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Snapshot: Our meeting with Ashley Swearengin

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 at 3:34 pm in 2014 general

Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state controller, said Wednesday she wants to bring the same independent, nonpartisan perspective to that office that she has had as Fresno’s mayor.

Ashley Swearengin 8-13-2014 (photo by Josh Richman)“I’m a Republican in California, I know nothing other than working with Democrats,” she quipped during her hour-long meeting with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board. “I like good ideas no matter where they come from … There are always good people in the middle who want to solve a problem.”

“I have learned in my six years as an elected executive that the first and most important thing is to put forth your … information on what the problem is and what your recommendations are,” she said, adding that presenting irrefutable data is the only way to get a discussion started. “First and foremost, our job is to get it right with the numbers, both in the short term and the long term.”

Then, she said, she can look for ways to work with others who agree with at least part of her recommendations.

She said her executive experience running a city with 3,200 employees and a billion-dollar budget, plus “an aggressive, energetic, on-your-toes kind of personality,” give her a better resume for this job than her opponent in November’s general election, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat from Alameda.

She expects voter turnout will be low, and the electorate will be older than usual: “It’s a very unusual ballot coming up, and we think it’s unusual in our favor.”

Swearengin identified three main priorities she would have as controller. Foremost is the state’s fiscal health, and she said she would be an outspoken voice in calling attention to California’s short-term outlook and long-term needs.

Second, she said, she would support the state’s economic development by initiating an annual economic competitiveness audit that identifies steps the state can take to attract and retain businesses, as well as by creating a one-stop tax portal for small businesses. And third, she would create an audit committee to oversee the controller’s office, a watcher of the watchmen.

Pension reform legislation enacted in 2012 “started to turn the tide on the growing unfunded liability,” she said, a welcome change after years of kicking the can down the road.

“It is so easy to thrash about and say, ‘It’s not enough’ … but I also see that kind of reaction sometimes prevents you from taking a critical first step,” she said. “In Sacramento, we hardly ever take the first step, and when we do, we think it’s the only step.”

Swearengin said she was surprised by GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari’s recent “undercover” stint as a jobless and homeless person on the streets of Fresno; she said she hasn’t discussed it with him.

“It was a little bit of a shock to learn the night before that he had been in our city,” she said, adding she’d have welcomed the opportunity to talk with him about the steps Fresno has taken to address chronic homelessness. But as for California’s economic recovery not being evenly experienced throughout the state, “I totally agree with that,” she said.

We’ll post video of the entire Swearengin interview sometime down the road, after we’ve met with Yee as well.

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CA17: Battling over 2005 vote, PAC support

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 at 5:39 pm in Mike Honda, U.S. House

Rep. Mike Honda and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley held a news conference Tuesday to give an update on their efforts to eliminate the backlog of rape kits locally and across the nation.

Honda-O'Malley news conference 8-12-2014 (photo by Josh Richman)It was one of about 20 events Honda, D-San Jose, is holding in his district or the Bay Area during this August recess. But Honda’s lack of any town-hall meetings with constituents during this recess, along with his vote against a somewhat-related bill nine years ago, gave Democratic challenger Ro Khanna fodder for a renewed attack.

And later Tuesday, Khanna’s campaign also took Honda to task over a fundraising email in which campaign manager Doug Greven noted the recent formation of a Super PAC to support Khanna – a plea Khanna’s camp says is the height of hypocrisy.

Shortly before Honda’s and O’Malley’s news conference, Khanna issued a news release noting Honda in 2005 was one of 23 Democrats to oppose HR 3132, the Children’s Safety Act, which would have created a national sex offender registry database. The bill passed the House 371-52, but it died in the Senate.

“Congressman Honda has made it clear that he will do anything to avoid a close examination of his record,” Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said in the release. “His August recess consists of closed door meetings and press conferences – there’s still no open events for the public to come and engage with their Congressman. Since his constituents don’t get a chance to ask him any questions, we hope Rep. Honda will finally be forced to answer today about why he opposed the Children’s Safety Act and if he thinks we should be taking convicted sex offenders off of the registry.”

Asked about the 2005 vote after Tuesday’s news conference, Honda replied he’d have to “look at it again, there must’ve been a reason; there might’ve been a ‘poison pill’ or something.” Honda spokesman Ken Scudder later Tuesday noted the 2005 bill contained a small section about rape-kit testing – three pages out of 128 – but “in many areas it would cause more harm than good.”

