Part of the Bay Area News Group

Rep. Barbara Lee’s mother has passed away

By Josh Richman
Thursday, February 19th, 2015 at 12:09 pm in Barbara Lee, U.S. House

Rep. Barbara Lee‘s mother, Mildred Parish Massey, has passed away at age 90.

Lee’s office said Massey died in Oakland, surrounded by family, after having “worked tirelessly for her family” and breaking many racial barriers throughout her life.

Massey was born June 6, 1924 in El Paso, Texas. Her father, William Calhoun Parish, was El Paso’s first African-American letter carrier; her mother, Willie Pointer Parish, was a homemaker. Massey had two sisters: Lois Murell of Windsor, and Juanita Franklin, who predeceased her. Lee, D-Oakland, is one of her three daughters, along with Mildred Whitfield and Beverly Hardy.

Massey in 1955 was one of the original 12 students to integrate Texas Western College, now known as the University of Texas at El Paso. She loved travel, music, basketball, butterflies, her Allen Temple Baptist Church family, and her friends at her Grand Lake Gardens home. Her loving family includes three daughters, seven grandchildren, sixteen great grandchildren, one great-great grandchild and countless friends.

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Miller administers DeSaulnier’s ceremonial oath

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 at 10:40 am in Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House

Sometimes it’s not just the oath you take, but who administers it.

Mark DeSaulnierFreshman Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, officially was sworn into office Jan. 6 by Speaker John Boehner. But he was administered a ceremonial oath Tuesday night by his predecessor, former Rep. George Miller, in the Concord City Council chambers in front of constituents and local officials.

“It means the world to me to have a special ceremony in Concord where I raised my two sons, opened a small business, and served as a local elected official and as mayor,” DeSaulnier said in a statement issued afterward. “To be here surrounded by constituents and colleagues, and for my mentor George Miller to administer the oath of office, is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Miller, who retired after 40 years in Congress, said it was an honor to administer the oath, just as it was a privilege serving the district for so long.

“This is a great district marked with both beauty and diversity. I now have the honor of passing the torch to an accomplished public servant, a leader, and a longtime friend,” Miller said in DeSaulnier’s release.

Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and voter registrar Steve Weir served as master of ceremonies at Tuesday night’s event, and Concord Mayor Tim Grayson offered opening remarks. Concord Boy Scout Troop 465, led by Mike Roark, served as color guard and Jason Warrenburg, a Los Medanos Community College student, sang the National Anthem.

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NRCC targets six California House Dems for 2016

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 at 10:19 am in Ami Bera, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House

Six California House Democrats are among the National Republican Congressional Committee’s 19 top targets in 2016’s election.

“As Nancy Pelosi continues to pull her smaller and weaker caucus of House Democrats to the far left, we are going to make sure that these vulnerable Democrats are held responsible for their disastrous policies,” NRCC Communications Director Katie Martin said in a news release Wednesday. “As demonstrated in the past several elections, House Democrats have been oblivious to the will of the American people and it is time to end their toxic agenda which is bankrupting middle class families.”

In the NRCC’s crosshairs are John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands; Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

The list matches up pretty neatly with those identified last week by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the first members of its Frontline program for the most vulnerable incumbents. Bera, Brownley, Aguilar, Ruiz and Peters all made that list, Roll Call reported, and so the DCCC will frontload them with fundraising and organizational support.

“Each one of these members knows what it takes to win tough elections: working hard, standing up for your district, and not taking anything for granted,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. “We are adding them to our Frontline Program, led by Representative Dan Kildee, to maximize their resources and ensure they are able to keep fighting to strengthen middle class economics. You don’t add by subtracting, so the success of our Members is integral to our plan to stay on offense in 2016.”

It’s rather early to make predictions, given there’s little sense yet of what caliber of opponents these incumbents will draw in 2016. But I doubt John Garamendi – whose 3rd Congressional District has a 9.5-point registration edge for Democrats – is losing any sleep.

Garamendi won his fourth term in November by a margin of 5.4 percentage points; Bera won his second term by 0.8 of a percentage point; Brownley won her second term by 2.6 percentage points; Aguilar won his first term by 3.4 percentage points; Ruiz won his second term by 8.4 percentage points; and Peters won his second term by 3.2 percentage points.

Notably absent from the NRCC’s list: Jim Costa, D-Fresno, who won his sixth term in November by a scant 1.4 percentage points after a surprisingly strong showing by Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra. But the NRCC must believe that the 16.5-point registration edge that Democrats hold in that 16th Congressional District will be insurmountable in a presidential election year, when turnout will be much higher than in last year’s midterm.

Ditto for Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, who won his fifth term in November by 4.8 percentage points. If that’s as close as the GOP could get in a midterm, the 12.7-point registration edge that Democrats hold in the 9th Congressional District must look like too high a hurdle to leap.

