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The Bay Area House races you haven’t heard about

I feel as if I’ve written a million stories and blog items about the hotly contested 17th Congressional District race between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna, and I did a story last week about the lopsided race for the Bay Area’s only open House seat, in the 11th District.

Sadly, these and many other election duties precluded me from getting into the Bay Area’s other House races. It’s safe to say none of the Democratic incumbents are endangered, but I wish for the days when we had enough staff and time to cover them all individually.

For now, a summary will have to suffice – a brief look at the candidates, the challenger’s stances on a few issues, fundraising and voter education in those districts.

Dale Mensing2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Dale Mensing, a supermarket cashier from Redway. Mensing calls for securing the nation’s borders; reforming Social Security to include personal retirement accounts; and replacing Obamacare with a system including personal medical accounts. Huffman reported raising $884,000, Mensing reported raising $5,400. The district is registered 49.1 percent Democrat, 21.3 percent Republican and 23 percent independent.

James Hinton5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, is challenged in his bid for a ninth term by independent James Hinton of Napa. Hinton calls for a “Next New Deal” including a 1 percent Wall Street sales tax and re-regulation of financial markets; ending free trade with a protective tariff, parity price floors and other protections for U.S. producers; Medicare for all; and expanding Social Security. Thompson reported raising $1.73 million, Hinton reported no fundraising. The district is registered 51.2 percent Democrat, 21.1 percent Republican and 20.8 percent independent.

Tony Amador9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is challenged in his bid for a fifth term by Republican Tony Amador, a retired U.S. Marshal from Lodi. Amador calls for cutting taxes to create jobs, improving education, fixing Obamacare, and taking better care of veterans. McNerney reported raising $1.16 million, Amador reported raising $61,300. The district is registered 45.1 percent Democrat, 32.5 percent Republican and 18.3 percent independent.

John Dennis12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is challenged in her bid for a 15th term by Republican John Dennis, a San Francisco businessman. Dennis calls for auditing the Federal Reserve, bringing U.S. troops home from overseas, ensuring civil liberties and abolishing corporate, capital gains and income taxes. Pelosi reported raising $2.4 million, Dennis reported raising $580,000. The district is registered 56.1 percent Democrat, 8.1 percent Republican and 30.9 percent independent.

Dakin Sundeen13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is challenged in her bid for an eighth full term by Republican Dakin Sundeen, an information technology system administrator from Oakland. Sundeen calls for forcing local schools to compete for students, cracking down on surveillance abuses in the name of national security, reforming drug-sentencing laws, reforming and flattening the tax code, and repealing Obamacare. Lee reported raising $1.05 million, Sundeen reported raising $4,900. The district is registered 63.1 percent Democrat, 7.3 percent Republican and 19 percent independent.

Robin Chew14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is challenged in her bid for a third full term by Republican Robin Chew of Redwood City, cofounder of an online education marketing company. Chew calls for infrastructure renewal, using technology to reinvent education, controlling federal spending, and new environmental policies to better address climate change. Speier reported raising $1.02 million, Chew reported raising $25,000. The district is registered 51.8 percent Democrat, 16.7 percent Republican and 27.6 percent independent.

Hugh Bussell15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Hugh Bussell, a technology manager from Livermore. Bussell calls for reducing high taxes and heavy regulation, replacing Obamacare with other reforms, and securing the nation’s borders. Swalwell reported raising $1.93 million, Bussell reported raising $19,800. The district is registered 47.8 percent Democrat, 21.5 percent Republican and 21.9 percent independent.

Richard Fox18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is challenged in her bid for a 12th term by Republican Richard Fox, a pediatrician and attorney from Los Gatos. Fox describes himself as “a Libertarian-Republican focused on smaller government as the best way to foster more jobs, better and more affordable healthcare, better schools, and privacy protection.” Eshoo reported raising $1.4 million, Fox reported raising $39,600. The district is registered 45.2 percent Democrat, 23.6 percent Republican and 27.3 percent independent.