Scudder provided the statement that Honda issued in 2005 to explain his vote:

“Today the House debated and passed H.R. 3132, the Child Safety Act. I opposed this measure which sets new standards for state sex-offender registries and creates a National Sex Offender Registry. While I believe it is important to have a National Sex Offender Registry and I support increased funding for state registries, several provisions in this measure create more harm without truly addressing this serious issue.

“One provision I strongly oppose is the inclusion of juveniles in the definition of “sex offender” – a designation that would trigger lifetime registration. This nation has traditionally separated the handling of juvenile offenders from adult offenders in the legal system so that youth who break the law can have the chance to correct their behavior.

“As a society, we do not stigmatize individuals for life based on their childhood transgressions. Under this bill, however, a 12-year-old convicted as a delinquent for non-violent sexual contact with an 11-year-old playmate would face lifetime registration.

“This bill also includes unduly harsh mandatory minimum sentences, expands the death penalty and limits habeas corpus review in certain cases. Studies have shown that the use of mandatory minimums distort the sentencing process and promotes plea bargaining, thereby subverting the trial process. Regarding the death penalty, reports show this ultimate and irreversible punishment has been incorrectly applied in numerous cases; limiting habeas corpus review only makes a bad situation worse.

“As a former teacher and principal, I am deeply concerned for the well-being of our nation’s youth. We absolutely must address the problem of violence committed by sex offenders against our children. But rather than address the root causes that give rise to these abhorrent crimes, unfortunately, this bill simply uses the blunt and largely ineffective tools of mandatory minimums, death penalty and onerous registration requirements to give us the mistaken notion that we have made our children safer. Because of these misguided provisions, I opposed passage of H.R. 3132.”

Honda declined Tuesday to address his lack of town-hall meetings; his website, however, notes he’ll take part in a Facebook Q&A next Tuesday, Aug. 19 and a Crowdhall online event during the week of Aug. 25. Khanna is holding a Facebook Q&A at 8 p.m. tonight, and will hold a live town-hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 3200 Coronado Dr. in Santa Clara.

On the Super PAC matter, Khanna’s campaign cited an fundraising email Greven sent to Honda’s supporters Tuesday afternoon.

“We need to be ready to fight back once these outside groups start sending mail and going up on TV to attack Congressman Honda,” Greven wrote. “We don’t have a Super PAC – but we do have you, and thousands of grassroots supporters like you.”

But Honda already has received help from a Super PAC – the union-funded Working for Us PAC sent two mailers to district voters shortly before June’s primary election. One mailer praised GOP candidate Vanila Singh, in hope that giving her a boost among the district’s Republicans could cost Khanna votes. The other accused Khanna of “sending jobs overseas” and trying to “outsource our jobs.”

“The Honda campaign appears to be operating in an alternate reality where the truth doesn’t matter at all,” Law said Tuesday. “Ro repeatedly asked Congressman Honda to sign Elizabeth Warren’s ‘People’s Pledge’ to keep outside money out of this congressional race. Congressman Honda refused. Ro also asked Congressman Honda to denounce racially offensive mailers sent by his donor’s Super PAC on his behalf. Congressman Honda refused. For the Honda campaign to blatantly lie about having a Super PAC shows that they will literally say anything to win.”

But Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said the pot is calling the kettle black.

“The fact is, when Ro Khanna’s had three times the resources of our campaign, he said he was opposed to outside spending (but turned down our proposal to limit it),” Kembaiyan said. “Now that he has $200,000 in debt and is clearly not gaining traction, he has no problem with the fact that one of his biggest Wall Street donors has created a Super PAC solely to prop up his campaign. Ro can try to spin his blatant hypocrisy and desperation all he wants, but voters will see right through it.

“There’s a difference between a Super PAC whose sole reason for existence is to provide another avenue for Khanna investors to prop up his campaign, and an organization that has been around for 8 years, supporting multiple progressive candidates nation-wide,” Kembaiyan added.

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Neel Kashkari rolls out grassroots coalition chairs

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 at 4:37 pm in Neel Kashkari

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari announced his “coalition team chairs” Tuesday, and including some familiar Bay Area and California GOP names.

