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SD7: The money and endorsements update

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla has more money banked for the 7th State Senate District special election than any of her competitors, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.

Susan BonillaBonilla, D-Concord, reported $239,317.45 cash on hand with $1,323.41 in debts yet to be paid
as of Jan. 31; most of her money was transferred over either from her 2014 Assembly campaign committee, or from the committee she’d launched to seek this seat in 2016 (before this special election was called). Among the bigger new contributors to this latest campaign are the Peace Officers Research Association of California PAC ($8,500); New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. ($4,200); Florida-based Southern Wine and Spirits of America Inc. ($4,200); and Assemblymen Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa ($4,200 each).

Since filing that report, Bonilla on Tuesday collected $4,200 from the California Society of Anesthesiologists’ PAC and $4,200 from the California Ambulatory Surgery Association PAC.

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, had $147,548.35 cash on hand but $45,110.45 in debts yet to be paid as of Jan. 31; most of her money was transferred over from her 2012 Assembly campaign committee. But since filing that report, Buchanan received $8,200 on Monday from the California Teachers Association’s Association for Better Citizenship political fund.

Michelle Henry, Buchanan’s campaign manager, said Buchanan’s campaign kickoff on Thursday night was well-attended, the money is flowing in, and the polling looks good.

“We are confident that we will have the resources to successfully communicate with voters about our positive campaign through Election Day,” Henry said. “We will not be responding to other campaigns’ self-serving comparisons, and Joan has said repeatedly that she is running a positive-only campaign”

Steve GlazerOrinda Mayor Steve Glazer, also a Democrat, reported $20,863.96 cash on hand with no debts as of Jan. 31. That includes $10,000 over from his 2014 Assembly campaign committee. The single biggest new contribution he received was $4,200 from Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a political action supporting centrist Democrats; the PAC’s biggest donors in 2014 were Chevron, PG&E, the California Credit Union League, and AT&T.

UPDATE @ 1:13 P.M. MONDAY: Apparently Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy is hedging its bets – it also gave $4,200 to Bonilla and $4,200 to Buchanan.

Since filing the report, Glazer this week collected $8,400 from David and Carla Crane of San Francisco; David Crane – formerly an economic adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a UC regent – is cofounder of Govern for California, a group that supports “courageous state legislators who put the interests of their fellow citizens ahead of personal, party or special interests.” Other big contributions to Glazer this week included $4,200 from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Thomas Layton of Palo Alto and $4,200 from Maryett Thompson of Orinda.

Glazer noted Friday that he entered the race later, and so had less time to raise funds, than Bonilla or Buchanan.

“I am surprised that Bonilla thinks that all of this fundraising from Sacramento special interests is worth touting,” he added. “I urge her to release her answers to the secret questionnaires that many of these groups require before they will contribute. I would also encourage her to back my plan to ban all fundraising during the final 60 days of each legislative session.”

Democrat Terry Kremin, a two-time Concord City Council candidate, reported no fundraising.

The special primary will be held March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the primary vote, the special general election will be held May 19.

Follow after the jump for a rundown of the endorsements made in this race in the past week…
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SD7: Bonilla and Buchanan face off in Dublin

The first faceoff between Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan since the launch of their campaigns for the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election was rather amicable, and showed barely a sliver of sunlight between their policy stances.

Bonilla & Buchanan 1-19-15 (photo by Josh Richman)Bonilla, D-Concord, and Buchanan, D-Alamo, sought the TriValley Democratic Club’s endorsement Monday night in Dublin. The result was not really in doubt – that’s Buchanan’s home turf, and sure enough, she won the endorsement vote 29-2 with four club members voting to remain neutral.

But it wasn’t really about the numbers – Bonilla knew she probably couldn’t win this club’s nod. Rather, it was about sounding out loyal Democrats for what’s going to be a fast, intense race – the special primary will be held March 17, and the special general on May 19. They’re running to succeed Democrat Mark DeSaulnier, who has just succeeded Rep. George Miller in the House.

“You’ve got two good Democrats, and sometimes we don’t have that, do we?” Bonilla told the club.

“Susan and I have worked closely in the Legislature… and it’s too bad that term limits force good people to run against each other,” Buchanan agreed.

Bonilla said three years as chair of the education budget subcommittee gave her intimate knowledge of the state budget’s largest sector, and she’s proud that Proposition 30’s tax hikes and a resurgent economy have let the state start backfilling the education funding it shorted in recent years.

She said she’s also proud of the Local Control Funding Formula on which lawmakers compromised with Gov. Jerry Brown, and of authoring a bill to move the state away from its standardized STAR testing and toward assessments that better fit the new Common Core curriculum. “We went toe-to-toe with the federal government and we won. We didn’t lose a dime and we didn’t double-test our children last year.”

