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Neel Kashkari named CEO of Minneapolis Fed

Neel Kashkari, the Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, won’t be running for public office in California again any time soon – he’s trading the warm sun of Laguna Beach for the cold snows of Minneapolis to become president and CEO of that city’s Federal Reserve Bank, effective Jan. 1.

NEEL KASHKARIKashkari, 42, will replace Narayana Kocherlakota, who has served in the post since 2009 and announced last December that he wouldn’t seek reappointment at the end of his term, according to the Minneapolis Fed’s news release.

Kashkari will be part of the Federal Open Market Committee that helps formulate U.S. monetary policy, and will oversee 1,100 employees in Minneapolis and in Helena, Mont., who do economic research, supervise financial institutions and provide payments services to commercial banks and the U.S. government.

Kashkari said in the release that he’s “truly honored” to get the job. “I look forward to working with the Bank’s dedicated staff and continuing the Bank’s long-standing tradition of excellent service to the Ninth Federal Reserve District and to the nation. The Minneapolis Fed has built a strong reputation for economic research and thought leadership as well as excellence in Bank operations. I am delighted that I will be working with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis team to build on the Bank’s many achievements.”

Kashkari beat a more conservative Republican, then-Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, by about five percentage points to finish second behind Brown in June 2014’s top-two gubernatorial primary. He lost to Brown by 20 percentage points in November’s general election.

Before running against Brown, Kashkari had been a managing director and head of global equities at PIMCO from 2009 to 2013; before that, he served in the Treasury Department from 2006 to 2009, culminating with his oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out reeling Wall Street firms under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Mr. Kashkari is an influential leader whose combined experience in the public and private sectors makes him the ideal candidate to head the Minneapolis Fed,” said MayKao Hang, incoming chair of the Minneapolis Fed’s board of directors and co-chair of the search committee. “We were fortunate to have outstanding candidates during our national search. Mr. Kashkari stood out because of his inspiring leadership skills, solutions-oriented nature, collaborative style and deep commitment to public service,” she added.

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Pete Peterson promptly promoted at Pepperdine

Pete Peterson, the 2014 Republican candidate for California Secretary of State, has been named interim dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.

Pete PetersonPeterson, 48, of Santa Monica, will remain executive director of the school’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership while doubling as interim dean starting Aug. 1. He took 46.4 percent of the vote in November’s election, losing to Democrat Alex Padilla.

“Pepperdine offers America’s most unique graduate program in public policy – an education I was grateful to receive about a decade ago, and one that directly informed my own run for statewide office,” Peterson said in a news release. “I’m looking forward to bring my experiences in civic engagement and technology learned through my Davenport Institute work to this new position, as my recent campaign taught me the importance of these issues in addressing today’s public problems.”

Peterson’s release said that since November, he has joined the advisory councils of the Public Policy Institute of California and the bi-partisan reform organization California Forward. He also maintains a blog at rightlyunderstood.com.

The Pepperdine School of Public Policy’s founding and current dean, James Wilburn, announced this month that he’ll become dean emeritus, go on sabbatical for a year and then return to the classroom for the 2016-17 academic year.

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Delay for marijuana legalization initiative

A proposed marijuana-legalization ballot initiative, spearheaded in part by a San Jose cannabis collective’s founder, will be delayed as supporters gather more input.

Americans for Policy Reform, a new nonprofit dedicated to grassroots legislative reform, submitted a first iteration of its “Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014” to the Secretary of State’s office in October. The group spent a year gathering input from people within California’s marijuana movement and from others, using it to compile an “open source” document to legalize the drug.

But apparently that wasn’t time enough. The proponents issued a news release Wednesday saying they’re still “coordinating meet-and-greet events throughout California to gather ideas and support before the last realistic date to file for the 2014 California General Election.” They intend to file final amendments with the state during the first week of December.

The Secretary of State’s office had submitted the measure’s first draft to the Attorney General for preparation of an official title and summary, which was expected to be ready around Dec. 23. But amendments will delay the title and summary’s completion, and only after that completion can proponents start gathering petition signatures to place the measure on next November’s ballot.

“We have been working very hard to include everyone in the drafting of the MCLR language,” co-proponent Dave Hodges said in the news release. “This latest outreach demonstrates our commitment to an open, inclusive process to legalizing marijuana in California.”

One of those meetings is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26 at the All American Cannabis Club, 1082 Stockton Ave. in San Jose, of which Hodges is founder.

Supporters say the proposed initiative would give Californians freedom to use, grow, transport and sell cannabis subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol. It will comply with recent Justice Department guidelines, clarify California’s medical marijuana law, generate millions in new tax revenue and save law enforcement resources while preventing distribution to minors; growing on public lands; profits from going to criminal enterprises; violence and firearm use in cultivation and distribution; and drugged driving, the group claims.

