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Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ office has continued to see tremendous staff turnover in recent years, and several former staffers say it’s due to a hostile work environment created by her chief of staff.

Nora CamposRecords obtained from the Assembly Rules Committee show that since Campos, D-San Jose, took office at the end of 2010, 46 staffers have started work for her.

About two dozen have left since Chief of Staff Sailaja Rajappan joined the office in November 2012. Former staffers say Rajappan was unduly antagonistic, dressing down aides in front of their peers for failing to meet her often-shifting demands and standards.

“It was stifling and humorless, people always looking over their shoulder, a culture fostered by the chief of staff who actively sowed dissention and division between her own staffers,” said Steven Harmon, a former reporter for this newspaper who served as Campos’ press aide from June 2013 through his firing by Rajappan last month. Harmon said he was given no specific reason for his firing.

“People leave generally to escape the punishing atmosphere, a culture of fear and oppressive management,” he said.

Rajappan said she and Campos would not answer questions by phone or email this week, and unless this story was delayed to accommodate a face-to-face interview with Campos next week, “we don’t have a comment on this situation.”

It’s not the first time Campos’ office has seemed to be in disarray; allegations about her being tough on staff date back to her days on San Jose City Council.

But these new claims come as Campos finds herself somewhat marginalized in the Assembly. Formerly the speaker pro tem – appointed by the speaker to preside over floor sessions – Campos found herself without any leadership post or committee chair as Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reorganized in November. Atkins late last month named Campos as “assistant Democratic leader – external relations,” a title that didn’t exist previously.

And the turnover has consequences for the 27th Assembly District’s constituents, particular when it comes to the skeleton-crewed district office. Each assembly district has approximately 466,000 constituents; Campos’ district office as of last month had two employees, while other Bay Area assembly members have from four to seven district staffers each.

Campos’ Capitol and district staff combined now numbers six or seven.

Three other staffers who left Campos’ office of their own accord in the past two years spoke on condition of anonymity, lest their comments hurt their Capitol or other public-policy careers. One described the office’s atmosphere as “pretty toxic.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | 33 Comments »

SD7: Tom Torlakson endorses Susan Bonilla

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson endorsed Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla on Wednesday in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

Torlakson is the state’s top education official, and used to hold the very same senate seat that Bonilla, D-Concord, now seeks. He’s the first statewide elected official to weigh in on this race, in which the special primary is scheduled for March 17 and the special general for May 19.

“As a classroom teacher and state assemblywoman, Susan Bonilla has dedicated her life to California’s children and our public schools,” Torlakson said. “She has been an important and irreplaceable voice for improving academic standards, putting more students on the path to college, and ensuring every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

Bonilla called Torlakson “a consistent and dedicated champion for public education. Our students and our state have benefited tremendously from his leadership and I’m honored to have his support.”

Vying with Bonilla in this election are former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin, all Democrats. Republican Michaela Hertle dropped out and endorsed Glazer, but her name remains on the ballot.

Asked if he had any comment on Torlakson’s endorsement, Glazer replied, “This is a Buchanan problem, not mine.”

Glazer has burned bridges to much of his own party and the labor unions that support it, first in 2012 by working as a political strategist for the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC – which backed moderate Democrats over more liberal, labor-friendly ones – and again in 2013 by urging a ban on transit-worker strikes.

Posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla, Tom Torlakson | 5 Comments »

Police-community relations hearing set for Tuesday

The state Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees will hold a four-and-a-half-hour joint hearing Tuesday on police-community relations issues that have roiled California and the nation in recent months.

It’s been a hot topic since police shootings including those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August and Tamir Rice in Cleveland last November, and the tremendous protests that followed in cities across the nation. Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco have grappled with tremendous street demonstrations in which most participants were peaceful while a few resorted to property damage and violence.

“Recent tragic events have led to an increased focus on law enforcement practices. The President has put together a task-force to tackle the issue of police practices across the nation, but I am interested in what we can do in California,” said Senate Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. “I look forward to hearing about what data is being collected and how our data collection efforts can be improved. I additionally look forward to learning about innovative programs that have improved relations between the community and law enforcement.”

Hancock’s husband, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, has taken some heat from the community for his police department’s handling of protests late last year.

The hearing’s agenda includes segments on statewide and local law enforcement data collection; “promoting trust and confidence through data;” investigating and prosecuting officer-misconduct allegations; and building trust and confidence between police and the communities they serve. The witness list includes law enforcement officials, community leaders, educators and criminologists from around the state.

Bill Quirk“I believe that this hearing will give us an opportunity to ask hard questions, gain new perspective, and guide us in proposing effective solutions to rebuilding trust,” said Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.

The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4203 of the State Capitol; it’s expected to be broadcast live on the California Channel and audio of the proceedings will be streamed on the State Senate’s website.

Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Bill Quirk, California State Senate, Civil liberties, Loni Hancock, Public safety | 2 Comments »

SD7: The money and endorsements update

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla has more money banked for the 7th State Senate District special election than any of her competitors, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.