“I am honored by the depth and breadth of the support I’ve received from Californians across our great state,” Kashkari said in a news release. “I appreciate these men and women who have agreed to support my campaign and help spread our message about jobs and education.”

Charles Moran, a Los Angeles development and public affairs consultant who chairs the California Log Cabin Republicans, will chair the campaign’s California Coalitions team – a chair of chairs, as it were. And here’s the rest of the roster:

    Indo-Americans for Kashkari – Dr. Vanila Singh of Fremont, a Stanford University professor and physician who was defeated in the 17th Congressional District’s primary election
    Healthcare Professionals for Kashkari – Dr. Nikan Khatibi of Laguna Niguel, a physician, neuroscience researcher and medical journal article author
    Latinos for KashkariMario Rodriguez of San Clemente, CEO of Jonathan Grey & Associates and chairman of Hispanic 100
    Farmers & Ranchers for KashkariRyan Schohr of Chico, a farmer who was defeated in the 3rd Assembly District’s primary election
    Veterans for KashkariChuck McDougald of South San Francisco, chairman of the San Mateo County Republican Party
    Asian-Americans for KashkariMei Mei Huff of Diamond Bar, business consultant and wife of state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff
    LGBT for Kashkari – co-chairs Susan Jester of San Diego, a community activist and founder of AIDS Walk San Diego; and Mark Snyder of Sacramento, a business owner
    Young Professionals for KashkariMatthew Del Carlo of San Francisco, a public and corporate affairs consultant, past president of the San Francisco Young Republicans, and 2012 19th Assembly District candidate
    Students for Kashkari – co-chairs Jere Ford of the University of San Diego, administrative vice-chair of the California College Republicans, and Ambika Bist of the Claremont Colleges
    Women for KashkariParmis Khatibi of Laguna Niguel, a clinical pharmacist specialist at UC-Irvine Medical Center, clinical adjunct professor at UCSF and USC pharmacy schools
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Commerce Secretary attends Oakland forum

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 at 12:07 pm in Alameda County, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Barbara Lee, economy, Jean Quan, Oakland, U.S. House

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined Rep. Barbara Lee and other officials Monday for a regional economic development forum at Oakland International Airport, focused on creating more jobs and growing businesses in the East Bay.

Penny Pritzker“The Department of Commerce has tremendous resources in place in this region and around the country that allow us to partner with your businesses and entrepreneurs so they can compete and succeed,” Pritzker said in a news release issued by Lee, D-Oakland, after the event.

“Here in the Bay Area, we are working with companies large and small to sell their goods and services to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside the U.S., helping to create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive, and supporting minority-and women-owned businesses through our Minority Business Development Agency,” she said, adding her department “is committed to helping your companies grow and thrive so they can create jobs – that is our mission and a core objective for President Obama.”

Lee said small businesses “are fundamental to the East Bay’s economic growth, especially women and minority-owned businesses.

“These businesses create jobs, contribute to our community and create opportunities into the middle class,” she said. “In order to ensure continued economic growth, we need to investment in sharing the available resources with these businesses and businesses owners to help them succeed.”

Other attendees included regional Small Business Administration Administrator Donna Davis; Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo; Overseas Private Investment Corp. Director of Corporate Development Alison Germak; Port of Oakland Aviation Director Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Earlier Monday, Lee had hosted a roundtable discussion with Pritzker and East Bay business leaders to discuss economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership.

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Pols mourn Robin Williams

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 at 9:01 am in Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate

Politicians joined in the nation’s grief over the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, who was found dead in his Tiburon home Monday at age 63.

From President Barack Obama:

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“I send the heartfelt condolences of my entire family to Robin Williams’ family as our entire country mourns the loss of this remarkable genius who made us smile, laugh uncontrollably or cry.

“His ability to connect with everyone was a rare gift indeed. We will always remember Robin and we must also rededicate ourselves to helping each other through the dark times.”

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

“Today, the world has lost a great genius and San Francisco has lost a loyal friend. The news of Robin Williams’ passing brought deep sadness to a universe that he had filled with laughter. Robin Williams was a brilliant comedian – one of the funniest of them all because he was one of the most brilliant of them all. The spontaneity of his humor always took us by surprise; the seriousness of his acting did not. I hope it is a comfort to his family that the world mourns their loss and are praying for them at this time.”