Robert Murray19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is challenged in her bid for an 11th term by fellow Democrat Robert Murray, a Morgan Hill business executive. Murray calls for repealing Obamacare, cutting spending, improving public education, and cutting corporate and capital gains taxes. Lofgren reported raising $1.04 million, Murray reported no fundraising. The district is registered 46 percent Democrat, 22.3 percent Republican and 27.9 percent independent.

Ronald Kabat20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, is challenged in his bid for a 12th term by independent Ronald Paul Kabat, a Carmel accountant. Kabat’s calls for pruning the federal government’s size, reforming the tax code, reducing the national debt and creating jobs. Farr reported raising $673,000, Kabat reported raising $15,000. The district is registered 52.2 percent Democrat, 21 percent Republican and 22.1 percent independent.

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Worst. Turnout. Ever.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified the June 3 primary election’s results Friday – and voter turnout, it turns out, was the worst ever.

worst turnout everBowen reports only 25.2 percent of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot, the lowest voter turnout of any statewide election in California’s history. The previous low was 29.2 percent in June 2008.

“There is no doubt the turnout number is disappointing, but if ever there was a statewide election where every vote mattered, this was certainly it,” Bowen, the state’s chief elections official, said in a news release. “If there is any silver lining, I hope it’s a reminder to people who didn’t vote in June to take note of close results such as the State Controller contest and commit to going to the polls in November.”

California voters set another record last month: More than 69 percent of those who voted did so by mail-in ballots, beating the previous high of 65 percent in June 2012.

Bowen will publish a Supplement to the Statement of Vote by November 8, which will include details about how votes were cast by each city and each legislative, congressional, county supervisorial district, and Board of Equalization district.

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CA17: GOP candidate claims $100,000 haul

A Republican challenger to Rep. Mike Honda says she raised $100,000 in her campaign’s first five days – but two parts of that statement bear further explanation.

Dr. Vanila Singh, 43, of Fremont, filed her initial candidacy papers just last week.

Dr. Vanila Singh“People are tired of career politicians who are only concerned about their careers and not the jobs of the American people,” she said in a news release issued Tuesday. “My message is that we need to solve problems and find solutions. When someone is on an operating table you come to quick solutions in the interest of the patient. In government, that solution is often set aside for petty politics.”

Asked for more details, Singh campaign consultant Jason Klindt acknowledged later Tuesday that this initial $100,000 haul includes $25,000 from the candidate herself. He said he couldn’t provide more information about how many donors gave the other $75,000, or how much of that money came from within the 17th Congressional District; the campaign will have to disclose that later to the Federal Election Commission.

Also, a 2012 voter registration database showed Singh was registered without any party affiliation, not as a Republican. Klindt said Tuesday that Singh “updated her registration as she filed for Congress.”

Singh – now the third Asian-American candidate in the continental United States’ first majority-Asian-American district – might have to fight for notice in a race that’s already drawing national attention as former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, a Democrat, takes on Honda, D-San Jose.

With Honda being one of the House’s most liberal members and Khanna slightly less so, Singh likely would siphon more nonpartisan and Republican votes – some of the anybody-but-Honda bloc – from Khanna’s campaign than from Honda’s.

But both Democrats are far better funded (though Khanna has been outraising Honda significantly), and the district’s voter-registration breakdown is 44.4 percent Democrat, 31.5 percent nonpartisan and 18.9 percent Republican. So, at first glance, it seems unlikely she could surpass either Democrat to finish first or second in June’s “top-two” primary and proceed to November’s general election.

Singh is a clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford University, where she treats patients with complex pain management issues; she’s also a married mother of two. She graduated from George Washington University Medical School in 1997 and received further training at Yale, Cornell and Columbia; she taught as a clinical assistant professor at UCLA before coming to Stanford. Though born in India, she’s a graduate of Fremont public schools and of UC-Berkeley.

“I have a strong desire to serve because I have lived the American Dream,” she said. “We need to get our country back on track. We have to create a climate where small businesses can create jobs and reduce the size and scope of government.”

