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Field Poll memo: Why GOP wave missed California

California was an exception to the Republican wave that swept the nation in Nov. 4’s low-turnout midterm election in part because Californians are happier than the rest of the nation with how things are going, according to a new Field Poll memo.

Mark DiCamillo“At the time of this year’s election, the average of national polls showed that more voters disapproved than approved of the job President Obama was doing 53 percent to 42 percent,” wrote Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. “By contrast, in California more voters approved than disapproved of the job their chief executive Governor Jerry Brown was doing 58 percent to 36 percent. In addition, the direction of change in voter assessments was moving in the opposite directions, with Obama’s ratings trending downward, and Brown’s on the rise.”

Likewise, “for some time now many more Americans have felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track than have believed it was moving in the right direction,” DiCamillo wrote. “The average of the national polls at the time of the election showed that 66 percent of U.S. voters felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track, while just 28 percent felt it was moving in the right direction.”

But in California, the most recent Field Poll “showed slightly more voters here believing the state was heading in the right direction than seriously off on the wrong track, 43 percent to 41 percent, and that over time it was trending in the positive direction.”

Nationally, 81 percent disapprove of Congress’ job performance while just 13 percent approve. “In California, while voters have not been wild about the job performance of the state legislature – the most recent Field Poll shows 34 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving – views about its performance have been improving compared to prior years,” DiCamillo noted.

Exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research for NBC and CNN found that when voters nationwide were asked about the influence that President Obama had on their voting preferences in their local House races, more said theirs was a vote against President Obama (33 percent) than said it was a vote in support of him (19 percent), while the rest said he wasn’t a factor. But the reverse was true when California voters were asked the same question, with more saying their House vote was a vote in support of Obama than a vote against him, 28 percent to 22 percent.

And when asked to assess the nation’s health insurance reform law, slightly more voters nationwide (49 percent) felt the law went too far than said it was about right or didn’t go far enough (46 percent) – but here in California, the exit poll showed a 54 percent majority saying the law was about right or didn’t go far enough, while just 38 percent felt it went too far.

The exit polls also found Californians likelier than the nation as a whole to support the government’s response to the Ebola crisis and to support same-sex marriage.

Not only is California’s electorate less white than the rest of the nation’s, but while exit polls showed whites across the nation generally voted Republican in House races by a wide margin, California’s white voters split evenly between Democrats and Republicans in the contests for six partisan down-ballot statewide offices. Combined with wider margins for Democrats in the population-rich coastal counties than for Republicans in the sparser-populated inland counties, this was a recipe for a blue victory, DiCamillo wrote.

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Money update: SD10, AD15, AD16, AD25 & AD28

The deadline for reporting campaign finance activity from July 1 through Sept. 30 was this week. Here’s a look at how fundraising and spending stacked up in some of the Bay Area’s notable state legislative races:

10th State Senate District – Republican Peter Kuo of Santa Clara reported raising $88,050 and spending $88,772 in the third quarter, leaving him with $45,149 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt – money he has lent his own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, reported raising $125,861 and spending $108,542 in this year’s third quarter, leaving him with $59,423 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. But almost all of that money is already spent: Wieckowski also reported $57,177 in debts.

15th Assembly District – Democrat Elizabeth Echols of Oakland reported raising $205,536 and spending $121,740 in the third quarter, leaving her with $153,480 cash on hand but $61,779 in debts – including $19,500 she lent her own campaign – as of Sept. 30. Democrat Tony Thurmond of Richmond reported raising $184,940 and spending $146,048 in the third quarter, leaving him with $94,425 cash on hand but $37,971 in debts as of Sept. 30.

16th Assembly District – Republican Catharine Baker of Dublin reported raising $157,981 and spending $99,003 during the third quarter, leaving her with $147,625 cash on hand but $13,771 in debt as of Sept. 30. She’s far outraised and outspent by Democrat Tim Sbranti of Dublin, who reported raising $663,842 and spending $531,059 in the third quarter, leaving him with $197,672 cash on hand but $31,988 in debt as of Sept. 30.

25th Assembly District – Democrat Kansen Chu of San Jose reported raising $81,689 and spending $66,209 in the third quarter, leaving him with $57,675 cash on hand but $1,531 in debt as of Sept. 30. Republican Bob Brunton of Fremont has reported no fundraising other than the $8,000 he gave his own campaign in the year’s first quarter.

28th Assembly District – Democrat Evan Low of Campbell reported raising $80,926 and spending $134,723 during the third quarter, leaving him with $259,364 cash on hand but $1,329 in debts as of Sept. 30. Republican Chuck Page of Saratoga reported raising $70,087 and spending $50,728 in the third quarter, leaving him with $22,052 cash on hand but $18,880 in debt – money he loaned his own campaign – as of Sept. 30.

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A few upcoming political events

Political junkies have some great opportunities coming up.

On Monday, Oct. 6, Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, D-Los Angeles, will speak on “changes in the California electorate and the road to a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature” in the Institute of Governmental Studies Library, 109 Moses Hall on the UC-Berkeley campus. The event starts at 4 p.m.

