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Democrats mourn loss of Bay Area organizer

Local Democrats are mourning the loss of Amy McGonagle, who was the Bay Area’s regional field director for the Obama campaign last year and most recently had been a community organizer and scheduling director for Ro Khanna’s congressional campaign.

Amy McGonagleMcGonagle, 35, of Fremont, died Monday.

“I was deeply saddened by the news that the life of a key campaign staffer was cut tragically short this week,” Khanna said by email Wednesday. “Amy McGonagle was a bright and vibrant young person who regularly inspired and lifted the spirits of the entire Ro for Congress family. She was one of the first people to join my campaign, and we continue to benefit from her contributions first as a community organizer and later as director of scheduling every day. My thoughts and prayers are with Amy’s family and friends during this terrible time.”

As Obama for America’s Bay Area regional field director, McGonagle had supervised two offices, managed and trained dozens of volunteers and directed get-out-the-vote efforts including phone-banking to mobilize voters in seven battleground states.

She blogged in July 2012 about her battles with “a severe nerve disorder—one known for the constant and unbearable pain it causes” that had necessitated two brain surgeries. “Thanks to our President, I cannot be denied health insurance because of my medical history, unless the Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act,” she wrote.

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Obama campaign launches ‘Betting on California’

The Obama campaign on Monday launched a “Betting on California” press tour to underscore the president’s support of workers and middle-class families while calling Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s record into doubt.

But Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, wouldn’t offer their own opinions on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class families. President Obama today called for extending the cuts for families making less than $250,000 but letting the cuts expire for those making more; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, in May had said that threshold won’t make it through Congress, and instead urged pursuing a $1 million cutoff.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz“There is not a rift or a difference of opinion in the Democratic party about extending tax cuts for the middle class,” Wasserman Schultz insisted to reporters on a teleconference call Monday. “We have consistently fought for middle-class tax breaks.”

“I’d like nothing better than to be debating whether it should be $250,000 or $1 million,” she added. “But I can’t imagine they (Republicans) will even bring the proposal to the floor.”

Lee said Pelosi’s opinions on “the political realities of what she believed could or could not get through Congress” doesn’t indicate a policy disagreement. “As the process evolves, we’ll come up with a number that makes sense for everyone. I don’t see this as a rift.”

Romney wants to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for all, including the nation’s wealthiest. “Americans are struggling in a ‘zombie economy’ and President Obama’s only answer is to pass one of the largest tax hikes in history,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement issued Monday. “President Obama’s tax increases on families and job creators will create more economic uncertainty and fewer opportunities for struggling middle-class families. From day one, Mitt Romney will take action to lower marginal rates, help middle-class Americans save and invest, and jumpstart economic growth and job creation.”

The “Betting on California” theme – which will include events across the state, including ones Tuesday in Oakland and Thursday in San Francisco – is modeled on the “Betting on America” bus tour that President Obama took through Ohio and Pennsylvania last week to engage workers and middle-class families.

“Whether it’s longshore workers or teachers or the entertainment industry … this is a make-or-break time, and the president has a strong record of standing by the middle class,” Maria Elena Durazo, a national Obama Campaign co-chair and executive secretary–treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, told reporters on Monday’s call. “We want a hand up for working men and women, not a hand-out.”

Durazo cited the recent Vanity Fair article highlighting Romney’s foreign bank accounts and business interests, which may be protecting him from paying some U.S. taxes. “We need a leader that bets on us and not one that bets against us.”

“Mitt Romney is not standing by the middle class, he’s still standing by his belief that rebuilding our economy is a top-down policy … but it never seems to reach any of us,” Durazo said.

Wasserman Schultz said Romney finished his tenure as Massachusetts’ governor, his state ranked first in debt per capita and 47th in job creation. “Mitt Romney knows that’s not a record to run on, that’s a record to run from,” she said.

Sources say President Obama is returning to the Bay Area on July 23 for more fundraising, his fifth such visit in the past year. Attendance at many of his fundraisers cost $35,800 per person.

Asked Monday whether the president should concentrate less on raising money from millionaires and more on engaging grassroots voters, Lee replied the bulk of the campaign’s money actually comes from small donors but Obama can’t ignore big donors if he’s to be competitive with Romney. “We’re in an era of ‘super PAC’ money and Citizens United where there’s so much corporate influence and undisclosed money in the Republican campaign.”