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Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

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Voter #s: Dems a smidge up, GOP a smidge down

Democrats made a tiny gain in recent months while Republicans continued a long, slow slide in new voter registration numbers released Monday by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Monday’s figures show the state’s Democratic registration at 43.93 percent as of Feb. 10, up a fraction from the 43.66 percent stake the party held just before November’s election. Republican registration dropped to 28.94 percent as of Feb. 10 from 29.36 percent as of Oct. 22. And the trend toward nonpartisan registration leveled off somewhat in recent months, going from 20.94 percent in October to 20.86 percent in February.

In the last two years, the percentage of voters registered with the Democratic Party decreased by 0.1 percent and voters registered with the Republican Party decreased by 2 percent. The number of registered voters with no party preference has increased by more than 259,000 during the same period.

A few minor parties made minor progress in the past two years – American Independent registration rose from 2.43 percent to 2.64 percent and Libertarian registration rose from 0.54 percent to 0.61 percent – but they as well as the Green and Peace and Freedom Party will find it increasingly hard to get much attention and retain their ballot statuses under the state’s newly implemented top-two primary system.

Overall, 75.7 percent of eligible Californians are registered to vote – down from 76.7 percent as of last October, but up from 72.8 percent at this time two years ago. A total of 18,055,783 Californians are now registered to vote – an increase of 869,252 since the last off-year report, but down from the raw-number high of 18,245,970 in the fall of 2012.

“Voter registration often dips in an off-year when counties update voter rolls following a general election, but the good news is registration is still up by about 3 percent from this time two years ago,” Bowen said in a news release. “I built online voter registration, in part, to make it easier for the 25 percent of Californians who are eligible to register to vote but have not. It’s now easier than ever to participate; so if you haven’t yet registered to vote, or if you moved and need to re-register, fill out an application online right now.”

By law, statewide voter registration updates must occur 60 and 15 days before each general election, and 154, 60 and 15 days before each primary election. One update is published in each odd-numbered year with no regularly scheduled statewide election.

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New tips for voting while in foreclosure

A new report highlights the confusion that people who’ve lost homes to foreclosure feel when determining how they can cast a ballot this November, and lays out ways to protect their voting rights.

The Fair Elections Legal Network’s report, “Lose Your Home, Keep Your Vote: How to Protect Voters Caught Up in Foreclosure,” is accompanied by guides tailored to 15 states – including California – on how and where people can vote depending on where they are in the foreclosure process.

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy. People dealing with the foreclosure process or whose homes have been foreclosed upon have enough to deal with without worrying about their vote counting,” network president Robert Brandon said in a news release. “With foreclosures on the rise again, the question shouldn’t be if a voter facing foreclosure can vote but where that voter can cast their ballot, and that question should be clearly answered by election officials.”

Brandon said election officials “have a duty to make sure voters have the information they need to cast a ballot and have it counted. They should be extra vigilant as Election Day nears to issue directives and educate the public and local election officials on how voters who lost their home can maintain their right to vote.”

California had the highest number of new foreclosure filings last year and, according to RealtyTrac, during the month of June 2012, California had the highest foreclosure rate nationwide this past June.

California has been hit hard by foreclosures in recent years; some areas, including the now-bankrupt city of Stockton, have been devastated. California in August was among the states with the greatest decreases (42 percent) in foreclosure starts compared to one year earlier, according to RealtyTrac, yet still posted the nation’s third highest state foreclosure rate: One in every 340 California housing units had a foreclosure filing in August, which is twice the national average.

And seven of the 10 U.S. metro areas with the most foreclosure activity in August are in California: Modesto, Merced, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, and Chico.

Like all movers, those who facing foreclosure also face hurdles to voting such as needing to update their address and/or re-register to vote in a new jurisdiction. What a particular person must do might depend on where he or she is in the foreclosure process; for example, someone who has lost a home might still have a legal “right of redemption,” a period of time in which they could repurchase their home and during which time they can still vote from that address.

In California and 17 other states, a person can keep voting at the address of their foreclosed home until they establish a new residence in which they intend to remain. In other states, the correct polling place for a foreclosure victim is often more confusing.