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, activist, blogger and author Pamela Geller will address the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley in the IFES Portuguese Hall, at 432 Stierlin Road in Mountain View. Geller is founder, editor and publisher of AtlasShrugs.com/PamGeller.com; president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America; and author, with Robert Spencer, of “The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America.” Tickets for the 7 p.m. event cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door for forum members, and $20 in advance or $25 at the door for non-members, and are available online.

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will be in conversation with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg for a 3 p.m. program and 4 p.m. book-signing at the Commonwealth Club of California, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Gillibrand will discuss “why it’s critical for women’s voices to be heard to make issues like affordable daycare, paid family leave and equal pay political priorities.” Tickets cost $10 for club members, $15 for non-members or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online or by calling 415-597-6705.

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New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

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CA15: Corbett says Swalwell mail is ‘based on lies’

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is seeing red over a new campaign mailer from Rep. Eric Swalwell that takes liberties with her legislative attendance record.

The mailer Swalwell, D-Dublin, sent to 15th Congressional District voters doubles down on claims, previously made in a mailer and television ad two weeks ago, that Corbett, D-Hayward, missed 949 votes in the Legislature; pocketed $32,000 in per diem expenses for days she didn’t show up; and accepted her $95,000 annual salary in the Senate.

Click to enlarge:
Corbett attendance back

Corbett attendance front

Swalwell’s campaign provided an opposition research memo it says backs up the claims – but that memo notes Corbett has a 97 percent attendance record in the Senate and a 98 percent attendance rate in the Assembly. Remember, she has served in the Legislature for 14 years.

Also, most of the absences for which she allegedly claimed per diem pay was for “legislative business” on days in which there were no votes taken.

And above all that, “there are serious discrepancies in this opposition research, there are days I did not take per diem and they say that I did,” Corbett said Wednesday. “This is all very tightly controlled – you must be present to receive per diem or you must be on legislative business, and records are kept.”

Even were all those absences accurate, a 97- to 98-percent attendance rate is nothing to sneeze at, she said. “Their own research tells you that I have an excellent attendance record, that I do work hard. … They are making false allegations, there are blatant lies.”

Corbett said Swalwell “will say anything to get elected, and that’s the worst kind of politician; his own research proves that this campaign mailing is based on lies.” She accused him of adhering to the age-old campaign strategy that “if you don’t have your own strong record to talk about, then you say false things about your opponent. I’ve seen it time and time again, it’s very disappointing.”

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Brown calls special session on Rainy Day Fund

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the “Rainy Day Fund” measure on November’s ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund,” Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24.

Voters enacted the current Rainy Day Fund in 2004 by approving Proposition 58, which directs 3 percent of annual revenues into the Budget Stabilization Account. The current system has no restriction on when funds can be withdrawn and requires deposits even in deficit years, unless the law is suspended.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved the proposal on the November 2014 ballot – ACA 4, which would raise the fund’s cap from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund, among other things. But Brown said Wednesday it doesn’t address the volatility of capital gains revenue, doesn’t provide a reserve for schools to help cushion future downturns, and limits California’s ability to pay down long-term liabilities.

Brown in January proposed changes including increasing deposits when the state has spikes in capital gains revenue; allowing supplemental payments to speed up the state’s payoff of its debts and liabilities; limiting withdrawals to ensure the state doesn’t drain too much at the start of a downturn; and creating a Proposition 98 reserve, after school funding is fully restored to pre-recession levels, to smooth school spending and avoid future cuts.

UPDATE @ 11:15 A.M.: Assembly Speaker John Perez calls this “a welcome and helpful development.”

“Assembly Democrats first proposed a permanent rainy day fund last May, and we look forward to working with our Republican and Senate colleagues to build a reliable system that handles short-term revenue spikes differently than ongoing, stable revenue streams,” said Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We need to establish a solid system for saving money in good years, so that we can better weather the bad years. We need a mechanism that not only strengthens our constitutional reserve, but also gets us off the rollercoaster ride of revenue spikes and dips that has caused so much trouble in recent years.”

UPDATE @ 2:02 P.M.: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, says he’s glad Brown is doing this, but doubts whether Democrats share the enthusiasm. “It’s just common sense for California to put away money during the ‘boom’ years to avoid future tax increases and spending reductions in the ‘bust’ years. However, we are mindful that legislative Democrats have undermined similar efforts in the recent past,” he said.

“Despite agreeing to, and voting for, the rainy day reserve fund in Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4) as part of the 2010-11 budget agreement with Republicans, Senate Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez denied Californians the opportunity to vote for it on the ballot in 2012 as promised,” Huff continued. “Now they want to remove it from the 2014 election ballot, preventing the people of California from establishing strong protections against future budget crises. I think today’s announcement is a message to the Democrats that the Governor is serious about doing something.”

The California Chamber of Commerce supports Brown’s move, too. “Adopting an effective Rainy Day Reserve should be the state’s top fiscal policy. California’s budget crises were caused by the Legislature spending one-time revenues for ongoing programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “A solid reserve requirement will remove the California budget from the fiscal roller coaster. It is crucial that the Legislature pass a consensus proposal that the Governor can support to get approval by voters in November.”