Romney’s fundraising in June far outstripped Obama’s, $106.1 million to $71 million, Reuters reported today.

UPDATE @ 4:03 P.M.: Tomorrow’s 2 p.m. event in Oakland will have Mayor Jean Quan and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, touring the Fat Cat Café on Telegraph Avenue. (go ahead and prepare your “fat cat” jokes now). And at 10 a.m. Thursday, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; San Francisco Labor Council executive director Tim Paulson; and San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu will gather on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to talk about middle-class families’ needs.

UPDATE @ 12:36 P.M. TUESDAY: I just got a call from the Obama campaign informing me that the Oakland event has been postponed until next week, details to come later.

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Obama to attend three Silicon Valley fundraisers

President Barack Obama will attend three fundraisers in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, May 23.

First up will be a campaign roundtable to support the Asian American/Pacific Islander community at 4:30 p.m. that day in Palo Alto’s Garden Court Hotel; tickets for that cost $35,800 per person.

Second will be a 5:30 p.m. dinner at the Atherton home of Lisa and Doug Goldman, also at $35,800 per person. Doug Goldman – a retired emergency physician, software company founder/chairman, and prominent philanthropist – is the son of Levi Strauss heirs Richard and Rhoda Goldman, but I doubt that guests at this dinner will be wearing jeans…

And third will be a 6 p.m. rally-type reception at Redwood City’s Fox Theater. Tickets for that event cost $250 for general admission; $1,000 for premium seating; or $7,500 for a seat plus a photo reception, with up to two additional guests in your photo at $2,500 each.

The first $5,000 of a contribution will go to the president’s re-election campaign, half each for the primary and general elections. The next $30,800 will go to the Democratic National Committee. And any additional amounts will be divided among battleground states’ Democratic party committees as follows, up to $10,000 per committee: 17 percent to Florida, 16 percent to Ohio, 13 percent to Pennsylvania, 11 percent to Colorado, 11 percent to North Carolina, 11 percent to Virginia, 6 percent to Nevada, 6 percent to Wisconsin, 5 percent to Iowa, and 4 percent to New Hampshire. Or, a contributor can earmark his or her contribution to a particular destination.

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Obama 2012 defends, touts health care reform

As the Affordable Care Act‘s second anniversary looms this week, the war of words over its worth is becoming deafening. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, in that both sides truly seem to believe they have a winning issue here.

Here in Oakland, Democratic activist Christine Pelosi of San Francisco – daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson rallied about 30 volunteers today at the campaign headquarters on Telegraph Avenue, briefing them on the reform law’s effects to prepare them for an afternoon of phone-banking.

Christine Pelosi @ OFA HQ 3-19-12Just as Medicare and Social Security were “an intergenerational compact,” so too is health care reform “a societal compact” from a president who believes “health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.

By forcing insurers to spend most of their premiums revenue on health care, not administration; by requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions; by reducing prescription costs for seniors; and by advancing patients’ rights, including the right to wellness visits, the law has improved the lives of millions of Americans, she said.

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of its constitutionality and as Republicans run on platforms of repeal, “our response has to be, ‘we’re not going back,’” Pelosi told the volunteers. “And each of you is taking personal responsibility to make sure that we’re going forward.”

Carson noted about 356,000 young adults in California – out of 2.5 million nationwide – have benefitted from the reform law by being allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Almost an equal number of Californians on Medicare got a $250 rebate in 2010 to help cover the cost of their prescriptions when they hit the “donut hole” in their coverage, and almost 320,000 got a 50 percent discount in 2011 on their covered, brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole; the law will close the hole by 2020.

Carson also said 12 million Californians no longer need worry about lifetime limits on their coverage; almost 3 million Californians on Medicare received free preventative services (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) or a free wellness visit with their doctor last year; and almost 6.2 million Californians with private insurance gained preventative service coverage with no cost-sharing.

He told the campaign volunteers that this is what they must convey to the people they call, in order to ensure they’re not swayed by “those who are critical, those who are fearful, those who are financed by the insurance companies.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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