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AD16: Sbranti won’t run, joins Swalwell’s staff

Former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a Democrat who lost November’s 16th Assembly District race to Republican Catharine Baker, won’t challenge Baker in 2016, he said Wednesday.

Instead, he’s ending his 17-year teaching career and starting work June 15 as deputy chief of staff to Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin – his former student at Dublin High.

Tim Sbranti“Everything comes full circle in life,” Sbranti said Wednesday. “He talks about how he learned from me, and now I learn from him. It’s actually kind of an honor to have a student who has done so well that I can now go work for him.”

Sbranti, 40, who has a 1-year-old daughter, said he’ll spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C., this summer getting oriented to the job; after that he’ll be based in Swalwell’s district office with trips to D.C. about once a month. He’ll be the main liaison between the D.C. and district staffs, with an eye toward ensuring the legislative team’s work is in line with the district’s priorities and “expanding our office’s relationship with the community,” he said.

Sbranti’s decision not to run against Baker in 2016 could start a mad scramble among ambitious local Democrats as the state party makes a priority of ousting Baker, the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker. Baker, R-Dublin, is expected to be vulnerable as the presidential election’s high turnout gives Democrats, who have a 7.3-percentage-point registration edge in the district, more of an advantage.

I hear that Sbranti made his intentions known a few weeks ago, but East Bay Democrats were so pre-occupied with the 7th State Senate District special election – in which party pariah and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer defeated Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, on Tuesday – that they’re only now pivoting to consider AD16.

Names mentioned in the past include former Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson, but the word on the street is that she’s not interested right now. Likelier candidates might include Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, who finished fourth in last year’s AD16 primary behind Baker, Sbranti and Glazer; five-term Orinda Councilwoman Amy Worth; and Danville attorney Jerome Pandell, a Democratic activist who ran for the San Ramon Valley School Board last year. Or, some in the party might be hoping for a businesswoman from outside the usual political circles – like Baker – to get into the race.

Sbranti said he’ll miss being in the classroom, though he’ll stay involved in education as a member of the governing board of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, which advises and assists school districts, charter schools and county education offices on meeting the goals set forth in their Local Control and Accountability Plans. And he also might keep helping out as a basketball coach at Dublin High as time allows, he said.

“I want to stay connected,” he said, “but at the same time I’m excited about what lies ahead.”

He won’t rule out some future run for elected office. “Not any time soon, certainly not in my immediate future, but I think it would be foolish to rule out at any point down the line that I would run for something. It’s just not on my horizon right now.”

Swalwell said he’s excited to welcome Sbranti aboard after nearly 20 years as a teacher, state legislative staffer, councilman and mayor.

“His work has produced results that have helped create jobs, protect our environment, and provide affordable housing. But his work is not done, and I’m lucky he wants to continue serving our community as my deputy chief of staff,” the second-term congressman said. “Tim inspired me when I was his student to go into public service. I couldn’t be more thrilled to now have his counsel as I work to serve the East Bay.”

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Rep. Eric Swalwell is having a good week

It’s a banner week for the East Bay’s Rep. Eric Swalwell.

On Tuesday, the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry held a fundraising reception for Swalwell, D-Dublin, at Washington, D.C.’s Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar; contributors gave $500, $1,000 or $2,000 each.

On Wednesday, it became apparent that he barely needed Tuesday’s fundraiser. The first-quarter campaign finance report he filed with the Federal Election Commission showed he raised $330,136 from Jan. 1 through March 30, bringing his cash on hand to $534,161.

Mind you, that’s what he has left after giving $50,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and smaller contributions (usually $500 each) to a bunch of California Democrats in tougher districts, including Ami Bera, Julia Brownley, Pete Aguilar and Scott Peters – the kind of party tithing that helps members of Congress build clout for leadership positions.

And speaking of leadership positions, Swalwell – already a regional Democratic whip – on Thursday announced he’ll chair a new “Future Forum” of 14 young Democratic House members focused on issues and opportunities for millennials.

