Buchanan v. Wilson: The final AD15 numbers

Some of the numbers came in too late for inclusion in my roundup for tomorrow’s paper, but campaign finance reports filed today show the East Bay’s only hotly contested general election for a state legislative seat was quite costly.

Incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, raised $3.275 million and spent $3.266 million in 2009-10 to fend off a challenge from Republican nominee Abram Wilson, San Ramon’s mayor; Wilson raised $1.27 million and spent $1.258 million.

Buchanan defeated Wilson by a little more than 13,000 votes, a margin of 6.8 percentage points. It was a hard-fought race, but I think Buchanan probably scored the most crushing blow with an advertisement calling attention to the seemingly exorbitant salary paid to San Ramon’s city manager – something sure to irk many California votes in a year in which public salary and benefit scandals like the one in Bell attracted so much outrage. It cast a shadow over Wilson’s claim to fiscal conservative bona fides, and that was all she wrote.


Today’s Congressional odds and ends

A vote on House Republicans’ bill to repeal last year’s health care reforms is getting all the headlines, but other things are afoot from the Bay Area’s voices in Congress today…

McNerney meets with mayors: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, met today with Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson to discuss proposed transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the Tri-Valley area; the i-GATE iHub initiative, a public-private partnership designed to support the growth of small businesses and clean-energy technologies; emergency preparedness throughout the region; and legislation of importance to local community access television stations.

Boxer applauds homelessness grants: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., touted Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s announcement that 801 California organizations – including dozens in the Bay Area – will receive more than $227 million in federal grants to provide housing, job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care to homeless Californians. “Since the recession began, California and the rest of the nation have seen an increase in homelessness. These federal investments will help us combat the epidemic of homelessness so people can get back on their feet and off the streets,” Boxer said. California’s share is about 16 percent of the $1.4 billion total HUD announced today, funded through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Eshoo elected to tech subcommittee post: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was elected ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “My Congressional District, home to Silicon Valley, is the innovation center of the world, and the policies we shape can advance America’s competitiveness and job growth,” said Eshoo, who vowed to work on expanding high-speed, affordable broadband; protecting electronic privacy; freeing up more spectrum; and transitioning our nation’s 911 system to a next generation, IP-based network. Eshoo last week had announced she’ll co-chair a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Internet Caucus.

Pelosi to attend State Dinner: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will be attending tonight’s State Dinner at the White House for Chinese President Hu Jintao. Other Bay Area notables on the long list of expected attendees include Oakland Mayor Jean Quan; San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee; Intel Corp. Paul Otellini and his wife, Sandy; former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, Charlotte; former state Controller and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly and his wife, Anita Yu; and Obama supporters Azita Raji and Denise Bauer.


AD15: Dems pump $1.4 million into race

The California Democratic Party and affiliated party central committees from throughout the state have dumped $1.42 million into the re-election bid of Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

That compares with $648,372 from the California Republican Party on behalf of its nominee, San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson.

The figures include contributions through the last reporting period of Oct. 16 plus late contributions reported to the California Secretary of State as of yesterday.

Where are the parties spending this cash? Some of it is going into mailers and postage:

  • Anti-Buchanan mailers: 9
  • Pro-Buchanan mailers: 8
  • Anti-Wilson mailers: 7
  • Pro-Wilson mailers: 6
    TOTAL: 30

The anti-Wilson mailers focus on the biggest noose around his neck — the fact that San Ramon pays its city manager more than any other city manger in California, according to California League of Cities survey, while he runs as a fiscal conservative. Wilson doesn’t like it but you can bet he would use it if his opponent were in the same boat.

On the Buchanan front, the California Republican Party sent out a host of absurd distortions based on the ridiculous premise that she bears responsibility for every bad outcome contained  in the state’s last two budgets.

Granted, as a Democrat, Buchanan doesn’t agree with a lot of the GOP’s ideas about taxes and government spending. But I think it’s fair to say that every member of the California Legislature was unhappy with the last two budgets and their votes in favor of them reflected the necessity to pass a budget rather than support for its contents.

I’ve posted one of the anti-Buchanan mailers below and her campaign’s response to the some of the assertions:

WHAT IT SAYS: “Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan voted to release 16,000 dangerous criminals early from prison.” And “Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s vote released criminals with a history of attacks on children as well as a convict arrested for rape 18 hours after his release.”

BUCHANAN’S RESPONSE:   That’s ridiculous.  Assemblymember’s are not responsible for local parole decisions.  The bill specifically required each county’s community corrections programs to be developed and implemented by the probation department, as advised by a local Community Corrections Partnership.

WHAT IT SAYS: “Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan voted to cut the education budget by $8.4 billion. Due to Buchanan’s cuts, teachers received layoff notices, schools were unable to buy updated textbooks, testing budgets were slashed and school maintenance was reduced.” (Chronicle, Feb. 20, 2009, SB3x4)

BUCHANAN’S RESPONSE:  Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan voted to pass a budget that closed a $40 billion deficit at a point when the state was days away from issuing IOUs and closing major construction projects.  The budget included cuts to all major programs, including education, but also included a provision to pay back education when the economy turns around.  Only 3 Republicans voted for the budget.  The remaining 24 refused to vote to support any of the budget bills.

