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Bay Area fans of Jim Webb stand by their man

Jim Webb has dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary race, but some of his Bay Area supporters say they would consider sticking with him if he chooses to run as an independent.

Jim Webb pulls the plug 10-20-2015 (AP photo)The former U.S. Senator from Virginia pulled the plug, at least for now, at a Tuesday news conference in which said the two major parties have moved so far to the extremes that there’s no path forward for a centrist like him.

Webb clearly had been struggling. He had the support of only about 1.3 percent of Democratic voters, according to an average of recent national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics – ahead of Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, but nowhere close to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, the latter of whom still hasn’t even decided whether to run. Most people who watched last week’s Democratic debate remembered Webb mainly for complaining he wasn’t given enough time to speak, if they remembered him at all. And the Federal Election Commission report that Webb’s campaign filed last week shows it raised a total of $696,972 and spent $370,942, and had $316,765 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

Michael Dearing of Woodside, an angel investor and business development instructor, gave $5,600 to Webb’s campaign in August, and was disappointed by Tuesday’s news.

“He’s a patriot and he had ideas that could’ve appealed to both parties. Unfortunately, I think he found neither party was open to those ideas,” said Dearing, 47, an independent voter who has contributed to other Democrats such as U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and President Barack Obama as well as Republicans including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kent., and former Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Campbell.

Webb “had the courage to speak up to Secretary Clinton when no one else in that party would,” Dearing said, adding he would be interested in an independent Webb candidacy. “I would be interested in hearing from anybody who is a great patriot, a great leader and has sound ideas on all the problems that face the country. Sadly, we have a shortage of such people in the race.”

George Butcher, a business regulatory and quality consultant from Livermore, contributed $1,100 to Webb’s campaign this year and said he “would support Jim Webb under any circumstance” including an independent candidacy, though he’s “sorry to see him drop out of the Democratic race – I thought he had a good chance.”

Butcher, 67, a Democrat, said Webb’s appeal is “his overall stance, the way that he tries to rise above the two parties and to put the best interests of the country first. … He’s partisan to the needs of the country.”

Rosanna Falabella, a retired polymer materials scientist from Hayward, contributed about $1,000 to Webb’s campaign. She said she’s in the “anybody but Hillary” wing of the Democratic party, objecting to what she sees as a coronation of Clinton and marginalization of other candidates.

“I was looking for somebody who seemed to have their head screwed on straight,” said Falabella, 62, and Webb fit the bill. “I like the fact that he’s a veteran and very much skeptical about what our foreign policy is doing, both to our country and to other countries that we’re declaring war on. … He’s someone who might keep us out of these foreign adventures.”

Asked if she would consider backing Webb as an independent candidate, she replied, “Absolutely.”

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Tauscher names GOP co-chair for redistricting push

Former East Bay Rep. Ellen Tauscher announced Tuesday that she’s bringing on a former colleague from the other side of the aisle to co-chair her effort to export California’s citizen-redistricting model to the rest of the nation.

Ellen TauscherTauscher, a Democrat formerly of Alamo who represented part of the East Bay from 1997 to 2009, said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will co-chair YouDrawTheLines2021, an organization she formed to take reapportionment power away from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions. She launched the effort in the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission – and by extension, California’s as well.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tauscher said she’s thrilled to share the group’s leadership with Davis. “Independent non-partisan redistricting commissions, like the one we have in California, create the opportunity for more competitive districts and for more moderates of both parties to get elected to Congress,” she said.

Davis said the effort is “critical to getting Congress working again.”

“Creating independent non-partisan citizen advisory commissions in even five or six states before the 2020 census could make all the difference to the make-up of Congress in the next decade,” Davis said. “Ellen and I will be reaching out to our former colleagues and like-minded state elected officials of both parties in these key states to put the wheels in motion to get this done over the next five years.”

The project will focus on passing ballot initiatives in key states over the next three election cycles to approve the formation of independent, non-partisan citizen redistricting commissions based on California’s model that was passed in 2008.

Tauscher left her House seat in 2009 to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs – serving under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – until February 2012, and then served as Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense until August 2012. She now splits her time between San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

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Lofgren proposes citizen redistricting in all states

A Bay Area congresswoman is helping to lead a charge to require all states to adopt the kind of independent redistricting commission that California has, as a means of halting partisan gerrymandering.

It’s a bold move, consider the U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether or not such commissions are constitutional – an Arizona case that could doom California’s commission too. At the same time, it’s a largely symbolic move, as there’s no way that the Republicans who run Congress will let this happen; it’s an existential threat to their House majority.

But a pack of Democrats led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and Donna Edwards, D-Md., say their Redistricting Reform Act of 2015 will reform the nation’s patchwork redistricting system.

The bill would require states to establish independent, multi-party citizen redistricting commissions to draw open, transparent statewide district maps after each U.S. Census. Most states still let state lawmakers draw the lines, as California did until voters approved Prop. 11 of 2008 and Prop. 20 of 2010 to give state and federal redistricting authority to the new, independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

“The issue of redistricting reform is one that is central to our democracy, and now that the matter is before the U.S. Supreme Court, it has never been more important,” Lofgren said in a news release. “What we see now is too often a troubling reality in which politicians choose their voters instead of voters picking their elected officials. The Redistricting Reform Act fixes this by creating a more transparent electoral process to hold politicians accountable to the people they represent.”

