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Snapshot: My meeting with Pete Peterson

Pete Peterson, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, would rather that voters see the “R” after his name as representing “resume.”

Pete Peterson“I have the least partisan resume of anybody” who has sought this office before or since June’s primary election, said Peterson, who runs the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. Peterson will face off in November’s general election against state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys.

Though Peterson is running as a Republican, he said his brand of partisan pride harkens back to when the GOP “was known for its reform-minded perspective on government,” and he believes the secretary of state’s office “definitely should be run in a nonpartisan way.”

Of course, he’s also smart enough to know what the Republican brand means in California, where only 28 percent of voters choose to affiliate with it.

Peterson stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office late Tuesday afternoon before heading to Piedmont, where he was scheduled to do a joint fundraising event with controller candidate and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, hosted by the Lincoln Club of Northern California; tickets cost $300 to attend, $1,000 to co-host or $5,000 to host.

He said it’s the first time he’s done such an event with Swearengin, and while he’s open to doing more events with her and other statewide GOP candidates, “there will be a lot of flying solo out there on the campaign trail” as well.

We talked about his and Padilla’s views on limiting the schedule on which lawmakers can accept campaign contributions – he would ban all contributions during the entire legislative session, Padilla for the last 100 days of each session – but he confessed he doesn’t think it’s a major issue. “There are fairly easy ways around either of those.”

Instead, Peterson said, he wants to see California significantly improve the transparency of political contributions, given the current CalAccess system’s outdated technology and clunky user interface. He said he’s been meeting with people like Dan Newman, president and cofounder of Berkeley-based MAPLight.org, about the great work they’re doing in shining a light on money in politics. It may be better for government to partner with, validate and promote nonprofit and private-sector transparency outfits like this rather than remain perpetually behind the curve in adapting to new technology and data demands, Peterson said.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Secretary of State | 2 Comments »

GOP steps it up for convention, Sec’y of State race

California Republicans are trying to build some momentum headed into November’s elections, scheduling the state’s most powerful Republican as a convention keynote and putting a former state chairman in charge of fundraising for one of their statewide candidates.

Kevin McCarthyRep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who takes over later this week as House Majority Leader, will speak at the state GOP’s 2014 Fall Convention on Saturday, Sept. 20 in Los Angeles.

“Majority Leader Elect McCarthy personally understands the importance of California in protecting the Congressional majority,” California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said in a news release. “He is an innovative thinker whose policies are making life better for Americans each day, and he fights for California each and every day.”

Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said McCarthy “supports policies that encourage job growth by freeing the private sector to do its job. Those policies are exactly what we need here in California, and I am excited that our delegates will get to hear this message from him.”

The party in May announced U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kent., will speak at the convention as well.

Meanwhile, Pete Peterson – the Republican candidate for secretary of state – announced today that former state GOP chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills will serve as his campaign’s finance chairman.

Pete Peterson“Whether you have known Pete Peterson for years as I have, or you have recently met him, as the San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board has, you reach the same conclusion: Pete Peterson is the superior candidate for Secretary of State,” Sundheim said in a news release. “Peterson has the fresh ideas and experience to make a real difference.”

Peterson said he shares Sundheim’s “focus on government reform and increased citizen participation in the political process. With rampant corruption in Sacramento, one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country, and businesses fleeing the state, it’s clear that we need to change the way things are being done.”

Sundheim will need to shake the money trees vigorously. Peterson’s campaign had only about $12,000 cash on hand as of mid-May, and has reported raising only about $25,000 in major donations since then. His opponent, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, had about $340,000 banked for the campaign as of mid-May, and has reported raising about $40,000 in major donations since.

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Republican Party, Republican politics, Secretary of State, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Complaint filed about ‘Six Californias’ petitions

The “OneCalifornia” committee formed to oppose venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” ballot measure filed a complaint with Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Thursday requesting a voter-fraud investigation.

The letter included a copy of the blog item I posted Tuesday, which detailed voters hundreds of miles apart recounting how paid petition circulators told strikingly similar falsehoods about the Six Californias petition’s purpose. Lying to voters in order to get them to sign a ballot-measure petition is a misdemeanor.

“To ensure the integrity of the state initiative process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the Six Californias initiative,” wrote Richard Miadich, attorney for the One California committee.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Draper, 56, of Atherton, who in the past has given generously to Republican causes, filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in order to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. County registrars and Bowen’s office must verify that at least 807,615 of those signatures are valid and from registered California voters.

