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Gun-control recall effort seems to be in limbo

An effort to recall several California Democratic lawmakers from office because of their votes on gun-control bills last year seems to be on the back burner now.

“They’re not off the table, they’re still being considered, but there’s just a lot going on,” said Jennifer Kerns, who founded the nonprofit Free California last October. “No decisions have been made as to whether to move forward. … We’re still in sort of a wait-and-see mode.”

Tim Knight, Tim Donnelly, Jennifer KernsKerns, a political consultant now managing Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign, was involved in last year’s successful recall of two Colorado lawmakers over that state’s gun-control legislation.

But California and Colorado are very different, noted Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, whose group was supporting the Free California effort.

The Legislature’s Democratic supermajority could too easily consolidate any recall elections with this year’s regular elections, thus negating recall supporters’ advantage of lesser total voter turnout, Paredes said. Also, California requires that recall petition signature gatherers be registered to vote within that specific district, making use of paid circulators much harder.

“We’re looking at the realities of politics in California, the realities of the electoral process,” Paredes said. “So we’re in a contemplative status.”

Free California in October had named as potential targets state Sens. Norma Torres, D-Chino, and Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista; Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton; and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.

Kerns noted Wednesday that two of those districts – Hueso’s and Gonzalez – would’ve competed for attention with the San Diego mayoral election that just concluded this week; now that the mayoral contest is done, Free California might take a fresh look at unseating the lawmakers.

Free California’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated since October. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, it’s not required to disclose its contributors.

Though both Kerns and Paredes said the recall idea isn’t completely off the table, it’s hard to see how they can maintain momentum as more time passes since last year’s gun-control votes; petitions began circulating for the Colorado recalls less than a week after that state’s new bills were signed into law. And as this year’s gubernatorial and legislative races demand more attention, time and money, there’ll be less and less left for an effort like this.

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Donnelly issues ‘Willie Horton ad’ vs. Jerry Brown

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly on Monday released what he calls his “Willie Horton” ad against Gov. Jerry Brown, blaming the incumbent for prison realignment that set free a convict who then raped and murdered his own grandmother.

The “ad” is actually a two-and-a-half minute online video, not a paid broadcast ad. And, upon viewing, it almost seems like more of an ad for Jennifer Kerns – whom Donnelly has just promoted from communications director to campaign manager.

In the video and in his news release, Donnelly – an Assemblyman from Twin Peaks – makes hay of the fact that he’s hired one of the first Republican female campaign managers to run a gubernatorial race in a large state, and then says talk of a GOP “war on women” was “conjured up by ‘consultants’ inside the Beltway.”

“If there IS such a thing as a War on Women, Donnelly says it’s being waged by Governor Jerry Brown as he releases violent criminals onto the street to prey upon women in California, at the same time he has stripped women of their 2nd Amendment rights by signing the strictest gun control laws in the nation,” the news release says. “The video shows footage of the criminal that some say will be Governor Brown’s ‘Willie Horton’ in this race – a convicted criminal who was released from prison, only to rape and murder his own grandmother. The inmate was released after the passage of California Assembly Bill (AB) 109, Governor Brown’s so-called realignment program aimed to save money and reduce overcrowding in prisons.”

The convict at issue, Jerome DeAvila, is accused of slaying his grandmother in Stockton a few days after he was released early from San Joaquin County Jail, where he’d been serving 30 days for failing to register as a sex offender.

Willie Horton was serving a life sentence for murder in Massachusetts when he was allowed out of prison as part of a weekend furlough program, fled, and eventually committed assault, armed robbery and rape. He was featured in attack ads against 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, who had been governor of Massachusetts when Horton got out; Dukakis hadn’t started the furlough program, but had supported it.

UPDATE @ 2:07 P.M.: I asked Gov. Brown’s office to comment on this, and staffers there passed me along to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – which quickly disputed the ad’s core claim.

“There has never been one inmate released early from prison due to realignment – not one,” said CDCR Assistant Secretary Deborah Hoffman.

The 25,000-inmate reduction in the state’s prison population since realignment was put into effect is due to attrition, not early releases, CDCR contends. Parole violators now go to county jails instead of to prisons, and those jails institute their own policies to deal with their populations.

In DeAvila’s case, he was in and out of San Joaquin County’s custody about a dozen times in the year preceding his alleged murder of his grandmother, for parole violations including failing to meet with his parole officer, failure to register, use of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, and public drunkenness.

“We take absconding from parole very seriously,” Hoffman said. “Realignment provides counties with the funding and tools needed to manage offenders at the local level. Parole violators can be held in county jail for up to 180 days and we know sheriffs take their responsibility seriously and are making difficult decisions every day.”

San Joaquin County got $7.6 million in 2012 and $15.2 million in 2013 to implement realignment, but has struggled with jail overcrowding since long before realignment ever came along.

UPDATE @ 2:40 P.M.: Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, just responded that he’s “rarely at a loss for words, or willing to pass on an opportunity to criticize an opponent, but… um… wow. It rivals Demon Sheep and Herman Cain’s smoking mustache guy in the genre of classic weird political videos, but left me a bit confused about who the candidate is and what state she’s running in.”

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Donnelly hires seasoned campaign spokeswoman

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly today announced the addition of a familiar face to his gubernatorial campaign – veteran GOP press secretary Jennifer Kerns.

Kerns & DonnellyKerns, 40, comes to the Donnelly campaign fresh from her role in unseating two Colorado state senators in a recall election prompted by those lawmakers support of stricter gun laws enacted this year.

And Kerns and Donnelly were together at the California Republican Party’s convention this past weekend in Anaheim to roll out Kerns’ new 501(c)(4) group Free California, which “won’t rule out ‘Colorado-style recall elections’ should Gov. Jerry Brown sign the gun-control bills now in his desk.

“Jennifer brings to the campaign an aggressive style of communication that will help me communicate to millions of voters about jobs, the economy, and my plan for how we can do better in California,” Donnelly said in a news release. “Her relationships with the grassroots and with statewide media contacts will help me get my message out to every corner of the state.”

Kerns said she believes in Donnelly “and his vision for standing on principle to show Californians that we have a better way forward. I look forward to a robust debate about California’s economy and how Californians have suffered over the last four years under the failed policies of the Democrat Party. I also look forward to educating voters about Abel Maldonado’s failed record on tax increases and other key issues that are important to the Republican base.”

Donnelly, R-Hesperia, has made a name for himself as an outspoken conservative opponent of almost everything the Democrat-dominated Legislature does, but his campaign hasn’t gotten off to a hot financial start -it had only $27,418 in the bank as of June 30, and has reported only $10,000 in big-ticket donations (two $5,000 contributions) since then. Then again, Republican gubernatorial competitor Abel Maldonado recently had several staffers quit his campaign and in recent days has essentially rebooted his effort. Former Rep. George Radanovich of Mariposa recently said he’s considering a run, too.

Kerns served in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration and was communications director for the last campaign to ever elect a GOP official to statewide office – Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, in 2006. She went on to serve as Poizner’s department’s communications director during the workers’ compensation crisis and the historic California wildfires.

Kerns also has been a consultant to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association for almost five years, and was a spokeswoman for Proposition 8, the gay-marriage ban of 2008.

Named as the California Republican Party’s communications director in January 2012, Kerns took some heat two months later for suggesting that a female pundit who’d criticized Rush Limbaugh for calling a law school student a “slut” was herself one. Kerns and the state GOP parted ways shortly after that, although that might’ve had more to do with the party’s dire financial situation than with Kerns.