From San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee:

“San Francisco mourns the profound loss of Robin Williams who inspired us with his comedy and art. His legacy has had a deep and inspiring impact on our City and on our residents.

“His ties to San Francisco were deep, having found early success in our City’s comedy clubs with his popular stand-up routines and where he was destined to launch a successful career that included starring roles in classic television shows and big screen success including an Academy Award.

“Despite his success, he has never forgotten San Francisco. He was a philanthropist who gave generously, and he was a friend of the City.

“San Francisco is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Robin Williams who forever changed the world with laughter and joy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time of mourning.”

For my own part, I’ll just offer this clip – one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, “The Fisher King,” for which Williams was nominated for an Oscar. He doesn’t say a word in this scene. He didn’t need to.

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Neel Kashkari: At least I get to debate someone.

By Josh Richman
Monday, August 11th, 2014 at 3:48 pm in Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari on Monday implied that if you aren’t okay with his plan to essentially circumvent school boards’ oversight of funding and curriculum, you’re okay with California’s schools being among the nation’s worst.

Kashkari at BANG editorial board 8-11-2014 (photo by Josh Richman)Kashkari’s “my way or the same old highway” moment came during his meeting Monday with the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board. I sat in to ask a few questions and observe; as a reporter, I’ll not be involved in subsequent deliberations over an endorsement in this race.

The exchange led to one of the meeting’s best moments, just as we prepared to turn from this contentious point to another topic.

“At least I’m getting to debate someone,” Kashkari quipped with a wry smile.

Kashkari earlier Monday had issued a news release announcing he now has accepted five debate invitations – with the Sacramento Bee/Capitol Public Radio/KCRA; KGTV and KPBS in San Diego; Univision; KSEE and KGPE in Fresno; and KFBK in Sacramento – while Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet responded.

“Governor Jerry Brown is hiding under his desk,” Kashkari said in the news release. “Every voter in our state deserves to know exactly what Jerry Brown plans to do if he’s elected to an unprecedented fourth term.”

Dan Newman, a consultant to Brown’s campaign, replied later Monday that “we’ll respond with plenty of time – it’s early August and he’s got a demanding day job that is the top priority.”

Read a few highlights from today’s meeting with Kashkari, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

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CA17: Super PAC formed to support Ro Khanna

By Josh Richman
Monday, August 11th, 2014 at 8:52 am in Mike Honda, U.S. House

A supporter of Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna has formed a new Super PAC to support Khanna’s campaign against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Ash ChopraAsh Chopra of Menlo Park, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, sent a statement of organization for “Californians for Innovation” that was received by the Federal Elections Commission on Aug. 4; the papers specify the entity has been created to support Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont.

Super PACs like this can raise unlimited money from any source and then spent unlimited sums to advocate for or against political candidates; they can’t directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign, however. Super PACs must report their donors periodically to the Federal Election Commission.

Chopra and his wife, Shaili, each contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in May 2013 for the primary election. Chopra was also part of a host committee for a Khanna fundraiser, whose members have already contributed over $80,000 to Khanna’s campaign. Chopra’s LinkedIn profile lists his specialties as “wealth advisory business for ultra high net worth families, dealing with impact of corporate transactions like M&A & IPOs, co-ordinated advice on trust & estate tax issues.”

“It’s clear that Khanna and his closest supporters will try anything to save his failing campaign: from courting the Tea Party to do mailers attacking Congressman Honda, to creating a Super PAC to go beyond the legal limits his millionaire and billionaire donors are bound by,” Honda campaign manager Doug Greven said in an emailed statement.

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said the campaign knows nothing about this Super PAC.

“We do know that Ro repeatedly asked Congressman Honda to sign Elizabeth Warren’s ‘People’s Pledge,’ to keep outside money out of this congressional race. Congressman Honda refused,” Law said. “Ro also asked him to denounce racist campaign mailings sent by a Super PAC on his behalf just before the primary. Congressman Honda refused. If there’s any hypocrisy here, it’s on the part of Congressman Honda.”

But Khanna won’t shun the Super PAC’s aid. “We’re not going to unilaterally shut doors that Congressman Honda opened,” Law said.