WHAT IT SAYS: “Joan Buchanan allowed access to sex and drug websites on school computers.” (San Ramon Valley Unified School Board minutes, 11/7/2000, 1/22/1991)

BUCHANAN’S RESPONSE:  Students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District have never had access to sex or drug websites on school computers.  All computers are filtered.

Here is the mailer:


AD15: Candidates face CCT ed board

I sat in on yesterday’s editorial board meetings with the two Assembly District 15 candidates, Democratic incumbent Joan Buchanan and GOP nominee and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson.

The editorial board members asking the questions included Times Publisher David Rounds, Editorial Page Editor Dan Hatfield and editorial writer and columnist Dan Borenstein. (I am not a member of the editorial board and have no vote on the endorsement selection, but I occasionally sit in on the interviews for news-gathering purposes.)

Watch portions of the meetings below.

In Wilson’s session, the board focused heavily on matters related to the salary and pension of San Ramon City Manager Herb Moniz. The mayor has come under heavy criticism for running as a fiscal conservative at the same time he defends Moniz’ pay, which was the highest in California in 2009.

But what emerges from the discussion is the massive gap between Wilson and members of the editorial board when it comes to knowledge of how public pensions work in California.

For Buchanan, the issue is disclosure of public employees’ salaries, which the Assemblywoman has opposed when it comes to front-line workers such as school teachers and janitors. But Buchanan has reversed her stance after the scandal in the small southern California city of Bell, where investigators have uncovered wildly excessive salaries and misuse of public funds.

The Contra Costa Times, among other news organization, successfully sued to force the release of public employees salaries and pensions and has used that data to help uncover abuses such as pension spiking.

Watch portions of the two editorial board meetings below.


Bad mailer of the week

I have a little game for you. Let’s call it the “Great Hunt for Misspelled Politicians’ Names!” No prizes, sorry.

The mailer below was put out by the California Republican Party for the benefit of Assembly District 15 GOP nominee Abram Wilson. The endorsement list, as an eagle-eyed reader points out to me, was obviously not proofread by anyone with access to Google.

He found at least five  misspelled names. Can you find more?

  1. Bob Kockly (they meant Kochly), Contra Costa County District Attorney
  2. Cleste (they meant Celeste) Evans, Arts Council (should be Commission), Danville
  3. Jim Livington (they meant Livingstone), Councilmember San Ramon
  4. Guy Huston (they meant Houston), former Assemblymember
  5. Lynn (they meant Lynne) Leach, former Assemblymember

As the reader also noted, the Republican Party managed to misspell the names of two of its former and veteran elected officials, Houston and Leach.

“Why should voters entrust a person with the details of “lawmaking” who cannot master the simple task of correctly spelling his predecessors’ names in a document distributed to 10,000’s?” the reader asks.

Wilson mailer

Anti-Wilson torrent pours into AD15

Everyone knew it was coming.

The California Democratic Party and Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan unleashed a triple whammy this week against her opponent, GOP nominee and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson.

Television and radio ads hit the airwaves today and a brochure landed in mailboxes in the past few days. (See all three below.)

All contain the same theme: Wilson cannot call himself a fiscal conservative at the same time he supports paying San Ramon City Manager Herb Moniz the highest city manager salary in California.

Moniz earned $356,000, the top pay in the state, according to the League of California Cities’ salary compensation study. (Three other city managers collected more money in 2009 but after one-time retirement payments were subtracted, Moniz remained was No. 1.)

The issue could seriously damage Wilson’s chances of victory on Nov. 2. Voters of all political stripes are angry over the scandal in Bell, where the city manager earned in excess of $800,000 and he and several city councilmembers were indicted on charges of stealing public money.

Wilson has consistently supported Moniz’ salary. He correctly notes that Moniz’ pay figure includes the cost of health insurance when other cities did not report the figure as part of their top managers’ salary. (This is requires clarification, however. San Ramon does not provide Moniz health insurance but the city boosted his salary about $20,000, the value of that insurance.)

Wilson also says that San Ramon is an exceedingly well-run city and Moniz does the job without a bevy of assistant city managers found in other communities.

“It’s pay for performance,” Wilson said during a recent interview. “Show me a better-run city in California or the U.S. Look at all the awards we have received … We pay in this society for performance. Look at athletes. Look at executives.”

Wilson continued to say, “You can pay less and have to fear for your life when you have to talk out your door or you can not have the amenities. But what good is that? It’s quality of life. We don’t have that in California. But we do have that in San Ramon.”

Click here to listen to the radio ad:

Abram Wilson radio ad by Lisa Vorderbrueggen

Watch the video below:

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