Happy birthday to polar political opposites

Two well-known figures in California politics celebrate their birthdays today, but I figure that’s about all they have in common.

Bob Mulholland, 65, of Chico, served almost two decades as a senior advisor to the California Democratic Party, bringing to the job a broad depth of political knowledge as well as an attack-dog demeanor that sometimes had members of his own party disavowing his actions.

Jon Fleischman, 44, of Rancho Santa Margarita, is a political consultant and former vice chairman of the California Republican Party who publishes FlashReport, the state’s most prominent news and commentary clearinghouse for GOP politics.

Both, I believe, are good men – affable, knowledgeable, principled. And both regularly engage in the kind of hyper-partisan hyperbole that polls show voters blame for the state’s seemingly intractable fiscal and governance woes.

Each is admired by his own political tribe, and reviled by the other’s. Each hews to his own uncompromising ideology, which under many other circumstances would be considered a sign of character – but is it bad for California? Do we blame the individuals who won’t bend, or the system that allows this to paralyze the state?

I’d love to imagine the two of them getting together somewhere to drink to each other’s health today, but I think imagining is about as far as that would go. So, I’ll raise a glass to both of them from here and continue mulling what they and those like them mean for our state and its future.


Houston will run for California GOP chair

Guy Houston

Guy Houston

Tom Del Beccaro

Tom Del Beccaro

In a political move with an East Bay twist, former Assemblyman Guy Houston, of San Ramon, will run for chairman of the California Republican Party against state vice chairman Tom Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, according to Jon Fleischman at the Flash Report.

Fleischman dismisses Houston as a viable candidate, in part, because the former assemblyman supported the voter approved open primary initiative. (Both major political parties are fighting the measure in court, which passed in June.)

And Fleischman accurately notes that Del Beccaro has been running for this seat for three years  (running for the top job is the primary job of the second in command) and has a significant  advantage among 1,400 or so party activists who vote in GOP leadership elections.

I know, I know, normal people don’t know or care about the internal workings of political parties.

But this could be very interesting.

Del Beccaro is a controversial figure in the party. People love him or hate him but few are ambivalent. Rumors and tongue-wagging follow wherever Del Beccaro goes. His unabashed, self-promotional style irritates people. But his fans are exceptionally loyal and they regard Del Beccaro’s gregarious personality and flair for public speaking as an asset to the party.

The vice chairman’s critics have apparently been searching for some months for a viable challenger with a more moderate outlook. Houston reportedly began quietly seeking support of party leaders in recent weeks.

But Houston has plenty of baggage, too.

He was targeted in a nasty civil lawsuit in which investors in his family’s mortgage and investment business alleged they were bilked out of their money. Houston denied any wrongdoing and the case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Termed out in 2008 and with no prospects of success as a Republican nominee in his heavily Democratic Senate district, Houston did what many termed-out legislators do — he turned to a local option.

No open seat awaited him, though, and he generated considerable ill will when he opted to run against incumbent Republican Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho. Not only had Piepho worked for Houston, but he had encouraged her to run for her first term in 2004.

To add salt to the wound, Houston later accepted the endorsement of Piepho’s brother, John T. Nejedly, who was suing his siblings in a bitter family dispute related to the estate of the late Sen. John A. Nejedly.

Piepho handed Houston his first electoral defeat and he moved into private life, where founded a consulting firm, the Dublin-based California Gold Advocacy Group.

It’s no secret that Houston and Del Beccaro are not buddies although the origins of their discord are unclear. The two reportedly clashed during past campaigns, when Del Beccaro was chairman of the Contra Costa Republican Party.

But none of that will matter much in the days ahead. For Houston to prevail, he will need to persuade party leaders to abandon their support of Del Beccaro, who had been the presumptive winner.

That’s  a tall order for a former legislator who has largely absent from the political party scene.

On the other hand, internal party politics can be a volatile scene. The campaigns are run mostly behind the scenes and without the financial disclosure required of public campaigns.


Pollster says Pombo bad for Republican Party



Flashreport blogger Jon Fleischman posted this item late last night citing a very interesting push poll memo from the 19th Congressional District, where former GOP Rep. Richard Pombo has declared his candidacy for the seat held by retiring Rep. George Radanovich.

Dave Gilliard, the campaign consultant for the other major Republican candidate in this race, state Sen. Jeff Denham of Merced, commissioned the poll from Public Research Strategies based in Redondo Beach.

Gilliard and the pollster conclude that Pombo is bad for the Republican Party, citing high negative poll numbers after voters were informed about a variety of Pombo’s problems when he served as the 11th District representative.