Republican former Congressman Ernie Konnyu has been trying to rally donors to help get the Tea Party Express organization involved on Khanna’s behalf to defeat Honda, but donors basically have ignored his call, BuzzFeed reported recently; Tea Party Express didn’t rule out involvement in the race. Khanna’s campaign said he’s happy to have Konnyu’s support, but said Konnyu is acting on his own.

“Given Ro’s positions and public service record, it’s absurd to claim that our campaign has any association with the Tea Party,” Law said last week.

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Mike Honda introduces body-armor restriction bill

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 31st, 2014 at 12:07 pm in Mike Honda, U.S. House

Only law enforcement, active-duty troops or other authorized users would be able to buy, sell, own or use military-grade body armor, under a bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Mike Honda.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, issued a statement saying his Responsible Body Armor Possession Act of 2014 would let police respond to active shooters more safely and effectively.

“There is no reason this type of armor, which is designed for warfare, should be available in our communities except for those who need it, like law enforcement,” he said. “There’s nothing more dangerous than what a well-armored, unstoppable active shooter can do. This bill is common-sense and long overdue.”

The bill is supported by Santa Clara and Alameda counties’ district attorneys and sheriffs, as well as by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition for Peace Action and Stop Handgun violence.

“There is an ongoing arms race between violent criminals and police officers,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in Honda’s news release. “Let’s make sure that the men and women who stand bravely between us and the gunfire win that high-stakes race. Let’s make sure criminals and gang-bangers never walk our streets shielded with military-grade body armor and the arrogance of someone who cannot be stopped.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said the bill “will serve to combat our nation’s epidemic of gun violence and protect communities and law enforcement from mass shootings.”

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See Neel Kashkari’s video of living on the street

By Josh Richman
Thursday, July 31st, 2014 at 10:03 am in Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari said he spent a week living as a homeless person in search of a job to test Gov. Jerry Brown‘s claim that the state is making a comeback after the economic downturn, the Associated Press reports.

Wanna guess what he concluded?

He wrote an opinion piece on his experience for the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall, unfortunately), but here’s the video his campaign produced:

You’ve gotta give him credit for cojones. Whether California voters believe the state is worse off under Brown’s stewardship remains to be seen, but this is not something you would’ve seen Meg Whitman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Simon, Dan Lungren or Pete Wilson do in a million years. Kashkari may be running his campaign on a shoestring, but he’s clearly all in.

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Steinberg staffers will represent immigrant kids

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 at 5:07 pm in California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Immigration

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s staff counsel will help provide free legal services to undocumented, unaccompanied children arriving in California from Central America.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced Wednesday that his policy director, Anthony Williams, and his senior policy consultant, Margie Estrada, will take part in the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Legal Assistance Project, in conjunction with the American Immigration Lawyers Association Southern California Chapter.

“These children face a daunting immigration process in a foreign legal system without any legal representation. A kid is a kid, and should be shown compassion regardless of where they were born,” Steinberg said in a news release. “I’m exceptionally grateful to my team and all other volunteering attorneys for taking unpaid time away from their families to ensure that these children receive fair and due process.”

Steinberg noted that many if not most of these children don’t speak English or understand the U.S. legal system, yet some have been requested to appear in courts, sometimes in other states, with less than 48 hours of notice. Those who fail to appear risk deportation orders and a swift return to the violent regions from which they originally fled, he said.

Heather Poole, chair of AILA’s Southern California Chapter, wrote to an immigration court that the timeline reduces the children’s chance to find legal counsel and so compromises their due-process rights.

“These unaccompanied children are in desperate need of competent immigration representation to ensure that every child’s case is thoroughly vetted before an immigration judge before a swift removal takes place to a potentially dangerous place where their safety will be at risk,” she wrote. “Due to political pressure and directives, the immigration courts are now prioritizing these cases on the court’s docket, which has led to fast hearings and some with little notice for many children who remain unrepresented by counsel, having no funds or connections. It is important, more than ever, that we have volunteers from the legal community participate in this humanitarian crisis to ensure that justice is served.”

Steinberg earlier this month led other lawmakers on a fact-finding visit to El Salvador and Guatemala, where they met with national leaders to discuss the gang, drug and other conditions that have led to more than 57,000 minors arriving at the U.S. border since October 2013.

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