Susan BonillaBonilla, D-Concord, reported $239,317.45 cash on hand with $1,323.41 in debts yet to be paid
as of Jan. 31; most of her money was transferred over either from her 2014 Assembly campaign committee, or from the committee she’d launched to seek this seat in 2016 (before this special election was called). Among the bigger new contributors to this latest campaign are the Peace Officers Research Association of California PAC ($8,500); New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. ($4,200); Florida-based Southern Wine and Spirits of America Inc. ($4,200); and Assemblymen Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa ($4,200 each).

Since filing that report, Bonilla on Tuesday collected $4,200 from the California Society of Anesthesiologists’ PAC and $4,200 from the California Ambulatory Surgery Association PAC.

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, had $147,548.35 cash on hand but $45,110.45 in debts yet to be paid as of Jan. 31; most of her money was transferred over from her 2012 Assembly campaign committee. But since filing that report, Buchanan received $8,200 on Monday from the California Teachers Association’s Association for Better Citizenship political fund.

Michelle Henry, Buchanan’s campaign manager, said Buchanan’s campaign kickoff on Thursday night was well-attended, the money is flowing in, and the polling looks good.

“We are confident that we will have the resources to successfully communicate with voters about our positive campaign through Election Day,” Henry said. “We will not be responding to other campaigns’ self-serving comparisons, and Joan has said repeatedly that she is running a positive-only campaign”

Steve GlazerOrinda Mayor Steve Glazer, also a Democrat, reported $20,863.96 cash on hand with no debts as of Jan. 31. That includes $10,000 over from his 2014 Assembly campaign committee. The single biggest new contribution he received was $4,200 from Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a political action supporting centrist Democrats; the PAC’s biggest donors in 2014 were Chevron, PG&E, the California Credit Union League, and AT&T.

UPDATE @ 1:13 P.M. MONDAY: Apparently Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy is hedging its bets – it also gave $4,200 to Bonilla and $4,200 to Buchanan.

Since filing the report, Glazer this week collected $8,400 from David and Carla Crane of San Francisco; David Crane – formerly an economic adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a UC regent – is cofounder of Govern for California, a group that supports “courageous state legislators who put the interests of their fellow citizens ahead of personal, party or special interests.” Other big contributions to Glazer this week included $4,200 from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Thomas Layton of Palo Alto and $4,200 from Maryett Thompson of Orinda.

Glazer noted Friday that he entered the race later, and so had less time to raise funds, than Bonilla or Buchanan.

“I am surprised that Bonilla thinks that all of this fundraising from Sacramento special interests is worth touting,” he added. “I urge her to release her answers to the secret questionnaires that many of these groups require before they will contribute. I would also encourage her to back my plan to ban all fundraising during the final 60 days of each legislative session.”

Democrat Terry Kremin, a two-time Concord City Council candidate, reported no fundraising.

The special primary will be held March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the primary vote, the special general election will be held May 19.

Follow after the jump for a rundown of the endorsements made in this race in the past week…
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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 5 Comments »

SD7: No, Alameda Co. GOP didn’t endorse Glazer

I just received a call from Alameda County Republican Party Chairwoman Lori Drake of Dublin and county GOP treasurer Jeff Wald of Fremont asking that I clarify that the county party has not endorsed centrist Democrat Steve Glazer in the 7th State Senate District special election.

They wanted to make sure nobody was left with the wrong impression from a story I wrote earlier this week about how Michaela Hertle – an alternate county GOP committeewoman from Pleasanton and the only Republican to file as a candidate in the SD7 race – had dropped out and endorsed Glazer.

In that story, I quoted Patrick McGarrity – spokesman for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who also is seeking the senate seat – as saying Bonilla is the Democratic Party’s choice while “Steve Glazer is the choice of delegates from the Alameda County Republican Party.”

I then tweeted out a link to the story Monday evening that said, “#SD7 As @MichaelaHertle drops out/endorses @Steve_Glazer, @ASMSusanBonilla’s camp says Glazer is @AlamedaGOP’s pick.”

So, consider this clarified: Steve Glazer is the pick of the only Republican who had been in the race, but not of the Alameda County Republican Central Committee.

Drake declined to comment just now when I asked her what she thought of Hertle’s leaving the race and endorsing Glazer.

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Republican Party | 7 Comments »

SD7: California Democratic Party endorses Bonilla

The California Democratic Party has endorsed Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

Susan BonillaBonilla, D-Concord, issued a news release Saturday announcing the decision had been made at a local endorsing caucus, made up of Democrats living in the senate district and convened by the state party. Bonilla said she got 87 out of 119 votes cast – that’s 73 percent, well above the 60 percent needed for an endorsement.

“I’m proud to have the support of local Democrats and the California Democratic Party,” Bonilla said in her release. “As a lifelong Democrat, this endorsement is deeply meaningful to me. I’m proud to be our party’s standard-bearer in the March 17th Primary.”

It’s not such great news for former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, the other prominent Democrat in the race. Michelle Henry, Buchanan’s campaign manager, said via email Saturday that Buchanan is “very proud to have received the support and endorsements of so many of the local Democratic Clubs in SD 7 – the TriValley Democratic Club, Democrats of Rossmoor and the Diablo Valley Democratic Club – as well as nearly 80 locally elected individuals.”

