “Ellen Corbett – 2 decades of leadership on progressive Democratic issues,” from her time as a San Leandro councilwoman and mayor to three terms in the Assembly and two in the state Senate.
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Corbett appears to be off the mark in concluding that “of the 10 Democrats representing the Bay Area, Swalwell has, by far, the worst record on progressive issues.” According to the National Journal’s 2013 vote rankings, both Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, came in less liberal/more conservative than Swalwell.
And Corbett’s mailer says “Swalwell is supported by the Washington, D.C. Democratic Party leadership” while Corbett “is endorsed by our local Democratic Clubs, representing grassroots, progressive activists here in our community.” True, though Swalwell won the California Democratic Party’s endorsement as well as those of the Tri-Valley Democratic Club and the Contra Costa Young Democrats – not as many local groups as Corbett lists on her mailer, but grassroots nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Swalwell is holding a fundraiser Wednesday night in San Francisco, headlined by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., with tickets ranging from $50 to $1,000.
UPDATE @ 11:39 A.M.: Corbett is holding a campaign meet-and-greet this Saturday evening, May 17 at the Hayward home of former Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele; it’s billed as an “important conversation about the future of our nation.” And Corbett also is flexing the muscle of her labor-union support, inviting backers to join her for phone banking on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons/evenings at the Alameda County Labor Council office in Oakland and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from the United Food and Commercial Workers hall in Hayward.
UPDATE @ 10:35 P.M.: Corbett takes issue with my analysis.
Corbett also disputed my noting that Swalwell isn’t the most conservative member of the Bay Area delegation. In her email, she provided ratings not only from the National Journal but also from the American Civil Liberties Union, Progressive Punch and Peace Action West which – when averaged together – indicate that he is. “Swalwell is clearly the least progressive member of the Bay Area Congressional caucus,” she wrote.
This may be true, but her mailer cited only the National Journal as a source; by that standard, Swalwell is rated 86th most liberal in the House, Zoe Lofgren is ranked 99th and McNerney is ranked 171st.
“The Governor’s revised budget provides a solid starting point for the final phase of our deliberations. I am particularly pleased the Governor has built upon the framework Assembly Democrats proposed for a STRS solution earlier this year. That, and the Rainy Day Fund we are poised to pass this week, are two great steps forward to ensure California’s economic stability. As we finalize the budget over the next few weeks, we will also look to expand opportunity by combatting child poverty, improving access to higher education, increasing funding for transportation projects, and taking strides to expand affordable housing. Based on the Governor’s May revision and the more than 50 hearings the Assembly has already held, I am confident we are on track for another on-time, balanced budget – one that will help solidify the state’s fiscal position for years to come.”
From State Senate Budget Committee Vice Chair Jim Nielsen, R-Chico:
“The Governor should be commended for proposing to set aside $1.6 billion for the Rainy Day fund; and to pay down $11 billion in debt but this is a mere 3 percent of the state’s $340 billion debt.
“Unfortunately, his budget also includes increased spending on permanent programs that will inevitably take us back to deficit spending.
“More money needs to be set aside for the Rainy Day Fund and for emergencies like wildfires, natural disasters and public safety.
“State revenues are forecast to increase by $2.4 billion. While this appears to be good news, this is a veneer generated by a temporary tax that was promised for education and public safety; and will expire in three years.
“The high speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield is a boondoggle not worthy of precious taxpayers’ dollars.
“In the coming months, the Legislature must rectify the Governor’s failure to help counties protect their citizens by providing more funding for realignment. Counties need money for rehabilitation, inmate housing and supervision, and court costs.
“The administration is releasing the second class of realignment prisoners, making our communities more dangerous. State leaders shouldn’t wait for a catastrophe before we fix this ill-conceived program.”
“Coupled with last week’s bipartisan Rainy Day Fund agreement, today’s budget revision further sets California on track to fiscal health and economic growth so that all Californians may benefit from our state’s improving economy.”
“I praise the Governor’s short and long term commitment to supporting education at all levels, including career technical education at our state’s community colleges and high speed internet access at our K-12 schools that need it the most. California’s future depends largely on our continued investment in today’s students, so we must ensure that California’s education system is strong and offers students the needed preparatory tools to enter an increasingly global and technological job market.”
“I also thank the Governor for committing to help ensure the long term solvency of the teacher pension system. It is critical that we help secure the retirements of California’s educators.”
“I am pleased that the Governor’s revised budget also proposes significantly increased access to health care for millions of Californians through Medi-Cal and Covered California. We must certainly continue to restore the frayed safety net upon which many of my 10th State Senate District constituents rely during these still tough economic times.”
The war in the 10th State Senate District continues, with a poll by Mary Hayashi’s campaign that claims she’s in the lead; an endorsement for Bob Wieckowski that takes a swipe at Hayashi; and labor unions’ second attack mailer focusing on Hayashi’s shoplifting conviction.
