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Nora Campos says her poll shows her leading Beall

Nora Campos

Assemblywoman Nora Campos and state Sen. Jim Beall are having their first election year tiff this week – over a poll Campos commissioned before deciding to challenge her fellow San Jose Democrat for his Senate seat.

Campos’ campaign touted the survey it commissioned finding that she had an 8 percentage point lead after recipients were told information about both candidates.

But the campaign was silent on initial tally before the pollsters started testing how voters responded to information provided about both candidates.

“If they’re not going to release the initial numbers, it’s likely they didn’t come out very well for Nora Campos,” Beall’s campaign consultant Michael Terris said. Beall hasn’t done any polling yet.

Ed McGovern, a Campos campaign consultant, said the initial numbers did show Beall with “very slight” lead, but he added that the polling firm, Godbe Research, tested positive and negative information about both candidates.

“We didn’t want to give her a poll that would give her unrealistic results,” he said. “She had to see a path to victory.”

The candidates will have a better sense of where they stand after the June 7 primary, and then lots more time to make their pitch to voters in November.

“Hang on to your hats,” McGovern said. “It’s going to be a long ride.”

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Bay Area Political Digest (Campos challenges SJ incumbent)

Nora Campos

Here are some of today’s big-time stories:

Will it be Super Tuesday for Hillary Clinton? Stupor Tuesday for the Republicans? Ted Cruz is favored to win his home state of Texas, but if he doesn’t that could be the end of him.

Back home, termed out Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, isn’t going to wait her turn for a return trip to Sacramento. She announced Tuesday that she’s running for State Senate against incumbent Jim Beall. Campos, who’s had lots of staff turnover as an Assemblywoman, called herself a “common sense leader.”

The last thing CD17 needed was another Democrat with good hair, but that appears to be what we’re getting. Challenging Mike Honda and Ro Khanna will be San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio.

The deal is done in Sacramento to keep taxing managed health plans and receiving federal Medi-Cal money.

Some news from local lawmakers:

Rep. Eric Swalwell is co-sponsoring a bill looking to bridge the Silicon Valley – Washington cybersecurity divide

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Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ office has continued to see tremendous staff turnover in recent years, and several former staffers say it’s due to a hostile work environment created by her chief of staff.

Nora CamposRecords obtained from the Assembly Rules Committee show that since Campos, D-San Jose, took office at the end of 2010, 46 staffers have started work for her.

About two dozen have left since Chief of Staff Sailaja Rajappan joined the office in November 2012. Former staffers say Rajappan was unduly antagonistic, dressing down aides in front of their peers for failing to meet her often-shifting demands and standards.

“It was stifling and humorless, people always looking over their shoulder, a culture fostered by the chief of staff who actively sowed dissention and division between her own staffers,” said Steven Harmon, a former reporter for this newspaper who served as Campos’ press aide from June 2013 through his firing by Rajappan last month. Harmon said he was given no specific reason for his firing.

“People leave generally to escape the punishing atmosphere, a culture of fear and oppressive management,” he said.

Rajappan said she and Campos would not answer questions by phone or email this week, and unless this story was delayed to accommodate a face-to-face interview with Campos next week, “we don’t have a comment on this situation.”

It’s not the first time Campos’ office has seemed to be in disarray; allegations about her being tough on staff date back to her days on San Jose City Council.

But these new claims come as Campos finds herself somewhat marginalized in the Assembly. Formerly the speaker pro tem – appointed by the speaker to preside over floor sessions – Campos found herself without any leadership post or committee chair as Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reorganized in November. Atkins late last month named Campos as “assistant Democratic leader – external relations,” a title that didn’t exist previously.

And the turnover has consequences for the 27th Assembly District’s constituents, particular when it comes to the skeleton-crewed district office. Each assembly district has approximately 466,000 constituents; Campos’ district office as of last month had two employees, while other Bay Area assembly members have from four to seven district staffers each.

Campos’ Capitol and district staff combined now numbers six or seven.

Three other staffers who left Campos’ office of their own accord in the past two years spoke on condition of anonymity, lest their comments hurt their Capitol or other public-policy careers. One described the office’s atmosphere as “pretty toxic.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.

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New bill would bar drones over private property

Drone aircraft would be prohibited from trespassing over private property in California, under a bill introduced this week.

SB 142 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would clarify the state’s existing language on trespassing – which forbids people from entering someone’s private property, and from taking photos or recordings there – to specify that it also applies to remotely operated aerial vehicles.

Hannah-Beth Jackson“Drones have a lot of potentially useful and extremely innovative uses. But invading our privacy and property without permission shouldn’t be among them. When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy,” Jackson said in a news release. “This bill would extend these long-established definitions of trespassing and privacy, and bring them into the 21st century, by applying them also to drones.”

The bill wouldn’t affect drone use in public areas or in airspace above about 400 feet, which is under federal regulation. Jackson introduced her bill Monday, hours after a drone crashed on the White House lawn.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a bill in December that would require warrants for human surveillance collected by airborne drones; destruction of drone-collected data within one year; and limits on sharing that data. Law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have to get a warrant before using a drone in response to exigent circumstances, traffic accidents, fires, environmental disasters, and searching for illegal marijuana grows in wilderness areas. Gov. Jerry Brown in September vetoed another bill on this subject.

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No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

“It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

“To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”