OneCalifornia spokesman Steve Maviglio, a veteran Democratic strategist, said Thursday that “it’s not surprising that high jinx were involved in trying to get voters to sign the petition for this unthoughtful measure, even when signature gatherers were getting paid $3 for each signature they received.

“We’ve been flooded with emails and Tweets who are echoing what was reported,” Maviglio said. “These allegations are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the Secretary of State.”

Posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Debra Bowen, Secretary of State | No 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 »

Padilla touts ‘blackout period’ for fundraising

California lawmakers would be prohibited from raising campaign funds in the final 100 days of a legislative session, under a state Senate bill announced this week.

Alex PadillaIt’s one of four campaign-reform bills put forth by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, who perhaps not coincidentally is a candidate for Secretary of State, which among other things is the state’s chief elections officer.

Padilla’s other three bills would tighten campaign contribution reporting requirements; prohibit candidates or officeholders from having more than one campaign committee for a state office at any one time; and require public disclosure of campaign communications.

Amending the Political Reform Act of 1974 requires a two-thirds vote of each legislative house plus Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, Padilla noted.

“Clearly, I cannot do this alone. I will need the support of my colleagues and the governor,” he said. “I believe that the reforms I am proposing will provide a clearer view of the source and use of campaign money, and reduce the likelihood of an unseemly overlap of public policy and campaign contributions.”

SB 1101 would emulate similar laws in 29 states by creating a fundraising “blackout period” of 100 days before and seven days after the end of a legislative session, during which a member of the Legislature could not solicit or accept campaign contributions. That way, Padilla reasons, that lawmaker couldn’t take money during critical budget votes and at the end-of-session rush when all sorts of last-minute “gut-and-amend” measures are up for votes.

SB 1102 would require contributions of $100 or more to be electronically reported within 24 hours during the 90 days before an election and within five business days during the rest of the year. For now, contributions of $5000 and above must be reported electronically within 10 days and contributions of $1000 and above must be reported within 24 hours within 90 days of an election. The requirement also would apply to independent expenditure committees supporting or opposing candidates for state offices, and to statewide ballot measure committees.

SB 1103 would prohibit an officeholder or candidate from declaring candidacy and raising money for more than one state elected office at a time; current law allows multiple simultaneous committees, which could be used to cumulatively raise far more than established campaign contribution limits.

SB 1104 would require all campaigns to electronically report all campaign-funded communications – mass mailings, slate mailers, and advertisements supporting or opposing a candidate or measure – that they do within 90 days of an election to the Secretary of State’s office within one day. Outside of the 90-day window, they’d have to be reported within five days.

“While our current system does provide full disclosure, it lacks timely full disclosure,” Padilla said. “Current law governing disclosure keeps the public and the press in the dark much of the year. Denying the public and the press timely disclosure fuels distrust.”

More, including a rival candidate’s critique, after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Election reform, Secretary of State | 3 Comments »

SoS candidate Alex Padilla barnstorms Bay Area

State Sen. Alex Padilla, in the Bay Area today both on legislative business and for his campaign for secretary of state, says California should show other states how voting is done.

I had a brief chat with Padilla, D-Van Nuys, between some meetings he had in Oakland and San Jose, and asked him what people around the state have been telling him they want from their next secretary of state. Answers have varied, he said, though a common theme is better voting access.

Alex Padilla“One of the things that resonated with me … is watching what is happening in Texas and in Florida and in Ohio… when they were changing rules at the last minute on voter registration or early voting or voting locations,” he said. “I don’t think those efforts would gain any traction here in California, but you never know, and if nothing else California has the opportunity to be the counterexample.”

Padilla also talked about some of his successful bills this year including SB 135, requiring the state to develop a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system. The Legislature passed the bill unanimously, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law Oct. 10.

The system’s estimated $80 million cost is “a small but wise investment when we think about the billions of dollars we associate with every major earthquake, let alone the injuries and fatalities,” Padilla said today. Depending on one’s distance from a quake’s epicenter, the proposed system could give from 10 to 60 seconds of warning, he said, urging people not just to think of what that means in their own homes but what it could mean in more precarious situations like construction sites, mass transit and so on. “A little bit of warning can go a long way.”

He also talked about SB 360, which lets county election officials develop, own and operate public voting systems, subject to approval and certification by the California Secretary of State. Brown signed this bill into law Oct. 5.

