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Bay Area presidential bits and pieces

An East Bay Democratic club has endorsed a presidential candidate other than their party’s apparent frontrunner, while a Peninsula Republican committee’s unscientific straw poll finds a GOP insurgent neck-and-neck with a more establishment candidate.

The Dublin-based TriValley Democratic Club announced Friday that it has endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president in 2016 – possibly the first California club to do so.

Sanders, who’s running well to the left of frontrunner Hillary Clinton, acknowledges he’s an underdog. TriValley Democratic Club members agree, according to a statement sent by club president Ellis Goldberg, but feel “it is more important to back someone who speaks for us rather than someone who can attract the money it takes to get elected. When Bernie Sanders speaks out on income & wealth inequality, getting big money out of politics, climate change and the environment, he speaks for us.”

Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Republican Party did a straw poll of attendees at the Foster City Arts and Wine Festival this past weekend, asking which of 20 (!!!) possible GOP contenders they prefer. John McDowell, the county committee’s second vice chair, said most of the 165 participants were Republicans (as most Democrats and nonpartisans declined to take part).

Tied for first with 15 percent each were U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, McDowell reported. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came in third with just shy of 11 percent, while U.S. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took fourth place and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson tied for fifth.

“We’re blessed with a number of good, qualified candidates for the 2016 presidential race,” county committee chairman Chuck McDougald said in a news release. “The fact that no one candidate dominated the straw poll shows the voters are interested in all of our potential candidates and that those candidates offer positive, solutions oriented agendas,” he continued.

The San Mateo GOP plans to sponsor more straw polls during the Menlo Park Connoisseurs’ Marketplace and the Pacifica Fog Fest later this summer.

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Rep. Ted Lieu on GOP, climate change, LGBT rights

Rep. Ted Lieu, in Silicon Valley on Monday and Tuesday to tour tech companies and pay homage to his alma mater, says the key to Democratic victories in 2016 lies on the other side of the aisle.

Ted Lieu“We want to see lots of Ted Cruz on television,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said Monday during an interview at a Starbucks in San Jose. “I want him to win the nomination on the Republican side.”

Even if that doesn’t happen, having such sharply conservative voices on the other side makes it easier for Democrats to underscore how large segments of the GOP are increasingly out of step with a changing national electorate, Lieu said.

“The rest of America, with every passing day, looks more and more like California” in its demographics and policies, he said. “The current path of the GOP is not sustainable.”

Already the shifting demographics in key Electoral College states make it hard to see how Republicans can win the White House, Lieu said, and while Republicans might control Congress for a few more cycles, “you can only redistrict so much” before the sheer weight of a changing electorate catches up.

Lieu – who in January succeeded 40-year incumbent Democrat Henry Waxman in a coastal district that runs from San Pedro up past Malibu – is in the Bay Area this week to meet with tech leaders, including a dinner Monday night with Silicon Valley Leadership Group members, and visits to companies including Oracle, SunPower and Intuitive Surgical. A self-described “recovering computer science major,” he’ll also speak at Tuesday’s event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stanford’s computer science program, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991.

Lieu said he sees the tech sector as “one of America’s and California’s competitive advantages,” but sees a need to build diversity in its boardrooms and workspaces just as in the rest of corporate America and government. “Government operates better if it looks like the people it represents, and I think that’s also true for the private sector.”

Lots more from Lieu, after the jump…
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SD7: No, Alameda Co. GOP didn’t endorse Glazer

I just received a call from Alameda County Republican Party Chairwoman Lori Drake of Dublin and county GOP treasurer Jeff Wald of Fremont asking that I clarify that the county party has not endorsed centrist Democrat Steve Glazer in the 7th State Senate District special election.

They wanted to make sure nobody was left with the wrong impression from a story I wrote earlier this week about how Michaela Hertle – an alternate county GOP committeewoman from Pleasanton and the only Republican to file as a candidate in the SD7 race – had dropped out and endorsed Glazer.