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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.

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Tim Donnelly’s ‘Path to Victory’ ignores obstacles

Conservative Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign floated a memo Thursday outlining a “path to victory” in which incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown and moderate Republican challenger Abel Maldonado cancel each other out.

Tim DonnellyThe memo by Donnelly spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns insists Brown will have a tough record to run on, given that about 2 million Californians remain unemployed and the state now tops the nation in poverty.

“Meanwhile, after suffering a mass exodus of his campaign staff, liberal republican Abel Maldonado has been attempting to re-fashion himself as a pro-tax, pro-gay marriage, pro-illegal immigration supporter – positions which are largely out-of-step with the mainstream of the Republican Party,” the memo said. “Tim Donnelly, on the other hand, has clearly defined where he stands on the issues and hasn’t wavered in those positions.”

And next year will be California’s first gubernatorial election subject to the new top-two primary system, in which candidates of all parties compete in the same primary and the top two vote-getters advance to November’s general election regardless of party.

“With very little marketplace differentiation between presumed candidate Jerry Brown and Abel Maldonado, it clears a path for Tim Donnelly to claim his place among the top two finishers,” the memo said. “Why would a Republican vote for Abel Maldonado, when his positions aren’t that divergent from Jerry Brown’s?”

I’m not sure I buy that. But even if Donnelly were to finish in the top two, it’s hard to see how he could prevail in a general election against Brown or even against Maldonado.

California’s electorate as of February was 44 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 21 percent nonpartisan, so any statewide candidate needs to reach far, far beyond the GOP base in order to win. Donnelly is a staunch gun-rights advocate, abortion-choice opponent and former Minuteman anti-immigration activist, and it’s hard to imagine him forming a strong bipartisan coalition. Deep-red conservatism, while still popular in certain legislative districts, simply isn’t what the statewide electorate now embraces.

And Brown’s popularity remains relatively strong. The Field Poll in February found Brown’s approval rating at 57 percent, the highest point of his current term and the most approval a governor has seen since Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of 2007 (though he finished his term in 2010 with a paltry 23 percent approval rating. The Public Policy Institute of California in September pegged Brown’s approval rating at 49 percent among likely voters.

California earlier this year was outpacing the nation in job creation, with payroll growth of around 2 percent; in the year from August 2012 to 2013, however, the state has added jobs at a rate of only about 1.5 percent. The state’s unemployment rate in August was 8.9 percent, compared to 7.3 percent nationwide.

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Assembly Speaker Perez to run for controller

Assembly Speaker John Pérez formally announced Wednesday that he’ll run for state controller next year.

John PerezPérez, D-Los Angeles, said “California has made great strides in its path to recovery, but our work is far from complete.

“I’m running for Controller to ensure our government reflects the values of the people of California and increases prosperity, by managing our finances smartly, efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Current state Controller John Chiang will be term-limited out in 2014. Pérez’s decision to seek the seat must’ve been made easier by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s announcement in June that he won’t seek it; with $2.2 million already banked for such a campaign, Lockyer – who has won four statewide elections before – would’ve been a presumptive favorite.

But Pérez, D-Los Angeles, joins a crowded Democratic field nonetheless. Those with active campaign committees for this office include former Assemblyman Dario Frommer of La Canada Flintridge, who had $675,000 banked as of June 30; Board of Equalization member Betty Yee of Alameda, who had about $472,000 at midyear; and state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, whose Capitol office was raided by the FBI in June but had about $26,000 in the bank for this race.

Pérez noted that when he first joined the Assembly, California’s budget deficit was more than $60 billion, over half the state budget for the year. “Fiscal restraint has been crucial to putting our finances back in the black, and will remain vital to ensuring a prosperous future for our state,” he said.

“Balancing our books is essential, but this job is about even more,” he said of the controller’s office. “It’s about promoting the financial stability that can offer every Californian the opportunity to succeed and contribute to our state’s prosperity. I will continue to advance smart investment decisions that help businesses, create jobs and unleash California’s full potential.”

Pérez has been Assembly Speaker since 2010, and in announcing his candidacy Wednesday he touted the balanced, on-time budgets passed in the past three years – the first time California has had such a run in 30 years. He also pointed to enactment of his bill to create GoBiz, a program to improve the state’s efforts to attract new businesses and investments in California.

And Pérez said the Assembly under his leadership has boosted the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour; enacted his bill to create middle-class higher-education scholarships; and expanded access to health care with implementation of the new national health insurance law.