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Rocky Chávez opens Senate exploratory committee

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 at 8:50 am in Assembly, U.S. Senate

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez announced Tuesday that he’s forming an exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate in 2016.

Rocky Chávez“Our nation suffers from a lack of clear leadership when it comes to issues of national security and looking out for California families who have seen stagnant wage growth for almost two decades,” Chávez, R-Oceanside, said in a news release. “My story is like that of so many other California families, having worked in the grape fields with my uncle and cousins as a child to seeing one of my own children attend an Ivy League medical school. That’s the American Dream, and it’s what every parent hopes to see for their own children. But if we don’t take steps to protect our nation and help create more opportunities for our children, we risk losing that Dream.”

Chávez, 63, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a colonel, describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. A former Oceanside city councilman and former acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Chávez was elected to the Assembly in 2012 to represent the 76th District in northern San Diego County. He’s the Legislature’s only Republican Latino. (Ed. note: I shouldn’t have taken Chavez’ biography page as the gospel: Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, is Latino as well.)

Chávez is the first Republican to take the step of forming an exploratory committee; former state GOP chairmen Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette and Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills have expressed interest in running but haven’t decided yet.

The only person who has declared candidacy so far is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; other Democrats including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are considering running too.

California’s Latinos will form a crucial voting bloc in this high-turnout presidential election year, but they tend to break heavily toward Democrats. Chávez seems undaunted.

“My strong history of leadership and compelling personal narrative give me great confidence,” he said. “I believe we can start a movement that will make a real difference in the lives of California families.”

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SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

By Josh Richman
Friday, February 13th, 2015 at 2:48 pm in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla

Some serious independent-expenditure money is starting to drop in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

The California Dental Association’s Independent Expenditure PAC since Feb. 4 has spent at least $287,126 on behalf of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s campaign for mailers, consulting and other purposes.

“The California Dental Association Political Action Committee puts a great deal of consideration into supporting candidates who are interested in solving the challenges experienced by the dental profession and becoming well-informed about the many complex issues involved in meeting the oral health care needs of their constituents and all Californians,” CDA spokeswoman Alicia Malaby explained in an email Friday.

Bonilla’s campaign said it couldn’t comment on independent spending.

Bill Bloomfield, a Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman, since Feb. 5 has spent at least $104,311 to support Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, who fits Bloomfield’s penchant for centrist Democrats willing to buck their own party and labor unions on many issues.

Glazer mailerBloomfield’s money has bought, among other things, a mailer that’s already hitting the 7th district’s households which touts Glazer as “a proven maverick who took on the government unions to stop the BART strike and to promote public school reform.” (No, Glazer didn’t stop the BART strike, but he did vociferously advocate a ban on transit-worker strikes.)

This dovetails neatly with Glazer picking up the endorsement last week of Michaela Hertle, the only Republican who filed to run in this race. Hertle said she’s dropping out and backing Glazer, though it’s too late to remove her name from ballots.

Bloomfield spent millions on various California races last year, including strong IE support for Marshall Tuck, who unsuccessfully took on incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Given his largess in other races, it’s hard to believe this will be the only spending he does on Glazer’s behalf.

Glazer and Bonilla, D-Concord, face former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; and Democratic former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin in this election. The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Meanwhile, in this week’s endorsements:

BonillaMt. Diablo Education Association (2/9); former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir (2/10); Public Employees Union Local 1 (2/11); California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (2/11); Teamsters Joint Council 7 plus five locals (2/13)

Buchanan San Ramon Valley Education Association (2/10); The Independent (2/12)

Glazer – former Contra Costa County Sheriff and state Sen. Dick Rainey, R-Walnut Creek (2/12); former state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles (2/12); former Rep. Bill Baker, R-Walnut Creek (2/12); former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (2/13)

Torlakson’s backing of Bonilla is the first endorsement any statewide official has made in this race. Glazer’s endorsements continue with his theme of romancing voters from the center to the right of the political spectrum.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.

Buchanan is holding volunteer “Wine and Sign parties” postcard-signing parties at 6 p.m. every Wednesday night from now through the primary in her campaign headquarters at 2678 Bishop Dr., Ste. 110 in San Ramon; RSVP to alexvuskovic@joanbuchanan.com.

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Pool report from President Obama at Stanford

By Josh Richman
Friday, February 13th, 2015 at 12:09 pm in Barack Obama, Homeland security, Obama presidency

Here are the pool reports I’ve filed today from President Obama’s visit to Stanford University for the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection. Click here for our main story on the overall summit.

Stanford University President John L. Hennessy began speaking at11:31 a.m. to introduce the President. Hennessy said Obama understands the challenges of cybersecurity, as “an avid Blackberry user” and the first president to be electronically connected, he had to give that up upon taking office.

President Obama came to the podium at 11:33 a.m. to a standing ovation, with students in the balcony roaring.

“Yes we can,” he echoed a particularly enthusiastic audience member’s call.