The bill’s original cosponsors include Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. Supporters include Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza.

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Boxer, Ted Cruz agree on military justice bill

Mark the date: This is one of the few times you ever will see U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Ted Cruz supporting the same cause.

Barbara BoxerBoxer, the California liberal, and Cruz, the Tea Party darling from Texas, are among 53 Senators – 44 Democrats and nine Republicans – who have publicly voiced support for a bill to create an independent military justice system. The Senate is expected to vote next week on S.1752, the Military Justice Improvement Act by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., as well as on additional sexual assault reforms sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

“It is time to bring an end to the broken promises of ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual assault. Enough already,” Boxer said in a news release. “It is time to fix our military justice system and to give survivors a chance at the justice they deserve by enacting the Military Justice Improvement Act.”

My Approved PortraitsCruz commended Gillibrand for her leadership on the issue, saying the bill “will address the most serious crimes in the military while enabling commanders to focus on their wartime mission and ensure that the rights of both victims and those accused of crimes are protected. Our strongest allies have adopted similar military justice changes and their experience shows us that this can be done without harming the chain of command or military readiness. I look forward to continue working with her on this important issue.”

Victims of military sexual assault often have described feeling fearful when deciding whether to report the crimes, because the military chain of command has an inherent conflict of interest and bias in deciding whether to prosecute.

The bill moves the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors who aren’t beholden to the usual chain of command. Excepted from the bill are 37 serious crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going absent without leave, plus all crimes punishable by less than a year behind bars.

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President Obama endorses Pete Stark

Rep. Pete Stark‘s campaign today announced the endorsement of President Barack Obama.

“Congressman Pete Stark is a tireless champion for all of the 15th’s working families,” the president said in the news release. “We’ve worked hard these last three years to bring meaningful, positive change to our nation – fighting for good jobs, good schools and a health care system that works for all of our citizens. We have made great strides, but there is much more to do. That is why we need his dedicated efforts back in Congress to continue the fight with me. I need you to cast your vote for Congressman Stark in the June 5th Democratic Congressional Primary.”

“We cannot have a return to failed policies of the past, Congressman Stark has worked closely with me on crucial programs and policies that have made a real difference not only in California, but across America. We need his wisdom, experience and his steady, ‘get-things-done’ style now more than ever.”

Stark said he’s honored. “After a campaign focused on health care, working families and economic development, my first task back in Congress will be to work with the President and other members of Congress to get our economy back on the right track.”

Stark, 80, is challenged in the June 5 primary election by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, 31, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, and by conservative independent Chris Pareja, 40, a Hayward businessman. What might’ve been a cakewalk for Stark – a 20-term incumbent rumored to be seeking his last term, and dean of California’s delegation – instead grew ugly in recent weeks as Stark had to apologize for a series of unsubstantiated accusations he made against Swalwell.

“Pete Stark knows he is in trouble and now has to call on the President for support,” Swalwell said Friday. “The only endorsements I am interested in are from people who live and vote here.”

Pareja called the endorsement unsurprising.

“As mentioned in Pete’s release, they have worked together on health care, the economy and jobs. Unfortunately, all three of those initiatives have failed in the 15th District,” Pareja said. “Under this Stark/Obama partnership we have seen health care costs continue to rise and concerns that quality will slip. We can foresee the risk of diminishing health care access facing our senior citizens. We have seen more jobs lost. We have seen the California economy continue to weaken. … It’s time to have the citizens’ voices represented instead of backslapping and self-congratulation for failed policies.”

The newly drawn 15th Congressional District includes Hayward, Fremont, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore, Union City, and unincorporated areas including Castro Valley, Fairview and San Lorenzo.

President Obama will visit the Bay Area next Wednesday for campaign fundraisers in Palo Alto, Atherton and Redwood City.

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Honda and Richardson face off on issues

The Bay Area News Group’s editorial board met this morning in Pleasanton with two of the three candidates for the newly drawn 17th Congressional District.

Charles RichardsonCharles Richardson, 52, a Fremont business owner running as an independent candidate, said he has witnessed the economy’s decline and is seeking office now because he’s concerned about future generations. He said government has been too quick to cut services to society’s neediest people and too slow to cut its own waste and graft, and should stop getting into military entanglements while so many pressing domestic problems need to be addressed with those resources.

honda.jpgIncumbent Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, 70 – a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee – said he’s seeking a sixth House term because he wants to continue working to make government more transparent, and to “turn education on its head” by rethinking how to focus on students’ needs. He said he wants to continue publicizing and advocating for the “Budget For All” he helped draft for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and to play a role in continuing a balanced approach toward relations with Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

A third candidate, Fremont cardiologist and nonprofit clinic founder Dr. Evelyn Li, 56, called Thursday to cancel her attendance at the meeting, saying she was sick. Li has listed her party preference as Republican, although a voter database shows she was registered as a Democrat as recently as last July.

Lots more on specific issues, after the jump…
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