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SD9: Robert Reich endorses Nancy Skinner

A state Senate battle between two like-minded progressives rolls on in the East Bay, with some new heat from a prominent liberal’s endorsement.

Nancy SkinnerFormer U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a UC-Berkeley professor, endorsed former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner this week in next year’s 9th State Senate District race. Skinner, D-Berkeley, is vying with former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, in this race – two labor-backed liberals with no daylight between them on most notable issues.

“Nancy Skinner is a proud progressive leader who is not afraid to take on powerful corporate interests and fight for our families,” Reich said in Skinner’s news release. “We need a fighter like Nancy Skinner in the State Senate.”

Skinner, who was term- limited out of the Assembly late last year and now is an energy and transportation senior fellow at UC-Davis, said she’s honored to have Reich’s support. “Not only is he a personal hero, he is one of the most thoughtful, compelling and effective progressive leaders in America. Reich has dedicated his career to combating injustice and making a real difference in the world.”

Skinner less than two weeks ago announced her endorsement by 12 current state Senate Democrats. But Swanson began rolling out his own endorsements at the start of this past summer, which have included nods from both the assemblymen now representing the district; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Teamsters Joint Council 7; and 9th District incumbent Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out next year.

Skinner had about $922,000 ($925,176, less $2,878 in outstanding debt) banked for this race as of June 30, while Swanson had about $50,000 ($80,387, less $30,443 in outstanding debt).

Republican Richard Kinney, San Pablo’s vice mayor, also is running for the seat; he had about $750 banked as of June 30. But in a district that’s 63 percent Democrat to 8 percent Republican, it’s hard to imagine him making it into the June primary’s top two in order to advance to November.

A third prominent Democrat, former Assembly Majority Leader and current Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, dropped out of this race late last month.

“Over the past six months, I am proud to say that we had successfully begun to build a campaign based on local support, community action and alliances with like-minded groups in Sacramento, Chan wrote in message to supporters. “Unfortunately, political races are increasingly dependent on money and less on grassroots support and action. It has become clear that the window of time I have to raise the necessary funds will be difficult given my responsibilities to my constituents. It has also become clear that the needs of my family must come first.”

Chan noted that although she can use some of the money she had raised for this race for her supervisorial campaign committee and the rest for like-minded candidates and causes, she will honor individual contributors’ requests for refunds.

The 9th District is a swath of Contra Costa and Alameda counties from Rodeo in the north to San Leandro in the south, including Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Hercules, Kensington and other communities.

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State Sen. Steve Glazer hires Antioch’s mayor

Antioch Mayor Wade Harper has joined state Sen. Steve Glazer’s staff as a senior field representative in the district office.

Wade HarperHarper, 51, has been a councilman since 2010 and mayor since 2012. He was a law enforcement officer from 1998 to 2013, rising through the ranks as an officer, detective and sergeant in the Emeryville Police Department before finishing as lieutenant for the Tracy Police Department.

He joins two other local elected officials on Glazer’s staff. Lafayette School District Governing Board member Teresa Gerringer is Glazer’s district director, and Pittsburg Vice Mayor Ben Johnson is a senior field representative.

“The elected officials on my staff are actively in touch with the issues of the communities they represent, so they are excellent resources for me and my team,” Glazer, D-Orinda, said in a news release.

Glazer also announced he has hired Elizabeth Patton of Oakland as his constituent services coordinator; she was an intern on Glazer’s campaign earlier this year.

Glazer’s 7th State Senate District includes the Lamorinda area, Walnut Creek, Concord, Alamo, Danville, San Ramon, Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood in Contra Costa County, as well as Alameda County’s tri-valley area including Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and Sunol.

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Padilla chalks up win on eve of East Bay visit

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla arrives in the East Bay on Wednesday with a legislative win under his belt.

Alex PadillaThe Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill that Padilla sponsored, AB 1461, to modernize California’s motor-voter registration system so that every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get or renew a driver’s license or state ID will be registered – potentially adding millions to the rolls. Voters would retain their right to opt out or cancel their voter registration at any time, and the bill would protect those covered by existing confidentiality policies such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

The bill, jointly authored by Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego; Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, now goes to the state Senate.

“Government has a responsibility to facilitate the civic participation of citizens and remove barriers to voting,” Padilla said in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon. “The New Motor Voter Act could seamlessly register millions of eligible California citizens, which would promote greater voter turnout.”

Padilla is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech Wednesday morning at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony at Oakland’s Paramount Theater; about 1,000 new citizens are expected to take the Oath of Allegiance at the ceremony.

And Padilla also is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the City of Alameda Democratic Club’s monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the College of Alameda Student Center. He’s expected to discuss his office’s work to encourage higher voting participation and bring more Californians into the political process.

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Catching up with Ashley Swearengin

A barrage of attacks from her Democratic rival has Ashley Swearengin, Fresno’s mayor and the Republican candidate for state controller, convinced her campaign is running strong.