Eric SwalwellAt a kickoff announcement in Washington, Swalwell and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said forum members are starting a national listening tour with stops in New York, Boston and the Bay Area, with other cities to follow in coming months.

In the Bay Area, those events will include a town hall on rising student debt and college affordability from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. next Monday, April 20 in the event center at Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd. in Hayward. Swalwell and several other forum members also will hold a town hall on millennial entrepreneurship from 6 to 7 p.m. that night at the Impact Hub SF co-working space, 925 Mission St. in San Francisco.

“The issues of rising student loan debt, college affordability and declining millennial entrepreneurship do not just impact young Americans, they affect the health of our overall economy. Congress can’t afford to ignore these pressing challenges,” Swalwell said in a news release. “But we can’t just be talking about millennials; we need to be listening to millennials. To that end, we are crowdsourcing stories and ideas at events around the country and via social media and Medium to hear directly from our generation about how Congress can take action to better our future.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in the release that the forum members “bring the energetic, innovative, forward-looking leadership needed to meet the 21st century challenges we face. This effort is about bringing young people to the table and harnessing their dynamism, optimism, and hope to create a future where equality of opportunity exists for all, not just the ultra-wealthy and well-connected.”

Other Future Forum include Aguilar, D-Redlands; Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.; Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.; Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

All this unfolds while there’s not yet anyone clearly preparing to challenge Swalwell in 2016.

At this time two years ago, then-state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett already had announced she would take him on. But her third-place finish in last June’s top-two primary has called into question whether a challenge on Swalwell’s left flank can be effective in a district where 22.7 percent of voters are nonpartisan and 21.5 percent are Republicans.

Now, without a potential rival breathing down his neck, watch for him to spend more of his second term focused not only on serving constituents but also on shoring up his bona fides within the party to assure himself a more prominent future.

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Rep. Eric Swalwell visited troops, officials in Iraq

Rep. Eric Swalwell returned Wednesday from a bipartisan congressional trip to Iraq.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, is a House Intelligence Committee member and was briefed in Iraq by senior military officials involved with Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to roll back the self-proclaimed Islamic State. He also met with Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi, and he attended Easter Sunday service and brunch with enlisted troops.

Swalwell Easter brunch with troops in Iraq

“This trip gave me the opportunity to see up close the damage the Iraqi-led, U.S.-supported coalition is having on ISIL,” Swalwell said in a news release. “Because of the enduring work of our troops and intelligence community, we have ISIL on the ropes and are well-positioned to deliver a knockout blow. The real challenge, however, is what does Iraq look like post-ISIL? The United States can provide limited, short-term military aid to Iraq, but a longstanding peaceful future requires Iraqi leadership that puts an end to sectarian violence.”

“It was an honor to spend Easter Sunday in Iraq with my heroes, the brave men and women of our Armed Services and intelligence community,” he added. “I was moved by the commitment of our troops, who were spending Easter away from their loved ones, to serve our country.”

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Swalwell to help focus House Dems’ messaging

Rep. Eric Swalwell was the only Californian named Tuesday to a new committee that will try to fine-tune House Democrats’ message.

Eric SwalwellMinority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the new House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – which Israel will chair – “will be tasked with developing a Caucus-wide message that forcefully communicates where House Democrats stand, that resonates with hardworking Americans, and that presents a sharp contrast to House Republicans’ special interest-first agenda.”

Pelosi said the panel’s 16 members “have consistently shown the wisdom, creativity and vision necessary to make our case to the American people.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, later Tuesday issued a statement saying he’s “honored to lead House Democrats’ outreach to millennials.”

“This is a new way for the Party of the Future to speak with and for the future. Today, young people across America are asking themselves how they’re going to afford their education, whether their education will even produce a good-paying job, and whether they’ll ever realize the American dream of home ownership,” said Swalwell, now starting his second term in Congress. “House Democrats are putting forward policies that will enable millennials to not only dream, but achieve. This position presents the opportunity to find new ways to make sure that our nation’s leaders are listening to and speaking for America’s next generation.”