Hayashi’s campaign on Friday issued a poll memo saying that a survey of 400 likely voters in the district found 21 percent support Hayashi, 18 percent support Wieckowski, 7 percent support Republican Peter Kuo, 5 percent support Democrat Roman Reed, 2 percent support independent Audie Bock and a whopping 47 percent are undecided. Hayashi’s lead is within the poll’s 4.9-percentage-point margin of error.
“Hayashi has the clearest path to victory of any candidate,” pollsters Celinda Lake and Liesl Newton wrote in the memo. “Furthermore, despite attacks against her, Mary Hayashi’s favorability ratings remain net positive.”
Lisa Tucker, Wieckowski’s campaign consultant, noted the poll was conducted after Hayashi sent out a series of mailers about herself, but while the first negative mailers went out against her (although Wieckowski did launch an attack website against Hayashi more than a week earlier).
“It seems that her investment in trying to rehabilitate herself after her shoplifting conviction, while still serving probation, is not paying off,” Tucker said. “We feel confident that character does matter to voters and that they will reject Mary Hayashi when they learn she was convicted of shoplifting and is seeking public office while still serving probation.”
Hayashi has insisted she was distracted and inadvertently left San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus store with $2,450 worth of clothes in a store-branded shopping bag she had brought with her that day in October 2011. In a deal with prosecutors, the felony grand theft charge against her was reduced to a misdemeanor, to which she pleaded no contest in early 2012.
Meanwhile, Democracy for America, the progressive group founded a decade ago by former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, announced its endorsement of Wieckowski on Monday.
“Primaries can sometimes present tough decisions, especially since California adopted the top two primary. When looking at a choice between a convicted shoplifter and a strong progressive, however, the choice is clear,” DFA digital programs manager Andy Kelley wrote in a fundraising plea for Wieckowski. “Bob Wieckowski is up against a Republican who wants to return the state legislature to the bad old days of gridlock and cuts to the social safety net, and a former Democratic lawmaker who demonstrated her unfitness for office by stealing thousands of dollars of goods from a San Francisco store.”
“Bob Wieckowski will help push California’s politics in a more ethical direction and will stand on principle,” Kelley wrote. “The State Senate has had enough scandal. Bob Wieckowski will bring ethical, progressive leadership and a strong backbone — two things Sacramento needs right now.”
Also Monday, a group of labor unions supporting Wieckowski issued their second attack mailer against Hayashi within a week’s time.
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“If Mary Hayashi can’t go within 50 feet of a Neiman Marcus store … shouldn’t it be the same for the State Senate” the mailer asks, over a photo illustration of Hayashi separated from the State Capitol by what looks like police tape reading “MARY HAYASHI DO NOT ENTER.” On the other side, the mailer repeats the same alleged ethical transgressions as last week’s mailer.
The mailer comes from “Californians for Integrity in Government Opposed to Hayashi for Senate 2014, Sponsored by Peace Officers, Nurses and Labor Organizations.” The committee’s mailing address is that of the California Nurses Association, and the mailer discloses the committee receives “major funding by California State Council of Service Employees Political Committee.”
“Clearly this is in response to the polling that shows Mary is in the lead,” Josh Pulliam, Hayashi’s campaign manager, said Monday. “Apparently Bob and his backers think the only way to beat her is to bully her, to beat up on her” about the shoplifting in order to make voters forget about her lengthy, strong legislative record.
“They don’t want the voters to get a full view of all of the candidates because they know if voters do, they’re going to lose,” Pulliam said. “Bob still hasn’t given anybody a reason to vote for him.”
UPDATE @ 2:17 P.M.: Also, here’s the ad that Kuo’s campaign says it has been airing for several days:
Rep. Eric Swalwell “is working to buy his re-election with taxpayer funds,” his Democratic challenger, state Senator Ellen Corbett, claimed Friday.
Corbett provided an analysis of congressional office spending by Swalwell, D-Dublin, that shows he spent nearly $190,945.09 on taxpayer- funded informational mailers in 2013 – about four times more than the other nine Bay Area House members combined. The figures don’t include the first quarter of this year, in which Swalwell spent more on official mailers.
“This is an outrageous abuse and far, far in excess of anything Swalwell needed to do to provide useful services to the people he serves,” Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in a statement issued Friday. “Voters deserve a representative with a less cavalier attitude about how their tax dollars should be spent.”
Swalwell replied in an e-mailed statement Friday that since taking office, he has “received approximately 73,000 pieces of written mail, e-mail, and phone calls. Our office responds to every person who contacts us, often times with a written, mailed response.
“We have also sent our constituents letters asking for feedback on federal issues, alerting them to services that our office can provide, and informing them of upcoming town halls (we have hosted 14, the most of any Bay Area representative),” he said. “The investment in this correspondence has paid off: through our outreach, we have helped over 1,100 constituents with federal agencies, including returning nearly $1 million to in-district veterans, and saving or returning $100,000 to individuals owed money by Social Security, Medicare, or other agencies. I’m also proud that we did this within our allotted office budget.”