She recounted her work as a Concord councilwoman to help ensure the former Concord Naval Weapons Station was converted into open space, and her work as a Contra Costa County Supervisor to develop a plan to pay down a $2.1 billion unfunded liability for retiree health care. And she touted her endorsements from DeSaulnier; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; many other electeds; and an array of police and firefighter groups.

Buchanan said she’s proud to have authored a new law that protects students’ privacy from data mining when school districts contract with private companies for data management services, or for online programs and mobile apps used for instruction. She also cited her 2012 law to restore the historic beacon atop Mt. Diablo, which has been used in Pearl Harbor Day commemorations in recent decades – “What a difference it made in the lives of some of our brave servicemen” – and her efforts to update and streamline the state’s information technology procurement.

But her passion, she said, is public education

California’s once-great system is “at a critical point now” with too many children struggling in K-12 – “What happens if we leave half our children behind?” – and not enough capacity in the University of California system: “There’s got to be room at the inn.” And quality preschool is needed to ensure children have the proper tools with which to learn, she said.

“We can and we should do better,” she said. “When I go to the senate, I want to be one of the strongest advocates for public education. Public education is every bit a part of our infrastructure as twin tunnels and high-speed rail.”

During a Q&A session, both candidates talked about walking back the state-imposed limit on the size of school districts’ budget reserves; discussed the importance of continuing to reform the state’s costly prison system; touted their efforts in developing more effective job-training programs; and expounded on the importance of maintaining strong services for veterans.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

They also were questioned about Community Choice Aggregation, a state policy letting local governments choose greener electricity supply contracts. Bonilla seemed stronger in her support of local governments’ right to pursue this, though both emphasized that communities must do intensive research to ensure the energy they buy really is coming from green sources.

As this race heats up, remember that the 16th Assembly District which Buchanan represented for six years covers substantially more of this senate district than the 14th Assembly District in which Bonilla has just started her third two-year term, so Buchanan might have a name-recognition advantage. But Bonilla has an edge in endorsements (at least, so far) and has good connections that might help her raise more support – for example, her district director, Satinder Malhi of Martinez, also is president of the Contra Costa Young Democrats.

Walnut Creek Republican Mark Meuser and Concord Democrat Terry Kremin also are in the race; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, also a Democrat, said Wednesday morning he’s still considering whether to run.

The TriValley Democratic Club is where Rep. Pete Stark and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell had their first face-off in early 2012 –also was a surprisingly calm, respectful affair, considering how ugly that race later became. Here’s hoping this race doesn’t get as spiteful as that one did.

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Buchanan calls poll ‘definitive,’ foe says it’s ‘BS’

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan is touting a poll she commissioned that shows she’s better-known and likelier to win the 7th State Senate District special election than the three other declared candidates.

Buchanan, 62, of Alamo, has twice the name recognition of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, 54, D-Concord, among 7th District likely voters – 65 percent to Bonilla’s 33 percent – according to the poll from GarinHartYang Research Group. Only 17 percent know Walnut Creek Republican Mark Meuser, 40, and only 8 percent know Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, 50.

The poll found 31 percent of likely voters feel positively toward Buchanan while 14 percent feel so about Bonilla, 5 percent about Meuser and 2 percent about Kremin. For context, the poll found 60 percent feel positively about Gov. Jerry Brown; 34 percent feel positively about Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who just vacated the seat this special election will fill; 26 percent feel positively about Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, who just succeeded Buchanan in the 16th Assembly District; and 16 percent feel positively about Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the Assembly seat and has said he’s mulling this senate contest.

In a four-way contest, 29 percent of likely voters preferred Buchanan, 12 percent preferred Bonilla, 26 percent preferred Meuser and 3 percent preferred Kremin, while 26 percent said they’re undecided and 4 percent said they supported someone else or nobody.

And presented with a hypothetical head-to-head, 38 percent said they would support Buchanan and 17 percent said they would support Bonilla, with 35 percent undecided and 10 percent say supported neither or somebody else. Buchanan’s poll surveyed 401 likely voters this past Monday, Jan. 12, and has a 4.9-percentage-point margin of error.

Buchanan blasted out an email to supporters Friday morning linking to the poll memo and calling the results “definitive… I am in an excellent place to win in this special election.”

Susan BonillaBut Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam said Buchanan is pulling a page from a losing playbook. When she ran in the 2009 special primary election to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Buchanan touted an early poll’s results as evidence that she was in first place and best-positioned to win; she finished fourth, despite spending $1.2 million.