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State lawmakers react to Brown’s inaugural speech

From state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose:

Jim Beall“This may have been Gov. Brown’s best State of the State address. He laid out a long-term vision for California’s future. As chairman of the Senate transportation committee, I agree with his mission to maintain our roads, highways, and bridges. By investing in infrastructure maintenance and effective mass transit projects we can cut pollution and create new jobs. The BART extension to San Jose is projected to generate 19,000 jobs (one job for one year). We have to keep the state moving and I’ve introduced SB 9 to allow multi-year funding under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I also agree with the Governor that we can no longer make students the ‘default financiers’ of our colleges. SB 15 would freeze tuition rates and that’s why I co-authored it. I believe there has to be a more public investment in education rather than have the students pick up higher and higher percentages of the cost. The Governor was right to point out that California cannot afford to pour more money into the prison system. This costs higher education dearly because it is money that could be spent on our universities.’’

From Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin:

Catharine Baker“As we prioritize our budget, we must focus on what is needed for a strong and prosperous state. Education, transportation, and an environment that promotes job growth must be our focus in the coming years.

“I was pleased to hear the Governor’s commitment to some shared priorities we have. Ensuring our schools receive the necessary funding to provide all of California’s children the education they deserve should remain a top priority. We need to ensure that funding for education is going directly to the classroom to benefit our students and teachers, and not to a bloated administrative bureaucracy. And we cannot continue to defend the status quo and the policies addressed in the Vergara decision. Those policies are denying students the opportunity to get a good education. Finally, in the true spirit of local control, we must eliminate the cap on savings reserves that was implemented last year. It endangers the financial health of every school district in our community.

“Republicans and Democrats worked together last year and supported the rainy day fund, and the state needed that reform. Our school districts need a rainy day fund, too, and state law now prohibits them from having the savings they need to protect against cuts. Ensuring we have reserves to continue necessary programs in the midst of a fiscal crisis is the right thing to do. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the cap on reserves is eliminated.

“As Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Committee, I will work to fight tuition increases that hinder our students’ ability to attend college, and I hope the Governor will join me in this pledge. Under the UC proposed tuition hike, students and their families will pay 25 percent more for their degrees in 2020 than they are paying today. Lawmakers and the UC must work together on long-term planning to keep higher education affordable, and I will fight for that.

“The Governor and I agree that it is time Republicans and Democrats come together to address California’s transportation needs. We have a crumbling infrastructure that was built for a population a fraction of the size it is now. But directing public funds to High Speed Rail as it starts breaking ground this week is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. We should be breaking ground on BART to Livermore, expanding parking at BART, and improving our road capacity instead of funding the bullet train project. This is money that should be spent easing congestion and increasing mass transit in the most high traffic regions of the state.

“I applaud the Governor and my predecessors that have worked to turn our economy around over the past few years. There is a still a great deal of work to be done, and our economy is fragile. Unemployment is dropping, but there are still too many Californians out of work and too many businesses leaving our state. We have to make it easier for employers to do business here. I would like to have heard the Governor address this, but I look forward to working with him on improving California’s business economy.”

More from the Bay Area’s lawmakers, after the jump…
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Eric Swalwell elected as regional Democratic whip

Rep. Eric Swalwell was elected by his House Democratic peers Friday to serve as regional whip for Northern California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

Eric SwalwellEach region’s members elect a regional whip to work with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in keeping Democratic members informed and in line on important votes. Swalwell, D-Dublin, in his first term had been appointed an assistant whip to do a similar job among Democratic freshmen.

Swalwell said he’s “honored to continue being part of the Democratic leadership” and thanks his colleagues for electing him. “I look forward to continuing to advance Democratic priorities that will support middle class families and lead to economic growth.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who chairs the California Democratic Delegation, said Swalwell has proven to be an effective lawmaker “who has earned the confidence of his California colleagues. As Region II Whip he will continue to be an important part of our California delegation as he works to advance the Democratic agenda and serve our state.”