“Based on these survey findings, it is our opinion that former Congressman Richard Pombo is very unlikely to win the Republican Primary in the 19th District,” the memo said. “Further, if he were to win the primary election, it is our opinion that much of the Republican base would not stay with him and make Republicans have to spend significant money to keep this Republican Congressional seat in the Republican hands even with the very comfortable registration margin.”

As Jon writes, “Who says politics isn’t a contact sport?”

Read on for Gilliard’s email, which you can find in its entirety and all of Jon’s comments on FlashReport. Or you can click through at the bottom of this post, where I have pasted the full memo text.


TO: Interested Parties

FR: Dave Gilliard

Public Opinion Strategies just completed a poll in CA 19. A memo from the pollster is attached. The bottom line is that Jeff Denham starts with strong name ID and positives as well as a significant lead on the ballot test. When voters learn of a single fact – the Radanovich endorsement of Denham – Denham’s lead over Pombo expands to 38 % to 11 %. That lead becomes insurmountable once voters learn about both major candidates. It is also clear that Richard Pombo’s candidacy is very harmful to the Republican Party in 2010.

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Prop. 1A’s union foes: Voters OK with tax hikes

As I noted yesterday, we’ll now have a post-special-election period of argument over what the election results mean.

The No on Prop. 1A campaign today released the results of a poll – a David Binder Research survey of 1,008 voters, 603 of whom voted in the special election and 405 of whom did not, conducted May 16-20 – that they say belies the “it’s all spending cuts from here” meme in Sacramento.

“The lesson to take from this… is that voters are willing to look at tax increases, this mantra were hearing that ‘no new taxes’ is absolutely the way California needs to go forward is not supported by our data,” Binder said on a conference call with reporters a short while ago.

That is, when asked, “Which of the following best describes your opinion about the special election?,” 69 percent chose “It was an example of the Governor and the legislature balancing the budget on the backs of average Californians instead of asking their special interest contributors to do their share to help out” while 19 percent chose “The Governor and legislature are asking all Californians to share the pain equally as the state deals with this budget crisis” and 12 percent didn’t know.

And when asked “Which one of the following approaches would you like the leaders of state government to take in dealing with the state budget’s shortfall?,” 29 percent chose “State government should rely entirely on spending cuts with no tax increases” while 65 percent chose “Shared responsibility, with some tax increases” and 6 percent didn’t know.

Lots more poll results, and some opposing viewpoints, after the jump…
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California Republicans on stimulus bill passage

I posted earlier on what your Bay Area House members were saying about the economic stimulus bill, but they all bat for the same team.

California Republican Party vice chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette had this and more to say (on Thursday, though I assume he still felt the same or moreso after the votes were taken Friday) at his Political Vanguard site:

Most of this bill is a Christmas tree of handouts to unions and other Left leaning causes. Remember, this is the first time the Dems have had control of Congress and the Presidency in 15 years – they went for it all because they know in 21 months, they may not have the House. That is why it is packed with items that will advance socialized medicine, global warming rescues and the rest. They also know that it is easier to create a government program than it is to end it. Hence their haste.

Jon Fleischman, a state GOP regional vice-chair, posted to his FlashReport.org a statement from Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, which said in part:

Instead of pork barrel spending, Congress should look toward spurring investment and job growth through the private sector. Any type of stimulus package should be focused on encouraging private capital into the system rather than redistributing taxpayer money through the government.

Hear from California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring, after the jump…
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FlashReport launches anti-McNerney web site

Conservative Republican FlashReport founder Jon Fleischman launched a new web site this week —  www.ONETERMISENOUGH.COM — targeting freshman Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.

What does a Southern California Republican care about the outcome in District 11?

For one, it’s the only competitive congressional race in California and one of the top five targeted races in the nation. In a big upset, McNerney beat seven-term incumbent Richard Pombo in 2006 and this year, Republican Dean Andal of Stockton hopes to put the seat back in the GOP column.

(And no, Fleischman says, he’s not on the Andal campaign payroll. He donated his own money to start the web site.)

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

On the site, Fleischman calls McNerney out for having pizza with CodePink activists. (For those who don’t know, CodePink is a high-profile anti-war activist group that conservatives loath, particularly after the group supported the removal of a Marine recruiting office in Berkeley.)

But if you look at link to CodePink’s own web account of the lunch, McNerney didn’t go to a CodePink sponsored pizza party. It was one of McNerney’s own “Congress on the Corner” events in May 2007. Continue Reading