Swearengin stopped by the Oakland Tribune’s office Monday afternoon to chat about the state of the race. The Field Poll last week found Swearengin trailing Democratic rival Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, by 14 percentage points, though more than one in five likely voters remains undecided. Yee in recent days has attacked Swearengin’s stewardship of Fresno, and challenged her “Mayor/CEO” ballot designation.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Swearengin said Monday, adding that while Yee’s attacks are “so easily refutable,” they’re a sign that “they definitely take our campaign seriously.”

“My hope is that the other side continues to come at me with their inaccurate and misleading accusations,” she said.

Yee’s campaign has said that Swearengin’s Fresno is a place of fiscal disorder, unemployment, poverty and homelessness. But Swearengin defended her record saying she helped steer the city out of massive deficits exacerbated by the housing-market crash and recession; the city is now building its budget reserve and ranks among the state’s top job-creators, she said.

Yee was in Fresno last week seeking endorsements from the city’s police and firefighter unions, meeting with an agricultural group and holding a fundraiser. “She was definitely playing to the Sacramento insiders and those who support the status quo,” Swearengin said.

Despite several campaign events scheduled with other GOP statewide candidates, Swearengin continued to make her political independence a core talking point.

“I think Californians are tired of just checking the box for whatever their party affiliation is,” she said. “Most important to me is making sure that we’re reaching all the voters of Califonria, not just one party or the other.”

Reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office shows Yee has raised more money than Swearengin, but “we knew for certain we would be outspent,” Swearengin said.

“We’re working as hard as possible to get the resources we need to get the message out,” she said, adding her campaign will start its paid advertising soon. “We’ve got to make as much noise as possible and point out the importance of this seat and my qualifications.”

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CA11: Alameda’s Tony Daysog is considering a run

Alameda Councilman Tony Daysog says he’s considering a run for the 11th Congressional District seat from which Rep. George Miller will retire at this year’s end.

And here I thought state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier – already endorsed by Miller and about a half-dozen other Democrats who might’ve sought the seat – was being over-cautious by rolling out another endorsement almost every day. (Well, maybe that’s still true.)

Tony DaysogDaysog, 48, of Alameda, said in an email Friday afternoon that he had just taken out papers to file for candidacy, and is exploring the possibility of a run.

“In the days leading up to the March 7th filing deadline, I will talk with Contra Costa County residents of the 11th Congressional [District] to gauge responses to an out-of-district person such as myself running for this important office,” he wrote.

Daysog, an urban planner, was an Alameda councilman from 1996 through 2006; placed last in a field of four in the June 2006 Democratic primary for what was then the 16th Assembly District seat; ran unsuccessfully for the Alameda mayor’s office in 2010; and was re-elected to the city council in 2012.

Daysog’s website says his priorities are securing individual freedoms by safeguarding individual rights from high-tech snooping; protecting small investors, including owners of 401(k) retirement accounts; protecting abortion choice; making college affordable without massive debt; and supporting small business owners to create jobs while supporting workers to pursue life-long learning.

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Assembly Dems to take aim at CalSTRS liability

Assembly Democrats say they’re ramping up an effort to solve the long-term, crushing unfunded pension liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).

“The Assembly will pursue a solution to the STRS shortfall this legislative session,” Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said at a news conference today in Sacramento. “Further delay only means further cost and further exposure for the state’s general fund. We believe there must be shared responsibility for a funding solution between school districts, the state and teachers. Our end goal is a State Teachers Retirement system that is 100 percent fully funded.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee he chairs will start holding hearings next month.

“I am eager to begin this process and confident that an equitable and permanent solution can and will be found to the CalSTRS funding problem,” he said. “Ensuring the long term financial security of California’s hardworking and dedicated teachers is a goal we are hopeful we can achieve this year.”

As Jessica Calefati reported Sunday, CalSTRS’ unfunded liability is around $80.4 billion and constitutes a huge chunk of the looming costs threatening the state’s long-term fiscal health.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang, both of whom serve on CalSTRS’ governing board, immediately welcomed the lawmakers’ call to action.

Perez and Bonta “are spot-on in calling for immediate action and shared sacrifice in addressing CalSTRS’ unfunded liability gap during the coming year,” Chiang said in a news release. “If lawmakers can meet the challenge with courage and fiscal prudence today, Californians can avoid a risis tomorrow that imperils not only teachers, but taxpayers and the education system in which they have entrusted our children’s future.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the state’s teachers’ unions buy into this (or don’t) especially regarding Perez’s call for “shared responsibility” including teachers.

The CalSTRS shortfall “does not have to be paid overnight,” the California Teachers Association states in its retirement position paper. “Like a mortgage, this is an amount that will need to be closed over a 30-year period. The shortfall has to be addressed, and teachers are committed to partnering with CalSTRS in finding a long-term funding solution.”