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Former GOP chair Ron Nehring to take on Newsom

Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring will seek to unseat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in this year’s election.

Ron NehringNehring, 43, of El Cajon, issued a statement Tuesday noting California is world-renowned for its people’s innovation, creativity and hard work.

“But today we have a government that is failing in too many ways: sky-high unemployment, more poverty than any state in the nation, failing schools and a toxic environment for job creation. We can do better,” he said. “At a time of serious economic problems, California needs leaders who will be relentless in putting forward the bold reforms needed to make our state competitive again.”

“The policies of Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, and the Democrats in Sacramento have produced high taxes and high poverty together with shrinking economic opportunity and troubled schools,” he added. “There is a better way, and as a candidate for Lt. Governor I plan to offer a better vision and leadership.”

Nehring chaired the state GOP 2007 to 2011; earlier, he chaired the San Diego GOP for six years. He also worked for five years as national campaigns director of Americans for Tax Reform, the conservative anti-tax group founded by Grover Norquist. More recently, he has run his own political strategy and speaking firm.

Newsom, first elected in 2010, is seeking a second four-year term. His campaign had about $1.7 million in the bank with about $33,000 in outstanding debt as of the start of this year.

“It’s hard to imagine someone basing a campaign for statewide office on leading a major political party to near extinction,” Sean Clegg, Newsom’s campaign consultant, said Tuesday.

Former Rep. Ernie Konnyu, who last Wednesday announced he was no longer considering a run against Newsom, sent an email Sunday indicating a “major, trusted and successful Republican” was entering the race, and has his support and endorsement.

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Change of leadership at the Courage Campaign

One of California’s most prominent liberal activists – and that’s saying somethin’! – is taking a leave of absence from the group he founded in order to become Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff.

Rick Jacobs will step back from his post as founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign, and will be replaced there by Dr. Paul Song, who has been a member of that organization’s board.

Paul SongSong, 48, of Santa Monica, is a radiation oncologist on the faculty at the Samuel Oschin Cancer Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and is the Chief Medical Officer of American River Nutrition. An outspoken advocate for universal healthcare, he was named by Jones in January as the California Department of Insurance’s first visiting fellow. Song also serves as an executive board member of Physicians for a National Health Program California, as well as on the boards of Liberty in North Korea and People for the American Way. His wife is journalist and talk-show host Lisa Ling.

Song’s involvement in state and local politics has included working to help elect Democratic U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Tim Kaine of Virginia; House members Tammy Duckworth, John Garamendi, Mark Takano and Henry Waxman; state officials including Controller John Chiang, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg; and Garcetti.

The Courage Campaign claims an online grassroots activism network of more than 750,000 members.

“Paul is made to order to lead Courage to the next level,” Jacobs, who’ll remain on the Courage Campaign’s board, said in a news release. “He shares the political and moral convictions that have made Courage a leader in state and national progressive work. I look forward to continuing to work with him over the years ahead.”

Song said after having watched the Courage Campaign fight for last year’s state income and sales tax increase, for same-sex marriage and for other liberal causes, he’s thrilled to take the group’s helm. “Courage Campaign, and our members, are fighting everyday for a more progressive California and country, and I could not be more excited to lead the team.”

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State Sen. Jerry Hill tapped to chair enviro panel

California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has nominated state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to chair the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality.

The nomination – to fill the vacancy created by the abrupt resignation of former chairman Michael Rubio, D-Shafter – will be considered Thursday by the Senate Rules Committee.

“During this legislative session, we will tackle multiple pressing policies of major consequence to California’s environment and the quality of life that makes California attractive, competitive, and pioneering,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a news release. “The Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee will lead the discussion on strengthening the California Environmental Quality Act, on water quality, and on hazardous waste. This heavy agenda promises two momentous years for California’s nationally-renowned leadership on environmental policy.”

Steinberg said Hill’s 13th State Senate District, with both a long stretch of Pacific coastline and a significant chunk of Silicon Valley, “embodies the confluence of economic growth and outstanding natural beauty.

“He is well-positioned to appreciate the complexities of this challenge, and well-versed in the false dichotomy that pitches business against the environment,” Steinberg said. “California has led, and will continue to lead the nation in smart, environmentally sustainable economic growth.”

Hill said he’s honored by Steinberg’s nomination “and I look forward to working collaboratively with him and all of the Environmental Quality Committee stakeholders to protect the environment while ensuring that our laws are aligned with California’s 21st century economy.”

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3 things for the GOP to consider in California

1.) Learn to choose better battles.

Every cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee tells us that Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is among the nation’s most vulnerable House Democrats; every cycle, he proves otherwise. In 2008, with a 1-point voter registration disadvantage, he won by 10 percentage points; in 2010, with a .32-point voter-registration disadvantage, he won by 1.1 percentage points; and this year, with a 12-point voter-registration edge, he won by 8 percentage points. Instead of pouring resources into the campaign of a 25-year-old with no job experience, perhaps the GOP should’ve looked for greener pastures.

2.) Your navel-gazing is near-sighted.

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro’s statement last night indicates he believes Romney and Republicans failed to “make the case, at every level, for tax reform and to successfully articulate that a welfare state can’t succeed and the true engine of growth is a vigorous free enterprise system.” I’m sure some Democrats will disagree with the philosophical underpinnings of that argument, and that’s not a debate I’ll get into here. But what Del Beccaro failed to address was that the GOP clearly lost big among Latinos, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and young voters – that is, most of this nation’s future electorate. If his party can’t find platform that appeals to these blocs, and an effective way of explaining it to them, it’ll continue to wane even further. Already I see some GOPers sniffing that Obama won without a mandate, but the fact is, he won the popular vote by at least about 2.7 million and – if Florida were to stop counting votes now (and where have I heard THAT before?) – he’d win there too, meaning he carried every battleground state except North Carolina.