Bonilla picked up the Concord Democratic Club’s endorsement this past week, and generally has picked up more prominent endorsements than Buchanan, including that of the person they hope to succeed, now-Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, also a Democrat, is in the race but has burned enough bridges with his party – and with the unions that play so prominent a role in it – that he stood no chance of getting the state party’s endorsement. The fourth Democrat in the race is Terry Kremin of Concord, a relative unknown who ran for city council in 2010. The race’s lone Republican is Michaela Hertle, a cloud-computing businesswoman from Pleasanton.

UPDATE @ 4:50 P.M.: Concord City Councilman Edi Birsan posted this on his Facebook page Saturday:

Edi BirsanPolitics- Just came from the Democratic Party pre-endorsement vote. The local County Central Committee voted as best as I can tell 13-6 or 8 for Joan Buchanan over Susan Bonilla. BUT there is a rule in the Democratic Party state by laws that allows for any state legislator can have 2 votes in any such endorsement election if their ‘proxy’ lives in the district. So as a result all the outside Democrat legislators from San Diego to the Oregon border can be pressured to have their ‘proxy’ provided by the candidate(s) cast votes. The final count was Bonilla (a current legislator) 87 vs 29 for Buchannan (past legislator) and 3 for No Endorsement. Thus with 73.2% of the vote Bonilla got the party endorsement.

NOW, what makes this interesting even more, is that this procedure (having outside legislators cast votes using designated proxy’s) has been greatly discredited and has already been removed from the Party By-Laws, but it does not take place till May June, so this may be the last endorsement done under these rules. The primary election is March 17.

Politics, the most expensive form of entertainment our tax dollars are forced to buy.

Posted on Saturday, January 31st, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla | 6 Comments »

Taking sides: This week’s endorsement roundup

We’ve got a few hot races to watch even though it’s January of an off year (as if we have any off years anymore), and the endorsements have been coming hot and heavy this week.

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U.S. Senate 2016

Kamala Harris (D) – Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson (1/26); Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael (1/27); Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey (1/27); San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (1/28); Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (1/29); Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (1/30)

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7th State Senate District special election

Susan Bonilla (D) – AFSCME Council 57 and Local 2700 (1/26); International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (1/27); California Professional Firefighters (1/28); Concord Democratic Club (1/29)

Joan Buchanan (D) – California Teachers Association (1/27)

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Follow after the jump for a few thoughts on these…
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Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Kamala Harris, Susan Bonilla, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Jerry Brown proclaims today ‘Fred Korematsu Day’

Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a proclamation deeming Friday a day for celebration of an East Bay hero:

When Fred T. Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, President Clinton said that “in the long history of our country’s constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls — Plessy, Brown, Parks. To that distinguished list today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.”

Fred Korematsu was, in the best sense of both words, an ordinary hero. A native Californian, born and raised in Oakland and a welder by trade, he simply refused to accept his government’s order to relocate under the brutal and misguided policy of Japanese-American internment during World War II. Korematsu’s staunch determination to be treated like the loyal American citizen he was came to define his life story, in both his decades-long legal battle against internment and his later recognition as a leader in the cause of civil rights. On this 96th anniversary of his birth, we remember him as one who resisted injustice during a dark chapter in our nation’s history, and later worked tirelessly to prevent its repetition.

NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim January 30th 2015, as “Fred Korematsu Day.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 30th day of January 2015.

Actor, activist and social-media phenomenon George Takei – who as a child was interned with his family in a relocation camp – will keynote the 5th Annual Fred Korematsu Day Celebration at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the City Arts and Lectures-Nourse Theatre in San Francisco.

Some Bay Area folks were tweeting on Korematsu today:

Also, California isn’t the only state to mark this day, and some would like to see this made a national holiday.

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015
Under: Civil liberties, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Bill would raise California’s smoking age to 21

California’s legal minimum age for smoking would rise from 18 to 21 under a newly introduced state Senate Bill.

“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a news release issued Thursday. “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them. That is why I believe we need legislation like SB 151.”

“We need to wake up and stop making it so easy for tobacco companies to poison generation after generation of Californians,” said Hernandez, who chairs the Senate Health Committee.

Though smoking generally is on the decline, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States with 480,000 people dying each year, including 40,000 from effects of secondhand smoke, Hernandez noted. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports tobacco use kills more people per year than alcohol, murders, illegal drugs, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents combined.

California would be the first state to raise the minimum age so high. The legal minimum age to buy tobacco products is 18 in 46 states; Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah have raised it to 19, as have New York’s Onondaga and Nassau counties and some Massachusetts towns. The minimum age is 21 in New York City; New York’s Suffolk County; Evanston, Ill.; Columbia, Mo.; Englewood, N.J., Hawaii County, Hawaii; and several Massachusetts towns.

Tim Gibbs, senior director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said raising the legal age to 21 “will help get tobacco out of the hands of teenagers when they are young and most vulnerable to the tobacco industry’s predatory model of recruiting lifetime addicts.”

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Under: California State Senate | 2 Comments »

San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Nora Campos | No Comments »