The President praised the Stanford campus’ beauty. “I’ve got to admit, I kind of want to go here – I was trying to figure out why a really nice place like this is wasted on young people who don’t fully appreciate what you’ve got.” He also thanked the university for hosting this summit, and noted that members of his administration including Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Penny Pritzker and others are Stanford alumni who “bleed Cardinal red.”

“This is the place that made nerd cool,” he said. “I was thinking of wearing some black-rimmed glasses with some tape in the middle, but I guess that’s not what you do anymore.”

“But, I’m not just here to enjoy myself.”

The President said the economy continues to recover, with an unprecedented streak of job creation and middle-class earnings starting to rise. “More than any other nation on earth, the United States is positioned to lead in the 21st century,” he said, and that means leading in technological innovation.

The President noted Stanford and its environs were the birthplace of Hewlett-Packard, the mouse, and the internet itself, “innovations for cloud computing, student projects here became Yahoo! and Google. Those were pretty good student projects.”
He said if all companies traceable back to Stanford formed their own nation, “you’d have one of the largest economies in the world, and a pretty good football team as well.”

“Just as we’re all connected like never before, we have to work together like never before, both to seize opportunities and to meet the challenges of this information age,” he said.

LOTS more, after the jump…
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State oversight avalanche bears down on ABAG

By Josh Richman
Thursday, February 12th, 2015 at 4:32 pm in California State Senate, John Chiang, Kevin de Leon

State officials are rushing to put new oversights in place following the embezzlement of almost $1.3 million by an Association of Bay Area Governments official from a bond-funded San Francisco development account.

State Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday announced a partnership with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, to conduct legislative oversight hearings to make sure money raised through government bond sales is safe from fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Chiang also said he has created a special task force to develop best-practices guidelines on the care of bond proceeds that will be issued to all state and local governments.

California and its local governments over the past decade have issued more than $700 billion in public debt, Chiang noted in a news release.

“We rely on these borrowed moneys to build and maintain the critical infrastructure upon which our communities and economy depend – from schools and roads to levees and libraries,” Chiang said. “The ease in which one of ABAG’s leaders allegedly fleeced more than a million dollars in bond funds raises concerns regarding whether there are sufficient safeguards at the thousands of State and local agencies which are responsible for nearly three-quarters of a trillion bond dollars.”

And state Controller Betty Yee announced Thursday her staff will audit ABAG’s internal administrative and accounting controls.

“As California’s chief fiscal officer, I am charged with protecting state resources,” Yee said. “When public money goes missing, I need to determine how it happened and whether effective controls are in place.”

Yee’s audit will initially focus on FY 2012-13 and 2013-2014, but that might expand if investigators discover accounting weaknesses that may have affected earlier years. The Controller’s Office sent a letter today to ABAG asking that the association make available documents that will be used in the audit including ledgers, contracts, invoices, personnel records, meeting minutes, policies and procedures. The audit work will begin Feb. 20 and is expected to take a few weeks.

More, after the jump…
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Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

By Josh Richman
Thursday, February 12th, 2015 at 2:39 pm in Assembly, Nora Campos

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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SD7: Tom Torlakson endorses Susan Bonilla

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 at 3:35 pm in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla, Tom Torlakson

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.

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House reactions to Obama’s IS use-of-force plan

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 at 11:36 am in Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House

President Obama’s proposal for a new authorization for use of military force against the so-called Islamic State already is creating a stir in Congress, with some saying it goes too far and others saying it doesn’t go far enough.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“As our nation confronts the ISIS threat, the President has worked diligently to engage Congress in determining the U.S. strategy to degrade and destroy these brutal terrorists. A key part of Congress’ responsibility is to debate and pass a new and narrowly-tailored Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

“Today, the President has submitted a serious and thoughtful draft for a new AUMF, one which ends the outdated 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq war, restricts the use of ground troops, and includes other important limiting provisions going forward.

“Congress should act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly-tailored to the war against ISIS. I look forward to constructive bipartisan debate on this matter immediately.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

Kevin McCarthy“Radical Islamist terrorists, such as ISIL, pose a grave and growing threat to the United States. The number of terrorist groups and the volume of fighters have all dramatically increased in recent years.

“I have been supportive of efforts to give the Commander-in-Chief additional authorities to confront these growing challenges, but rather than expanding his legal authority to go after ISIL, the President seems determined to ask Congress to further restrict the authority of the U.S. military to confront this threat.

“The Speaker and I told the President we’d consider his request. I am prepared to support an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that provides new legal authorities to go after ISIL and other terrorist groups. However, I will not support efforts that impose undue restrictions on the U.S. military and make it harder to win.

“Congress will be conducting hearings to review both the President’s strategy to combat radical Islamist terrorists and the legal authorities that might be required to implement an effective and sufficiently robust strategy. At the end of this process, I hope Congress and the Administration can be united on how best to respond to the increasingly complex and dangerous challenge we face.”

More, after the jump…
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