3.) Who has the mandate?

Gov. Jerry Brown has the mandate. He won it in 2010 when he beat out the candidate who spent a record $142 million of her money to no avail. He won it again last night with a resounding 8-point victory for Prop. 30, his tax hike for K-12 and higher education. And it seems voters are tired enough of gridlock in Sacramento that they may have handed Democrats two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Legislature – another mandate, of sorts, for Brown’s agenda. The moral of this story: Don’t mess with Jerry.

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New chairmanships for Bay Area lawmakers

Some Assembly members from the Bay Area were given influential committee chairs as Speaker John Perez reshuffled his leadership yesterday.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, takes over as chair of the Education Committee, on which she has served since her election to the Assembly in 2008; earlier, she’d served on the San Ramon Valley school board for 18 years.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and with stakeholders in the education community on legislation that will make the best use of our resources to benefit California’s students,” she said in a news release issues this morning. “We are currently facing unique challenges in funding education in our state, but we will hold steadfast to our mission of preparing students to be the workers, leaders and innovators of tomorrow’s global economy.”

Bob WieckowskiAssemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, takes the Judiciary Committee’s chair; a bankruptcy attorney by trade, he has served as the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s chairman.

Wieckowski issued a statement saying he has enjoyed serving on the Judiciary Committee under chairman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles and looks forward “to working with the Judiciary consultants in this new position. I appreciate the Speaker giving me the opportunity to lead this important committee.”

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Redwood City, will Chair the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee.

Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, now chairs the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, and also steps up as Assistant Majority Floor Leader. (I love the Majority Floor Leader’s job description: “Represents the Speaker on the Floor, expedites Assembly Floor proceedings through parliamentary procedures such as motions and points of order and promotes harmony among the membership.” Harmony!)

And within the powerful Budget Committee, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, will Chair the subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, steps up as Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore until Sept. 1, when she’ll become Speaker Pro Tempore (responsible for presiding over floor sessions in Speaker Perez’s absence). Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, will be Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, continues chairing the Rules Committee.

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Endorsement tiff causes county-state GOP rift

The members of the Tehama County Republican Central Committee are miffed enough at state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro over an endorsement spat that they’ve rescinded their invitation for him to keynote one of their upcoming events.

Oh no they di’int!

Ah, but they did, and now they’re telling the world. County GOP chairman Ken Say reached out to reporters today to announce that Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, is no longer welcome to speak at the fundraising banquet they’re holding in May in Red Bluff. From his letter to Del Beccaro:

After serious discussion of the endorsement actions taken by the California Republican Party Board of Directors during their March 11th meeting, the Tehama County Republican Party has unanimously voted to rescind the invitation extended to you to be our guest speaker at the TCRP dinner of May 19, 2012. The TCRP, by unanimous vote, has affirmed that our speaker must be someone that upholds our adherence to Republican values and principles. Unfortunately, we no longer believe that you meet that criteria and have voted to invite speakers that the TCRP believe to meet that standard.

We realize that you are only one vote on the Board, but your personal leadership in the CRP Board endorsement process has convinced us that you were unable to guide the Board in adhering to the Board’s own bylaws. The specific bylaw violation was the invalidation of Tehama County’s February 9th endorsement of Assembly candidate, Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams, which then allowed the CRP Board to disregard the clear requirement of a non-endorsement by the Board in Section 3.02 of the bylaws. The TCRP believes that their endorsements were invalidated by the CRP Board because it did not fit conveniently with the candidates that you wanted to support and we resent that CRP funds will be used to only support your candidates.

We are making our displeasure of the Board’s and your action public to let the other Republican County Central Committees know that the CRP’s leadership has placed their own interests above the individual interests of the local Republican voters as expressed by their duly-elected central committee members. We clearly understand the reason for the alienation that many California Republicans feel toward the State Party.

We, the Tehama County Republican Party, at the local level, will continue to support the Republican candidates that represent our best interests and not some unknown person picked by a “star chamber” in an illegal procedure.

The state GOP endorsed incumbent Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, in the 3rd Assembly District, rather than Williams. Logue, 61, now seeking his third and final two-year Assembly term, is the Assembly Republican Caucus’ chief whip and is the top Republican on the Health and Elections and Redistricting committees; earlier, he was a Yuba County supervisor.

Del Beccaro, responding by e-mail this afternoon, said the party “engaged in an unprecedented process in response to the challenge of Prop. 14” – that is, the new top-two primary system, in which all voters can choose from among all candidates regardless of party and the top-two vote getters advance to November’s general election, even if they’re from the same party.

“In the end, the overwhelming majority of decisions the Party made were well received,” Del Beccaro said. “There were exceptions – proving the adage that you cannot please everyone, especially in politics. Going forward the Party will move toward a more broad based process that will engage Republicans voters directly.”

Another source close to the GOP endorsement process called this little more than a case of sour grapes. “The CRP didn’t go their way on the endorsement process, and quite honestly, it is just silliness. We have 58 counties in California, and made some 154 … endorsements without this sort of letter. I chalk it up to that.”

More than half of the newly drawn 3rd Assembly District’s registered voters are in Butte County; it also includes parts of Sutter, Tehama, Yuba, Glenn and Colusa counties. About 40.7 percent of the district’s registered voters are Republicans, about 32.9 percent are Democrats and about 20.2 percent declined to state a party preference.

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring just replied to my tweet of this item with a tweet of his own: “A chairman often takes grief for events beyond his control. @tomdelbeccaro acted properly.”