Counties currently can draw up their own specifications, but ultimately must pick a vendor; this bill gives them the latitude to develop their own, custom systems. Only larger counties are likely to have the technical wherewithal to do this, he acknowledged, but “it tends to be the larger counties with larger populations that are politically complex” and so have special voting needs.

Incumbent Secretary of State Debra Bowen will be term-limited out at the end of 2014. Other Democrats with active 2014 campaigns for the office include state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; good-government activist Derek Cressman of Sacramento; and former Assemblyman Charles Calderon of Montebello.

Two Republicans are in the race: Pete Peterson, executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, and Roy Allmond, an employee of the secretary of state’s office. Green candidate David Curtis, an architect and activist from San Rafael, is seeking the office too.

Padilla led the fundraising pack at mid-year, raising almost $291,000 in the first half of 2013 and having more than $355,000 cash on hand and about $10,000 in outstanding debts as of June 30. Yee came in second, raising $332,000 in the year’s first half and holding $299,000 cash on hand with about $23,000 in outstanding debts as of June 30. Cressman raised $57,000 and had almost $45,000 in the bank with no debt.

Calderon raised $8,000 and had just $868 cash on hand with $2,900 in debts at midyear. But the red ink was deeper for Peterson, who raised $59,000 but had just $13,000 banked and more than $52,000 in debts. Allmond and Curtis have not yet filed any campaign finance reports.

Posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Secretary of State | 5 Comments »

Good-government activist to run for sec’y of state

A veteran good-government activist declared his candidacy for California secretary of state today in Sacramento.

Derek Cressman, a Democrat, said he’s seeking the office “to make elections count for Californians. “We need real leadership to limit the role corporations and big-moneyed special interests play in our elections.”

Derek CressmanCressman, 45, of Sacramento, has worked for the past 18 years with nonpartisan groups including Common Cause and the Public Interest Research Group. He said his priorities as secretary of state – a position which, among other things, is the state’s top elections officer – would include challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that has opened the floodgates to unprecedented political spending.

He said he also would seek to modernize California’s voter registration and small business registration systems to reduce bureaucratic barriers to voting and enterprise, and upgrade the state’s voter guide to offer Californians better information on candidates and ballot measures.

“Derek’s not just another career politician looking to move up one rung on the ladder,” Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way, said in Cressman’s news release. “He is not indebted to special interests and will fight tirelessly for fair and transparent elections.”

Cressman’s campaign will be run by San Francisco-based 50+1 Strategies, led by Nicole Derse and Addisu Demissie; consultant Parke Skelton of Los Angeles will serve as a senior advisor to what Derse says will be “a truly grassroots campaign across California, engaging voters in their communities and online about their vision for our democracy and our state.”

Secretary of State Debra Bowen is term-limited out of office at the end of 2014. Next year will be the first time that this and other statewide offices are subject to the new “top-two” primary system, in which candidates of all parties compete directly for primary votes and then only the top two vote-getters advance to November’s general election, regardless of their party affiliation.

Other Democrats who’ve filed statements of intention to seek the office next year include former state Sen. Elaine Alquist of Santa Clara; former Assemblyman Charles Calderon of Montebello; former Assemblyman Mike Davis of Los Angeles; voting transparency and accountability activist Alan Jay Dechert of Granite Bay; 2012 Assembly candidate Mervin Evans of Los Angeles; state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys; and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Also in the race are Republican Pete Peterson, executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, and Green Party candidate David Curtis, an architect and activist from San Rafael.

Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Secretary of State | 18 Comments »

Yee aims to widen online registration’s reach

Hot from the resounding success of the online voter registration system his legislation enabled, a Bay Area lawmaker now wants to expand that system’s reach.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, today introduced a bill that would put a link to the online registration system run by the Secretary of State on every state government website.

“The use of online voter registration was overwhelming, but we need to continue to find new ways to get as many citizens as possible involved in our democracy,” Yee said in a news release. “When Californians access their state government via the internet, we should encourage them to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.”

“There are more than 5 ½ million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. Senate Bill 44 will help us reach these individuals and significantly increase the voter rolls.”

The new system, which went live in September, let nearly 800,000 Californians register online to vote in November’s election, helping to boost the state’s registered voters to a record 18.25 million and – some believe – contributing to Democrats’ success in reaching legislative supermajorities.

Yee cited early numbers showing that those who registered to vote using the new online system were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in the November election.