In that story, I quoted Patrick McGarrity – spokesman for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who also is seeking the senate seat – as saying Bonilla is the Democratic Party’s choice while “Steve Glazer is the choice of delegates from the Alameda County Republican Party.”

I then tweeted out a link to the story Monday evening that said, “#SD7 As @MichaelaHertle drops out/endorses @Steve_Glazer, @ASMSusanBonilla’s camp says Glazer is @AlamedaGOP’s pick.”

So, consider this clarified: Steve Glazer is the pick of the only Republican who had been in the race, but not of the Alameda County Republican Central Committee.

Drake declined to comment just now when I asked her what she thought of Hertle’s leaving the race and endorsing Glazer.

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Chris Christie to keynote California GOP convention

Potential 2016 presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will keynote the California Republican Party’s spring convention luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 28 in Sacramento.

“Governor Christie is working to move New Jersey forward with balanced budgets, sensible tax reform and a focus on improving K-12 education,” state GOP chairman Jim Brulte said in a news release. “We are thrilled he will be joining us at convention to share his story and wisdom.”

Party vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon called Christie “a great example of Republican leadership. He has helped New Jersey overcome some of its toughest challenges in decades, and has been a guiding voice across the nation as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association.”

Christie said he’s “excited to be joining Republicans in California as we plan for the years ahead and look to build upon the successes of 2014.”

Christie, whose popularity rose has he handled the aftermath of 2012’s “Superstorm” Sandy, has had a rockier road since late 2013, when the “Bridgegate” scandal – in which some of his top aides ordered closure of lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge as payback to his political foes – came to light. A new Quinnipiac Poll trend line tells the tale:

Christie Quinnipiac poll

The poll shows more New Jerseyans support Christie than any of a dozen other potential GOP candidates, but Christie would lose the Garden State in a head-to-head with potential Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Nationally, an average of five polls conducted late last year shows Christie trailing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush among potential GOP candidates.

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Senate 2016: A tale of three GOP chairmen

Two former California Republican Party chairmen, both from the Bay Area, say they’re seriously considering running to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbrara Boxer in 2016 while a third ex-chairman won’t rule it out.

But having been the state GOP’s chief executive might not be the best resume fodder for this or any statewide race.

Tom Del BeccaroTom Del Beccaro, 53, of Lafayette, who chaired the party from 2011 to 2013, was first out of the gate – he had a publicist issue a news release last Thursday, within hours of Boxer’s announcement that she wouldn’t run.

“My first love has been national politics and foreign affairs for decades,” he said during an interview Monday.

“Seats like this don’t come open very often. I want to be part of the debate and I want to make sure our side has a positive image and positive things to say.”

Duf SundheimGeorge “Duf” Sundheim, 62, of Los Altos Hills, who chaired the party from 2003 to 2007, also has floated a trial balloon.

Sundheim said Monday he’s moved by the plight of students in failing schools, and of small businesses lacking access to capital. It’s not a matter of whether we should be in the political left lane or the right lane, he said: “We’re on the wrong road.”

Framing a race like this as Republican versus Democrat or conservative versus liberal won’t work well for the Republican conservatives, he added, but voters would much rather hear about the future versus the status quo. If a candidate can do that, he said, “I think you have a real shot.”

Ron NehringAnd Ron Nehring, 44, of El Cajon, who chaired the party from 2007 to 2011, said Monday he’s “very flattered that people have been talking about me as a potential candidate for the office. … Let’s just leave it at that.” Nehring is the only one of the three who has even sought elected office before: He ran for lieutenant governor last year, finishing 14 percentage points behind incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom.

Should they run, they could find that having chaired their state party is more liability than asset. Already each has critics within the party who are burning up various social media with reasons they shouldn’t run.

“A necessary (but not sufficient) ingredient for a successful California senate run is the ability to raise tens of millions of dollars for your campaign, and another is significant name recognition,” one state GOP insider said Monday on condition of anonymity. “An ideal candidate would also have been elected to office before, preferable statewide or in a major city.”

“Neither of these two candidates (Sundheim and Del Beccaro) has these necessary qualifications,” the party insider said.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…