“Considering Buchanan entered the race touting her slogan of running a ‘positively’ positive campaign, it’s sad that just a few weeks later Buchanan has already broken that campaign promise by attacking the viability of her opponents,” Pulliam said Friday. “But as we have seen from Buchanan’s past tactics, her polling memo is positively BS.”

The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, with the special primary on Tuesday, March 17. Bonilla and Buchanan will go head-to-head at a candidates’ forum next Monday, Jan. 19 hosted by the TriValley Democratic Club. Doors open for the event, at the IBEW 595 union hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin, at 7 p.m.; the club’s business meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.; and the candidates’ forum should start by 8 p.m.

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Buchanan & DeSaulnier battle over license plates

Their East Bay Districts overlap, but Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier certainly weren’t seeing eye to eye at Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee hearing.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was there to speak on behalf of his SB544, which would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for creation of a specialized license plate program to generate funds for school violence prevention programs.

DeSaulnierThe problem is, DeSaulnier – who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee – earlier this year helped push through a resolution, SR28, that puts a moratorium on new license plate types until a task force made up of California Highway Patrol, DMV and local police can issue a report by July 2015 “on license plate designs appropriate for traffic safety and effective law enforcement in today’s environment.”

And that resolution essentially put the kibosh on Buchanan’s AB49, which would require the Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV for a special license plate promoting breast cancer awareness – what supporters call the “pink plate” bill. AB49 now languishes in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Could you please explain to me why you should not have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and why this plate and any other should not be subject to the pending results of the study?” Buchanan, D-Alamo, asked DeSaulnier on Monday. “Because it seems to me that when we write a bill that kills one, it should apply to everybody, especially the author of that resolution.”

The difference, DeSaulnier replied, is that “the full-plate pink plate had a problem, in my conversations with the CHP” – police were concerned that the fully colored plate might be hard to distinguish from other states’ plates, especially under twilight conditions. His school-violence prevention plate, he said, merely has a logo on one side, not a fully different color.

But Buchanan insists SR28 applies to all specialty license plates. And “if we’re going to pass a resolution that clearly states it applies to all specialty plate types… we should be applying that equally to all license plates and not making special carve-outs,” she said.

Replied DeSaulnier: “If someone comes together with a plate that complies with our rules then it will get out of our committee.”

“Right now, my opinion is, your plate does not,” he told Buchanan. “In my discussions with CHP, they had some questions, so that’s why we’re doing the study. … My whole difficulty with your plate was whether public safety could see or not.”

Buchanan held her ground. “I believe for us to approve a bill that’s in conflict with an existing senate resolution that came out of the senate transportation department is not responsible,” she said. “I think that if they want to change it, it should be changed first.”

The Assembly Transportation committee voted 10-3 to advance DeSaulnier’s bill, which is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

The California Channel has video of the exchange here (starting at the 50-minute mark).

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CA11: The who-will-and-who-won’t roundup

Two days after Rep. George Miller announced he’ll retire at the end of 2014 after 40 years in the House, here’s the shakeout so far on who will and won’t try to succeed him in the 11th Congressional District:

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: At almost the same instant Miller started his news conference in Richmond, DeSaulnier was telling a reporter in Sacramento that he would run; he issued his news release less than four hours later.

Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson: She’s “seriously considering” it.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: “She’s still looking at what the options are,” spokeswoman Michelle Henry said Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord: She is “is focused on her upcoming re-election for state assembly and not considering a run for Congress,” spokesman Luis Quinonez said Wednesday.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Tuesday.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Wednesday.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield: Won’t run for the seat next to his.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin: Won’t run.

Former airline pilot and “Hero on the Hudson” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville: Won’t run.

Watch for Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s story this weekend reviewing the whole scrum in much more detail; stay tuned, as the landscape continues to shift.

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Alamo woman praises Mitt in convention speech

A Bay Area woman helped humanize Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with a speech tonight from the podium of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Pam Finlayson, 54, of Alamo, recounted how Romney – then a Mormon lay pastor in Massachusetts – helped her and husband, Grant, through tough times when their daughter was born prematurely.

“When the world looks at Mitt Romney, they see him as the founder of a successful business, the leader of the Olympics, or a Governor. When I see Mitt, I know him to be a loving father, man of faith and caring and compassionate friend,” she said. “It is with great excitement and a renewed hope, to know that our country will be blessed as it is led by a man who is not only so accomplished and capable, but who has devoted his entire life quietly serving others.”

UPDATE @ 6:35 P.M.: Here’s a video posted in 2010 as a tribute to Kate Finlayson, the daughter of whom Pam Finlayson spoke tonight.

Finlayson and her husband are registered to vote without party affiliation. They contributed $5,000 to Romney’s campaign in April.

C-SPAN has video of Finlayson’s speech, or follow after the jump to read her complete remarks as prepared.
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