According to Political Data Inc. (PDI), turnout was 84.7 percent in Sacramento County from those who registered online – 10 percentage points higher than the county average. In Orange County, those who registered online turned out at 82 percent versus the county average of 72 percent. Fresno County saw an even larger uptick in turnout among those who registered online: 78.2 percent, versus the county average of only 63.8 percent. Figures for other counties are still being collected.

“Not only were we able to increase turnout among those who registered online, but we significantly increased participation among young people and first time voters,” said Yee.

UPDATE @ 4:19 P.M. THURSDAY: A quick clarification and amplification – these comparisons in Sacramento, Orange and Fresno counties are between those who registered online between Sept. 19 (when the new system went live) and Oct. 22 and all other voters in those counties regardless of when they registered. The turnout rates are much closer if you compare those who registered online during those few final weeks and those who registered on paper during the same time period. Also, it’s worth noting that while Yee sponsored the legislation authorizing the new system, it was Secretary of State Debra Bowen who secured federal funding and built a successful system in only about nine months, a very short time by state IT project standards.

Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Leland Yee, Secretary of State, voter registration | 2 Comments »

Bay Area election volunteers lauded

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen this week honored a pair of Santa Clara County polling-place volunteers who have been serving their community for decades.

Rita Chavez Medina and Helen Garza have staffed the polls during elections in the last 60 and 52 years respectively, Bowen said.

“Election after election, Rita and Helen have been an indispensable part of Santa Clara County elections, and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication,” she said in a news release. “Veteran poll workers can’t do it alone, so I hope more voters and high school students in Santa Clara County join Helen and Rita at the polls on Election Day!”

Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Barry Garner said he and his staff are honored to have the two women serve so long. “Their contribution to the election process, in Santa Clara County, is invaluable. They are not doing this for the money, they are doing it for the love of their county, state, and country.”

Bowen noted each statewide election requires a one-day army of 100,000 poll workers in nearly 22,000 polling places across the state. Poll workers help to secure ballots, educate voters about their rights, ensure accessibility for voters with disabilities, and more. A poll worker is paid an average of $100 for the day’s work, though rates vary among counties.

If you’re interested in serving as a poll worker, contact your county elections office or find more information on Bowen’s website. To serve as a poll worker, you must be a registered voter or a high-school student in good standing who is a United States citizen, at least 16 years old, and has a minimum 2.5 grade-point average.

Posted on Friday, October 5th, 2012
Under: Debra Bowen, Elections, Secretary of State | 9 Comments »

California’s election web site needs work

A Pew Center Center on the States’ study on election web sites found California’s in need of improvement.

Click here to read the full study, called “Being Online Is Not Enough.”

The Golden State scored below average and while researchers found some good stuff, the state is shy on key look-up tools offered elsewhere. Here’s a summary of they had to say about www.sos.ca.gov/elections and www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov:

California provides rich and detailed voting information for users, but offers none of the five recommended lookup tools, reducing its overall score. Improved navigation and content organization can help voters find needed information.

The California Secretary of State’s office operates the sites evaluated. The tools include voter registration status, polling place, ballot information, and absentee and provisional ballot status.

The California Voter Foundation, Center for Governmental Studies and the Nielsen Norman Group participated in the project.

While many other states have made great progress in recent years utilizing the Internet as an effective and efficient tool to help voters engage in elections, California is lagging behind,” wrote California Voter Foundation director Kim Alexander. “At CVF, we are working with a number of individuals and organizations to promote a statewide voter registration status lookup tool and hope that someday soon California voters will have as good, if not better access to modern election tools as voters in other states.”

UPDATE: Secretary of State spokeswoman Nicole Winger offered this information in response to the Pew Center on the State’s study:

Since you wrote about today’s Pew announcement and report, I thought you’d be interested in these links to California items the Pew Center missed.

Pew: “Provide instructions for people with disabilities on how to use special voting machines” http://www.sos.ca.gov/voting-systems/oversight/county-vsys/ca-map-counties3.htm

Pew: “Provide state residency requirements for registering to vote” http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm

Pew: “Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view… polling place location” http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_ppl.htm

Pew: “Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view… status of absentee ballots” http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-status/

Pew: “Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view… status of provisional ballots” http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-status/

(See also: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_provisional.htm )

Pew: “Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view… their registration status” http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status/

“The California Secretary of State’s office has come a long way in improving its website with very limited resources in recent years, but we will certainly continue to build more features and make them easier for people to find,” Winger said.

Posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2011
Under: Secretary of State | No Comments »